Harvard currently fields two mock trial teams which compete in mock trial tournaments across the country. These tournaments are overseen by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA), and take place during the entirety of the academic year.
What is Mock Trial?
Mock Trial is a team-based type of speech competition that is practiced at every educational level, from middle school to graduate school. Participants in collegiate mock trial assume the roles of both attorneys and witnesses, using critical thinking, debate skills, and a thorough knowledge of trial law to compete against other schools around the country in full “mock” trials.
Most mock trial tournaments typically involve a series of trial competitions. Each trial consists of two teams of six people, with one team representing the plaintiff and one team representing the defense. Competitors take the roles of witnesses and attorneys, performing opening statements, closing statements, and direct and cross examinations before a panel of scoring judges. Competition for the entire academic year revolves around a single civil or criminal case, which is released by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA).
The Harvard Mock Trial Association
Despite being a relatively young organization, Harvard Mock Trial has grown in recent years to become one of the top programs in the country. In 2015, Harvard’s A Team won the national championship with a record of 4-0-1 in the final round and a record of 15-1-1 throughout the tournament. The team had a record-breaking year, making Harvard the first program in the nation to win both the University of Virginia’s Great American Mock Trial Invitational and New York University’s Downtown Invitational in the same year. Harvard Mock Trial also won its division at the National Championship in 2006, 2007, and 2010, and has produced more All-Americans over the past five years than any other program in the country.
Just as important is the depth of the program. In 2007, Harvard’s B team beat out 600 other teams to finish 2nd in its Nationals Division – behind only the other Harvard team. In 2009, Harvard’s teams won both regional tournaments they attended and compiled the best regional record in collegiate mock trial history. In 2010, Harvard took second place in the nation, and in 2011, both Harvard teams qualified for nationals, with Harvard A team finishing fifth. In the 2011-2012 season, Harvard returned three All-Americans to its A Team despite being one of the youngest programs in the Northeast. The Harvard Mock Trial program is primarily run by the elected Program Captains and Executive Board, as well as elected team captains.
The program’s success has led Harvard Mock Trial to pursue several initiatives outside of competition. Chief among these is the High School Seminar Program, an annual weekend seminar during which high school students come to learn the tactics and techniques that have allowed Harvard Mock Trial to succeed at the highest levels. The results from the seminars have been outstanding – teams and students attending the training program have gone on to win more than a dozen state titles, and include both the 2009 High School National Champions and the 2010 National Runners-Up.