Do you enjoy arguing? Acting? Public speaking? Can you picture yourself in scenes from Law and Order, Suits, The Good Wife, My Cousin Vinny, or A Few Good Men? Do you want to travel around the country winning trophies so big that you’re forced to buy them their own seats on the plane for the flight home? Are you looking to challenge yourself in a way that no class can?
Then you’ve come to the right place. Look below to find out about information sessions and tryouts.
Click on each section to read more about joining the Harvard Mock Trial team!
Come meet us and learn what mock trial is all about! Before tryouts each year, we host multiple information sessions for prospective members to talk to current team members, watch our demo, and sign up for a tryout spot.
We will be hosting our 2016 information sessions for all Harvard undergraduates on Sunday, September 4th and Monday, September 5th. Each information session will take place in Sever Hall room 113 starting at 2pm and will last about an hour. Both sessions will cover the same material, so you only need to attend one. We highly recommend that you attend an information session prior to trying out for the team.
The tryout process consists of three rounds. In the first round, you’ll show us your acting skills as a witness and your speaking style in a 2-3 minute prepared speech and 1 minute extemp speech!
We’ll send you information about the next round once we have completed all of the round one tryouts.
What’s in it for you? The Benefits of Harvard Mock Trial.
- Win. A lot. In 2015, Harvard won the National Championship, and was ranked the number one team in the country for the second year in a row. We’ve won our Nationals Division more times and produced more All-Americans in the past five years than any other team in the country has in the past ten. Since 2005, we’ve won our regional four times and had seven teams place 3rd or better at the National Championship. And don’t think you’ll miss out on bringing home hardware in your first year, either—since 2005, more than 30 new members have competed at the national level of competition, and freshmen and sophomores have taken home ten All-American awards. If you have the drive to compete and win at the highest levels, this is the team for you.
- Travel across the country. Each year we travel throughout the United States for tournaments, and in the past we have competed everywhere from New York City and Washington, DC to Orlando, FL and Memphis, TN. This year promises returns to the Big Apple and the Nation’s Capitol.
- Meet amazing people. Teams spend a lot of time working, traveling, and competing together. Members have become very close friends. In addition, the Harvard Mock Trial Association holds regular parties and social events to encourage friendship between teams. Everyone in the program agrees that Harvard Mock Trial has been responsible for some of their fondest college experiences and closest friendships.
- Improve your public speaking. No other activity teaches you to communicate and think on your feet like mock trial. After you’ve delivered a closing argument to a panel of federal judges in the National Championship or been forced to improvise a cross-examination against an All-American witness, class presentations and section discussions will seem like a piece of cake.
- Express your creative side. Some of the post important people on any mock trial team are witnesses. Mock trial offers the chance to develop and play any type of character, from a world-renowned HIV researcher to a pampered Hollywood celebrity to a convicted murderer. As a witness, you can develop your acting skills, improve your impromptu thinking, learn about the law from a unique vantage point, and even experiment with costume design.
- Spend time in real courtrooms arguing before real judges. No other undergraduate organization offers you the chance to make arguments in front of large crowds and State Supreme Court Justices. We’ve done it. If you join, you may get the chance too!
- Run a business. Unlike nearly all other top mock trial programs in the country, Harvard Mock Trial is 100% student run. This means that you won’t just have the chance to compete in tournaments – if you want to you’ll have the opportunity to learn how to run an organization, whether that comes in the form of planning a 300-person mock trial seminar for high school students, managing a $40,000 budget, or training the next generation of competitors.
- Succeed in life after college – regardless of your field of choice. Although some members of our team are interested in the law, the analytical and communication skills gained from mock trial and broadly applicable. Recent alumni have gone on to earn JDs at Harvard, Yale and Stanford, PhDs at Cal Tech, MDs and MBAs at Harvard, and have even gone straight into the work world with programs like Teach for America and companies like Goldman Sachs, Bain, BCG, and McKinsey.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I try out even if I haven’t done mock trial before?
Absolutely. There is no need to have done mock trial – or even any other kind of public speaking activity – in order to try out. Many of our most successful members, including numerous All-Americans and Program Captains, had never done mock trial before setting foot on the Harvard campus. This year, we’ll be hosting special help sessions before Round 2 to help people without mock trial experience!
What makes a good attorney?
Anyone who likes public speaking, analytical thinking within a framework of rules, or articulately altering a pre-prepared outline on their feet would make an unbelievable attorney, regardless of previous mock trial experience. Attorneys need to know how to construct a strong plan for trial, follow that plan during trial, and recover and adapt quickly if that plan should fall through. There is no experience necessary to be an attorney. Some of our best mock trial lawyers started in college. Try out!
What makes a good witness?
The best witnesses are good actors who can play unbelievable characters, but who also analyze and understand how a trial works. Did you make up characters when you were little? Can you impersonate anyone around you? Do you act? Are you a good analytical thinker? Do you have a great accent? Again, no experience is necessary. Try out!
How does the mock trial season work?
The Harvard Mock Trial Association begins its season in September, holding tryouts and inductions of new members. During the fall, teams develop their case theory, create their case materials, and learn to work together as cohesive units. Throughout the fall and the early winter, the program sends its teams to a variety of invitational tournaments hosted by universities around the countries. The results of these tournaments, such as the NYU Invitational, do not have an effect on national standings, but are good practice for official competition.
The regular season begins in February, when Harvard Mock Trial sends three teams to regional competitions throughout New England. Based on the results of those competitions, the program might send as many as two teams (the limit set by the American Mock Trial Association) to the national round of competition, which includes national semi-final tournaments in March and the National Championship tournament in mid-April.
In addition to these tournaments, Harvard Mock Trial organizes a number of pre- and post-season initiatives. These initiatives include a program of high school mock trial seminars. New members will have an opportunity to help organize and participate in all of these events.
How is college mock trial different from high school mock trial?
High school mock trial programs do not allow teams to choose which witnesses they will call. Case-writers create six witnesses and specify which three are for the defense and which three are for the plaintiff/prosecution. In college, the case-writers develop somewhere around ten different witnesses and allow each side to choose which three of these witnesses they will call in the minutes before a trial. With this set-up, opposing sides can strategize to “steal” the witnesses their competitor might want. For this reason, every team needs extensive backup plans and a lot of improvisational ability. Thinking on your feet is one of the best parts of mock trial.
How to perform as witnesses also differs from high school to college. Many high school programs have regulations that prohibit witnesses from using costumes or accents. In college, not only do these regulations not exist, but it is almost a requirement that every witness transforms into a character that the judge will remember and like. Accents, costumes, and one-liners make witnesses entertaining and fun to play.
The way roles are divided in college mock trial can differ from high school as well. In high school, there can often be as many as six lawyers on a side, with each one receiving a single role. In college trials, there are only three attorneys per side, so each attorney must perform a direct and cross-examination, and two attorneys give statements.
If I do mock trial, will I still be able to participate in other extracurricular organizations?
Of course. Our members are involved in a wide variety of other student groups and activities. Current members are involved with Room 13 Peer Advising, Harvard Model Congress, Harvard Women in Business, and Peer Advising Fellows, as well as a number of other student organizations and social clubs.
Can I join even if I’m not interested in law?
Of course! While competitions do take place in a courtroom setting, mock trial develops analytical, communication, and acting skills that are transferable to a variety of concentrations and careers. Members of the team have concentrations like chemistry, english, economics, and physics, and alumni work as everything from bankers to lawyers and teachers to doctors and researchers.
What should I do if I’m ever about to be attacked by wild dogs?
Do not run. This will only cause the dogs to chase you. Instead, make yourself appear as big as possible. If you are wearing a coat or jacket, unzip it and hold the corners up in your outstretched arms, so as to increase your apparent size. Make loud noises and hold your ground. If you appear dominant, the dogs should give way.
If you join Mock Trial, you’ll have fun competing at the highest levels, spending time with amazing people, and challenging yourself in a way no other student organization can!