Collegiate mock trial is a team-based speech activity that combines critical thinking, awareness of trial law, and debate skills.
Mock trial is a team-based 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 and compete against other schools around the country in full “mock” trials.
College mock trial differs from high school mock trial in several ways. While high school mock trial programs do not allow teams to choose which witnesses they will call, 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.
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 perform opening statements, closing statements, and direct and cross examinations before a panel of scoring judges. Throughout the trial, objections to both form and admissibility are common. 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 American Mock Trial Association was founded in 1985 and serves as the governing body for intercollegiate mock trial competition. AMTA sponsors regional and national-level competitions, as well as providing interesting and complex case materials for academic use. Approximately 600 teams are registered with AMTA from over 350 universities and colleges. Over 5,300 undergraduate students engage in AMTA competitions every year.