Pre-law students from around the Northeast converged on the UConn Law campus for the first New England Classic Mock Trial Tournament on Oct. 27 and 28, 2018.
Students from Connecticut College, Quinnipiac University, Brandeis University, Wesleyan University, the University of Bridgeport, Amherst College and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point competed in the tournament, which was organized by the student-run Mock Trial Society from the University of Connecticut in Storrs with guidance from faculty members and the help of more than 50 judges and lawyers.
Diane Whitney, UConn’s pre-law adviser, said the students did an exceptional job of hosting the event. “This was the first time they had ever done this and the tournament ran as smoothly as it could,” she said. “It was a fantastic collaborative effort.”
Teams faced off in four rounds in the UConn Law courtrooms over the course of two days, arguing questions of liability in a fictional case involving a disastrous television talk show appearance by a chimpanzee and his handler. The students acted as plaintiffs and defense in a claim and counterclaim. , and also acted as witnesses.
Molly Finn, president of the UConn Law Mock Trial Society and a tournament judge, said the judges considered many factors. “We look for how well the students interact with their witnesses, how well they interact with opposing counsel and how adeptly they can apply the facts of the case to the legal rules,” she said. “It is always interesting to see how students who have not yet attended law school, and thus have never taken a class of evidence, conduct themselves when presented with the material.”
Attorney James Condren of JPMorgan Chase, who also served as a judge, said he was impressed by the students’ performances. “It is amazing to us that these are college students and they are being asked to perform the role of attorneys and as witnesses. They all demonstrated a great mastery of the case and the ability to think on their feet,” he said.
The UConn team won the competition and the Amherst College team won the Husky Pride Award, a trophy for best representing the American Mock Trial Association spirit of fair play. Individual awards were given to best attorneys and best witnesses.
The invitational tournament was one of many being held around the country in preparation for tournaments sanctioned by the American Mock Trial Association that will be held next spring.