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Mock Trial Frequently Asked Questions for Schools Interested in Starting a Program
What is Mock Trial?
Mock Trial involves competing in a simulated jury trial against another team. Students portray either attorneys, witnesses or timekeepers in a real courtroom setting under the supervision and direction of real trial attorneys.
Why do Mock Trial?
For students passionate about either the law, public speaking, or problem solving, Mock Trial can be an extremely fulfilling extracurricular activity to pursue. You do not have to want a career in law to join the team. Participating helps you develop many crucial skills from teamwork, to critical analysis, to thinking on your feet.
When does the season take place?
The season goes from November until the first weekend of March. It basically mirrors basketball season. The early months are used to prepare opening statements and (direct and cross) examinations. For this reason, most teams will not actually scrimmage with another team until sometime in January.
What is the time commitment?
It is up to you and can be as much or as little involved as best fits your team. Some schools treat mock trial as a "team sport" and have multiple practices a week. Other schools form a mock trial team from a social studies class. The range is wide.
How many teams participate across the state?
Statewide, two years ago (2016-2017) we had schools in the lower 20s participating. However, the next year Kentucky had just over 40. It continues to grow and could top 50 this year.
Is there a state tournament?
Yes. We used to have a single state tournament where all the teams showed up and competed, but now that so many teams are getting involved, we currently have two regional tournaments (usually in Lexington and Louisville) and the top 8 teams from each region move on to compete in the state tournament.
Who runs Mock Trial on the state level?
Beginning in 2016-2017, statewide mock trial has been overseen by the newly-formed Kentucky High School Mock Trial Association, Inc.. (KHSMTA), a non-profit 501(c)(3). The board consists of coaches from teams across the state (and those coaches are a combination of teachers and attorneys).
What does competition entail?
A fictional court case is released sometime in October. The same case will be used all season. Each team will prepare to argue both sides of the case by fielding a team comprised of attorneys, witnesses and a timekeeper. Each side of the case requires three attorneys, three witnesses and a timekeeper. Some teams have their students participate on both sides of the case, some teams limit their students to only one side. That will be up to you and depend on the number of members on your team.
Mock jury trials are then conducted and teams will litigate the case. A presiding judge and one or two (hopefully two) other judges sit in the jury box and act as the jury. Each attorney and each witness are given scores from 1-10 from each judge for various duties that they have during the trial. All the scores are added up on each judge's ballot and the team with the highest points win that individual ballot. The team with the highest number of ballots wins the round.
Tournaments randomly draw teams and which side of the case they litigate for the first round. For each round after that, teams are seeded based on their prior performance.
How many competitions are there during the season?
The guaranteed competition is the two-day regional tournament followed by the state tournament for qualifying teams. Regional tournaments usually take place on a Friday and Saturday in February. The State Tournament is usually the first weekend in March. There are also a number of 1-day invitational tournaments put on independently by various groups. For example, The University of Kentucky Mock Trial Team has hosted an invitational for many years. Teams are also encouraged to hold scrimmages with other teams.
Is there an entry fee to join?
For the KHSMTA regional/state it is $350.00 per team. ($300.00 for first year teams) PLEASE NOTE: The cost for the competition will be $100.00 less per team due to good financial stewardship last year. In addition, we received a grant from Kentucky Bar Foundation which is allowing us to offer entry fee waivers for up to two schools that demonstrate a need. A short need-based scholarship application will need to be completed and submitted online.
The invitational tournaments usually are much cheaper (around $100 per team).
If my school will not cover any or much of the cost, what do you recommend?
Fund-raise. It's great team-building and helps get the local community interested in the program. School do everything from selling candy bars to having car washes. However, one great way to raise money is through the local bar association. The options are endless. Some schools come from far away and have to stay in hotels, so their fundraising is more intense.
Do you have any material to help us get started?
The North Carolina Mock Trial Association has a wonderful page with resource materials for new teams. You can find most of everything you need here: https://ncmocktrial.org/resources/training-materials/
If you need further assistance, you can contact any of the KHSMTA board members.
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