Mock Trial off to a strong start

Mock Trial team gears up for Regionals competition in Richmond, Va.


W&L’s Mock Trial team is preparing for its Regionals competition this month.

Alexandra Seymour

You’ve heard of Mock Con, but have you heard of Mock Trial? Washington and Lee’s Mock Trial program kicked off its season on a high note, capturing 1st and 2nd place at the first Charlotte School of Law Invitational from Jan. 23-25. Eight teams attended this conference in total, coming from all around the Southeast.

“We swept the competition,” said Bella Sparhawk ’17, captain of the B Team. “Considering our age and relatively low experience, we’re doing really well [this year].”

Mock Trial is a co-curricular organization directed by W&L Law School Professor Beth Belmont that gives undergraduate students the opportunity to experience the American justice system by simulating a court setting. The program separates students into two teams– referred to as the A and B teams– and they travel up and down the coast to compete against other colleges and universities.

At the Charlotte Invitational, the A team took first with a score of 8-0, notably winning every single ballot by an average of 21 points. The B team earned second place with a score of 5-3. Individual members were also recognized for their contributions to the team.

Emily Webb ’17 and Sonia Brozak ’17 received Outstanding Attorney awards, Sam Gibson ’17 and Jordan LaPointe ’17 won Outstanding Witness awards and Nicole Eldred ’18 earned an Honorable Mention for an Attorney.

“This past weekend’s performance was great but we don’t plan on stopping there,” Webb said. “We’ve already begun preparing for Regionals and I’ve been very impressed with everyone’s focus and drive.”

Mock Trial is now gearing up for its Regionals competition, which will take place at the University of Richmond from Feb. 14-15. Unlike the Charlotte Invitational, Regionals is an elimination-round competition. The team’s performance will determine whether they continue on to the Opening Round Championships competition in March.

“This year’s team has its head in the right place, has mastered its case, polished their skills, and is ready to go,” Belmont said. “I am very optimistic.”

While the whole program usually practices two times a week for three hours at a time, the students will likely meet three to four times per week as the Regionals competition gets closer.

Practices consist of repeatedly assessing case theory and developing presentational skills. A the beginning of the year, the team is given a stack of documents that includes case law, the witnesses available to them and the evidence. Members then go through these documents and form an argument–their case theory–that they present to the jury at competitions.

“For some competitors, this means working on particular aspects of their performance,” said Belmont. “But it also means tweaking the overall approach to certain case strategies that the team anticipates they may be confronted with at regionals.”

But preparations for Regionals are slightly different this year than previous years. Former W&L Mock Trial participant and current assistant coach Andy Budzinski proposed that the team invite W&L law school students to some practices to serve as witnesses for the team members to direct and cross-examine.

“I think it’ll be really helpful to practice against people who will have a fresh take on the case and provide valuable experience, especially for the younger members of the team,” Webb said.

This will allow the team to become more responsive to things they aren’t expecting, a problem president Jackie Yarbro ’15 said they encountered in Charlotte despite their solid grasp of the information.