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The power of mock trial programs in high schools

The newly established team makes an entrance at district competition and shares their experiences as well as the benefits of being part of the program

With the rapid advancements in AI as well as technology, there’s a growing demand on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education to prepare students for the future.   However, while STEM skills are undoubtedly important, it’s equally important to recognize the significance of critical thinking, communication and literacy. This is where the mock trial program comes into play. 

As both a participant and leader in the mock trial program this year, I vouch for its enriching experience, despite the time commitment and sweat and tears involved. The knowledge and skills a student obtains through this program are invaluable.  Any student who is interested in a career in law or curious about how the United States Justice system works, should consider participating in the mock trial program.  

The mock trial program was officially established as a club at BHS this past fall. It follows a well-structured format coordinated through the YMCA.  Teams are provided with an unconventional legal case — written by judges and/or attorneys — at the beginning of the school year.  This year’s unusual case related to a woman bequeathing her estate to her pet cat upon her death, leaving varying amounts behind for her adult children who are taking legal action against this.  From there, team members are assigned roles as attorneys, witnesses and bailiffs within their team.  

           Throughout the season, all the participating high school teams work on the same case and collaborate to construct a compelling trial presentation, which they then present in front of an actual King County judge and jury at the district competition. This process not only allows students to gain insights into the legal field but also provides them with practical experience in legal proceedings such as opening statements, direct examinations, cross-examinations, closing statements, pre-trial motions, objections and evidence rules.  

Moreover, the program helps the development of critical skills, including the effective use of evidence, logical thinking, and the ability to articulate persuasive arguments on the spot. It’s an experience that equips students with skills and abilities for their future.  

In my own experience as an attorney during the competition, when opposing counsel raises objections, it catches people off guard because they’re essentially trying to disrupt their argument and challenge the credibility of their evidence.  This makes students think on their feet and work under a high stress environment which is something that can greatly benefit their ability to handle pressure in a real-life situation. This is also something you cannot experience through any STEM related field. 

  Traditionally, Mock Trial is structured as a formal class in many high schools for a grade.  However, due to lack of funding and resources, Ballard ran it as a club this year and despite the challenges, this approach had many benefits. For instance, running it as a club is less time-consuming which can be advantageous for students balancing other commitments.  Additionally, participation in a club format still holds value on college applications, offering students the opportunity to show their dedication, learning new skills and exploring different career pathways. 

Unlike many schools where Mock Trial teams meet both in and out of school hours, Ballard’s mock trial team holds meetings just once or twice a week during lunch with occasional weekend sessions. This schedule allows for greater flexibility while still providing the same opportunities of a formal class. 

Overall, Mock Trial offers a unique and valuable opportunity for the growth of the law department at BHS. It allows students to hone their critical thinking, public speaking, and analytical abilities. By participating in Mock Trial, students can gain practical experience, build confidence, and explore their passion for law. If you’re looking for a way to expand your horizons beyond STEM, Mock Trial is worth considering.   

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