BY ANGELA CUNEO
After a little less than a year as a club, the Mock Trial Team at the University of Mary Washington is proving itself to be a success.
Last April, Ghislaine Storr Burks, an Attorney at Law whose practice is located in the city of Fredericksburg, came to UMW to speak at a seminar concerning the topic of ‘How to Get into Law School.’ Anna Lindeman, then a junior, also attended this seminar with an idea of starting a Mock Trial team at UMW.
Mock Trial is a program in which students participate in contrived or fake trials in order to learn skills and compete with one another.
After the presentation, Lindeman spoke to Storr, who has an extensive background in Mock Trial, about helping her to form a team.
“It flourished from there,” Storr said, who later became the coach of the Mock Trial Team at UMW. “We then took over making it into a student club and contacting the American Mock Trial Association.”
The association is the only organization that runs a Mock Trial competition on the college level.
In the spring of 2009, the club became officially recognized by OSACS and by the fall they had their first tryouts.
As the coach, Storr does a lot to help the students learn the concepts of becoming an attorney. “I teach evidence, how to argue objectively; I teach them the rules of procedure and how to handle and portray themselves,” Storr said.
The team this year consists of President Anna Lindeman and members Chris Sions, Shirin Afsous, Chapin Fausel, Sarah Sanders, Kristin Tisdelle, Elena South and Julie Kennedy.
Shirin Afsous said the team had extensive preparations for the club.
“Students who participate in mock trial get experience as to what lawyers do for their jobs each and every day,” Afsous said.
This year, the team met twice a week for five to ten hours in addition to individual meetings.
Because of all the time dedicated to the club, members and their coach alike, decided to push for the opportunity to receive academic credit for their participation in the club.
This year, with the compliance of the Classics, Philosophy, and Religion Department at UMW, all the student members of Mock Trial will receive academic credit through an Independent Study arranged with Philosophy Professor, Jason Matzke. Each student will receive three credits for their participation in the club as well as turning in some other works.
The Mock Trial Practicum course will officially be offered in the fall of 2010. Storr will also be teaching a night course at UMW entitled “Introduction to Law.”
“I hope to have enough students to make two teams next year,” Storr said. She also hopes that the students will place high enough in competition to get a bid into nationals.
This year in the AMTA competition held in Baltimore, Md. Feb. 19-21, the team ranked tenth out of 26 other teams. The top eight teams got bids to this year’s national competition.
For competition each school receives the charges and basis of the case, rules that must be followed, and affidavits of each of the testifying or potentially testifying witnesses. The team then studies this information and sets up a case. The defense and prosecution of the teams then compete against one another within the course of 4 rounds. A panel of judges scores the performances.
“We were very close in the competition,” Lindeman said. “Just think of what we will accomplish next year.”