(Photo courtesy Professor McCauley) “The team’s trophy from regionals this year.”
Students on UMass Lowell’s Mock Trial team are hard at work, defying the expectations of the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). The weekend of February 18, they attended the AMTA Regional Tournament at Brown University and placed third, alongside Ivy League schools like Harvard and Dartmouth College.
The tournament occurs over two days, with two trials each day. UMass Lowell’s Mock Trial team placed higher than Brown as well as Dartmouth College’s A and B teams. This earned them a bid to the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS) in New Rochelle, New York, which was held on the weekend of March 11.
Sean Reagan, the president of the mock trial team, says, “It’s special for me as a senior who hasn’t gotten to go to ORCS before, and I’m confident that it’ll be a lasting learning experience for everyone who will be back next year.”
The mock trial team is coached by Professor David McCauley, who is also a pre-law advisor for UMass Lowell, and Tom Wood, a practicing lawyer and UMass Lowell Mock Trial alum. When asked what sets this team apart from the competition, McCauley said, “How well prepared they are … twice a week these guys are here … for two to three hours … many of them are meeting with their colleagues outside of practice. It’s a lot of work.”
The AMTA provides a whole case every year for every collegiate mock trial team across the country, alternating between civil and criminal every year. Based on the material the AMTA provides, students are judged on how well they know the rules of evidence and how well they can deal with objection battles. McCauley says, “It’s not about getting guilty, [or] not guilty, it’s about scoring points.” He even reffered to ORCS as “the playoffs.”
While not the exact same as a real trial, Reagan says, “[A mock trial] simulates the trial experience and how legal teams come about developing their theories of a case that they may present at trial.” Even students not interested in the criminal justice system will find a place on the team. Reagan says, “I also really enjoy the strategy and problem-solving involved in mock trials. You really have to think about how to tell your side’s story in a compelling manner while also planning for what the other side may throw in response.”
Many of the schools at these tournaments have “solid” programs, according to McCauley. It takes knowledge of the material inside and out, and the judges are looking for how familiar the students are with the rules. Reagan says, “I really have enjoyed working with people who have the same interest in an activity like this and can share the nerves and stresses that can come with an activity that’s competitive in nature like this one.”
The preparation for these tournaments is very thorough, and those interested in law will find that the mock trial team has a lot to offer in terms of learning what real trials are like. Many of the students on this team are looking to go to law school after their time at UMass Lowell, and
The mock trial team is a great way to get experience in “thinking like a lawyer.” The mock trial team meets Monday and Thursday evenings at UCrossing.