Though it’s common to assume that Mock Trial is only for those students interested in law school, the program is open to any student here at the university who wishes to learn and improve their skills in argument, witness examination, evidentiary procedure, trial strategy and persuasive speaking.
According to the UNH justice studies major website, Mock Trial is an academic competition in which “students acquire the knowledge and skills to participate on teams as attorneys, witnesses and supporting players.”
Mock Trial is not to be confused as being a casual leisure club, rather the students participating are a part of a team that requires a lot of commitment and hard work over the course of the academic year. Students on the team have to take a two-credit course that is held on Thursdays from 6:10 – 9 p.m. The team also meets on Tuesdays from 6 – 8 p.m. for a voluntary recitation that is designed to be used for case development and practice. At the current moment, the UNH team consists of 16 students, but, when in competition, the team is comprised of anywhere from six to 10 students.
As for what can be seen from the results of their competitions, the members of the UNH Mock Trial Team work hard, day in and day out.
“Our team is working hard this semester and we are proud of their accomplishments,” coach Jake Marvelley said.
UNH senior communication and justice studies double major Sadie Matteson has been a member of the Mock Trial Team since the first semester of her sophomore year. She said that joining the team was partly due to missing the competition element that was in her life during high school athletics.
In speaking on what she has gotten out of being on the team, she said her public speaking skills and confidence have grown notably, as well as being able to form friendships with those on the team.
Unlike his teammate, senior political science and justice studies dual major Ricky Aiello joined the UNH team after first participating on his high school’s team.
“I fell in love with [mock trial] in high school, I realized litigation was something I was actually good at,” Aiello said. “I was really crappy at sports, but litigating and interpreting law is what I’m actually good at.”
All of the team’s work inside and out of the classroom, practicing and honing their skills, is done in preparation for Mock Trial tournaments. The tournaments are usually regional, consisting of schools from around the area. This past weekend, UNH took part in the Second Annual Polar Plunge Invitational, which was held at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Other schools that were participating were Boston College, Brandeis University and University of Massachusetts Lowell.
According to Marvelley, there are two different types of tournaments: invitational tournaments and elimination-type tournaments.
“In the fall semester, we focus on giving the students lots of trial experience,” Marvelley said.
The elimination-type tournaments are usually held in the springtime, and determine which schools make the National Championship. In 2016, Yale University won, thus taking the title of national champions from Harvard University (who won in 2015).
In explaining the importance of elimination-type tournaments, Marvelley said, “A team’s record at the regional intercollegiate competition determines whether the team will progress to the next level of competition.”
According to Marvelley, the team is always looking to recruit for the program’s future.