What is Mock Trial?
Mock Trial is an activity that lets students experience the excitement of the justice system first hand! This highly competitive debate puts students against each other in the roles of lawyers and witnesses, debating a fictional case while applying real legal rules. Students are judged based on their ability to present evidence, speak with authority, debate, and creatively portray witnesses. Trial teams argue for either the prosecution/plaintiff or the defense. This activity is rapidly growing in Hong Kong—are you up for the challenge?
What sort of cases do we argue?
The fictional cases cover a wide range of both civil and criminal legal issues. You could be prosecuting the perpetrators of a daring robbery or defending a respected newspaper from libel charges.
Where do I find the case material?
If you sign up for a mock trial tournament, you will receive all of the materials necessary to compete in the championship. This packet you receive will contain all of the witness statements, evidence, rules, and information you will need to argue your case.
Will I need to do any outside research?
No—in fact, you are not allowed to use any information not contained in the case packet.
When will I know which side of the case my team will be arguing?
You will argue both sides! All trial teams will have to argue both sides of the case. This means that teams will need to prepare a case for both prosecution/plaintiff and defense.
What do you mean by prosecution/plaintiff and defense?
In any trial, you will have two sides. In a criminal trial, you will have a side that is attempting to prove that a crime was committed—that’s the prosecution. The defense tries to disprove these charges on behalf of the defendant. In a civil case, the side alleging that their client was wronged is called the plaintiff. The side arguing on behalf of the accused party is still called the defense.
What are the roles on a mock trial team?
For each side of the case (Prosecution/Plaintiff and Defence) you will need three students to play witnesses and three students to play barristers. Additionally, teams are required to have a timekeeper; the timekeeper can either be a 7th extra student, or the three witnesses can take turns fulfilling this role.
What do lawyers do?
Lawyers use their wits and public speaking skills to convince the jury of their position. Lawyers will question witnesses and make objections during the trial. Each lawyer is required to give one direct examination and one cross examination. A lawyer may also be called upon to give an opening or closing statement.
How do objections work?
If a team feels that any of the rules of trial are being broken, they can bring this violation to the attention of the judge. Lawyers will then ague back and forth about the rule. You will need to be able to think on your feet if you want to win objection arguments!
What do witnesses do?
Based on the documents in the case packet, a student witness will act out one of the witnesses in the case. They are scored on their ability to act out a character and hold up under questioning. Characters range from the incredibly serious to the outrageously funny—it’s all up to you!
What do I have to wear at the tournament?
Lawyers are expected to be in Western business attire—suits are expected. After all, it’s hard to look like a real lawyer in a T-shirt! Witnesses have a little more flexibility in their dress. While they should still try to be appropriate for a court setting, they can add details to reinforce the character they are trying to play.
How many people can be on a mock trial team?
You need a minimum of 6 people to form a mock trial team. In this scenario, all 6 people would play a “role” on both sides of the case. You can, however, have up to 12 people on a trial team. In this circumstance, each person would play one role on one side of the case.
What are the parts of mock trial?
Generally, a mock trial round takes around 2 ½ to 3 hours to complete. In that time, you will see the following things occur:
Opening Statements: Opening statements are one of only two occasions that lawyers are permitted to give speeches to the jury. During an opening statement, lawyers preview the evidence and the witnesses that they will offer at trial. Opening statements are the first time a jury hears specifics regarding the case, so lawyers must speak clearly and methodically.
Examinations-in-Chief (Direct Examinations): For most of a trial, a team must present its evidence by putting questions to the witnesses. Exams-in-Chief involve two members of a team: one lawyer and one witness. The witness must answer all of the lawyer’s questions while remaining in character. Exams-in-Chief are generally easier: they can be somewhat planned in advance because the lawyer and witness are friendly and on the same team. There will be three direct examinations per team. The Prosecution presents its case first.
Cross Examination: After every direct exam of one witness, the opposing team will be also allowed to ask questions. This is known as a cross examination. This is meant to bring out information that the witness or side may be trying to hide, and lawyers are much more pointed. Sometimes they will attempt to bring out information that was not mentioned during the exam in chief, or they may attack the witness’ credibility. There is an opportunity to cross examine all three witnesses brought by the opposing side.
Closing Statements: After all the witnesses (from both sides) have been called, each team is given one last opportunity to make the case for its side. This is the closing argument, and is presented directly to the ‘jury.’ During a closing argument, lawyers marshal all the evidence elicited at trial that supports their side, and ask the jury to deliver a verdict for their side.
Is mock trial popular around the world?
Absolutely! 400 universities in the United States alone are active Mock Trial competitors, including Harvard, Yale, Cornell, University of Chicago, Stanford, UCLA, and many more. Thousands of secondary school students from across the globe compete in this activity.
How does a team win a round?
In each round, there are two judges grading the team based on performance. Each aspect of trial (each statement, each examination, and each witness performance) is scored out of ten. These scores are then totaled, and the team with the higher score wins that judge’s ballot.
How does a team win the tournament?
Each team tries the case four times, twice as the prosecution, and twice as the defense. The total number of ballots won is the deciding factor in tournament placement, with several tiebreakers that include strength-of-schedule and total points scored.
What prize will the winning team get?
The Championship Trial Team will be awarded with a traveling trophy, plus a 100% sponsored trip for a team of 6 students to compete in the Empire Mock Trial in USA. Terms and conditions apply, please refer to the winners’ letter for details.
Who judges these trials?
Most of these judges will be real barristers and solicitors, who have real experience in court. There are also special guest judges every year – with past special guests including High Court Judge Jonathan Harris and former Secretary of Justice Elsie Leung!
I’m not planning on becoming a lawyer. Does mock trial have anything to offer me?
Mock trial is not just for future lawyers. It helps sharpen public speaking and logic skills—skills that are invaluable in any profession. Moreover, it offers budding thespians a chance to take on an exciting role as a witness in an explosive case. Mock trial can be a advantageous activity for any person pursuing any field.
I’m interested in mock trial, but don’t know where to start. What should I do?
If you have any additional questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will get you on the right track!