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The Little Things: 5 Easy Changes You Can Make to Improve Trial Performance

There is nothing in mock trial more frustrating than a one point loss. It can be absolutely shattering to put in months of work and come up that little bit short. You think, “If only you could have gotten a couple extra points somewhere—a better opening, a more forceful cross, or a smarter objection. “

Well, the good news is that you can make some very simple changes right now that can help you get those extra few points. None of these tips involve dense legal theory or advanced strategy. Sometimes, it’s all about adding a little polish and professionalism to your performance in order to win those tight rounds.

  • Coordinate your team’s wardrobe: Think about your favorite sports team. Chances are, they didn’t show up on the pitch wearing a bunch of frayed pants and mismatched t-shirts the last time they played. For the same reason that they wear uniforms, your attorneys should coordinate their outfits and make sure they are well-presented. Shirts should be clean and shoes should be polished. If possible, attorneys should wear the same color suit. You should also have some sort of color coordination among your teams. An effective strategy is to have a red motif for the prosecution—representing a passionate pursuit of justice—while defense has a calmer, more rational blue motif. Whatever the color, the men on the team should use that hue for their tie and the women should use it for their shirt.

  • Organize your materials for the trial: While your captains are at the captains meeting, the rest of the team should be setting up the counsel table for trial. This means having several copies of the relevant witnesses’ affidavits at the seats for the three attorneys. Make sure a copy of the rules of evidence is out and ready to go. Have each of the documents for pre-trial set out in order. Being well organized will help you keep your team on track and will make a good first impression on judges.

  • Keep acting if you are the party representative: Imagine you’re a juror at a murder trial. You are listening to some explosive testimony placing the accused at the crime scene. You glance over at the defendant. What are you going to see? Anger? Fear? Shock? Of all the emotions you expect to see, the one you probably don’t expect is “apathy that is perilously close to actual sleep.” However, this apathy is sometimes exactly what happens with a party representative after they get off the witness stand in mock trial—and it can be distracting or outright annoying to a judge. Remember, we are simulating a trial and if you are the party representative, you can hear everything being said in the case. If you are a parent who lost a child, you should look sad whenever your child is mentioned. If you are the defendant, you should look shocked when accused of a crime. Never break character.

  • Have water at your table: Pretty simple: it’s hard to give a devastating closing if you’re parched. Have a bottle of water available for each person on the team.

  • Smile: At the end of the day, winning mock trial means winning over judges. While much of your score will depend on legal reasoning and presentation, never forget that part of it will come down to whether the judge likes you. It’s a whole lot easier to give high marks to somebody you enjoy rather than someone who annoys you. So, smile during pretrial. Be polite when asking the judge to inquire. Don’t be rude to the other team. If you are a likable person, you will find that a judge is far more willing to give the scores you want.

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