LMU Mock Trial is just in its fifth year on campus and has earned a spot to the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS) this March, where they will compete for a place at the National Championships in Philadelphia. Despite being a new team, they came in fourth place at the Regional Tournament in Claremont this February, just narrowly coming behind Stanford and beating the likes of UCLA and USC. This achievement is especially impressive considering that the team is entirely student-run, while their competitors often have materials curated by mock trial coaches and legal professionals.
“This year their volunteer attorney/coach had to step down due the pressures of his solo practice,” said Evan Gerstmann, professor of political science and the team’s advisor. “They have self-coached all year long. They go up against programs like Stanford and UCLA that obviously have strong students and a tremendous amount of institutional support, as well as a long tradition behind them. Watching the team grow from an over-matched, under-resourced club to a highly competitive team in just a few years has been the most rewarding part of being the team’s advisor. I’m really pleased at the depth of the team.”
This year’s case focuses on a negligence lawsuit between a fictional television studio and an animal trainer whose chimpanzee mauls a show writer and is subsequently put down. The TV studio sues the animal trainer for negligence (improperly training his animal), which allegedly caused the attack and the show’s subsequent cancellation. The animal trainer then countersues the TV studio for not following his safety instructions, which he claims was the reason for the attack.
The team is divided into two, with one side specializing as lawyers or witnesses in defense of the TV studio and the other side in defense of the animal trainer. At competitions, the prosecution and the defense teams each compete twice, for a total of four rounds that are scored by two judges who evaluate the performance and legal arguments of both counsels. These four rounds simulate a real courtroom experience, where students have to think on their feet to adequately represent their fictional clients.
“Mock Trial is an incredible learning opportunity, regardless of whether you are interested in pursuing a career in law,” said Devin Kellett ’19, the team’s president who was named one of ten Outstanding Attorneys at the Regional Championship. “Trial advocacy teaches public speaking, analytical skills, research, improvisation, and much more. Being a part of this program has shaped who I am today.”