Young lawyers experience mock court

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Law Students sit in mock trial court to have their cases heard.

Arianne Camarote, Staff Writer

The students in Law class show up in fancy suits and dress clothes to go head to head in the courtroom. Kara Olecki-Leeper, the teacher of law puts a lot of preparation into the class as a whole and mock trial itself.

“I started doing mock trials in my law class my first year at Latrobe and they have been getting bigger and more involved ever since,” said Leeper “Back when I first started, there was only a Law I course that was simply called “Law”. However, shortly after I started, students wanted more and that included more mock trials,” added Leeper.
“When I was in college, I was a Pre-Law student. We did Mock Trials in my Law Classes, plus, I interned at a Law Firm. I am a very competitive person and participating in a project like this was very motivating…I am out to win! I knew how much I liked doing the mock trials and when I asked students if they would be interested, they were very excited about the idea,” said Leeper on the topic of starting this unique class.

Throughout the year in law, an aspiring lawyer will be learning skills such as law vocabulary and scenarios that apply to real life situations in preparation for Mock Trial. Not only are they learning skills for class, but learning life skills; it’s always important to be able to read and understand legal documents, law is seen more frequently than you may think; buying a house, marriage, buying a car.
“Mock Trials also help students with ‘real life’ skills like working in groups/ teamwork, collaborating, analysis of information, problem-solving, writing, public speaking, and professionalism. Trial brings a level of excitement to the classroom and students enjoy it,” said Leeper.
“Mock trial is a great opportunity for students develop important knowledge about the law and legal system. The experience also helps develops critical-thinking and speaking skills”, said Jon Mains, one of the principles.
“Certainly it’s one thing to know how the judicial process works but another to be apart of it,” said Seth Apple, a student in law.
Law l is the start, where students will learn the basics of the class and everything that entails mock trial. In law ll students go more in depth with everything, including case materials “Mock Trials are a great way for students to take information they learned in class, apply it, and build from it. We have a mock trial in law I and 2 mock trials in law II. Both times, students are taught the fundamentals of the type of law their Mock Trial encompasses,”said Leeper.
With each mock trial the difficulty increases, and there is a larger component or specific area of Law that they need to address in their case that is new. With that comes all of the hard work that goes into it. But the students welcome the challenge. In preparing the case material and information students are going to share with the jury, and become the experts in the law that applies to their case and the evidence.
“It takes a lot to put on a Mock Trial for the teacher and the students. I think my experience working with lawyers, competitive mock trial teams and my background have helped make this course unique,” said Leeper.
To put on a mock trial in the classroom, the teacher and student has to know the proper way to formulate an Opening Statement, lines of direct questioning and cross examination, and Closing Arguments. These components to a trial have specific design and must follow a certain flow, otherwise they would be objected to. Students also will learn the proper objections. “Overall, I think there are high expectations with the mock trial experience and students strive to meet them.
Also, it is a way for students to get a taste of the legal profession. If an interest is sparked, it could lead to possible job shadowing and mentorship opportunities through our Career Pathways program,” said Leeper.
“I really enjoyed examining witness statement and evidence to find pieces for the arguments,” said Apple.
“As a teacher, I not only appreciate the academic components of mock trial in the classroom, but also being able to see my students’ growth in action. At the end of every trial, I try to have students reflect on where they started and where they ended up in my courses. I am always amazed at how well they develop their legal terminology and overall knowledge of the Law,” said Leeper.
“I was really impressed with the trail that I watched. It was evident students took the trial seriously and put in the work necessary to make it successful. I found myself going back and forth between innocent and guilty throughout the trail. The entire process was a great learning experience for me because I never had the opportunity to sit through a trial. I can’t wait to go back and watch another one!” said Mains.
“I’ve never been much of a history person, but law has been one of my favorite classes this year, and probably my favorite history class. I encourage everyone to take law, even if you don’t plan on being a lawyer, the material covered in law can be applied to other aspects of life,” said Apple.