A Dartmouth Mock Trial Society team earned an honorable mention and a chance to advance to the next round of the American Mock Trial Association’s national tournament at a regional competition this weekend at St. Anselm College in Manchester. Dartmouth sent two teams of 10 students to the competition.
Christina Gill ’16 received the Outstanding Attorney Award, along with 11 other students at the competition.
Coach Jennifer Sargent said that one team’s record of five wins and three losses this weekend will likely win them one of 17 open bids to the tournament’s second round, which will be held on March 15-16 in Philadelphia.
The top eight teams from the competition automatically receive bids, and 17 other teams are awarded open bids based on their records. Sargent said the Dartmouth team expects to receive a bid, which will be extended in the coming weeks.
The other team from the College won four of its eight rounds,
The first round of the competition took place on Friday night, followed by two rounds on Saturday and one on Friday morning. Each team is divided into prosecution and defense sides, both of which compete twice throughout the weekend. Local attorneys and justices volunteer to judge the trials.
The two Dartmouth teams competed against 20 other teams from 12 schools including Brown University, the University of New Hampshire, Tufts University and Bowdoin College.
Sargent, who was a trial lawyer and a judge before coming to Dartmouth to teach at the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric, said she was impressed with the level of competition.
“I used to coach at the law school level for mock trial, and the level of expertise for the rules of evidence, constructing a case and the courtroom demeanor at this undergraduate level is spectacular,” she said. “I never imagined undergraduates could be so good.”
Team member Morgan Sandhu ’17 said that because of the College’s schedule, the mock trial team has less preparation time than teams at most schools. The College’s teams attend only one invitational competition in the fall, while other schools’ teams attend three or four, she said.
“Our fall team and our winter team are two totally different teams, because people leave and people come back,” she said. “Most schools can start prepping in August or September and go straight through, but for us, fall is used more as a practice or trial period and winter is more competitive.”
Although the team usually meets twice a week for practices and once on the weekends to run through a full trial, many practices were canceled this year due to members’ conflicting schedules, Sargent said.
Sargent said that although most of the students in the Mock Trial Society do not plan on pursuing majors in law or going to law school, they enjoy participating in competitions and are skilled at conducting trials.
“I’m an experienced trial lawyer, and looking at the level of competition at the undergraduate level is astonishing,” she said.