William & Mary

Mock Madness: W&M undergrads advance in trial tourney

  • Mock Trial Team
    Mock Trial Team  Members of the W&M Mock Trial Team program pose for a photo. A W&M team is headed to the Opening Round Championship Series Tournament in South Carolina this weekend.  Courtesy photo
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William & Mary undergraduates will compete this weekend in the American Mock Trial Association’s Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS) Tournament, hosted by Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.

This is the first year that the W&M Mock Trial Team has ever been offered two bids to the tournament, which serves as the second round of the American Mock Trial Association's national tournament.

“The team as a whole has put in countless hours of work on this year's case and we've been ecstatic that our hard work has begun to yield results,” said Tara Burns ’15, president of the W&M Mock Trial Team, in a press release. “We are so excited to head off to the next level of competition.”

The W&M Mock Trial Team includes 21 undergraduate students and is led by Burns along with Vice President for Logistics Nickole Medel ’16 and Vice President for Finance Kyle Belfort ’15. The team is coached by attorney Brandon Harper and two W&M graduate students: Laura Worden, law, and Jacob Dominy, public policy.

The group was offered its two bids to the ORCS tournament by defeating teams from Georgetown University, the University of Maryland, Towson University, Queens College and Patrick Henry College at the Regional Mock Trial Tournaments held at the University of Richmond Feb. 14-15 and the University of Maryland Feb. 21-22.

Three W&M teams of seven students participated in the regional competitions, which included four trials over a two-day period. As both attorneys and witnesses, the students were required to argue a fictitious wrongful death case, Park v. Duran, created by the American Mock Trial Association. The competitors were judged on courtroom skill, argument, persuasiveness and advocacy, said Harper.

“The experience of regionals was great. We went against some amazing teams that challenged us to truly do our best,” said Medel. “Some of them were teams that we had competed against before, and it was interesting to see how we both had changed since the last tournament. Other teams were new, and we were challenged by their tactics that we had never seen before. Our adrenaline was pumping, and we were all excited to be there, which made for some really intense and fascinating trials. Overall, it was a rewarding experience.”

William & Mary was one of about 50 schools to be offered two bids to ORCS out of about 650 teams, said Harper.

“This is an incredibly talented and capable group,” he said. “Each and every one of the 21 students has worked so hard this year, and the judges consistently commented on their advanced skills and preparation—it is no surprise that the William and Mary mock trial program is now recognized as one of the best in the nation.”

In this weekend’s tournament, W&M will compete against 24 other regional winners. Although the W&M program earned two bids, just one team will be participating in the tournament, due to financial constraints, said Harper. A total of eight ORCS tournaments are taking place throughout the month at locations across the country. The six top teams from each of those tournaments will move on to the national championship, to be held April 17-19 in Ohio.

As the W&M team prepares for the ORCS tournament, its members are hoping to use some of the same techniques that helped make them so successful at regionals, including an emphasis on team unity, said Burns.

“I am immensely proud of our teams and excited that we’ve achieved one of our long-term goals,” Burns said. “It’s an amazing feeling to see everyone’s dedication and hard work pay off so quickly and so tangibly.”

Sydney MaHan '16 contributed to this story.