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Real Experience through Mock Trial 

UAlbany Team Learns Legal Strategies Through Competition 

The Mock Trial A Team competed last month on Long Island. The defense team is: (left to right) back row, witnesses Dillon Asmus, Lisbeth Valdez and Jonathan Shokry; front, lawyers Elise Coombs, James Barry and Jeffrey Shapiro. The plaintiff team is: back, witnesses Elise Coombs, Kaitlyn Earle and Lisbeth Valdez; front, lawyers Gina Tan, Anahi Tapia and MikaElla Rectin.

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 23, 2019) — UAlbany’s Mock Trial club competed in the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS) last month in Central Islip, Long Island.

The ORCS, hosted by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA), is held in nine spots around the United States, with 24 teams competing at each location. UAlbany’s Mock Trial A team qualified for ORCS after a top-ranking finish at the Regionals competition in February at Princeton University.

“My favorite moment was tying with Princeton in the final round at Regionals,” said Elise Coombs, a senior who joined Mock Trial in her freshman year. “It showed me that our team could compete on the same level as Ivy League schools. It is all about having confidence in our case, abilities and preparation.”

Coombs, the co-vice president of the Mock Trial club, is in the 3+3 Law Program, a combined degree program between UAlbany and Albany Law that offers an accelerated path to a law degree for select students.

In recent years, UAlbany has reconfirmed its support for pre-law students by expanding its affiliation with Albany Law, increasing pre-law advisement, and supporting the UAlbany Mock Trial Team.

“These students have demonstrated a resolve and dedication to the establishment of the Mock Trial program that serves to highlight the extensive interest of UAlbany students in the field of law, and their collective engagement has turned into incredible success,” said JoAnne Malatesta, the interim vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Education.

Every year, hundreds of mock trial teams around the country compete for coveted spots at ORCS. “It requires months of intense preparation and a lot of hard work,” said Jeffrey Shapiro, Mock Trial’s student coach. “And this is only the beginning. Mock Trial at UAlbany is one of the fastest growing programs in the country. I expect great things down the line.”

AMTA sponsors regional and national-level competitions, providing alternating criminal and civil cases that take place in the fictional state of Midlands. Teams of 10 pose as lawyers and witnesses for prosecution/plaintiff and defense that engage in three-hour trials over four rounds per competition. In each trial, prosecution and defense teams deliver opening statements, conduct direct and cross examinations of witnesses, and deliver the closing arguments. These intercollegiate trial simulations give students hands-on learning opportunities.

“As well as students gaining knowledge of legal practices and procedures, they develop critical thinking and public speaking skills that will directly transfer into the real world,” said Marcie Newton, a faculty member in the Program in Writing and Critical Inquiry and Mock Trial’s faculty coach. “Each year, Mock Trial will get stronger because these students also take the time to reflect on their past trial experiences and what they have learned.”

UAlbany’s Mock Trial is a student-run organization, founded in 2015 by students Jeffrey Shapiro and Dillon Asmus, who both had high school mock trial team experience. After registering with AMTA and the Student Association, the club has grown from a handful of students to more than 60 members.

“These are truly remarkable students,” said Nicole DeSorbo, Mock Trial’s pre-law advisor. “What they’ve been able to accomplish in such a short period of time is really incredible.”

“We’re proud to represent SUNY excellence in a heavily dominated private school association,” said Asmus, a co-vice president of Mock Trial. “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to create something that brings so much value to our members and the University.”

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