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Hands-on Learning at Mock Trial Competition 

Freshman Gabby King serves as an attorney during a trial during November’s Mock Trial Invitational at the Massry Center. (Photo by Lily Newton)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 3, 2019) – Fourteen mock trial teams from colleges across the Northeast went head to head at UAlbany last month during an invitational competition that served as trial prep for regional tournaments in February.

On the weekend of Nov. 9-10, UAlbany Mock Trial, in collaboration with Saint Rose Mock Trial and Albany Law School, hosted the Capital Region Clash Mock Trial Invitational with teams from New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Albany Law President and Dean Alicia Ouellette delivered opening remarks in the Campus Center before two days of trials began in the Massry Center.

“It was a pleasure to speak to these excellent students about why law matters, and the impact one can make in the legal profession,” Ouellette said. “I can’t stress enough that pursuing a law degree is not only a viable path but a worthy one. These competitors have bright futures ahead — I know they will find success in their education and their careers.”

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Elise Coombs, left, a UAlbany grad and the former VP of UAlbany Mock Trial, is now a student at Albany Law School and served as a judge for one of the trials. With her are Amanda Zoda (center) the president of Mock Trial, and Gina Tan, the co-tournament director. (Photo by Robbi Hojnacki)

The American Mock Trial Association 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, and 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 conclude with closing arguments. These intercollegiate trial simulations give students hands-on learning opportunities.

“Given its central location in New York, the University at Albany was an ideal venue to hold an invitational,” said Gina Tan, co-tournament director and a senior at UAlbany. “Invitationals promote collegiality and serve as great practice for competitive teams as we all move towards the winter regional tournaments.”

For UAlbany’s team, this invitational was the first for some members. “We wanted this experience to be memorable for new recruits competing for the first time at our own invitational alongside seasoned mockers,” said James Barry, a senior and the team’s student coach.

Freshman Gabby King said competing with the team “helped me improve my argumentative and public speaking skills,” adding that bonding with team members was another perk.

Much preparation and hard work goes into organizing an invitational and ensuring the tournament itself runs smoothly. “This collaborative invitational, largely coordinated and run by our A team, was a tremendous success due to the support and encouragement of many parties invested in our students’ experiential learning opportunities,” said Marcie Newton, a faculty member in the Program in Writing and Critical Inquiry and Mock Trial’s faculty coach.

The collaborative mock trial invitational was sponsored by the University at Albany and Albany Law School Collaborative Conference and Seminar Fund. In recent years, UAlbany has reconfirmed its support for pre-law students by expanding its 3+3 program affiliation with Albany Law, increasing pre-law advisement, and supporting the UAlbany Mock Trial Team.

“The affiliation between the University at Albany and Albany Law School exists to encourage the development of joint activities such as Mock Trial,” said Ann Marie Murray, UAlbany’s vice provost for program development and strategic initiatives. “We are proud to support the work of our faculty in helping students explore opportunities leading to a legal career.”

For Jared Kossover, co-tournament director and a senior at The College of Saint Rose, part of the fun is bringing a fictitious case to life. “I encourage anyone who wants to develop their public speaking and critical thinking skills to consider mock trial.”

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.