Julia Cox ’23
A staple of Scripps College’s extracurricular programs, Mock Trial, is where future lawyers, those looking to improve their communication skills, and anyone in between go to compete in trial simulations with other colleges. However, this year has looked a little different for Scripps’ Mock Trial team, who recently competed in the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS), a national Mock Trial competition the weekend of Mar. 20-21. This year’s A-Team is the first Scripps team to make it to ORCS since 2018.
The Mock Trial experience consists of receiving a packet with facts, rules, and witness statements, and then using the information to build a legal case. Students act as attorneys or witnesses either on the prosecution or defense side and then compete against other schools with attorneys, law students, and practicing judges evaluating their performances.
While fall is noncompetitive and used as a time for members to try out different positions at invitational tournaments, during the spring hierarchical teams are created based on level of experience— A-Team and B-Team. Mock Trial President Sophia Albanese ‘21 and Vice President Sam Norrito ‘21 worked together to co-captain A-Team this semester. Mock Trial at Scripps is unique because it is entirely student-run, while most other teams have a faculty member directly involved. In addition, Scripps’ history as an institution means Mock Trial stands out.
“The Scripps team is one of the few historically women’s groups competing in Mock Trial, which is often male dominated,” Albanese said.
Participants of Mock Trial have found it a beneficial experience, as the simulations at competitions model the legal experience— which is the potential career field for many members. As the teams build their own arguments, members learn the ins and outs of the legal system and details pertaining to the year’s case. Norrito, who wants to attend law school, says that Mock Trial gave her a number of practical skills she hopes to use in her career.
“Already, the ways that Mock Trial have helped [me] are with increasing my sense of community at Scripps,” Norrito said. “And for people who might be interested in Mock Trial, the most obvious benefits would be public speaking, presentation skills, close reading of things… the attention to detail has been really important already.”
Lily Dunkin ’24, who joined the team despite never having met anyone on the team in person due to the remote year, agrees that participating has been helpful for her growth both personally and professionally.
“Mock Trial offers a really good opportunity for people to be flexible, yet confident… being able to roll with the punches, and sound like you know what you’re talking about, even when everything is going wrong,” Dunkin said. “I would imagine that’s bound to happen in my real life, probably more than I’d want to admit… and it’s good to have the skills, to be able to seem confident, even if internally you’re screaming.”
The team had a successful season, with two attorney awards, two witness awards, and an advancement to ORCS for the first time in three years. This year, both Albanese and Norrito have been recognized with awards, as well as attorneys Alexa Sanchez ‘21, Megan Dolan ‘22, and witnesses Rebecca Reisman ‘21 and Grace Hill ‘24.
At regionals, the team competed against the University of Michigan, University of Portland, University of Central Florida, and the University of Illinois, Springfield, losing only to the University of Michigan.
Though normally at regionals the team competes with local schools at a competition hosted by Claremont McKenna or Pomona College, the nature of online competition meant that the American Mock Trial Association decided to mix schools with other regions, increasing the diversity of the competition for the teams.
While the team will not move on to Nationals, captains said they were proud of how well A-Team performed at ORCS.
“It was really gratifying, hugely energizing, and kind of unexpected,” Norrito said.
According to the team, what makes the Scripps Mock Trial team special is their strong sense of camaraderie which has been cultivated despite a year spent entirely on Zoom. Norrito, who has been intent on retaining a community feeling despite the obstacle of not being in-person, described the issue of “Zoom fatigue” and the difficulty of effectively encouraging online participation to be barriers to maintaining the sense of community that is so important to their team.
“When we’re in-person it’s a great way to build your Scripps network, and it’s such a niche activity that it draws a very committed group of people,” Norrito said. “I hope that even though I’m graduating I can continue to guide the team if they want my help, and stay in contact with those people on the team with whom I’ve already built relationships.”
The sense of community amongst members is felt by all, whether freshman or senior, and is a crucial part of the Mock Trial experience at Scripps.
“One of the greatest aspects of our team is the camaraderie and support fostered amongst our participants,” said Albanese. “It’s been so incredible working with such a strong, talented, and inspiring group of Scripps students these past four years.”
Dunkin, who joined the team to meet people amid her online freshman year of college, described Mock Trial as being a great place to create friendships, something hard to find during a time that is spent vastly in physical isolation.
“The amount of insight I got on Scripps and college life was just as valuable as participating in competitions and practicing,” Dunkin said. “I wouldn’t have had a [Scripps] experience without Mock Trial.”
Image Source: Amelie Lee ’23