College Mock Trial
You thought mock trial was intense in high school: well wait until you get to college! Over 600 teams from approximately 300 colleges and universities take part in intercollegiate mock trial. Unlike high school, each school –regardless of location — is given the same case to work on throughout the year. The case, code of evidence, rules of procedure and much more are provided by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA), a not-for-profit organization that governs intercollegiate mock trial.
Starting in late January, AMTA hosts a series of qualifying tournaments which determine the eventual Intercollegiate Mock Trial National Champion. All schools initially compete in one of 24 Regional Tournaments, each consisting of approximately 24 teams, with the top 8 teams moving on to the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS). The top 6 teams at each of eight ORCS go on to compete at the National Championship Tournament (NCT), consisting of 48 of the nation’s top schools. The winner of the NCT is crowned National Champion.
In preparation for AMTA’s qualifying tournaments, college mock trial teams may chose to compete in independent, university-run, non-AMTA sanctioned tournaments held annually from October to January. These “Invitational Tournaments” strive to prepare schools for the AMTA qualifying tournaments by imitating the format, presentation, and scoring of an actual AMTA tournament. A comprehensive list of invitationals can be found on the AMTA website here.
Get Involved w/ AMTA
Below we have included a list of every college that is currently registered with AMTA, as well as information about how you can start an AMTA program at your university. We encourage you to be a part of intercollegiate mock trial. If you love high school mock trial and you love the Empire, then you’ll definitely love AMTA!
AMTA Mock Trial Programs
A current list of universities registered to compete in AMTA for the 2010-2011 can be downloaded here. The list is subject to change, and this was most recently updated on September 10, 2010.
Starting a Program
If your university (or future university) is not registered with AMTA, don’t worry! We’ve included steps on how to start a mock trial program at your school. While the process is challenging, it can certainly be extremely rewarding.
(1) Research. You can’t start an academic program like mock trial without the support of your university, so research how your university handles academic competitions. You may be able to establish a relationship with an academic department and find a faculty member to offer a class.
If you want to begin by starting a club, most universities have an Office of Student Activities. Here are some things you should ask yourself when considering starting up a program:
Paperwork — what does your university require in order to recognize a club or to start a program within a department?
If you are trying to start a club, keep the following questions in mind:
- Does your university require a specified amount of student signatures?
- Does it require a codified constitution? (samples can be found below)
- Meeting spaces — can teams reserve space to practice?
- What is the procedure for booking rooms?
- Budget eligibility — is your club eligible for a budget? If so, how much money can the team receive?
- Guidelines for fundraising — will your team be allowed to fundraise?
- Rules for recruiting — where can you post flyers?
- Faculty advisor — does your university require an on-staff class advisor?
- If so, are there professors willing to serve this role? (Politics, pre-law, communications or philosophy departments are excellent places to start!)
If you have a faculty member who wants to offer a mock trial class, the professor or department assistant will likely be able to manage these processes. The faculty member can contact AMTA for sample syllabi.
(2) Budget. Basic AMTA expenses include:
- $200 – AMTA new school registration fee
- $100 – AMTA Regional registration fee (per team, you can field more than one team)
In order to field a competitive program, however, you will want to attend at least one invitational if not more. Here are some other expenses you’ll rack up:
- $100-$175 – Invitational registration fees
Depending upon costs in your area, plan to spend $1500 to send a team to an overnight tournament within driving distance (assuming two nights of lodging, rental cars, meals and fees).
Think of how you plan to fund your program. Are you willing to charge members dues, or will you rely on fundraising and donations? Can the faculty member or academic department provide a budget for the program? Consider the limitations that your university places on programs, as well as its travel policies. In a program’s infancy, many of the costs will be absorbed by members of the team.
(3) Structure. A sound structure is key to running a successful team, both in the short-term and long-term. Think about how you want to arrange the program both administratively, and competitively.
- Administratively – have an executive board with defined positions. Besides your typical officers like President and Treasurer, positions like a Fundraising Chair and/or Travel Coordinator can be very valuable.
- Competitively- there are a number of structures you can choose from to determine your team’s competitive roster (i.e. who performs which roles), but give it some careful consideration:
- Student-run, concentrated power (Harvard, GWU) — an elected student (or two) make all personnel decisions without the input of a coach or faculty advisor
- Student run, dispersed power (NYU, UCLA) — an elected student board (3-5 students) makes all personnel decisions with the advice of a coach or faculty advisor
- Student & coach run (UVa) — an elected student board (3-5 students) plus a coach or faculty advisor make decisions together
- Coach/Faculty run (Irvine, Furman) — A coach or professor makes all personnel and logistical decisions
(4) Register. Make sure you register your program with AMTA! If it’s past August 15th (National Case Day, an observed holiday by us mockers), AMTA will send you the case and (eventually) your Regional assignment! You can register with AMTA by clicking here. The deadline for registering to guarantee a spot at a Regional Tournament is October 15, but if you miss that deadline, still apply as AMTA does what it can to accommodate new programs.
(5) Recruit. While time consuming, a good recruiting campaign is absolutely critical to assembling a talented, competitive team. Be upfront about the time commitment that mock trial will entail. If possible, build a basic website so students can easily obtain information about the team.
Think about the following ways to go about recruiting:
- Club/Majors Fair — many colleges have an event where clubs can put together a booth and speak to the student body directly. If so, register for the event and start recruiting.
- BRIGHT color flyers grab students’ attention
- Target areas where students frequent most often on campus — dorms, student union, lounges, etc
- Target areas where students frequent most often off-campus — Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, other cafes or eateries
- Keep it simple! Less is more. You want students to be able to read the text from as far away as possible.
- In-class presentations — prepare a creative, funny presentation and try to recruit students while they’re in class. Make sure to request permission from professors in advance, otherwise you can get in trouble. Be sure to target big lectures and classes listed in some of the departments below.
- Contact Departments — ask them to circulate an e-mail to their students or post information about mock trial on their respective websites. Target the right people:
- Political Science
- Criminal Justice
- Social Media — use Facebook and Twitter to your advantage. Be proactive!
- Find groups that can help you and start messaging people! For example, your university’s Class of 2015 page, or your university’s pre-law society, may be great places to start.
- Use your status to alert students about an upcoming meeting or (even better) your team’s new website
- Contact students who — like you — list mock trial or debate under their “interests” or “activities” section
- Create a Facebook event for your first meeting
- Get lots of followers and spread the word!
(6) Schedule. Once you’ve had a great recruiting turnout and you’ve determined your teams, start figuring out your schedule for the year. Keep in mind the following:
- Tournament Schedule
- Invitationals — vary in range of competitiveness and admission can be difficult, so contact the tournaments hosts as early as possible! Again, the full list of invitationals can be found here.
- AMTA Regional Tournament — AMTA will contact you with your assignment
- Practice Schedule — plan a schedule around your tournaments:
- Practice at least 10 hours per week
- Plan scrimmages — practice rounds — before your tournaments. Contact local schools in the area to see if they’d be interested in scrimmaging. Look for outside judging to make the experience more realistic!
(7) Prepare. It would be a waste to go through this long process and then not adequately prepare for your tournaments! It’s important to utilize every resource at your disposal, including, but not limited to:
- AMTA DVDs — in order to be the best, you need to know what the best looks like! See what AMTA’s previous champions did best by watching them in action. Click here to order AMTA DVDs.
- Evidence manual — one of the keys to mastering intercollegiate mock trial is learning the rather complex code of evidence. We highly recommend purchasing “A Student’s Guide to Trial Objections”, which can be easily ordered off Amazon by clicking here.
- AMTA — they’re extremely nice at AMTA. Call (515-283-0803) or e-mail (email@example.com) Susan Ewing if you have any questions about the case, registration, etc.
- EMTA — all of the staff here at EMTA have not only competed in AMTA, but we’ve also been involved in running a collegiate mock trial program. We’ve made budgets, authored constitutions, prepared practice schedules, etc. Feel free to reach out to any of our staff by pressing the “contact” button above.
- Local legal community — there are always attorneys in the area looking to give back: it’s your job to find them! Contact your District Attorney’s office, the Public Defender’s office, a local bar association, etc. We can’t say it enough: be pro-active!