Nicole Mason was well-prepared and brimming with confidence heading into the first mock trial tournament of the fall semester.
“I knew the case inside and out, and, as always, expected the unexpected,” said the president of Suffolk’s undergraduate mock trial program.
Yet Mason was a bit stunned when the final results were tallied: She had recorded a perfect score and was named the Best Attorney in a competition involving students from a dozen schools, including Princeton, Seton Hall, and Brandeis, and held at the University of Connecticut School of Law.
And teammate Chris Wilkinson earned the tournament’s Best Witness honor.
Skill building for future lawyers
Mason, Class of 2021, has been fine-tuning her skills by preparing and arguing legal cases in competition over the past three years.
“You have to be organized, prepared, and flexible,” she said. “But most of all you have to be confident in your presentation, because the whole courtroom is looking at you and what you have to say.”
Wilkinson says that analysis is another key to mock trial success.
“For example, you’ll have many affidavits to read and interpret, and, as I’m learning in my legal classes, you need to know how to break down all the statements and discover the facts that are most important about the case,” he said.
While mock trial competition has an individual component, Wilkinson and Mason, who both intend to become lawyers, agree that a unified effort is the key to the team’s success.
“Our team has a natural bond and flow,” said Mason, a Law and History double major. “We really come together as a group in thinking about and arguing every aspect of a case.”
“We all get along well and have really good chemistry,” said Wilkinson, Class of 2023, and a Law major. “If you don’t know something, the upperclassmen are going to help you understand better for the next time. I wouldn’t be able to succeed without them.”
Suffolk’s undergraduate mock trial team, which has been competing on the national level since 2008, continues to grow, with 28 students currently involved in the program.
“I marvel at their intelligence and dedication,” said Mary Flaherty, professor of Political Science and Legal Studies. “Most attorneys don’t understand the rules of evidence as well as these students do.”
As the team’s adviser, Flaherty’s support ranges from helping students with trial strategy and knowledge of the rules to driving them to competitions and offering moral support.
“There are a lot of students who do this because they are thinking of a law career, and this really shows them how the justice system works,” said Flaherty, director of the Undergraduate Law major and Paralegal Certificate Program. “It also allows them to conduct effective research and present their findings with confidence.”
Flaherty emphasized that Suffolk always emphasized combining theory and practice, and the mock trial team typifies the success of that approach.
“Besides being smart and studious, the students are also practically trained and pragmatically adroit, which combines the best of both worlds: academics and application,” she said.