Trial Run

Mock trial team’s resurgence gives graduating law undergrads a glimpse into their futures
Brenna Koppel points to pieces of evidence as she, Professor Greg Bordelon, and Stephen Jimenez sit at a table in one of Suffolk’s mock court rooms
Brenna Koppel, a Class of 2024 undergraduate law major, sifts through case documents with her Mock Trial coach and teammate

Brenna Koppel, Class of 2024, always knew she wanted to become a lawyer. What she didn’t know was how it felt to stand before a courtroom and a judge, staying poised while questioning a witness under pressure.

Now she knows. Koppel tested her mettle by playing a prosecuting attorney with the Suffolk University undergraduate mock trial team this spring during the American Mock Trial Association’s (AMTA) regional competition. Hosted by Connecticut College, the field included teams from Boston University, Fordham, Princeton, U.S. Naval Academy, UMass-Amherst, and many others. In a mock trial competition, students each take on the roles of each participant in a fictional trial, from prosecutors and defense attorneys to defendants and witnesses.

“It’s hard to know what it feels like to be a prosecutor until you do it,” says Koppel, an undergraduate law major from New Jersey who wants to be a medical malpractice attorney someday. “You need to be prepared, think on your feet, and respond quickly to how the witness responds to your questions, and how you respond to what the judge has to say.”

“Brenna is a natural born attorney,” says Political Science & Legal Studies Professor Greg Bordelon, who took on the role as mock trial team advisor and coach when he arrived at Suffolk in the fall. “She has an innate ability to cross-examine a witness and connect that witness to a larger case strategy.”

Brenna Koppel stands in one of Suffolk's mock courtrooms and points to her teammate, Stephen JIminez, on the witness stand

Brenna Koppel takes a turn practicing as prosecutor, questioning teammate Stephen Jimenez on the witness stand

The fictional case that Koppel and her teammates had to argue involved stolen paintings at a charity art gala for Children’s Hospital. The Suffolk squad brought their “A” game by winning two ballots in the round against Union College of New York, with Koppel acting as prosecutor, which Bordelon described as “a pretty good showing for a novice team just getting back into competition.”

“We responded to all the objections in the most appropriate way,” says Koppel, president of the team, which is part of the Suffolk mock trial club. “And our questioning of witnesses on both direct and cross-examinations was so pointed to the issues that helped make up the jurors’ minds.”

Stephen Jimenez, Class of 2024, put on a grand performance as a witness for the prosecution – speaking loudly, using hand gestures, and even conversing directly with the judge.

“I was very flamboyant with my acting skills,” says the Boston native, political science major, and team treasurer. “Before college I was shy, but getting involved with mock trial has taken me out of my comfort zone.” 

Jimenez hopes to become a constitutional lawyer one day and feels that his mock trial participation has prepared him to reach his goal. 

“I’ve learned how public speaking and making connections with people are so important and that those skills can help me in the future,” he says. 

Brenna Koppel, Coach Greg Bordelon, and Stephen Jimenez, sit at a table labeled “defense” in one of Suffolk’s mock court rooms
Mock trial team members Brenna Koppel and Stephen Jimenez, both Class of 2024, sit with Professor and Coach Greg Bordelon. Says Bordelon: “We surprised a lot of people because of how prepared and confident we were. Students were committed to one another and always wanted to learn more and become better versions of themselves.” 

Suffolk’s mock trial team has been competing on the national level since 2008, but had been on a three-year hiatus, largely due to the pandemic and remote learning. However, this year, under Koppel’s leadership and Bordelon’s guidance, the team was determined to return to live intercollegiate competition.

Bordelon taught students various lessons about trial strategies, witness questioning, introduction of evidence, and court presence. Above all, he says giving students the opportunity to compete in a real-world environment was priceless. 

“That’s where they learn and accomplish things that are not possible in the classroom,” says Bordelon. “This forensic endeavor perfectly complements the Suffolk student experience.


Tony Ferullo
Office of Public Affairs

Greg Gatlin
Office of Public Affairs