The daughter of the county prosecutor was killed in a car accident. The driver of the other vehicle is charged with murder. Is he guilty? This was the fictional case before Suffolk’s Mock Trial Team; the way they deftly handled it earned the team a place at the national competition for the first time.

The team, comprised of seniors James Duffy and Huy Le; juniors Megan Dutra, Ted Thomas, and Tom Logan; sophomore Lane Dubreuil; and freshman Ben Chertok, won the national bid by placing eighth out of 26 teams, including New York University, Boston University, Brandeis, Brown, and Tufts, at the Boston Regionals last month.

“It’s pretty awesome,” says team captain Duffy from East Bridgewater. “The field we competed against was amazing.”

Suffolk’s undergraduate mock trial program launched only five years ago, but the students on this year’s team are not intimidated by more established programs. They started meeting before fall classes started and practice about fifteen hours a week.

“People on the outside might not think it’s fun because it’s so much hard work,” says Duffy. “But this team is my family, and this is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”

Team members are pursuing diverse majors—government, history, and philosophy—but one goal they all share is a career in the law. And for this, mock trial is excellent preparation. Competitions throughout the year give them opportunities to act as witnesses and attorneys for both the defense and prosecution in real courtroom settings.

“Mock trial has given me invaluable courtroom experience that has helped me improve my ability to think critically on my feet, maintain a solid work ethic, and refine my knowledge of law and courtroom procedure,” says Chertok.

Dutra agrees: “Mock trial has allowed me to gain the tools necessary to apply to law school with a step up on other students. I’ve learned valuable lessons and made lifelong connections.”

The opening round of nationals will take place in White Plains, New York. If the Suffolk team places in the top six, they’ll advance to the finals in Minnesota.

“Every member truly has a goal of winning this year,” says Duffy. “It’s going to be extremely tough, but I think we have a good chance.”