Mock Trial is a competitive activity that largely centers around public speaking, competitive storytelling, and thinking on your feet. In mock trial, two teams of participants act as attorneys and witnesses to put on a trial in a courtroom. Each trial is presided over by two or three practicing attorneys or judges, who use score sheets (ballots) to score participants on their performance and speaking ability, as well as their knowledge of courtroom procedures.
In many ways, mock trial is part speech competition, part debate, part acting or improv, and part extemporaneous speaking. Although a lot of time goes into preparing for competitions, each trial is unique and requires students to adapt and demonstrate their skills in new ways.
UIMT prepares for competitions by writing and practicing witness examinations, cross-examinations, opening statements, closing arguments, and preparing team strategy. Teams compete on each side of the case (both plaintiff/prosecution and defense) multiple times during the course of a tournament against other schools from around the nation.
If you'd like to know more about how these tournaments work, or who is involved in mock trial, visit the American Mock Trial Association's website.
Mock Trial truly has something to offer everyone. Individuals who join UIMT learn public speaking and critical analysis skills that will last a lifetime no matter what line of work they go into. But more than that, individuals who join UIMT will get a chance to compete with some great people and make friends -- both at UIMT and across the country.
Some other reasons why you might consider joining UIMT, include:
If you are considering joining UIMT, please do one of the following:
...Be Part of a Winning Program!
The University of Iowa has an impressive history within the mock trial community. UIMT was one of the programs in existence when the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) was founded in 1984. Since its inception, UIMT also has the distinction of being one of the most decorated programs in AMTA history. In the past 20 years, UIMT has qualified for the National Championship Tournament 16 times, and has sent a total of 25 teams to that tournament during that timeframe. In 2002 and 2003, the Hawkeyes were back-to-back National Champions, and UIMT has compiled the longest top-5 streak ever recorded in AMTA history (2001-2006).
In this most recent year (2017-18), UIMT participated in ten invitational tournaments, bringing home many trophies and individual awards. When the elimination tournaments began, UIMT fielded four teams to attend AMTA's Regional Tournaments. Ultimately, AMTA only allows two teams to advance beyond Regionals, and UIMT earned the maximum number of bids (two) to the next level of competition. After Regionals, UIMT sent two teams to the next level of competition: the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS). UIMT has sent the maximum number of teams to this tournament every year since its inception in 2008. At ORCS, one of our teams earned the program a spot at the National Championship Tournament, which was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota this past April. In total, more than 700 teams competed nationwide and UIMT was one of only 48 to advance to the National Championship Tournament -- putting the University of Iowa in the top 7% of teams in the country! UIMT also produced one of just a handful of All-Americans at that tournament. If you enjoy being part of a storied and successful program, then consider joining UIMT!
...Make Life-Long Friends!
Mock trial is an activity that is full of fun, crazy, wonderful people. Because we spend so much time together, it's only natural that we become very close friends. We have to be a very tight group in order to work well together during practices and competitions. Members of UIMT treat each other like family and we are frequently found having fun together outside of practices and competitions. We love to hang out, organize social activities, attend events, play sports at the park, or just get a meal together. It's also great to have a group of people to turn to for study help, questions about college, life advice, or just about anything else. UIMT is a fantastic way to meet people in your own classes or upperclassmen who are in your major. If you want to expand your connections and befriend amazing people from all over, then consider joining UIMT!
...Travel the Country!
Because mock trial is a competitive activity, UIMT travels to where tournaments are taking place throughout the year. Although the exact number of tournaments varies, generally speaking, each member of UIMT will compete in three or four tournaments per semester. Most of the tournaments we compete in are within the Midwest, and have included places such as: Washington University in St. Louis, University of Missouri-Kansas City, the University of Indiana, and St. Olaf University in the Twin Cities. Additionally, we do try to travel to at least one or two tournaments that are further away. In the past, these have included places such as: Xavier University in Cincinnati, Fordham University in New York, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and, last year, we competed at the National Championship Tournament, which was hosted by Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. If you want to travel the country and meet people from other schools, then consider joining UIMT!
...Develop Meaningful Skills!
Mock trial develops many different types of skills, and these skills can be useful to people no matter what they do after college. In fact, if you join UIMT, it is quite possible that your parents will be so impressed that their friends will be annoyed with how much they brag about you. And forget about your old sibling rivalry, because your success as a member of UIMT will make it no longer a contest. Mock trial is possibly one of the best things a college student could put on a resume. It will provide you with a multitude of quality experiences and invaluable skills, including:
Improve Your Public Speaking Skills
Whether you love giving passionate speeches or maybe you dread ever talking to more than two people at a time, mock trial will benefit you as a public speaker. In UIMT, we know that it's not just what you say, but how you say it. The most important part of mock trial is delivering a coherent and persuasive argument. Having a foolproof strategy and solid content is great, but if you can't get the words out of your mouth without stuttering, losing your place, or getting sick to your stomach because you're nervous, then your speech is not going to be as effective as it could be. There are many methods to improving one's public speaking, and mock trial utilizes them all to gradually increase an individual's comfort with public-speaking by increasing their knowledge about what makes for good public speaking and coupling that with opportunities to practice in real life. No matter what you are planning on doing after you graduate -- whether you plan on being a teacher, a businessperson, a scientist, an engineer, or something else completely -- public speaking will be something you always need to do. In mock trial, you get the chance to go toe-to-toe with some of the best public speakers in the nation, and you will be given the tools necessary to outperform them. After that, class presentations and job interviews suddenly seem like an absolute breeze. So, if you want to become a confident public speaker, then consider joining UIMT!
Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills
Whether you want to be a rocket scientist or teach third grade or just about anything else you can imagine, you need to be able to critically analyze and reason your way through different issues and problems. The fact of the matter is that critical thinking and analysis skills are consistently listed as the skills most important to employers, and consistently listed as skills that traditional classroom learning does a poor job of teaching. In mock trial, however, you develop those skills in an activity that forces you to analyze and problem-solve in real-time to deal with new problems and to apply academic learning in new ways. As such, UIMT is a great place to stretch your brain and learn how to think outside the box. When we develop strategies for mock trial competitions, it's crucial that we not only analyze the information available and identify our goals for the competition, but also what we think other teams will do as well so that we can respond. And even with all of that preparation, every round of mock trial is different and requires further adaptation and problem-solving in the moment. We constantly have to come up with creative ways to approach the issue so that our performance will catch other teams off guard. It's vital that we understand the case inside and out so that we can present our story clearly and effectively react to our opponents. So, if you want to become better at thinking on your feet and learn how to analyze information in a new and useful way, then consider joining UIMT!
Improve Your Teamwork Skills
Whether you're already a great teammate or are trying to improve your ability to work in groups, UIMT will give you a lot of experience in collaborative situations. UIMT is a team activity and it requires every person on the team working together in order to be successful. Collaboration is key in mock trial. Individuals will always have slightly different roles from one another, but the only way to present a coherent case in competition is when everyone understands their own role and how it fits in with others. Additionally, mock trial thrives when a team full of hard-working, creative individuals work together to make one another better at what they're doing. And so, at practices, we are constantly working with one another and sharing ideas so that we can develop the strongest case possible. When it comes to competing in the round, the better we know how to work together, the easier it is to react to surprises and know what your teammates are going to do. So, if you love the thrill of working towards and accomplishing goals with others, then consider joining UIMT!
Improve Your Leadership Skills
Whether you are thinking of being President of the United States or just might volunteer in a classroom someday, there will almost certainly be opportunities in your life for you to lead. Mock trial can help you grow as a leader so when those situations arise, you are ready. UIMT offers many leadership positions to members as they accumulate experience within the program. Although their are coaches for guidance, returning students take on mentoring roles of new students, and leaders (captains) for each team are developed throughout the year. In addition, there are non-competitive leadership roles available as well as UIMT has an executive board that handles a number of things that makes competing in mock trial possible. These leadership roles demand a high degree of organizational and communication skills, but these are skills that can be learned and are taught in mock trial. As with many other skills taught in mock trial, leadership roles are a great way to stand out on applications and resumes. So, if you want the opportunity to become a better leader while still in college, then consider joining UIMT!
Improve Your Acting Skills
Whether you're working to be the next Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, or you just really enjoyed high school theater, you might being a witness in mock trial. Unlike many other competitions, mock trial requires individuals to portray attorneys and to portray witnesses during competitions. Both types of roles are scored equally and equally important to success. As witnesses, individuals are required to step outside of themselves and tell a creative and entertaining story that will keep the judges interested in what is being said. The case materials provided to mock trial students provide us with some facts and bare bones information about a witness, but it is up to us to develop a backstory and present characters that are convincing yet entertaining. Maybe you've always dreamed of being an eccentric scientist explaining the research, or a grieving widow crying over a tragedy, or a sleazy store owner who likes to hear him/herself talk, but whatever it is you've always wanted to do, mock trial is the opportunity to improve and show-off your acting abilities. So, if you love acting or improv and want a chance to do some more, then consider joining UIMT!
Improve Your Writing Skills
If you enjoy writing or telling great stories, mock trial gives you that opportunity. When we're given the case at the beginning of the season, we have to pull out the important facts and tell a persuasive story that's easy to follow so that we can win over the judges. Almost everything we say in round is written out beforehand with some of it being improvised as we react to the other team. We spend a great deal of time ensuring that everything we say is perfect so that our story is bulletproof. If you want the chance to competitively write logical arguments, inventive backstories, or compelling speeches, then join UIMT!
Improve Your Argumentation and Debating Skills
Whether you want to become a politician or a gas station attendant, there are times in your life where you are going to have debates and arguments with other people. By joining mock trial, you will spend time learning how to analyze information, prepare an argument, and how to defend that argument from other points of view. And that's because mock trial is a competitive activity that requires all competitors to analyze a set of materials, develop the best strategy, anticipate your opponent's tactics, and then react to their moves. We spend lots of time debating and arguing among ourselves about what the best strategy to take is, and then we refine and refine that strategy in an attempt to make it more perfect. At the end of the day, we pick an argument we like, and we determine the best way to defend it. So, if you never want to lose an argument again, then consider joining UIMT!
Improve Your Understanding of the Law
Whether you want to become a lawyer or just want to understand Serial a little better, nothing will prepare you more for understanding the role law plays in your life like mock trial. The reality is that mock trial is the single best thing you can do if you're thinking about law school. Mock trial is, in some respects, an internship where you practice being an attorney in a courtroom with professional lawyers and judges. But more than that, mock trial teaches you how to analyze problems like lawyers do and practice during your time in UIMT. And because you will be trained by lawyers and law students, you will learn the vocabulary and processes associated with practicing law. This activity will give you a head start understanding on the rules of evidence, legal analysis, and courtroom procedure. You can also make a lot of connections with practicing attorneys, judges, and other prospective law students across the country. Mock trial is an invaluable way to get a leg up on the competition and get into a high quality law school. So, if you think being a lawyer might be in your future, then consider joining UIMT!