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What is a Mock Trial?

Here's what you can expect when participating in a mock trial and why it can benefit anyone interested in furthering their career in law.

Jan 3, 2023
  • Student Tips
  • Education
Mock trial: female judge and jury sit, start of a case hearing

✨ 5-second summary

  • A mock trial is a simulated courtroom experience where students act as lawyers, witnesses, and other courtroom roles to present a hypothetical legal case.
  • Participation helps students hone critical thinking, public speaking, and teamwork skills.
  • The experience provides a deeper understanding of the legal process and can prepare participants for potential legal or advocacy careers.

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to step into a high-stakes courtroom situation without the pressure of actually having to prove your case in front of a live jury? If so, joining a mock trial team might be just what you’re looking for.

We'll discuss exactly what is involved with participating in a mock trial and why it can really benefit anyone interested in furthering their career in law. So if you're ready to take your legal expertise to the next level, get ready – here's everything you need to know about mock trials.

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What is a Mock Trial?

A mock trial is an educational exercise that replicates a real-life legal dispute or case.

Mock trials allow participants to assume the roles of lawyers, witnesses, and other court personnel in order to simulate a courtroom setting. These exercises are conducted for educational purposes, so there is no actual decision being made by a judge or jury; instead, the participants are guided by an instructor who can provide feedback and evaluate their performance.

Male public defender presenting mock trial case

How does a Mock Trial work?

During the mock trial, each side presents its case, including opening and closing statements, examination of witnesses, and arguments made by opposing counsels. At the end of the trial, a “judge” will usually decide a winner based on the evidence presented and the quality of the arguments.

Let's take a closer look at four aspects of a mock trial:

1. Rounds

Mock trials involve four rounds that are closely modeled after actual courtroom proceedings.

The first round involves opening statements, in which each team lays out their respective cases and the evidence they plan to use to prove it.

During the second round, both sides question witnesses who have been called to testify by either side. This is referred to as "direct examination”.

In the third round, the opposite side is given the opportunity to question witnesses in order to challenge the evidence or testimony presented. This is known as "cross-examination".

Finally, both sides give closing arguments summarizing their case and why they believe it should be accepted by the “judge”.

At this point, the “judge” will decide on a verdict and, depending on the competition, may provide feedback to help contestants reflect on their performance.

2. Roles

For students studying an LLB to accurately simulate a real-life courtroom setting, there are many different roles that must be filled in a mock trial.

Participants can assume the roles of lawyers, witnesses, clerks, bailiffs, and even judges in order to give an accurate representation of a court case.

Each role is important for the success of the exercise and requires different levels of understanding about legal proceedings:

  • Lawyers must be well-versed on their respective cases and be able to present their arguments with confidence.
  • Witnesses must be able to provide effective testimony while remaining impartial and cooperative.
  • Clerks are responsible for keeping track of all court documents, while bailiffs ensure order in the courtroom.
  • Judges must be able to objectively assess both sides' arguments and make a fair verdict based on the evidence presented.
Female public defender presenting mock trial case

3. Teams

Mock trial teams are typically composed of six to ten members, where only six members will compete at a time. Each team is responsible for preparing its case and presenting it in court.

Team members should have an understanding of the legal process from both sides - prosecution and defense - as well as the roles necessary for a successful mock trial.

Each member has their own specific role in the preparation and presentation of the case. For example, team members may research and develop strategies, craft arguments, prepare witnesses for testimony, and manage evidence.

Additionally, teams must be prepared to respond to questions from the other side during the trial or anticipate arguments they might make.

4. Scoring

Mock trials are typically scored according to a predetermined criteria and judging guidelines.

Judges evaluate each team's performance based on their understanding of the rules, effective presentation of their case, knowledge of the facts, use of evidence, and overall convincing arguments.

Depending on the specific competition, judges may also consider factors such as demeanor, poise, and professionalism.

Typically, the winning team is the one that scores the most points according to the guidelines. In some cases, however, the judges may declare a tie or issue no verdict if they feel neither side presented a strong enough case.

Female judge reading mock trial decision

The benefits of participating in Mock Trials

Participating in a mock trial is an incredibly rewarding experience that offers many benefits.

  • It provides invaluable experience and insight into the criminal justice system and the complexities of legal proceedings.
  • It allows participants to hone their public speaking, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills while developing a better understanding of the law.
  • Mock trial competitions are a great way to learn how to effectively work with others in a team setting, as well as to develop essential communication and presentation skills.
  • Participating in a mock trial is an excellent opportunity to build relationships with other professionals and expand one’s network.


Mock trial competitions are a great way to gain an edge on college or law school applications and can help increase one’s chances of success in future legal endeavors.

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