Featured Organization: Suffolk University’s Mock Trial Team
Probably the most distinctive feature of the Suffolk University’s Mock Trial Team (SUMTT) is their spirit of competition. As an organization created to compete and set to win, they battle against most Ivy League universities. Only, this fight takes place in court.
“Mock Trial is basically the only opportunity for undergraduates to actually practice courtroom litigation,” says SUMTT President, BenChertok. The game is as follows: The American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) provides one case per season, usuallydispended over one school year, to every team. Every university gets the same case. The case switches every year between a civil case and a criminal case. This year, it is a civil case.
“So, what we do,” continues Ben – Benjamin in court – “Oh wait, I’ll show you.” He conjures forth a pile of paperwork, spread over several ring binders. Their duty: To memorize it inside out, “once you get through this stuff, you get to the fun stuff.” The group then splits into two roles: attorneys and witnesses. This is settled by tryouts, whereupon the board of directors assigns the roles. As for the witnesses…”Their job is to know the report as the back of their hand! They got to know every line, every piece of punctuation.”
The goal of the game is practically the same as the goal of SUMTT. Chertok is very clear in this: “Our goal is to win.” Besides learning all the lines and rules, a lot of acting comes into play. According to Chertok, this is one of the things that make cases really alive. The witnesses try to make their characters to be as real as possible, including weird habits and funny voices.
Bluntly said: Mock Trial is not all about the conviviality, nor is it merely about ‘having a good time.’ As said, their goal is to win. In order to win, there needs to be a lot of practice. The norm for SUMTT is two times per week, seven hours a day. An organization can’t spend that much time together without creating a bond. Chertok talks about all the headaches they share: “Mock trial for me became a family. The people that are on my mock trial team are some of my best friends.”
The Mock Trial competition is divided into three rounds: Regionals, Opening Round Championships and Nationals, and the competition is tough. “The field we work with, is predominantly top-tier schools. Our competition is Harvard and Yale,” says Chertok.
Suffolk University’s Mock Trial organization was founded 6 years ago and has done pretty well ever since. A big victory has taken place recently, last year the organization made it to Nationals. They were among the best eight percent of the country. Suffolk had never been to nationals before. “There were tears shed on our team,” says Chertok as he recalls the qualification for nationals. He names it as one of his best memories. “You could see it in everybody’s eyes. Everybody wanted that more than anything. And then we got it.”
For this year, Chertok wants to come at least that far; but they aim further. Again, the goal is to win.
As for joining SUMMT, one cannot be on the team without a tryout. In this way, they make sure only people who are really motivated for Mock Trial join the team, because the participants have to prepare for some hard work. Another positive aspect of the tryouts is that the organization isn’t necessarily ‘ruled’ by seniors. Ben Chertok, a government and psychology sophomore, joined the organization last year and is now the president.
According to Chertok, who participated in Mock Trial teams for eight years, Mock Trial is really “an old dog’s game.” The longer you participate, the better you will be. Mock Trial will train you “to have the best legal mind you can possibly have.” The biggest benefits of Mock Trial is that it makes you think fast and critically, it teaches you how to use the powers of persuasion and it helps you to discover the value of networking. Life skills no one would turn down.
Participating in a Mock Trial team is not a requirement, nor will it make up for low LSAT or GPA grades. However, several students in Law School agree that it will distinguish you from students with similar grades in the application process. Chertok says: “This is what I want to do. I want to do law litigation, and this is the way that I can practice it. But the benefit of Mock Trial for me has extended so far beyond the foundation building from my future.” He continues: “Mock Trial is not an organization. It is not a club. Mock Trial is a team. What that means is that we are a team.”
The next upcoming event for this team is regionals in February and SUMTT is busy preparing. In fact, they have already won four personal trophies this season. Two times ‘Most outstanding witness’ for Tom Logan, ‘Most Outstanding Attorney’ for Lane Dubreuil and ‘Most Outstanding Attorney’ for Ben Chertok.
Since there is one case per season, tryouts will not be held until next fall.
However, you can contact the organization about attending a meeting by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.