Big Red Mockers

Mock Trial Team season includes All-American honors
Monday, June 2, 2014

Though not as well-known as some Big Red squads, Cornell's Mock Trial Team is making waves in its own arena: the courtroom.

Eight of the team's 32 participants received bids to compete at mock trial nationals in Orlando, Fla., this spring. Forty-eight teams vied.

Cornell's adviser, Employment and Disability Institute Associate Director Thomas Golden, and eight ILR students gave the 2013-2014 team a strong ILR presence, according to Mock Trial Treasurer Christine Gabrellian '15.

"Having Professor Golden as our adviser has been pivotal in our expansion and marketing as a student organization on campus," she said. "He has helped with our new website, marketing in the ILR School and university as a whole, and developed a platform for us to reach out to Cornell alum."

This year marks the 30th anniversary of mock trial nationally. The competitive extracurricular continues to grow in popularity because it is fun for students interested in anything from law to finance to theater, Gabrellian said.

Each university and college team is responsible for providing people in the roles of attorneys – both prosecution and defense – and their own witnesses, she said. Every August, a new fictional case is issued to teams across the country and the hard work begins. Cornell "mockers" spend up to eight hours a week practicing with teammates, Gabrellian said.

Big Red mockers divided into several teams within the team to prepare and manipulate the case in their own ways, she said. At tournaments, Cornellians competed against students from other schools to see what worked, what did not and where they needed to get stronger.

Two judges, both of whom must have been practicing attorneys or former mock trial participants, preside over the contests. Tournaments often last all weekend and can become networking opportunities for the pragmatic student; some come away with internships after making connections during a trial, Gabrellian said.

Traveling to tournaments can pose a financial issue, Gabrellian said, but this year, the Big Red team received university funding, aid from alumni and parents, and a donation from ILR Dean Harry Katz.

The intense work required to participate and excel as part of mock trial isn't the only thing that keeps this group close, she said. After August tryouts, students receiving offers to join the team are greeted with what mockers call a "ding-dong bid" – a paper invite, delivered to the individual's residence – and graduating members are presented with ropes to wear at commencement.

Bringing extra honors to the team this year were:

  • Laura Bach '16, mock trial attorney and team captain, two All-American awards on defense and prosecution as a double-sided, closing attorney,
  • Jessica Borenstein HA '14, mock trial witness and team captain, All-American award on the prosecution for her portrayal of Tyler Hartman,
  • Cole DeVoy A&S '18, double-sided witness, one rank from an All-American witness award on the defense.

All-American awards go to the top 20 attorneys and top 20 witnesses at each national championship tournament, Gabrellian said. Attorneys and witnesses compete for All-American awards against 6,000 individuals each season.