On March 10, the St. Olaf Mock trial program sent a team to the prestigious Opening Round Championship Series for the first time since 2019. The team secured a bid to the Opening Round Championships Series (the last stop before the National Championship Tournament).
Mock trial is exactly what it sounds like — teams from colleges around the U.S. put on fake trials and compete to see who can do it best. Over 700 teams from hundreds of colleges participate in mock trial.
All college teams use the same case created by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). Students play attorneys or witnesses and compete to craft the best case and presentation. In each round, teams are randomly assigned plaintiff or defense, and the attorneys call witnesses, present evidence, and argue their case before a judge. This year’s case is a civil suit about a plane crash.
Every year, mock trial teams around the country compete at a series of invitational tournaments and a regional tournament. The top teams from regionals win bids to the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS), which take place in March. Top teams from ORCS will go on to the national tournament in April.
The St. Olaf Mock Trial A and B teams competed at the regional tournament in Madison, Wisc., on Feb. 25-26. The A team went 5-3, a success that qualified them for ORCS.
“This is the first time the program has been to ORCS since 2019, so that was a big deal for us, we’re super hyped,” co-captain Arielle Bakken ’23 said.
The St. Olaf team competed at ORCS in St. Paul, Minn., at a tournament hosted by Macalester College. This season, the program fielded three teams of about seven students each — an increase in participation for the program, which usually fields two teams.
“This year we’ve had a huge surge of freshmen, which is great,” Bakken said.
The season kicks off in the fallwith scrimmage-style tournaments which allow students to practice their cases, test out strategies, and learn more about the structure of mock trial. In Dec., the students divided into three teams — the A, B, and C teams. In mock trial, this process of dividing a program into distinct teams is called stacking.
“We will take everyone — everyone has a spot. I think it’s really nice because we don’t stack right away,” Bakken said. “Other mock trial programs will stack right away, and then you’re with your people that you’re going to be with the whole time. I think it really helps for us to build a sense of community.”
Mock trial is not just for future lawyers and litigators. St. Olaf Mock Trial’s members include social science, STEM, humanities, and language majors.
“You’re really learning critical thinking skills, you’re learning presentation skills, and I think with that it attracts people from all different kinds of disciplines,” Bakken said. “It’s people who are passionate about the activity, that are passionate about having a nerdy group on campus to hang out with.”
“I think there’s a lot to learn, I think it takes a while to get the hang of it, but once you do it’s very rewarding,” co-captain Marco Ibarra Bibriezca ’23 said. “Tournament weekends are always fun, they’re also exhausting, but at the end of the day it’s rewarding.” Mock trial meets every Sunday from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.