Suggestions for Attorney Coaches
This outline will provide you with some suggested guidelines for use in preparing your student attorneys and witnesses for the mock trial competition.
Much as you will want to help the students, to point them in the right direction, and to give them the benefit of your experience, remember that the students and teachers will develop a better understanding of the case and learn more from the experience if the attorney-advisors do not dominate the preparation phase of the competition. The preparation phase of the contest is intended to be a cooperative effort of students, teacher and attorney coach.
Review the Mock Trial materials first and familiarize yourself with all aspects of the case. Make sure you understand how the competition works, i.e., how the students are scored in accordance with the matrix, time-limits on each part of the case, and mock trial rules and procedures.
SUGGESTED PREPARATION TIME: At least five or six 2-hour sessions before first trial date.
SUGGESTED MEETING PLACE: Meetings can take place at the school or at a home or office. If possible, one meeting should take place in a local courtroom to help students feel comfortable in a courtroom setting.
PROPS: Easel or blackboard for visual aids in explaining trial procedure concepts.
- If teacher has not already done so prior to the first meeting, distribute case materials and instruct the team to read them before the next meeting.
- Explain trial procedures, i.e., opening statements and closing arguments, direct and cross-examination, calling witnesses, objections. Review the Simplified Rules of Evidence included in the case materials and note that these are the only rules and procedures allowed to be used in the mock trial case.
- Examine and discuss the factual basis of the case, witnesses' testimony, and the points for each side. Key information might be listed on the blackboard as discussion proceeds so that it can be referred to at some later time. Assist the students in categorizing the facts: i.e., important, damaging, conflicting, irrelevant, etc.
- Discuss the law involved in the case and the burden of proof.
- Put the students on the stand with the notes, then have the attorney coach proceed with an example of direct and cross-examinations.
- Define the roles of the team members, establishing who will act as witnesses and attorneys. Since each team is required to represent both sides of the case during the competition, all roles in the case should be assigned and practiced.
Emphasize that team members should not memorize their roles since, in a real trial, they would have to play it by ear. Rather than memorizing his/her role(s), each student should concentrate on knowing all the facts of the case.
Go through the trial
- Work with the student attorneys, concentrating on what should be covered in an opening statement and a closing argument.
- Remember that the role of the attorney coach is that of a consultant, not an author. Give the students ideas, but don't write statements for them. Ask other members of the team what they think should be included in the opening and closing.
- Witnesses are called to the stand and student attorneys examine them. Work with students to develop questioning techniques that will elicit testimony to support either side of the case.
- Have other team members make suggestions, to both witnesses and attorneys.
- Have attorneys practice making objections, and discuss both style and substance of objections thoroughly.
- Conduct cross-examination and define possible areas where objections could occur; look for other areas that your team's attorneys might want to focus on during cross-examination; have all team members make suggestions.
- Practice opening statement and closing argument, how to lay foundation for exhibits, what to do when the opposing team objects to your questions.
- Discuss appropriate courtroom decorum and etiquette.
- Have at least one practice run of the entire trial. Allow team members, attorney coach(es), and the teacher coach(es) to act as the presiding judges and the opposing team's attorneys.
- Enlist the support of community members, especially attorneys or judges, to sit in and offer suggestions.
REMEMBER THAT TEAMS MUST PREPARE BOTH SIDES OF THE CASE.