Early in the morning on Wednesday July 27, nearly 50 excited high school students and teacher-coaches converged on Connor dorm in Chapel Hill for our 4th annual CCCE summer mock trial camp. While many lived nearby, others had come from as far away as Florida and Wisconsin. What inspired them to devote four days of their summer to an intense academic activity? Mock trial, of course! The intense boot camp atmosphere gave students a chance to learn about our legal system through informative lectures and hands-on trial preparations. While some students were looking to refine their skills in the Advanced sessions, many Basic level campers weren’t entirely sure what mock trial even was – but they were about to find out!
Experienced attorneys from across the state shared their knowledge with students in targeted sessions on trial preparation. Session topics included “Mock 101” (overview and case analysis), Direct Examination, Objections and Rules of Evidence, Witnesses, Cross Examination, Opening Statements and Closing Arguments, and Presentation and Demeanor. Instructors kept the students engaged by tailoring their presentations to the students’ level and employing the Socratic method. “Jeopardy” games provided a fun way to test the students’ knowledge of each day’s material, with prizes for individual answers and for the top team.
Teaching sessions were interspersed with hands-on breakout groups, in which the six teams of students put their knowledge into practice by preparing for an end-of-camp mock trial. Law school and college-aged “mockers” with experience at the highest levels of high school and collegiate competition mentored each team, guiding students in their preparations and giving them confidence in their new skills.
On Saturday, the students “showed their stuff” by arguing for either the prosecution or the defense in the case of Lee Robertson v. C&C Supply (modified from the 2005 Nationals case for the event hosted in Charlotte!). While notes were allowed due to the compressed time frame, many students confidently proceeded from memory alone. Objection battles were adeptly argued, and witnesses gave convincing portrayals even under withering cross examinations. At the end of the day, the students and their proud families were thrilled by all they had accomplished!
Preparing to leave Chapel Hill, the campers and teacher-coaches raved about the camp. As participants proclaimed on the evaluation surveys, “The camp was a fantastic learning experience. I really liked the structure and the different instructors. My team mentors were amazing and helpful!” A teacher-coach agreed: “I highly recommend the camp. The Resource Manual was exceptional, and the presenters were knowledgeable and engaging!”
As a result of our summer camp, several new schools plan to join the mock trial program this fall – a wonderful benefit to students statewide who will thereby gain important skills and a deeper appreciation for our legal system.