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School of Law


Mock Trial

The Mock Trial program was created to help students acquire a working knowledge of our judicial system, develop analytical abilities and communication skills, and gain an understanding of their obligations and responsibilities as participating members of the bar. Each year, national and regional associations sponsor competitions throughout the country. The materials they produce include a hypothetical civil or criminal case (including summaries of case law, witness statements, official exhibits, and simplified rules of evidence) and competition rules. Teams are invited to participate in the annual Palmetto State Classic Mock Trial Competition.

Who is Mock Trial for?

Mock Trial is an excellent activity for all students who will be practicing attorneys, as it helps students develop the skills that make trial lawyers successful, such as:

  • excellent oral communication skills
  • the ability to quickly develop and articulate a logical, persuasive argument
  • an understanding of the rules of evidence

However, the Mock Trial program is not just for intended litigators. The oral communication and logical reasoning skills that are honed in mock trial will benefit all students, regardless of their post-law school plans.

How does it work?

The competition itself consists of two teams who try a criminal or civil case against each other, with one team as the prosecution (plaintiff) and one team as the defense. In competition, students use the Federal Rules of Evidence, along with a number of case strategies, in order to simulate an actual trial experience.

Students play both attorneys and witnesses; attorneys are responsible for direct examinations, cross examinations, openings and closings, while witnesses participate in direct examination and cross. Judges, typically local attorneys, score the each examination based on a number of criteria including content, performance, poise, and comfort in the courtroom.

Who can participate?

First-year students at the USC School of Law have the opportunity to participate in the Mock Trial program as well, serving as witnesses, jurors, and bailiffs during the tryouts. Travel competitions are open to second- and third-year students, and are usually held in the Spring.


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