UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Law 1L Mock Trial is a favorite tradition among law students year after year, providing valuable courtroom advocacy experience. This year’s event was no exception.
Organized by third-year law students, Mackenzie Koppenhofer and Ellie Vanier, the event encompassed three rounds of competition.
The first round, held March 16 and 17, involved 20 teams of one or two first-year students. The semi-finals were held April 7 with the top four teams. Both rounds were judged through blind-scoring scoresheets by the 1L Mock Trial Committee, which was co-chaired by Koppenhofer and Vanier.
The finals were held April 10 between the two best teams and were judged by Penn State Law Professor Chris French. Committee members included Hannah Bennett, Amber Bynum, Kathryn Dutton, Robert Gross, Jamie Jones, Logan Nagle, and Adam Scott.
Throughout the competition, teams focused on the same arson and felony murder case from the state of Illinois, with rounds one and two treating it as a criminal trial, and round three looking at it as a civil wrongful death suit. This required teams to think critically about all aspects of the case and how to appropriately apply the applicable laws. Leading up to the event’s kickoff, committee members mentored competitors with four one-hour mandatory training sessions and individualized coaching meant to provide background in trial advocacy and courtroom procedure.
Koppenhofer and Vanier said they were excited to build off the event’s previous success, and to provide access to trial advocacy experience that first-year students so rarely receive.
“We wanted to give 1Ls the opportunity to explore their strengths and become more comfortable in the courtroom,” Koppenhofer explained. “Having that experience early on is so helpful, even if you don’t necessarily plan to be a trial advocate; the overall experience is invaluable.”
“This mock trial gives first-year students who have had access to limited experiential opportunities outside of the classroom the chance to participate in something that not only gives them first-hand knowledge, but also provides experience they can list on a resumé, setting them apart as they look for those summer internships,” Vanier said.
This year’s winner, Bailey Cole, is a testament to how powerful the experience can be. Prior to the competition, she had not considered trial advocacy. Following her success, she is seriously weighing it as a future career.
“I was really impressed with quality of the performances of the three finalists--Bailey Cole, Kelsie Robinson, and Kyle Williams,” Professor French said. He also specifically commended Koppenhofer’s and Vanier’s work with the program. “Mackenzie and Ellie, as well as the other members of the 1L Mock Trial Committee, did a great job preparing the finalists and running the competition.”
The committee is already looking forward to next year’s event and encourages any 1L competitors considering getting involved to reach out to any committee member.