December 31, 2014

Mexican Law Professors Coach their Students for Success at Competition and at Life

December 2014

Despite its short history of mock-trial competitions, the Universidad de Colima, which introduced practical training on the accusatorial system in March, will send six teams of four to the national mock-trial competition in February 2015. And the students who will be representing the university have professors Carlos Alberto Macías Becerril, Conrado Sandoval Chacón and Julio César Gómez Santos to thank for their progress.

Professor Conrado Sandoval Chacón (center) and the team of four students that won second place at ABA ROLI’s regional mock-trial competition in October.

In addition to teaching at the Universidad de Colima, a public university in Mexico’s Colima state, the professors also run a private law firm that focuses on commercial and civil law. They had little experience with, or knowledge of, Mexico’s ongoing transition from an inquisitorial to an accusatorial criminal justice system. To enhance their understanding of the transition the professors took part in a five-day oral-skills training that the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) organized in March. Attended by law professors and students from across Colima, the training focused on such trial skills as opening statements, closing arguments, and direct- and cross-examination of witnesses. With an eye toward sharing their newly acquired skills with their students, Carlos, Conrado and Julio César also attended a training of trainers that followed the practical-skills training. The second workshop equipped them with interactive-teaching techniques and prepared them to coach their students for mock-trial competitions.

Returning to their school, the professors worked with school administrators to launch practical skills courses, which culminated with mock-trial competitions in August. A total of 108 students—a third of the university’s law students—participated. Encouraged by students’ feedback, Carlos, Conrado and Julio César asked ABA ROLI to conduct a follow-on training at their school. The professors also invited other law schools in their state to the two-day training. Students from six universities participated in a series of intense, simulated trials while the professors attended sessions on interactive-teaching skills, such as active listening and demonstrative techniques.

In October, Carlos, Conrado and Julio César led four students to represent their school in ABA ROLI’s first regional mock-trial competition, coaching them for 15 hours a week. Their team faced Universidad de Guanajuato, a university that has a well-established mock-trial program, at the finals and won second place.

Continuing with their quest to groom their students to be good lawyers, Carlos, Conrado and Julio César are coaching two teams each for the February national competition. The six teams are among the 96 that qualified for the national competition, which ABA ROLI and the National Institute of Criminal Sciences organize. The teams and the three professors coaching them continue to prepare for the national competition qualifiers round, which will take place in February, hoping to get to the championship rounds scheduled for April 2015.

To learn more about our work in Mexico, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.