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March 23, 2018 Articles

Why Mock Trials Are Important

The top four reasons why you should consider a mock trial before your next trial

By Raquel H. Crump

Many lawyers, while litigators, rarely see the inside of a courtroom. For the few cases that do proceed through trial, preparation is key. Mock trials allow counsel to prepare their best case and receive additional viewpoints that they may not have considered or been aware of. Mock trials unlock the strengths and weaknesses in a case and provide opportunities for its enhancement.

Mock trials are important for many different reasons, but this article addresses only a few. Mock trials allow counsel (1) to see how the story may resonate with the jury, (2) to see the case from the other party’s perspective, (3) to identify strengths and weaknesses of the case, and (4) to have the opportunity to practice and improve their trial skills.

How the Story Resonates

Mock trials allow attorneys the opportunity to evaluate case themes and theories. Case theories outline how you will construct your case. Mock trials allow the implementation of an attorney’s case theory—presenting your case in a way that appeals to a jury, focusing on key facts that lead the jury to rule in your favor, and creating a clear statement of the law for the jury to understand. Presenting your case theory in a mock trial eliminates the actual trial being the first time it is heard. You are able to see if your case theory is strong or needs some tweaking.

Seeing Your Case from the Other Party’s Perspective

The attorney for the other party will be attempting to persuade the jury with a story that contradicts yours. Mock trials provide the opportunity to see one theory of the other side’s case. Preparation for a mock trial allows for advance analysis of the opponent’s case, which assists in identifying where disputes will arise and the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent’s case. Use the mock trial to emphasize your case’s strengths and attack your opponent’s weaknesses.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Case

After the conclusion of a mock trial, attorneys have the opportunity to discuss the trial with mock jurors, similarly to the actual trial. Feedback from mock jurors is very important and can assist greatly in trial preparation. Mock jurors can tell you which party they believed and why, what facts were most important to them, how they understood the case and its issues, etc. Awareness of these items and more assists in the strongest presentation and preparation of one’s case. The mock jury can be similar to the real jury (assuming the selection process is similar), and their comments should be taken seriously. Their comments can help identify your case’s strengths and weaknesses. Identifying them will lead you to highlight your strengths and prepare defenses for your weaknesses when they are attacked.

Practice Trial Skills

For those attorneys who do not go to trial often, practice is key. The mock trial provides an opportunity to practice all facets, or at least the most important ones, of a trial. Counsel can practice opening and closing arguments, direct and cross-examinations of witnesses, the presentation of evidence, arguing motions, decorum and manners toward opposing counsel, etc. Mock trials allow attorneys to become more comfortable with all aspects of the trial, including the simple feel of the courtroom.

Mock trials, while an added expense for the client, are sometimes necessary. They allow attorneys to be best prepared and allow clients to have more confidence in their attorneys’ representation and presentation of their side of the case.

Copyright © 2018, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).