Mock trial teams takes first place at Yale
The Rutgers University Mock Trial Association (RUMTA) A-Team “mockers” found themselves in the limelight after achieving first place at the American Mock Trial Association's Regional Tournament earlier this month.
RUMTA’s A-Team faced 29 teams at the event, hosted on Feb. 7 and 8 by Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
Rutgers finished with a score of 7 wins, 0 losses and 1 tie in trials against Cornell University, Yale University, Williams College and Fairleigh Dickinson University.
RUMTA is an extracurricular organization that allows interested students an opportunity to participate in collegiate level competitions and learn the ways of law, according to their website.
“Our job is to be professional and confident and know our stuff,” Michael Guggenheim, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said.
Guggenheim said the team learns best by being challenged. To learn the term “evidence law,” the team would have to explain it perfectly to their coach, and if they were unable to do it they would have to try again.
Craig Aronow, RUMTA head coach, plays the tole of a very difficult and uneasily moved judge to trial and challenge his students, Guggenheim said.
“RUMTA is a very competitive organization. So much so that we have three separate teams we send to competitions, A, B, and C. Our A-Team is great to be a part of because we all have the same goal in mind,” Ashley Daniel, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said.
While Daniel enjoys receiving awards, she said the main thrill and passion lies in traveling to another person’s “home turf” and hearing “Rutgers University” called out at the podium to come up and get a trophy.
“It’s a sense of pride that’s bigger than each of us," she said. "And after a big win, you have this level of confidence that nothing can stop you from doing it again."
Brandon Ferrick, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said the team’s work ethic is impeccable.
They spend over 12 hours a week prepping for trials, Ferrick said. The team has two mandatory practice days on Wednesday and Sunday but also meets outside of the mandatory practice days just as frequently. Before the Yale tournament, Ferrick said the team was tweaking presentations to look authentic in their roles.
“It's one thing to portray a character or witness, but its another thing to be so convincing that you believe that you're actually sitting in a real trial,” he said. “The judges who score our rounds are often real trial attorneys or actual judges. In order to win, we need to present ourselves in a manner that appears to be as authentic as possible.”
While the team achieved a great success earlier this month, Ferrick still feels that they have not gained too many benefits from winning quite yet.
“Winning feels great — it comes with bragging rights, but until we win a national title, it doesn't mean much," Ferrick said. "Winning is definitely a confidence boost for a lot of the members of the team. It pushes us to be better and to not make mistakes in the future."
Ferrick said winning helps the team realize that their case theory and substantive evidence is good so they can focus on the nit-picky parts of the performance that separate a team scoring nine out of 10 from a team scoring full points.
Shaleen Patel, a School Of Engineering senior and RUMTA’s A-Team Captain, said the success has helped boost A-Team’s confidence and the success the organization as a whole has gotten them a lot of recognition across the country.
“Honestly though,” Patel said, “the rough stretch we had earlier in the season where we weren't winning really pushed us to get better and figure out what we needed to do to start being really competitive.”
The next step is to compete in the Open Round Championships Series at Pennsylvania State University. Two-thirds of the nation's teams have already been eliminated and there will not be any weak teams left in the field, Patel said.
In order to move onto the National Championship Tournament, which has only the top 48 teams in the country, A-Team needs to place in the top 6 of about 25 teams at ORCS.
“There's only one goal this organization hasn't achieved and that's the national title. But if we don't take it one step at a time we'll find ourselves on the outside looking in,” Patel said.