SFVBA Trustee Kyle Ellis serves as a research attorney with the Los Angeles Superior Court and is the organizer of SFVBA’s Mock Trial Competition. Last year, he was instrumental in organizing the SFVBA’s highly-successful Candidates Forum, which gave the public the opportunity to appraise the candidates running for the Los Angeles City Council’s District 12 seat. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When asked, just about anyone that participated in a mock trial competition team during law school is likely to say that it was the best experience they had in their three years.
The comradary of late nights preparing a case with coaches and teammates, the puzzle of strategy of what questions to asks and facts to bring out, and the thrill of competition on the day of the event made the experience hard to match.
But more than just being an intellectual, interpersonal, and emotional exercise , a mock trial competition team gives law students hands-on knowledge and competency in the work of preparing, prosecuting, and arguing a case.
Knowing the value of trial experience for law students, the San Fernando Valley Bar Association (SFVBA) will host its inaugural mock trial competition on April 17-18, 2020. This event represents an exciting new opportunity for our members to help the newest generation of attorneys learn the ins-and-outs of practicing their craft in a courtroom setting.
Moreover, the mock trial competition will further SFVBA’s mission of educating not only its members, but the public, as well, about the law, growing and developing the Valley legal community, and promoting the professionalism, competence, and ethical conduct of new attorneys.
In addition, it will serve to support the ideal of the legal profession dedicated to public service, and creating a more inclusive and diverse legal community.
A Humbler Goal
Of course, beyond the loftier goals of the competition is the more modest goal of fostering an interest among law students in joining SFVBA or their own local association if they end up practicing elsewhere.
As a subcommittee of the Bar’s Membership and Marketing Committee, the Mock Trial Subcommittee believes that the Association’s goals of service to the legal community and ensuring the continued success of our Association can, and must, move forward hand-in-hand. By working with law students directly through hosting a competition, the name and mission of the Association is passed on to the next crop of lawyers that will form the backbone of the Bar in just a few short years.
Taking advantage of our status as a regional bar association, we will be offering a unique trial experience to law schools throughout the state, by giving our lawyers-in-the-making the opportunity to engage directly with California case law, rather than restricting the competition to the federal level. To that end, we have been recruiting participants from all ABA- and California- accredited law schools in the state and crafted an appropriate competition prompt based entirely on California civil litigation practice.
While the number of participants may change over the next few months, we already ten competition teams committed to participating in this inaugural event.
The teams that are already aboard will receive the prompt this month with team members working on preparing for trial in a wrongful death action involving a police shootout in a mall, possible official misconduct, and a series of carefully crafted procedural and evidentiary challenges.
The goal will be to make the students consider the thorny issues of what information they want to admit into evidence, how to balance the potential benefit of a witness when weighed against the potential harm of the same witness, and to reflect on issues of official misconduct, police actions, and the vagaries that often come with challenging litigation.
There will be a total of four rounds over the course of the two-day trial competition, and teams of 4 students will have the opportunity to act as the plaintiff’s attorneys and defense attorneys.
On the first day, April 17, students will work through two preliminary rounds, where all participating teams will have the opportunity to represent each side of the case. Results of the preliminary rounds and awards for individual competitors will highlight a dinner for the students hosted by SFVBA-member law firms and associates.
The second day will have four semifinalist teams squaring-off, and the two top teams will then conduct one final round in the afternoon. At the round’s conclusion, the First and Second Place teams will receive their awards from the San Fernando Valley Bar Association.
The Mock Trial Subcommittee has been working under the auspices of the Membership and Marketing Committee to host this event since fall 2018. Each member of the subcommittee deserves praise for their tireless efforts, but none of it would have been possible without the full support of our Immediate Past President, Yi Sun Kim, and our current President Barry Goldberg.
To make the event a complete success, the Subcommittee needs your support and participation. We need SFVBA members to serve as volunteers and evaluators, as well as law firms to lend their financial support as sponsors, and judicial officers to take time out of their busy schedules to preside over the Mock Trial competition.
Your participation and support are critical to the success of our event, and both the Subcommittee and the student competitors are relying on the generosity of the members of SFVBA.
As we gear up for our inaugural competition, the Mock Trial Subcommittee is already looking forwards to replicating the event in 2021. We welcome any member that is interested in participating in either the 2020 or 2021 events to attend any of the Subcommittee meetings, usually held on the third Monday of every month, and published in the calendar of events in Valley Lawyer.