The Berkeley Law Trial Team currently competes in nine different competitions, and in two of these competitions, we send two teams for a total of 11 competition teams. The competitions offer opportunities to explore both civil and criminal law. The Trial Team has been incredibly successful, regularly bringing home both regional and national championships. Tryouts are very competitive; only about one-third of the students who try out receive a spot on the team.
In recent years, our External Trial Competition Program has seen unprecedented growth in involvement, excitement and success. We have transformed from a small regional program into a program with a national reputation for excellence. Our wealth of coaching support allows us to provide students with both group practices and extensive one-on-one training, during which students fine tune their skills. We also have a robust system of internal scrimmages that ensures that each of our teams is ready for competition long before they reach their tournament. Berkeley Law competes in a number of open competitions, including two key competitions the results of which determine invitations to compete in invitational competitions. In 2014, Berkeley Law won one of the most prestigious mock trial competitions, the invitation-only Tournament of Champions, which brings together the top 16 teams in the nation.
Why Should You Try Out?
Do you want to try cases when you graduate? Do you want to handle litigation in complex civil disputes? Do you want to negotiate corporate mergers and acquisitions? In almost any area of legal practice, you will find that advocacy plays a central role—whether it is in a courtroom or a conference room. The skills you will gain as part of our program will prepare you to be a lawyer, no matter what your area of practice.
You will also benefit from joining a tight-knit alumni community. Our alumni have integral positions in the nation’s leading legal markets, including with the country’s preeminent law firms, District Attorneys and United States Attorneys’ Offices, and State and Federal Public Defenders’ Offices. This is the network you join when you are a part of the Berkeley Law External Trial Competition Program.
For information about tryouts, please click here. If you have questions or need additional information, please contact the Trial Team Student Directors at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that the competitions listed below are subject to change from year to year.
National Trial Competition (NTC), Texas Young Lawyers Association
The National Trial Competition was established in 1975 to encourage and strengthen students’ advocacy skills through quality competition and valuable interaction with members of the bench and bar. The program is designed to expose law students to the nature of trial practice and to serve as a supplement to their education. It is the Texas Young Lawyers Association’s intent to provide a meaningful contribution to the development of future trial lawyers. We send two teams composed of four students each. The problem is released in early November with the regional competition held in late February and nationals in late March or early April. This competition spans the Fall and Spring semesters, but the workload is most intense in January and February.
National Student Trial Advocacy Competition (AAJ), American Association for Justice
The American Association for Justice seeks to inspire excellence in trial advocacy through training and education for both law students and practicing attorneys. The association accomplishes this goal in part by sponsoring the National Student Trial Advocacy Competition, an annual nationwide mock trial competition. The competition is an exceptional opportunity for law students to develop and practice their trial advocacy skills before distinguished members of the bar and bench. We send two teams composed of four students each. The problem is released in late November or early December with the regional competition taking place in mid-March and nationals in late March or early April. The work begins late in the Fall semester but is most concentrated in February and March.
American Bar Association Section of Labor and Employment Law (LEL) Trial Advocacy Competition
The American Bar Association’s Section of Labor and Employment Law established the Labor and Employment Law Trial Advocacy Competition to introduce law students to the challenges and rewards of employment and labor litigation. Law students who participate in the competition have the opportunity to develop their trial advocacy technique in a mock courtroom experience. The competition offers participating students a forum in which they may develop the skills they will be using as practitioners, and a chance to meet and network with fellow law students and labor and employment law practitioners. We send one team of four students to this competition. The problem is released in early September with regionals held in late October or early November and nationals in late January. The bulk of the work occurs in September and October.
National Criminal Trial Advocacy Competition (NCTAC), California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ)
The National Criminal Trial Advocacy Competition has quickly become known for its excellence and participants hail from some of the best trial advocacy programs in the nation. Both the fact pattern and judging have been acclaimed as exemplars of what a national competition should include. Every year, federal and state judges as well as some of the most skilled criminal trial lawyers in California volunteer to judge this competition. The fact pattern provides competitors with the opportunity to prepare and hone their trial skills using case materials modeled on a real-world criminal case file. We send one team of four students to this competition. The problem is released in early September and the competition is held in mid-October. The workload is heavily concentrated during a short period of time in September and early October.
Estrella Trial Advocacy Competition, Estrella LLC and George Washington University Law School
This competition focuses on a civil case. In the past, competitors have argued whether a store was negligent after an alleged mugging occurred in their parking lot and whether a company was negligent after sexual harassment allegedly occurred on a business trip. We send one team of four students to this competition. The problem is released in January and the competition is held in early April. The work begins in January, but is most concentrated in February and March.
National Ethics Trial Competition, McGeorge School of Law
McGeorge’s National Ethics Trial Competition was established in 2006 to promote ethical and civility awareness through the mock trial competition format. It may be the only law school-sponsored competition that features both an ethical component in the issues to be tried and scoring based on the participants’ observation of ethical and civility principles. The purpose of the annual competition is to provide an opportunity for student trial lawyers to develop and display their knowledge of professional responsibility and skill in trial work. Trials are judged by distinguished members of the bench and bar, including federal judges. We send one team of four students to this competition. The problem is released in January and the competition is held in mid-March. The workload is most intense in February and March.
National Civil Trial Competition (NCTC), Loyola Law School
The National Civil Trial Competition is an invitational tournament open to all ABA-accredited law schools that have demonstrated excellence in mock trial competitions and/or excellence in the training of law students in litigation skills. The purpose of the tournament is to provide student litigants an opportunity to develop and display the skills of a successful civil litigator. Students are required to perform opening statements, direct- and cross-examination of expert and lay witnesses, and finally closing arguments, as well as argue objections based on the Federal Rules of Evidence. We send one team of four students to this competition. With the problem released the third week in September and the competition held in mid-November, the workload is concentrated in October and early November.
Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition, Baylor Law School
The Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition is an innovative, invitation-only mock trial tournament where the best advocates from some of the top 16 trial advocacy schools go head-to-head for the honor of Top Gun. The winner earns a $10,000 prize. Berkeley Law is among the schools regularly invited to participate in this competition and one of our top trial advocacy students competes each year. Unlike other mock trial competitions, participants do not receive the case file until 24 hours before the first round of trials begin. Preparation includes reviewing depositions, records and photographs, and taking a trip to the actual places where events in the case supposedly occurred. Shortly before each round, competitors are assigned a witness or witnesses who may be used at their discretion during the round. The jurors for each round are distinguished trial lawyers and judges. The competition is held in June at Baylor Law School in Texas.
Tournament of Champions, National Board of Trial Advocacy
The Tournament of Champions is one of the premier law school trial competitions in the nation and is known for having the highest quality of congeniality and good sportsmanship. Each year, 16 schools are invited. The invitations are based on each school’s three-year performance record at the National Trial Competition and the American Association for Justice Student Trial Advocacy Competition, and performances at prior Tournament of Champions competitions. We send one team of four students to this competition. The problem is released in August and the competition is held in late October. The workload is concentrated early in the Fall semester in September and October. In 2014, Berkeley Law won the competition and will host it in October 2016.
The journey for our Berkeley Law Team to the ABA Labor and Employment National Championship, epitomized stellar advocacy at every turn. We won the regional competition in November 2014 and had to prepare for the National Competition in New Orleans that took place January 24-25, 2015. The team members were first-year law student DeCarol Davis, second-year law student Stephanie Llanes, and third-year law students Salah Hawkins and Jerel Dawson. They were coached by Ivor Sampson and Katie Lubin-Benson.
In the first preliminary round Stephanie and Salah represented the defense side and went against the Dallas Regional Champion, Southern Methodist University. The round got off to a great start when Stephanie nailed her opening statement, and the momentum carried through the rest of the trial. In the second preliminary round, DeCarol and Jerel faced a very talented Northwestern Team. It was a very close round from opening to closing statements, with each team making very good points and well argued objections. As a team we weren’t sure if we had won the round, but we knew it was close. When we learned that we were advancing, the team exploded with excitement.
The next day Stephanie and Salah, representing the defense, faced a well-prepared Villanova team. As a
team, we were laser-focused and Stephanie flipped the defendant’s theme in her opening statement. From that point on, they could not have had a more perfect round. At lunch, we learned we would advance to the final, and the team rejoiced and hugged each other as we were one step closer.
Jerel and DeCarol represented the plaintiff side in the final around against a vigorous team from UCLA. As Sixth Circuit Judge Bernice B. Donald prepared to announce the winner, the entire team held hands. When our name was called as the winner, the team and coaches celebrated with a mixture of shock, disbelief and delight.
Though winning is always fun, the dedication of the team and its coaches cannot be understated, and the team’s hard work, enthusiasm and genuine friendship remains the highlight of the experience.