Trial Team

The Berkeley Law Trial Team is one of best law school mock trial programs in the country. As a nationally ranked program, we provide opportunities for students to hone their advocacy skills and develop as trial attorneys. The Trial Team travels across the country to represent Berkeley Law in interscholastic civil and criminal competitions. Recent years have seen the Golden Bears winning regional and national competitions in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Antonio, Tucson, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

At tournaments, teams consist of three or four members who actively compete in each trial. Each competition features an original case file written and prepared by the tournament host’s governing body. Team members prepare by reviewing legal documents, witness statements, and physical evidence. Over the course of one competition round, each team argues motions, delivers opening statements, conducts direct examinations and cross examinations, and delivers closing arguments. The Berkeley Law Trial Team participates in 8-10 competitions each academic year.

In addition to sending members to external competitions throughout year, the Trial Team also hosts two internal competitions: the 1L Bales Trial Competition, an introductory mock trial competition open to all 1L students, and the Pahlke Internal Trial Competition (PINT), a biannual advanced mock trial competition open to members of the team. These competitions allow Berkeley Law students to compete against some of the best trial advocates in the country – themselves!

Texas Young Lawyers Association National Trial Competition
• 2018/19 National Quarterfinalists (Team A)
• 2018/19 Regional Champions (Team B)
• 2017/18 Regional Champions (Team A)
• 2017/18 Regional Champions (Team B)
• 2016/17 National Semifinalists
• 2015/16 Regional Quarterfinalists (Team A)
• 2015/16 Regional Quarterfinalists (Team B)
• 2014/15 Regional Champions (Team A)
• 2014/15 Regional Semifinalists (Team B)
• 2012/13 Regional Champions, Top 10 at Nationals

AAJ National Student Trial Advocacy Competition
• 2018/19 Regional Champions
• 2015/16 Regional Finalists
• 2014/15 Regional Semifinalists
• 2011/12 Regional Champions, National Semifinalists
• 2010/11 Regional Champions, National Semifinalists

CACJ National Criminal Trial Advocacy Competition
• 2018/19 Quarterfinalists

Loyola National Civil Trial Competition
• 2018/19 Third Place Overall
• 2015/16 First Place Overall
• 2014/15 Third Place Overall

Tournament of Champions
• 2018/19 Semifinalists (Third Place)
• 2014/15 Champions
• 2011/12 Semifinalists

ABA Labor & Employment Law Trial Advocacy Competition
• 2015/16 Regional Finalists
• 2014/15 National Champions
• 2010/11 Regional Champions, National Finalists
• 2011/12 Regional Champions, National Champions

Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition
• 2012/13 National Champions

Trial Program Director
: Spencer Pahlke
Spencer Pahlke has been the Program Director of the Berkeley Law Trial Team since 2007. Spencer teaches the Trial Skills Course, a mandatory class for all Trial Team Members, and he oversees all of the Trial Team’s competitions. Spencer is also a Shareholder at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, where his practice focuses on catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death cases involving defective medical devices, vehicular collisions, dangerous conditions of public and private property, and medical malpractice.

2019/20 Team Directors: Nick Cotter & Amanda Sadra

2019/20 Roster


Members of the Berkeley Law Trial Team are required to attend and compete in 1-2 competitions each year (1 Unit); enroll in the Trial Competition Intensive (2 Units), an advanced trial advocacy course taught each Fall by Program Director Professor Spencer Pahlke; attend 2 scrimmages per semester and serve as a panelist by providing feedback to prepare fellow competition teams; and serve as a coach/judge for the 1L Bales Trial Competition.

Members of the Trial Team are also encouraged to participate in the Fall or Spring Pahlke Internal Trial Competition (PINT), an advanced internal trial competition in which Trial Team members compete against one other for cash prizes. Members also have opportunities to network with the Trial Team’s extensive alumni community through our Alumni Events.

2019/20 Competitions

King Hall Civil Rights Competition (Davis, CA): Oct. 4th-6th
Tournament of Champions (DC): Oct. 23-26th
CACJ National Criminal Trial Advocacy Competition (San Francisco, CA): Oct. 24-27th
ABA Labor & Employment Trial Regional Competition (Los Angeles, CA): Nov. 23-24th
American Association of Justice Student Trial Advocacy Competition (TBA): Spring 2020
Texas Young Lawyers Association National Trial Competition (TBA): Spring 2020
Estrella Trial Advocacy Competition (Puerto Rico): Spring 2020
South Texas College of Law Houston Mock Trial Challenge (Houston, Texas): Spring 2020

One of the Berkeley Law Trial Team’s greatest assets is its dedicated and successful alumni community. Program alumni continue to play an important role in the Trial Team’s success even after graduating. Our alumni serve as coaches for external competition teams and provide guidance throughout the case preparation process. Alumni also judge the Trial Team’s internal competitions, the 1L Bales Trial Competition and the Pahlke Internal Trial Competition (PINT). Through the program’s Alumni Events, current members and alumni have opportunities to connect, network, and celebrate the ongoing achievements of the Trial Team.

Each semester, the Trial Team publishes The Trial Advocate, a newsletter recapping the team’s recent competitions and highlighting the program’s achievements.

Spring 2019 Newsletter
Fall 2018 Newsletter
Spring 2018 Newsletter
Fall 2017 Newsletter
Spring 2017 Newsletter
Fall 2016 Newsletter

Members of the Berkeley Law Trial Team gain invaluable trial advocacy skills, including:
• Public Speaking – Speech delivery, improv, extemporaneous speaking
• Opening Statements – Writing, structure, and delivery
• Witness Preparation – Woodshedding technique and strategy
• Direct Examinations – Style, structure, and delivery
• Cross Examinations – Style, structure, and delivery
• Evidence Law/Trial Objections – Raising, defending, and argument strategy
• Closing Arguments – Writing, structure, and delivery

Tryouts Tryout Requirements What We Look For
Trial Team Tryouts are held twice a year. The April Tryouts are geared toward 1Ls and 2Ls for the following academic year; the August Tryout are geared towards 1Ls and Transfers for the current academic year. • Sign Up for a Timeslot
• Prepare: analyze a 1-2 case packet, prepare a cross examination of one witness (~2min) and an excerpt of a closing argument (~2min)
• Tryout: cross examination, closing argument, interview
• Public Speaking Skills
• Confidence & Unflappability
• Demeanor & Presence
• Potential & Coachability

Students can gain trial advocacy skills by participating in the introductory 1L Bales Trial Competition, which is open to all 1Ls.

We currently do not have any mock trial competitions for LL.M. students, but LL.M.s are eligible to participate in the LL.M. International Arbitration Competition.