Mock Trial Strategies

Choosing Team Roles


A Raisin in the Sun, 1959

Typical Team Composition

  • Minimum and maximum numbers vary from state to state
    • Usually between 8 and 18 in high school state tournaments
    • At the high school national tournament, the maximum team size is 8
    • In college competition no less than 6 and no more than 10
  • Schools can field more than 1 team (some have an A and B team) 
  • Team consists of both a prosecution/plaintiff and defense side.
  •  Larger teams of 14 to 18 members:
    • Allow a complete prosecution/plaintiff and defense side
    • Allow practice scrimmages between the two sides
    • Require less work/time from each team member
  • Smaller teams of 8 or so members:
    • Allow team members to take roles on both sides
    • Do not allow for scrimmages unless there is  another full team
    • Require more work and time from each  team member

Team Philosophy

  • Competitive
    • Goal is to win (mirrored by most sports)
    • Tryouts for roles
    • Lesser skilled members may not compete
  • Inclusive
    • Creates a place for everyone regardless of ability
    • Team members are still expected to work hard and do their best
    • Creates bond between students of different abilities and backgrounds
  • Blended model (uses both approaches)

Team Roles

  • Team Captains (optional):
    • One captain for the prosecution/plaintiff team and one for the defense team
    • Support the coach in various ways
    • Preferred skills:
      • Have experience in a variety of Mock Trial roles
      • Leadership qualities
      • Provide guidance when the coach is unavailable
      • Help other team members stay on task and complete work on time
      • Co-ordinate the case presentation 
      • Provide motivation and guidance to other team members 
  • Clerk and Bailiff: 
    • Roles can be learned quickly
    • Excellent for someone who does not have a lot of time 
  • Direct, Cross and Closing Attorneys: 
    • Time intensive roles
    • Should be filled by someone who will attend regularly
  • Opening Attorney: 
    • Memorized oratory speech
    • Less time intensive than the prior two attorney roles
    • Not required to learn rules of evidence
    • Does need to be familiar with the overall case
    • Must work closely with the attorney doing the closing
  • Lay Witness:
    • Roles require memorization
    • Not as time intensive as attorney roles  
    • Excellent roles for committed newcomers
  • Expert Witnesses: 
    • Roles require memorization
    • Not as time intensive as attorney roles

Choosing Roles

  • Preliminary considerations  
    • Who are the best story tellers? (possible openers)
    • Who can think on their feet? (important for objections in direct and cross examinations)
    • Who can argue well? (important for closing arguments and objections)
    • Who can act well? (possible witnesses)
  • Other factors to consider
    • Student preferences
    • Does the student have the time for the role?
    • What role will help the student grow?
    • Prior Mock Trial experience
    • Grade (senior, junior, sophomore, freshman)
  • Possible method for choosing role
    • Discuss the skills and preparation required for the different roles
    • Students fill out a self-assessment and role preference work sheet
    • Create a draft roster of preliminary role assignments
    • Get feedback from the team and finalize roles 
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