Members of the Mock Trial team pose following a recent competition. Credit: Courtesy of Alexandra Goss

Eric Roytman was just a first-year when Ohio State’s mock trial “A” team went all the way to the 2015 national competition.

“It was so cool to get so close with people who had been working so hard for years to go to nationals,” said Roytman, who at the time was the team’s timekeeper. “That motivated me to be like them, to succeed like they did.”

Getting to the mock trial nationals is no easy feat. Columbus attorney Alex Bluebond, the OSU team’s head coach, said a team has to win several tournaments to advance all the way. Out of the 600 collegiate teams in the American Mock Trial Association, only 48 make it to nationals. The 2014-15 team ended up finishing 13th in the nation.

“We are always aiming to qualify for nationals,” Bluebond said. “Any year we don’t is a disappointment. Once we get there, we take it one round at a time.”

Mock trial is an academic competition in a courtroom setting. Students are either witnesses or attorneys for the defense or plaintiff and they compete against students from across the country. Each year the case alternates between civil and criminal. This year the case is civil.

This season began in late August when the case was released, and will continue through Spring Semester with various tournaments being held before regional tournaments start in February.

Alexandra Goss, a second-year in political science and psychology, said there is a lot of pressure in preparing for competitions.

“Things they are looking for the most when you try out are the ability to think and presentation skills,” Goss said. “One of the biggest things I’ve learned from being in mock trial is that sometimes how you present something is just as important if not more so than what you are presenting.”

Goss also said it is crucial to memorize the facts of the case that is used for tryouts.

“If people show up and don’t know the case, it shows they are not committed and passionate about it,” Goss said.

Mock Trial is a heavy time commitment, Goss said. There are mandatory practices two days a week. Once tournament season kicks off there can be practices every day.

Roytman, now an attorney on the mock trial “A” team, also said the hard work put into mock trial is worth it.

“Mock trial teaches you a high-level thinking, hard work and discipline, but that makes it so rewarding to work and compete so hard at something and succeed,”  Roytman said, “It’s a special thing that you can’t get from many clubs and teams.”

Goss said she also enjoys the opportunity to travel across the country.

“You spend so much time with everyone you build incredible friendships,” Goss said. “That means you get to travel everywhere with your best friends.”

Teams this school year have been to competitions in Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina and Tennessee. Members are responsible for a $75 registration fee to be in the club and to cover food expenses, with the balance covered by a grant from Ohio State’s political science department.

While Goss and Roytman said mock trial helped them realize they wanted to be lawyers, not everyone who joins the team is aiming to end up at law school.

Roytman said that the type of students who want to be in mock trial should be driven, creative and enjoy teamwork.

“There’s usually a wide variety of majors,” Bluebond said, “Only half of the students plan on going on to law school, but the public speaking and communication skills they learn will be good and useful in whatever they decide to do.”