Mock Trial at Ohio State after winning 5th place at nationals. Credit: Courtesy of Anna Defendiefer

Mock Trial at Ohio State broke into the top five in the country for the first time at a national competition in Philadelphia April 7, with both teams placing fifth in their division.

The Ohio State team represents a group of students who study and practice a simulated civil or criminal court case and compete against other teams across the country on the execution of their performance in a mock trial.

Mock Trial has three teams — OSU A, OSU B and OSU C — that participate in competitions, although only A and B were able to compete in the national competition.

Anna Defendiefer, a third-year in economics-business and vice president of public relations for Mock Trial, said teams start off at the regional level, and then if they qualify, the team goes to the Opening Round Championship Series. From there, the teams have the opportunity to go to nationals.

About 750 teams from across the country participate in mock trial, and the top 48 make it to nationals, Defendiefer said.

The organization practices one case until nationals, and then the cases change.

“We only had two and a half weeks to work on this one case, which meant we were practicing for three to four hours every night, which was so intense,” Defendiefer said.

In addition to placing fifth, members of Mock Trial also won All-American awards, signifying that they are among the top 10 students participating in the tournament.

“Becoming an All-American isn’t easy,” Julia Cash, a third-year in political science and Mock Trial member, said. “There are so many amazing competitors and big personalities, so you really have to do something to stand out.”

Cash received her All-American for performance as a witness.

“Being an All-American witness meant that I had to become this character: learn the affidavit inside and out, remember all my lines, make a jury laugh and relate to me, not be polarizing and survive cross-examination with credibility and likeability still intact,” Cash said.

Mahmud Bari, a fourth-year in political science, received his All-American for his performance as an attorney.

“I won my All-American on both sides of the case, both as an opener for the defense and as a closer for the plaintiff, while every other attorney won it on one side of the case,” Bari said.

Bari was named the only double All-American in the country.

“The whole thing felt surreal,” Bari said. “You give it your all for your teammates, for your coaches and for the parents and supporters that traveled to watch you. After all of that, if you still have some gas left in the tank, you can think about competing for yourself.”

Although participating in Mock Trial can act as an outlet for college students, Defendiefer said it also grants opportunities to develop crucial life skills that will carry them through a career, whether or not they are a law student.

“Being in Mock Trial is a super good opportunity to develop your critical thinking skills, teamwork skills and your legal knowledge,” Defendiefer said. “Even if you’re not intending on going to law school, it still really teaches you how to work with a team effectively and overcome adversity and develop your acting skills.”

To become a member of Mock Trial at Ohio State, students must participate in tryouts. Members can either play a witness or an attorney.

“We have tryouts every year, and usually around 60 to 70 people try out, and we take a couple of people. Most of the time, we take freshmen who will have three or four years in the program,” Defendiefer said.

Tryouts consist of attending an informational session, a 15-minute opening statement, a witness portrayal in front of the coaches and executive board, and an impromptu speech, Defendiefer said.

Mock Trial at Ohio State is already looking forward to its future competitions.  

“We kind of joke about it, but the ultimate goal would be getting OSU A and OSU B in the final round,” Defendiefer said.

Students interested in joining Mock Trial at Ohio State can try out in early September, and more information about tryouts can be found on the team’s website.