Georgetown Law Clinic Hosts Annual Mock Trial Competition for DC Public School Students
The Street Law Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center hosted its 49th annual fall mock trial event for public high school students in Washington, DC on November 4, giving attendees the opportunity to learn more about the law and practice their legal skills.
Under the program, clinic students teach a one-semester course in Basic Legal Principles to participating Washington DC Public School (DCPS) students. At the end of the semester, students participate in a mock trial on a subject chosen by the course teachers.
The program allows students to learn about the legal process and build self-esteem, according to Charisma Howell, director of the Street Law Clinic.
“The real value is in young people and seeing them accomplish something that they didn’t necessarily think they could do,” Howell said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “It can be a tremendous boost for self-confidence. It’s a very complicated process, but they work wonders every year.
As part of the program, law students create a lesson plan and run classes, which last between 60 and 90 minutes and take place two or three times a week. The courses cover a wide range of topics; however, they also help prepare students for the final mock trial competition, which takes place at the end of the semester.
Law students strive to make course material as relevant and accessible as possible for high school students, according to Howell.
“Law students need to bring law to life and make it tangible,” Howell said. “It’s about teaching the nuances of the law while infusing relevant examples that students are engaged and interested in. ”
Classes employ a variety of teaching methods, as student instructors use different techniques to teach high school students legal and public speaking skills, according to Elizabeth Choi (LAW ’22), a student coach.
“For each class, I try to incorporate several different teaching methods to accommodate the variety of ways students learn,” Choi wrote in an email to The Hoya. “There is usually always some type of reading, a worksheet, a little writing, sometimes a video, sometimes a game, and so on. One thing I almost always include is time for a class discussion / debate. “
At the end of the semester, the high schools participate in a mock trial to assess the skills acquired throughout the course. The subject of the lawsuit changes every year, with this year presenting students with a human rights case, according to Howell.
Although preparing for the trial was stressful at times due to student absences during the COVID-19 pandemic, the experience was rewarding for students and teachers, according to Shelina Warren, a teacher at Dunbar High School, a school. DCPS near the Mount Vernon Triangle. neighborhood that won the competition.
“In my opinion, preparing for the mock trial was stressful until the day of unpredictable student attendance due to a pandemic,” Warren wrote in an email to The Hoya. “It was a pleasure to see my students play, some who had struggled in various ways this semester but who lived up to the opportunity.”
While Georgetown law students helped prepare the students for the trial, the participants largely competed on their own, according to Choi.
“I helped prepare my students on their way to the mock trial and while we waited for the trial to start,” Choi wrote. “During the trial, I answered some of my students’ questions but for the most part I did not observe them.
The mock trial consists of three rounds of 15 teams, and judges count points based on various criteria, including speech and the feasibility of the legal approach presented, to determine which teams will participate in the final round, according to Howell.
Going into the tournament and winning the case was very exciting, according to Rakiah Willis, a junior at Dunbar High School.
“Preparing for the mock trial was definitely a great experience,” Willis wrote in a message to The Hoya. “It was very nice to win the case. I felt an explosion of excitement knowing that all of our hard work paid off.
Despite being nervous about the competition, Dunbar’s contestants were set to win, according to Jaquan Waller, a junior at Dunbar High School.
“I was nervous at first, but once we got through the gates I was excited and ready to win,” Waller wrote in a message to The Hoya. “When I got there I kept telling myself ‘we’re going to win’, so when we finally won I was relieved and I thought, ‘I knew this was going to happen’, but I was very happy to win. “