by Naomi Hsu, Belmont
A few years ago, I watched Legally Blonde for the first time. I clearly remember fangirling over the protagonist, Elle Woods. She was smart, funny pretty: what more was there to ask for of a character? But what stays imprinted in my memory till this day isn’t Ms. Woods’ cleverness and charm, but the climax of this movie: the trial scene. Elle Woods is a law student, and she happens to be the attorney of this trial due to special circumstances. The tension is tangible even through the screen: she blabs, sputters, rambles, but then she collects herself, and suddenly she is confidence itself, aweing the judge, the members of the jury, and everyone else in the courtroom. She wins the case, and till this day, this scene, this cinematic capturing of such a glorious triumph plays in my head. Being so inspired, I signed up for mock trial classes, and I have seen numerous benefits already. Mock trial is an activity everyone should try, offering several benefits such as enhanced critical-thinking skills, an augmented understanding of persuasion, and more professional, captivating speaking skills.
When I first started mock trial, I had poor critical-thinking skills. I could identify the problems of a situation, but I wasn’t able to construct a solution. My logical thinking and research skills were quite weak as well, but this quickly changed once I began mock trial classes. In mock trial, one is given a fake case and client to defend. In order to defend a side, a logical, thorough case must be written. This requires someone to develop strong critical-thinking skills, for when they read the case packet, they must determine why their client isn’t in the wrong. For instance, if the case is about a driver who hit a biker, and the client is the driver, one could observe and point out that the biker was biking at night, endangering himself or herself in the first place.
Additionally, mock trial helps strengthen persuasive skills. Mock trial is about defending the client and convincing the judge and members of the jury that the client and his or her side of the case is the just one. Circling back to the driver and biker example, if the biker were the client, one would have to figure out what makes the client look the best, appear the most moral. In mock trial, it is taught that a big part of persuasion is using pathos: evoking pity or sadness from the judge and jury. In this case, a way to do this tactic would be painting out a scene for the courtroom that victimizes the client. For instance, one could say “There’s darkness and then there’s red. Blood is on the floor, and blood is on the defendant’s hands.” The defendant in this case is the driver, so this visual paints him or her to be the villain. Mock trial teaches the tactics of persuasion in a creative and incredibly effective way.
Lastly, mock trial improves public speaking skills to a great extent. I used to talk too fast, and when it comes to speeches, my well written words lost all their power simply because of the lack of passion I said them with. Fortunately, mock trial emphasizes the importance of using pace, volume, and tone. In trial, it’s important to talk clearly so the judge can understand the case one is making.