The Oberlin Stories Project

On being on the mock trial team

Isadora Jaffee ’13

“Our successful team is the perfect example of how you can create your very own passionate enterprise at Oberlin and find others who want to help.”

Isadora raises a gavel

While waiting to hear the results in the cctafinals of the Midwest regional Mock Trial Competition, my fellow Obies and I sat among the color-coordinated, intensely prepped and coached teams of the other mock trial contenders. We were the smallest team by far and the only team with no coach. Although completely student-run, we did not feel the weakest at all that day.

I started participating on my high school Mock Trial team during my junior year. Every few days, we got together after school and headed to a prominent law firm in New York City. There we were taught how to battle objections, get evidence in, and give chilling summations. When I got to Oberlin, I immediately joined the Mock Trial team. I found things were a little different, but now I judge that to be a good thing. We had no coach because there is no law school on campus, so we came up with everything we planned to use in the competition completely on our own, and we were faced with the unsolvable predicament that the regional competition that occurred every year came right after winter term, ensuring that we would be out of practice by the time we made it to the competition.

We did not win, nor did we come close to winning, during the first competition I attended as a part of the Oberlin team. The next year, I found myself as the captain/coach of the team, with few returning members. I immediately set to work using the persuasion skills Mock Trial had taught me, convincing my roommate, a friend, and my friend’s roommate to join the team to enable us to have the minimum amount of members. They turned out to be just as passionate and skilled as any Mock Trial teammates I could have hoped for. Together, we came up with creative ways to present our case, which became a very clear advantage at the competition.

In college mock trial competitions, every school’s team is given the same exact case. A case consists of a legal scenario (for our year, it was a grieving mother suing a toy company over the death of her son caused by the ingestion of the company’s toy), relevant legislation and case law, testimony of witnesses, and exhibition of evidence. Our strategy was to make the perfect combination of these elements to present a winning argument. Instead of most teams’ recited and memorized pitches, which probably came straight from their coaches’ mouths, we understood our arguments inside and out. We set out to compete.

And on the first day of that competition, which occurred during my sophomore year, something unexpected happened. We qualified for the next round. However, we were all so busy—some of us were balancing three majors, 45-page seminar papers, sports teams, and dramatic performances—we could not make it and had to forfeit our spot. But our 2011 Mock Trial experience stands as an incredible memory of the completely unexpected becoming a reality.

Our successful team is the perfect example of how you can create your very own passionate enterprise at Oberlin and find others who want to help. While there is so much available to join at Oberlin, what I find even more exciting is that you can always start something as well.