Murray State law students gain hands-on experience through mock trial

Story by Nick Erickson, Assistant Features Editor 

Photo courtesy of Kelsey Yates

Held by the American Mock Trial Association, the 27th Annual Mid-South Invitation mock trial tournament was held in Murfreesboro, Tennessee November 10-11. For Murray State undergrad law student, Kelsey Yates, it was a taste of her future.

Participating in mock trial tournaments since the fall of 2016, Yates is president of the team comprised of four other attorneys. She said a lot of hard work goes into preparation for a tournament.

“We start working on our case problem at the beginning of the semester and we practice as a team for about three hours every Monday, with the attorneys meeting together every Tuesday,” Yates said.  “Each attorney also works with their witnesses throughout the week on their own time.”

“A few weeks ago, we had a scrimmage with Western Kentucky University here in Murray,” Yates said. “It was judged by Circuit Court Judge Jamie Jameson.”

During preparation, students train to either play as a witness or an attorney. During the tournaments, they compete with up to 50 colleges.

The fall mock trial tournaments are held at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, while the spring tournaments are held in downtown Louisville at the Jefferson County Hall of Justice.

Yates said as the team gets closer to the tournament, they start practicing more and typically have a scrimmage with another university.

“We usually have one major AMTA (American Mock Trial Association) sanctioned tournament each semester,” Yates said. “A few weeks ago, we had a scrimmage with Western Kentucky University here in Murray and Circuit Court Judge Jamie Jameson judged it.” 

Yates said participating in mock trials has taught her an incredible amount since she started doing them.

“Myself included, these tournaments really improve everyone’s confidence, public speaking skills, team skills and critical thinking abilities,” Yates said. “Additionally, there’s the chance to return with multiple attorney awards, witness awards and overall team awards.”

Yates said she is thankful for Paul D. Foote, assistant professor of political science and team coach, for his role in helping the team prepare for the mock trial tournaments.

“Dr. Foote has been coaching the team for a few years now and does a great job,” Yates said.

In addition to Foote, Yates said Attorney Chris Hendricks has served as the team’s attorney coach for the trials.

“He just started working with us this semester and he has already been an incredible help to the team,” Yates said.

Foote said the mock trial is “one great simulation,” and one of the best opportunities law students have to prepare for real trials.

“Once you put in hard work, it pays off in a great way,” Foote said. “Not only can participants win awards and put it on their resume, but is all around a fun experience.”