Home Online Learning Another First for APU Legal Studies Students: Mock Trial Competition
Another First for APU Legal Studies Students: Mock Trial Competition

Another First for APU Legal Studies Students: Mock Trial Competition

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Learn more about Legal Studies degrees at American Public University.

By David E. Hubler
Contributor, Online Learning Tips

The American Public University System (APUS) Legal Studies program continues to be a trailblazer. In 2013, the University became the first fully online student chapter of the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, International. At that time, APUS was the largest chapter in the country.

Last November, four students in the Legal Studies program represented APUS in their first Phi Alpha Delta (PAD) Mock Trial competition. Coached and mentored by two Legal Studies faculty members, the students joined teams from 11 other universities.

Unlike their competitors from campus-based schools, the APUS students were scattered across the U.S. They conducted their months-long preparation for the mock trial competition completely online. The team members met each other for the first time when they arrived in Arlington, Virginia, at the site of the competition.

Competition Preparation Included Studying a Large Packet of Facts about a Fictional Case

Preparation for the competition included studying a large “fact packet” about a fictional child abuse case that would be argued at the mock trial. The packet contained pertinent information about the case, including police reports, case law and other relevant materials they would need as they played prosecutors, defense attorneys or witnesses during various rounds of the mock trial, law professor and APUS faculty coach James Barney explained.

Barney, as well as his co-coach and faculty advisor Julie Simpson, spent many hours over several months of webcasts and conference calls preparing the team for the competition. According to Barney, the team greatly benefited from Simpson’s trial experience and her valuable advice and mentorship.

During the competition, the teams were not judged on whether they won or lost the case, Barney said. They were judged on a long list of categories, including their mastery of the Federal Rules of Evidence.

“As you make your case, you have to follow the rules of evidence,” he explained. The students were expected to raise objections and then the judges could ask questions about the objections. Points were awarded for how the students handled the objections and answered the judges’ questions.

APUS Team Participated in Three Mock Trials over the Weekend

The APUS team took part in three mock trials over the November weekend. During the first round, two members played the prosecutors and their two teammates played the role of witnesses for the prosecution. They all switched roles in subsequent rounds of the competition.

Thus, all four team members had to master all the roles, including that of prosecution and defense attorneys as well as the witnesses. This added to the complexity of the competition, Barney explained.

APUS faced off against the University of Florida, which won the competition for a second straight year. Florida won by only one or two points. The team also faced Texas Tech and the University of Central Florida, two other strong teams.

“We held our own against some stiff competition and our students should be very proud of their performance against very strong teams with prior experience in the competition,” Barney said.

APUS Prepares to Compete Again in 2018 PAD-Sponsored Mock Trial

The Legal Studies program will field a team again this fall in the PAD-sponsored mock trial. Barney has already begun recruiting students for the 2018 team, so they can begin next month preparing in earnest for the competition.

The APUS Legal Studies program is a great way to prepare for law school or a paralegal career, Barney said. “Our classes are constructed for students that would be going [on] to law school,” he added. “We’re trying to prepare them with the types of skills they’re going to need to go to law school or pursue a career in another type of legal profession like a paralegal or legal assistant.”

Among other skills, students learn how to properly read a case and understand the legal system.

Last year, more than 30 APUS graduates, many of whom completed the Legal Studies program, matriculated in American Bar Association law schools. These law schools included:

  • Brooklyn Law School
  • Georgetown University
  • University of North Carolina
  • Ohio State University
  • Pepperdine University
  • Villanova University

Join Phi Alpha Delta to Participate in Chapter Events

In addition to the chance to participate in the mock trial competition, Legal Studies students at AMU and APU can attend PAD chapter-sponsored events through conference calls or on Adobe Connect rooms. Recent chapter events have included LSAT representatives discussing the LSAT exam and attorneys talking about probate law and the #MeToo movement.

Joining the APUS Phi Alpha Delta chapter is easy. Visit the Phi Alpha Delta website, join as a student and pay a one-time membership fee. You can also receive more information about the chapter on the Phi Alpha Delta page.

Select the Pre-Law radio button and then choose American Public University System as your chapter. Once you’ve completed your membership, send a copy of your receipt to studentaffairs@apus.edu to be included on the chapter roster.

For more information, e-mail studentaffairs@apus.edu.

Learn more about Legal Studies degrees at American Public University.

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