Mock Trial: A Great Way to Practice for Your Future Practice

Just as the new 1Ls are buzzing around town gathering their first set of books and hurrying to complete their first set of reading assignments, the 2Ls are congregating and having new experiences too. One group of 2Ls in particular is enveloped in enticing opening statements, expressive direct examinations, fiery cross-examinations and convincing closing arguments. All of this presented in full courtroom attire in the courtrooms of the Florida State University College of Law Advocacy Center.

These new members of the Florida State University College of Law Mock Trial team were chosen through a try-out process held during the past spring semester. Throughout the summer some participated in optional clinics to provide that extra “oomph” of practice for upcoming competition. In August and September, these new members are broken out into smaller, three and four-member teams with each being assigned to a returning member who will act as their coach for the upcoming intramural sessions.

All of the teams receive an identical case packet and each team practices for weeks determining how they will approach the case, perfecting their presentations, and strategizing. In the latter weeks of the process, the teams compete against each other in several rounds of intramurals, or “IMs”. The purpose of IMs is to simulate the mock trial competition experience and to give new members exposure to what mock trial competition entails. During this process, they learn about how the process works and are provided with the opportunity to actually go through the motions in a real-life setting. Local attorneys, often College of Law Mock Trial team alumni, are brought in to judge each round and offer feedback to each team.

As someone who has gone through this process, I can attest to just how much IMs help in getting one past the mock trial learning curve. It was an eye-opening and humbling experience to realize just how much talent, hard-work, and commitment each member brings to the Mock Trial team. Each night of competition we arrived with our game faces on, ready to give it our all. I was thoroughly impressed by my team as well as with the skills and abilities of the other teams. I was especially fascinated with how other teams presented the case in ways that my team had not even considered.

It was also amazing to witness the dedication of Tallahassee’s legal community to the College of Law Mock Trial team. They gave their time and undivided attention to judging each competition (each lasting 3 hours) and then provided individualized feedback to the competitors for improving their performance in future state-wide and nation-wide competitions.

Overall, Mock Trial is a great opportunity to acclimate yourself to the courtroom experience, especially if you are interested in a career in litigation. I was interested in Mock Trial because I wanted to become more comfortable with public speaking. I can definitely say that this has already come to fruition. Whatever your interest, there is a wide array of skills to be gained by any future attorney through participation in the College of Law Mock Trial team.

??????????????????????????????????? Melanie Kalmanson, 3L

An Interview With Professor Nat S. Stern

I am MaryCatherine Crock and I am a third-year student at Florida State University College of Law. Although I plan on pursuing a career in criminal law, constitutional law has become a passion of mine, both inside and outside of the classroom. I had the pleasure of having Professor Nat S. Stern for Constitutional Law I and Constitutional Law II. Professor Stern is a well-known instructor and scholar and is a favorite among the students at the College of Law. I had the opportunity to interview Professor Stern about his passion for constitutional law, his research and academic activities, and what advice he would offer to both prospective and current law students.

MaryCatherine Crock: Can you give us a little background about your legal education?

Professor Stern: I received my B.A. from Brown University and my J.D. from Harvard University.

MaryCatherine Crock: How did you become interested in constitutional law?

Professor Stern: My favorite course as an undergraduate was a political science class about the judicial system that included a significant number of Supreme Court opinions on constitutional law. Unsurprisingly, my favorite class in law school was Constitutional Law.

MaryCatherine Crock: What are your research interests?

Professor Stern: I focus principally on First Amendment doctrine and specifically on commercial speech and defamation.

MaryCatherine Crock: What advice would you offer a student pursuing a career in academia?

Professor Stern: In academia, especially, publication is crucial. A person seriously interested in pursuing such a career should begin writing early.

MaryCatherine Crock: Why is Florida State University College of Law such a great choice for one’s legal education?

Professor Stern: I don’t think I can list all the reasons! One of the most important, though, is our wonderful student culture. Faculty visiting from other schools routinely comment to me on how supportive our students seem to be of one another. Another is the deep commitment of the faculty to the law school’s teaching mission. While the faculty is best known to the outside world for its scholarship, extensive publication has in no way come at the sacrifice of devotion to teaching. Surveys of our students have consistently confirmed this to be the case.

MaryCatherine Crock: What do you love most about teaching?

Professor Stern: It would have to be the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of really bright, talented, and enthusiastic students.

MaryCatherine Crock: Are you involved with advising any extra-curriculars? If so, can you tell us about them?

Professor Stern: My principal involvement since coming to the law school has been with the FSU College of Law Moot Court Team, which had established a tradition of excellence and success long before I assumed the role of advisor in 1993.

MaryCatherine Crock: Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice and why?

Professor Stern: I really can’t single out one. I guess it shows my affinity for constitutional law that I enjoy reading the opinions of Justices with a wide range of judicial philosophies.

MaryCatherine Crock: What is your biggest piece of advice for incoming/prospective law students?

Professor Stern: Don’t feel that you need to concentrate on learning law before you arrive at law school. In particular, don’t feel pressed to load up on “pre-law” courses in college. On the contrary, the more broadly you are educated before attending law school, the more effectively you’ll be able to employ the legal tools that will be placed at your disposal there.

College of Law student ambassadors. MaryCatherine Crock, 3L

Stern, Nat  Nat S. Stern, John W. & Ashley E. Frost Professor