Mock Trial Team Takes Off
In only three years of existence on campus, the Haverford team has pulled off impressive victories and even hosted its first annual invitational last fall.
Since its founding in 2014 by then-first-year students Nick Barile ‘18 and Jordan McGuffee ‘18, the Haverford College Mock Trial Team has been on an impressive growth trajectory. Captained by its founders, along with Eli Cain ’18, the group has distinguished itself at a number of regional competitions, and now boasts enough members to field three separate teams at events. And in October, the Mock Trial Team raised the bar even further when it hosted the first-ever Black Squirrel Invitational. Completely student-organized, the event drew ten schools and 20 teams to Haverford from as far north as Ithaca, N.Y., and as far south as Dallas, Texas. (George Washington University took first place in the competition.)
Pre-Law Advisor Jennifer Barr, the group’s on-campus advisor and a judge for the Black Squirrel Invitational, describes the Mock Trial Team, as “perhaps the most active and visible law-related student organization” on campus.
A number of alumni lawyers helped Haverford College Mock Trial get off the ground, including Rahul Munshi ’06 (co-founder of the Haverford College Lawyer’s Network), and Jeff Monhait ’09, who continues to serve as an attorney coach for the group. The team competes in the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA), a league of over 600 teams from small liberal arts colleges, large universities, and everything in between. During mock trial competitions, attorneys and witnesses go up against other teams before a panel of judges. Attorneys handle all court procedures, including opening and closing statements, cross-examinations and objections, while witnesses portray specific roles to support their team’s case. In addition, many others are involved in building the case and preparing for trial.
“It really is one of the most beneficial activities I’ve ever done,” says McGuffee. “Not only do we gain experience in speaking and critical thinking, but we get to jump into the field of law.”
In its inaugural 2014-2015 season, the team competed in an AMTA Regional Tournament at the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center, picked up its first win against the City College of New York and came within two points of besting the University of Pennsylvania. The following season, Haverford took second place at Monmouth University’s Hawk Invitational, and advanced to the AMTA Opening Round National Championship Series.
“Those were crucial moments for our development as a team,” said Barile. “We realized that we have the talent to beat universities that dwarf us when it comes to school size and resources. AMTA isn’t like the NCAA where you’re put in a division of similar-sized schools. We could be playing Florida State in one trial and Yale in the next.”
The 2016-2017 season has brought even more success for the group. The A team took second place at the University of Maryland Charm City Classic, in a performance that included a sweep of Princeton and the defeat of top-ranked American University. Meanwhile, the B team took third place at the Quinnipiac University Bobcat Invitational. Team members have also earned more than 10 outstanding witness and attorney awards this season. And it’s not over. At press time, the team was in contention for an “Open Bid” (essentially a wild card spot) in the AMTA Opening Round National Championship Series. They’ll get the verdict later in March.