New TCU mock trial team offers an opportunity for aspiring law students

Walter+Flanagin+and+members+of+the+TCU+Mock+Trial+tea+practice+questioning+a+witness+in+a+simulation+courtroom+setting.+%28Photo+by+Madyson+Buchanan%29

Walter Flanagin and members of the TCU Mock Trial tea practice questioning a witness in a simulation courtroom setting. (Photo by Madyson Buchanan)

By Madyson Buchanan

The opportunity to join a mock trial is now available to TCU students.

The team, which is the first of its kind to arise on campus, welcomes new members who wish to compete on behalf of the school. The team offers an opportunity for aspiring lawyers to develop their skills and others wanting to practice their presentation and public speaking abilities in a simulation of a jury trial. 

While TCU has a Moot Trial team, it is only open to undergraduates in the political science department. The Mock Trial team is open to students from all majors and grades.

The founder of the team and sophomore history major, Walter Flanagin, who was a member of his high school’s mock trial team for three years, was shocked when he found out TCU did not have a team. He gives credit to his high-school team for making him want to pursue a career in law.

“It made me actually want to go into law because the only reason I considered it was because I liked reading and writing,” said Flanagin.” I was like — law is somewhat like that, but once I joined mock trial, it was like real courtroom stuff and I got to like experience it firsthand and it was so fun to me.”

A fellow team member, Erin Crittendon, a first-year English major and critical race and ethnic studies minor, has a similar take to Flanagin.

“This will be my fifth year doing it. I started long ago because I wanted to try something new and something that would hopefully help me in the future to become an attorney. And it was always a way for me to meet new people,” Crittendon said.

The process

Flanagin addresses questions from team members as they figure out the format. (Photo by Madyson Buchanan)

Each year, the team is assigned a trial that is an official American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) case that they prepare for the entire year. The case switches each year between a criminal or civil case that is fictional. 

Teams have six competing members, but students from one school can be divided into multiple different teams. Flanagin plans on breaking into an A team, B team and possibly a C team. 

Competing teams will consist of three attorneys and three witnesses and will prepare the case from both sides. Team members will practice the role of the prosecution and defense for every competition to prepare for the possibility that anyone could have two roles at a time.  

Teams will prepare opening statements, direct examinations, cross-examinations and closing statements in a tournament. Universities can practice in scrimmages or in invitationals that are not AMTA sanctioned to prepare for regionals that occur in February. 

From regionals, teams have the chance to advance to the national championship. 

Flanagin recommends team members come to meetings on Wednesdays and Sundays and practice and read the case for 30 minutes every day to be competent when competition season arrives. 

The team

Students meet in different locations for the meetings but frequently use the BLUU Beck/Green room.(Photo by Madyson Buchanan)

While 71 students signed up for the email list to join the team, around 40 gave their information to be included in the GroupMe messages. 

Less than 40 show up to meetings every week, though the numbers vary each time, and most of the members are female.

“There are a lot of females on the team, which I think is amazing. The world of law is male-dominated, so having so many girls at TCU who are interested in this club was something that made me happy. Us women all bring our A-game to every practice, and we are preparing to dominate at the scrimmages. Super exciting,” said Chloe Nutall, a sophomore elementary education major who joined the team because of her passion for speech and debate.

Emma Watson, a junior transfer student from Trinity University and a journalism major, was a member of her previous university’s mock trial team, where she and other women on the team said they faced discrimination from team leaders who would only help the first-year males on the team. 

“I quit, as did three of the other freshmen girls,” Watson said. “TCU’s mock trial is great so far, though. Walter helps us understand how to write closings, directs, et cetera and really works with us directly to improve aspects of these things.”

Flanagin is working to secure a coach for the team, but in the meantime, he uses his experience from high school to help his team. 

No prior knowledge or participation in a mock trial team is required to join the TCU team, just a willingness to learn and participate.

“I wouldn’t discourage anyone who has no experience from joining the team in the future. Everyone must start somewhere, and we are a great place to start,” said Nutall.

The team will compete at regionals in Arlington starting February 25, 2022 through February 27.