Vol. 79, No. 4, April 2006
Mock Trial: Influencing Career Choices
T he State Bar's Mock Trial Program, under the auspices of the Law-related Education Committee and funded with donations from various organizations, attorneys, and citizens statewide through the Wisconsin Law Foundation's designated fund, is the most highly visible public service project the Bar offers. Because mock trials are structured like a "real" court trial and follow the same rules, participants get a hands-on learning experience. This experience helps people better understand how the legal system works and what roles judges, lawyers, bailiffs, juries, and witnesses play in the system. It also influences participants' career and life choices.
In fact, the program claims innumerable lawyer alumni (including at least one U.S. Supreme Court clerk). Most alumni concede that their decision to enter law school was not based solely on the Mock Trial experience in high school, but they say that the experience did influence their life direction.
Nick Martini (Rhinelander 1997) said his four years of Mock Trial, including a state championship and national competition, "was definitely a big factor" in choosing a law career. A University of California-Berkeley Law School graduate, now practicing intellectual property law in the silicon valley at Redwood Shores, Calif., Nick admits that he "might have pursued law school anyway, but the Mock Trial pretty much sealed it" because it made him "more aware of the skills that are necessary to pursue law school and a legal career." He credits his Mock Trial experience with providing him with valuable, practical skills that he uses daily.
Christianne Riopel (Rhinelander 1998), another four-year alumnus with state championship and national competition experience, credits the Mock Trial as an "extremely positive factor" in her career selection. A University of Minnesota Law School graduate, Christy now practices public finance law and litigation in Minneapolis. She believes the Mock Trial made her "more confident, more professional and less intimidated by everything." It also "made the prospect of a legal career more realistic." Christy currently serves as an attorney-coach for a high school mock trial team in the Twin Cities.
Mark Ryberg (Eau Claire Regis 1995) indicates his three years of Mock Trial had a "profound effect" on his career choice. "It gave great exposure to intellectual pursuits" and provided his "first taste of something [he] was really good at - adversarial argument in front of a crowd." Ryberg, another University of Minnesota Law School graduate, is with Clark Consulting in Minneapolis.