Inside Track: Mock Trial Team hits high notes at nationals, attorney coach's son earns 'Outstanding Attorney Award':

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  • Mock Trial Team hits high notes at nationals, attorney coach's son earns 'Outstanding Attorney Award'

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    Xavier attorney team members Joe Flaherty, who won the Outstanding Attorney Award at the National Competition and Meggie Christopher prepare for trial.

    June 1, 2011 – Xavier High School students finished seventh at the National Mock Trial Championship in Phoenix on May 8. The team, coached by Appleton attorneys Kevin Lonergan and Daniel Flaherty and teacher coach Kelli McGreevey, earned the right to compete against top-ranked teams from 47 other states by finishing first in the 2011 Wisconsin High School Mock Trial Tournament in Madison last March.

    Although the team has won two of the last three statewide tournaments, the team’s coaches thought that 2011 would be a rebuilding year due to the number of students who were competing for the first time. But the team defied expectations. “This group of young adults was probably the hardest working group I have ever coached,” says Lonergan, who has coached teams for 11 years. He notes that the team started working four to five days per week in November and stepped up the pace as the competition dates approached. “It was a great year, and we are very proud of these young adults,” he said.

    Flaherty was particularly elated with the outcome of this year’s competition since two of his children were on the team. The icing on the cake was when his son, Joe, garnered the Outstanding Attorney Award at the national competition, where the 47 best teams in the country competed against each other.

    “It was a unique opportunity to coach two of my children, Joe and Grace, at the national competition, in their respective roles as attorney and witness for Tea m Wisconsin,” says Flaherty.

    “While many parents have the chance to coach a child in a sport they played in high school, there was something special about being able to share aspects of my current career as a trial attorney and watch my children as they progressed in the mock trial competition sponsored by the State Bar of Wisconsin. Watching Joe get the Outstanding Attorney Award at the national finals was more fulfilling than winning a multi-million dollar jury trial.”

    “The goal of both the state and national competitions is to promote an understanding and appreciation of our nation’s judicial system,” says Kevin Palmersheim, Public Education Committee chair. “The Mock Trial program teaches high school students about the law and the legal system through a simulated trial where they play the roles of attorneys and witnesses. This gives them a unique opportunity to explore their legal rights and responsibilities, while also developing critical thinking, public speaking, teamwork and other skills they will use throughout their lives.”

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    The Xavier team has been in the top five at state for the past seven years and has won the state competition two out of the last three years. The seventh place finish at nationals was the best ever for Xavier and the best for Wisconsin since 2005. The team is pictured here with the justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court after winning the State Championship last March.

    Each school year, hundreds of high school students participate in the State Bar’s Mock Trial program. Acting as lawyers and witnesses on both sides of a fictional case, students compete against each other in regional competitions throughout the state in February. The winners of the semi-finals then compete before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in March. Teams are scored on their knowledge of the rules of evidence, the quality of their direct and cross examinations, and opening and closing statements.

    State Bar members interested in coaching a Mock Trial team or in judging at regional or semifinal tournaments can volunteer online. Students begin working with coaches as early as October.

    Perhaps you haven’t the time to volunteer but would like to show your support for one of these programs. Members and law firms can make tax-deductible contributions through the Wisconsin Law Foundation. Questions about foundation contributions can be directed to State Bar liaison Natasha Fahey-Flynn at (608) 250-6015 or (800) 444-9404, ext. 6015. For information about Wisconsin Law Foundation contribution options.

    For more information about these programs, contact State Bar Public Education Coordinator org mvarvil-weld wisbar Marsha Varvil-Weld at (608) 250-6191 or (800) 444-9404, ext. 6191.