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Laying Down the Law

Laying Down the LawThe Tufts Mock Trial team is going strong with three bids to the national semi-finals.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.04.09] Tufts may not have a law school, but members of Tufts Mock Trial are working hard to give law a home on the Hill.

Since 2003, when 2006 graduates Sam Bookin and Lindsey Lautin revived the dormant group, Tufts Mock Trial has seen significant growth and success. The group now hosts four teams on campus, three of which won bids to compete in this year's American Mock Trial Association opening round championship series in Memphis, Tenn., and Greenville, S.C.

"For a school of our student body size to have four equally very good teams who are capable of getting three bids is really unheard of," says Rebekah Sokol (A'10), team co-president.

In February of this year, the group's four teams competed in two regional competitions, winning two bids to Memphis during the Boston regional, and then a third bid to Greenville during the Bristol, R.I., regional.

At the Memphis national semi-finals, Tufts came just one win short of making it to the national tournament in Iowa.

"It was upsetting, but we are actually really proud," says Josh Hale (A'11), the group's external affairs officer. "We had teams facing off against Vanderbilt and the Air Force Academy, both schools with very prestigious programs."




Tufts Mock Trial originally formed in 2000, but lost steam shortly thereafter. When Bookin and Lautin decided to give the group new life, they began with the goal of learning how collegiate mock trial was conducted.

"In the early stages, my predecessors and I were going to competitions or sitting at tournaments before competing just to see what it takes to be a good team," Sokol says. "You start realizing quickly what these other programs have that we don't, and we realized you need a lot of people."

Both Hale and Sokol noted that the group is not only for aspiring law students.

"It's a really diverse group with both engineers and liberal arts students, some who were on teams in high school and some who have never participated before," says Hale. "It's a great way to work on your communication, articulation and life skills, and it doesn't really have to relate to law."

Between 2004 and 2006, the group began competing in regional competitions, and eventually grew from one team to two. During the 2007-2008 season, Tufts Mock Trial was able to win its first bid to nationals, where they placed third.

"Given that we were completely by ourselves-we have no sponsorship, no coaches and no law school associated with the university-it's unique that we were able to win a bid after only three years of experience," Hale says.

As a relatively young student group, Tufts Mock Trial members are working to increase the group's profile. This November, they hosted the Mumbo Jumbo Invitational mock trial competition on campus, attracting 16 teams from schools across the nation. They also ran an Explorations course at the Experimental College this past fall, with another one scheduled for the fall of 2009. Fundraising efforts, such as a potential partnership with the Princeton Review to auction off a MCAT class, also help Tufts Mock Trial grow and compete.

"Before I enrolled at Tufts, Tufts Mock Trial wasn't a very visible group and I really had to do the work to track them down," Sokol says. "Now, particularly around tryouts, we're trying to be more visible, and throughout the entire year we're trying to make sure everyone not only knows we exist, but is also saying 'Hey, look at what we've done.'"

"I think one of the things that makes our program unique is that we're just as good as these top teams in the country, but at the same time we actually have fun with it." Sokol says. "We really try to walk that line with being competitive and still being courteous and having fun, and I think we are doing it pretty well."

Story by Kaitlin Provencher, Web Communications.



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