University of Mobile will send a team to participate in the 2nd annual YMCA Collegiate Judicial Conference, to be held in Montgomery, Ala. , April 8-9.
Participants will have the opportunity to try a mock case in front of an active or former judge, as either prosecution or defense, in one of the historic courthouses in downtown Montgomery in the Ceremonial court room.
"It's exciting," said University of Mobile junior history and political science major Magen Englett. "It's a chance to experience what it's like to be an attorney before actually entering law school, and to learn from a practicing attorney about what techniques really work in front of a judge and jury."
Attorny Martin Poynter, the owner and practicing member of Poynter Law Office in Mobile, is working with the University of Mobile trial team, teaching them everything they would need to know in order to try a real case as an attorney.
"I've been waiting for an opportunity like this to come along. When I first heard about the University of Mobile starting a trial team, I thought this would be a chance for me to have a positive impact on the lives of students aspiring to learn about how the trial process works," Poynter said.
He added, "This will be an incredible experience for those wanting to go into the practice of law. It is a kind of on-the-job training that real life law practice simply doesn't offer anymore. The vast majority of cases today, upwards of 90 percent, settle before trial.
“This is an opportunity that, quite frankly, practicing lawyers are paying thousands of dollars for in order to attend 'trial colleges' to brush up on their trial skills," Poynter said.
The students are learning how to try a case, how to be a lawyer, courtroom decorum, procedure, evidence, trial themes and theory, and public speaking skills. For some students, it will be confirmation of what it is they want to do in their career. For others, they may realize that a legal career might not be for them. But for everyone, the experience builds self-confidence, public speaking skills, leadership, and team skills that are valuable in any field.
The UMobile team includes:
Magen Englett, a junior history and political science major from Humble,Texas.
Alisha Britnell, a sophomore English major from Birmingham, Ala.
Sarah Decker, a junior political science major from Magnolia, Texas.
Tim Rocker, a sophomore political science major from Mobile, Ala.
Khristin Hicks, a sophomore political science and computer in formations systems major from Mobile, Ala.
Adam Miller, a junior majoring in humanities from Mobile, Ala.
Dr. Julie Biskner, assistant professor of political science at the University of Mobile and faculty sponsor for the competition, said this competition is giving UMobile students a head start on their competition.
"This experience will make them much more competitive candidates for law school, and even students who choose other careers will benefit from the experience because it provides an opportunity to practice public speaking and argumentation," Biskner said.
"The students are strengthening their leadership and teamwork skills and developing more discipline along the way. Also, it is fun for everyone to work with their teammates, and they will meet many interesting people when we go to Montgomery in April," Biskner added.
Alan Waugh, the cofounder of the competition, said he began the Collegiate Judicial Conference when he realized that there was no way for undergrads to gain real experience in trying a case.
"A lot of people think that they want to go to law school," said Waugh, "but they don't understand the ethics of the court procedure or the atmosphere. I wanted them to be before a real judge for both the experience and the intimidation factor."
The competition will also give the participants the chance to hear speakers like Erin Brockovich, New York Times bestselling author and subject of the hit movie starring Julia Roberts "Erin Brockovich," and Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Sue Bell Cobb.
There are 12 universities within the state competing, and Waugh said other states have expressed interest in bringing this competition to them.
For Information about the University of Mobile mock trial team, contact Biskner in the UMobile College of Arts and Sciences at 251.442.2280. For more about the University of Mobile, visit www.umobile.edu
(By Alisha Britnell, sophomore English major at University of Mobile and intern in the UMobile Media Relations Office.)