No debate: Mock Trial team is amazing

Cornell’s Mock Trial team is just six years old, but has a very grown-up record.

It was a banner season all around. In February Cornell hosted the Mock Trial regional championship, the first time the college was honored with that distinction. Eleven alumni, two faculty members, the college’s LSAT prep instructor, and President Jonathan Brand all volunteered as judges during the four-round tournament. Sheryl Atkinson Stoll ’70, founder of the college’s formal pre-law program and first chair of its Advisory Board, offered remarks during the opening ceremony and also judged, and Brand spoke during the closing ceremony.

The team had another very successful year, with both squads qualifying for the opening round of the national championship tournament and one squad making it to the national championship tournament.

By qualifying two squads to the opening round of the national tournament, the team kept up its impressive streak—at least one squad has qualified each year that the team has existed, and both squads qualified two years in a row. Cornell has sent a squad to the national tournament three out of the past four years.

In 2010, only its fourth year in existence, the Cornell squad finished sixth in the nation, ahead of schools such as Princeton, Harvard and UCLA.

At the beginning of the 2011-12 season, there were 800 mock trial teams competing in the nation. By making the national tournament, Cornell’s team placed in the top 48.

RJ Holmes-Leopold ’99, director of the Career Engagement Center and staff advisor to the Center for Law and Society, which sponsors the Mock Trial team, was at the national championship to cheer on Cornell.

“I watched the team compete in rounds three and four of the tournament, and our students were fierce competitors and excellent representatives of the college,” Holmes-Leopold said. “Three of the nine members of the squad graduated this year, and everyone else will return in the fall. We are delighted with all the success our mock trial program has had this competition season, and look forward to another great season in the fall.”

It was a great year for individual students as well as the team as a whole.

Junior James Hoeffgen received outstanding attorney honors at the regional and opening round tournaments; and first-year Leonard Schlanger received outstanding witness honors at the regional and opening round tournaments. At the regional tournament, six Cornell students won awards for their work as witnesses or attorneys.

The Center for Law and Society has had a successful year with donors, as well. A challenge grant funded by Stoll has raised more than $60,000 for the center and was so successful that it’s been extended.