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Volunteer judges are critical to success of mock trial competition

generation-jd-sarah-david“Someday I look forward to seeing some of you arguing in this courtroom” was a phrase I often heard when I competed in high school mock trial on my Baltimore County Public School trial team.

The program was after school, and our teachers and a few parent volunteers would help our team learn basic objections, how to form arguments, and how to question a witness. At 14 I learned not only how to identify hearsay, but how to form an argument in a way that would tell a story.

While our teachers and coaches were essential it was always so important that we had good judges. I went on to compete in college and law school, and the competition was always dependent on getting good judges — people who not only knew their stuff but were invested in making young lawyers better and who could serve as a role models for what we would eventually become.

So many things have been changed in this pandemic, but high school mock trial is still happening in the state of Maryland. In order for the competition to work, organizers need volunteers to judge the students.

These students work hard. They go through a case over and over again to make the best presentation possible. They also have to learn how to argue both sides, how to deal with a difficult witness, and, perhaps most importantly, how to deal with losing a trial despite hours of hard work.

Even if you don’t have trial experience, you can help judge these competitions. The students benefit by having a diverse group of lawyers from the Maryland legal community; as we in the legal community are well aware, not many of us are much like the lawyers people see on television. It is important for students to see and learn from the diverse skill set and personnel that make up our bar.

Last year over 500 lawyers from the Maryland legal community volunteered their time to this project. This year, in a pandemic, it is all the more important for the students to have this outlet and have good judges to guide them.

Shelley Brown, executive director of MYLaw, has worked hard to create a program that will give students a mock trial experience despite all the restrictions of the pandemic. MYLaw has put together a completely virtual mock trial competition for the 20-21 academic year, to ensure that Maryland students wouldn’t miss out on this unique extracurricular opportunity.

This year, judges can contribute their time and expertise from the comfort of their own homes or offices .You can look into the many ways to support this program and others at www.mylaw.org.

To those lawyers and judges who volunteered 20 years ago, thank you for reassuring me that there was a place for me in your courtrooms someday. Now that I’ve become a lawyer, I hope that my colleagues and I can step up at this time for the next generation of lawyers whom we will meet in the courtroom one day.