Mock Trial will compete over Zoom

Members of the Mock Trial club have been working hard to prepare for the regional competition taking place on February 6 and 7. The State Bar of Wisconsin decided that Zoom will be the virtual platform for the 2021 Regional competition this year.

“I’m excited that we didn’t have to skip a year, and that our students will still have the opportunity to compete,” said Nathan Bayer, one of the lawyers who has been working with Mock Trial as a volunteer coach. Bayer has worked with SHS Mock Trial since 2002

The regional competition will include at most eight teams from around Milwaukee, two of which will be Shorewood’s Red and Grey teams. There will be two trials each day. The teams will be power-matched, meaning that the first two rounds will be randomly paired, and the winners from those rounds will then compete against each other.

“Each side only has 40 minutes to present their case, so each trial should be about 80 minutes but there’s objections and I am expecting over Zoom for there to just be a lot of delay, so I’m thinking that each trial will be 90 to 120 minutes,”  said Emma Stenzel, senior, who has been a lawyer on the Red team for the past two years.

A number of conditions must be followed in order for the competition to be successful. For instance, students can use the ‘share screen’ function to present their evidence and they must change their Zoom name to the person they are representing in the case. 

I’m excited that we didn’t have to skip a year, and that our students will still have the opportunity to compete,

— Nathan Bayer, Mock Trial coach

“There are a special set of supplemental rules for how we put our name [during the trial], and then there’s rules about when you have to have your camera on and when you’re talking,” Stenzel said. 

Even with the four trials being split into two days, connectivity issues could pose a great problem for some schools. Arthur Christiansen, sophomore and witness for the Red team, isn’t too worried about that issue for regionals. 

“I think Milwaukee will probably be one of the zones least affected by [connection problems] since we have access to resources,” Christiansen said. 

However, cheating could take place and potentially harm the integrity of Mock Trial competitions. By Mock Trial standards, student lawyers and witnesses are supposed to memorize the information they need in order to try and win their side of the case. This year, students could be reading from their scripts or looking up information from the internet. 

“A person could read off [their notes] and even if you can’t see the page, you can sort of tell and I think judges and scoring judges will notice that,” Christiansen said. 

Regardless of whether other teams cheat, Shorewood’s Mock Trial team intends to be seen as a prepared team and they do not intend to use extra notes during regionals. Instead, they are utilizing their practices to get in as much preparation as possible. 

“We have run a couple of trials now by Zoom and it seems to work pretty well once [the students] get the hang of it,” Bayer said.

Mr. Schmidt, the staff advisor of the team, Bayer, and the other volunteer lawyers meet with the team over Zoom three days a week. They have discussions at the beginning and then move on to trials in the main room or work time in breakout rooms. The team has found that their time is spent more productively over Zoom.

“We do have a lot of work time and I think that there’s a lot less time wasted on Zoom,” Stenzel said. 

Stenzel mentions that even with some excitement lost as her final competitions will be virtual, she enjoys the case more than those of past years. This year’s case is a criminal case in which the prosecution is charging the defendant with first degree intentional homicide.

“This is the first year where [the case] hasn’t had a potentially offensive topic in it; like the past two years have kind of been hard for some people to do it,” Stenzel said.

Although lawyers and witnesses are doing well, they definitely miss the team bonding aspect in the library. 

“I loved being in the library after school when nobody else was there,” Stenzel said. “We had the whole space to ourselves.”

Bayer is confident that Shorewood will take the top places at regionals. Whitefish Bay and Shorewood are usually the top two teams in the region. This year Whitefish Bay is in a different region. 

“I look to focus on the process rather than the outcome and if we keep focusing on the process day to day, and getting better each practice, then the performance issues will take care of themselves at the end of the process,” Bayer explained. “I’ve been incredibly impressed by the students that have been participating and how tech-savvy they are and how good of a job they’re doing with the technology and so it’s been a good learning experience.”