Packing business suits and practicing depositions, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Mock Trial team prepares to take the stand at nationals in Memphis.
For the fourth time in university history, UTC Mock Trial is one of 48 teams across the country to reach this level. Competing over the course of three days, the Mock Trial team will tackle a case they have worked on for three weeks.
UTC senior and Mock Trial President Taylor Johnson said she and her teammates will face teams from the Ivy League, such as Yale University and Harvard University, a realization both intimidating and exhilarating.
“No one on this team currently has ever been to nationals,” said Johnson, a political science major and native of Clarksville, Tennessee. “It kind of feels like we’re being thrown in the deep end with all these really incredible teams.”
Practicing for hours every day, Johnson said UTC Mock Trial is preparing to show the skills that got them to the national competition.
“They’re all really dedicated and they’re all just really good at supporting one another,” Johnson said. “When we’re stressed or worried about what objections to make or what part of our speech to remember, you can kind of just look at a teammate and they’ll give you that look like, ‘You got this’…that definitely helps us perform better during rounds.”
Despite four years of Mock Trial, “It’s still nerve-wracking,” Johnson said, “but I know how to not show everyone else that I’m terrified.”
UTC’s last trip to nationals was in 2020, but competition was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Returning in this, her senior year, after first competing at the national level as a freshman brings her college experience full circle, Johnson said.
Competitions are based on acting out elements of legal practices—from depositions to cross-examinations—and teach participants other useful skills such as dressing and conducting oneself properly in a courtroom.
Serving as a team captain, UTC senior and political science major Sophia Kennan also has participated since her freshman year. An aspiring attorney from Nashville, Kennan said Mock Trial is great practice for her future.
“It’s really stressful, but at the same time, it’s a lot of fun to learn on your feet, think on your feet and be able to make arguments on your feet,” she said.
Competition is tiring, Kennan added, but the possibility of winning is worth the effort.
“It’s so rewarding, and to feel the fruits of your labor is one of the best feelings in the world,” Kennan said. “You really do get to be a part of this close-knit family and it’s so much fun.”