Last month, four law students from Emory’s mock trial team took the southeast regional title at the Labor and Employment Law Trial Advocacy Competition in Miami, Florida. This title qualifies the team to compete for the national championship in Chicago this January.
The team, which consisted of second-year law students Rhani Lott and Jonathan Wright and third-year students Andrew Roberts and Danielle Barbour, argued whether governmental actions resulting in discharge of a female employee constituted sexual harassment in this fifth annual regional competition.
“I’m honored to be able to even compete at such a high level,” Wright said of the opportunity.
Wright said the team began preparing months ago to participate in the three-hour rounds that happened over two days of competition.
“Arguing a case in mock trial requires that we put into practice all the skills we’ve learned so far at the Emory Law School,” Wright said. “The only way to do that successfully is extensive practice in a courtroom setting with coaches who have real experience arguing jury trials.”
Even with preparation, Lott said she did not know what to expect.
“I was a little nervous because it was my first competition,” she said. “It was really different from practice.”
Local lawyers experienced with labor and employment cases decided on winners for each round, and a judge from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit presided over the final round. Lott said that the judge’s knowledge and experience ensured a fair but intimidating round.
“It’s a little more stressful because if we make any mistakes, he’s going to know,” she said.
Founded in 2003, the Mock Trial Society has competed in tournaments throughout the region and nation, advancing to semifinals or higher in almost every competition. Even with a history of success, Lott said that the team was not expecting this victory.
“We were really surprised to win,” Lott said. “It was really exciting to win with teammates you respect and have worked so hard with.”
For the team, the hard work does not end here. Although he said he is looking forward to Chicago with excitement, Wright said the team still has a lot of preparation ahead of it.
“We’ll be practicing regularly with several members of the faculty who specialize in both trial techniques and substantive labor and employment law,” Wright said. “We’re committed to doing everything possible to bring a national title home to Emory in January.”
— Contact Alice Chen