The Georgia State University College of Law Student Trial Lawyer Association team placed fifth in the South Texas Mock Trial Challenge in Houston over Spring Break. Joe Brock (J.D. '14), Elizabeth Haase (J.D. '14), Matt Hurst (J.D. '13) and Vandana Murty (J.D. '13) competed against 42 other schools, including Georgetown University, University of Georgia, University of Maryland and Cumberland, Faulkner, Loyola, Stetson and Temple universities.
The team advanced to the quarterfinals, ranked as the number one overall seed. Although it did not make the final round of the competition, Hurst and Murty received "Outstanding Advocate" awards and Brock and Haase wrote the "Best Trial Brief."
"When Elizabeth and I were called because we won best brief, we were ecstatic because we felt that we had really done a good job on the brief. After so much individual success, it was a little disappointing to go out in the quarters, but we were by far the most decorated team at the awards banquet," Brock says.
Murty was happy to help highlight the effectiveness of the Georgia State Law STLA program and be recognized among the competition's elite students.
"After speaking with students from other law school mock trial programs, I realized how distinguished ours is," Murty said. "Our coaches are focused on equipping us with the skills to be effective and professional advocates. Because of our preparation, we know the rules of evidence and the facts of the case better than any other advocate in the courtroom, which makes us better advocates in competition. More importantly, it makes us better advocates for future clients who will depend on us. The simulation of a real trial that STLA offers is as close as we'll get to the ‘real world' in law school, and that's invaluable."
Led by coaches Cheryl Champion-White (J.D. '93), Tom Jones and Kristen Spires (J.D. '12), the team prepared for the competition for five weeks. First, they examined the facts that were essential and detrimental to both the plaintiff and the defense. Then, the coaches assigned the attorneys to the witnesses they would direct and cross-examine and determined who would give the opening statement and closing argument.
"Cheryl really helped to craft our arguments and even the specifics of our directs and crosses," Brock says. "She also brought in another attorney from her firm who had a background in acting to help us get more into our parts."
When the competition was two weeks away, the team ran through each side from beginning to end—scrimmaging Georgia State Law alums who had read through the case file. "The scrimmages helped us make sure we knew how to respond to objections and handle other theories of the case," Murty says.