by Catherine Gonzalez ’22
Published Feb. 25th, 2021
Montgomery’s Mock Trial team won the County Finals on January 28th, 2021. Beginning at a county level against six other schools, Montgomery passed through undefeated, snagging individual “Best Attorney” and “Best Witness” awards along the way.
Mock Trial involves the extensive dissecting and analysis of an assigned case, which culminate in the creation of in-depth arguments. Students train in the roles of witnesses and attorneys for competition. This year, the New Jersey State Bar Foundation held its annual state-wide high school Mock Trial tournament through a virtual platform.
The team has been preparing for the competition season since late October, with meetings occurring more frequently than ever before. Meetings were held over Zoom, which gave the team certain advantages.
The team’s teacher advisor, Mr. Stemmler, said that this year, “Zoom gave the flexibility where everybody could meet on a whim, particularly with our attorney coach.” But just being present at meetings isn’t enough: “We could have meetings all the time, but it’s about how committed people are off-camera.”
Nandini Shah ‘21, a team member of three years and two-time attorney captain, agreed with Mr. Stemmler, stating, “It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the club; it really matters how much work you put into it.”
First-year team member Nethmi Dharmasena ‘23 further highlighted the work ethic and dedication of Mock Trial members, comparing them to “a group of Olympic swimmers [that] practice every day and train super hard.”
Mock Trial consists of not only attorneys, witnesses, and understudies, but also jurors, meaning there are opportunities for everyone who may be interested. That includes those who wish to compete, as well as those who’d rather exclusively assist with the analyzing process.
“We don’t have a complex; we’re all a team, we’re all equals and we all work together,” said Shah.
The skills learned in Mock Trial go beyond the confines of a courtroom setting and can be applied everywhere in daily life.
“It’s not necessarily about winning a trial; it’s about public speaking, being confident, critical thinking, thinking on your feet, and developing leaders,” said the team’s lawyer-coach, Mr. Petraske.
Combined with the obtained skills and hard work involved, the team also has a strong bond. “Genuinely, Mock Trial is an actual family, one that I would be willing to come back to after I graduate from high school,” said Shah.
Despite having lost Round 1A of Regionals, making it to Regionals for the first time in nine years has made the team even more determined to win States next year and helped them realize what they’re capable of.
“The goal is that you guys make yourselves proud, and if you’re doing that, you’re succeeding,” said Mr. Petraske.