Brown Mock Trial finished in sixth place — the team’s highest ever — at the American Mock Trial Association’s National Championship Tournament in Memphis, Tennessee which took place April 14-16.
The team’s journey to Nationals began on Aug. 15, when the roughly 200-page case that would be used for competitions leading up to the Nationals series was released. This year’s case was a civil lawsuit that involved a plane crash and a surviving spouse who was suing the pilot of the plane for negligence, according to BMT Head Coach Michael D’Ippolito.
“Our season starts before the school year,” D'Ippolito said.
The team competes in invitational and qualification tournaments throughout the school year prior to the regional and national competitions.
“Our cases become stronger with (each) presentation … and (learning) from the other top teams,” D’Ippolito said. The team received an honorable mention at Columbia’s tournament and won the competition at Georgia Tech.
In the spring, the team must place high in Regionals and the subsequent Opening Round Championship Series to qualify for Nationals. A total of 48 teams can qualify for the Nationals competition from ORCS.
“It’s very, very hard to go to Nationals,” said Michael Chandler ’22.5, BMT co-captain and president. But “we were going into ORCS with a confidence we hadn’t had in a couple of years.”
BMT had A and B teams compete at ORCS, each with six to 10 people acting as witnesses or lawyers, D’Ippolito said. The teams were arranged based on scores from judges in fall tournaments and captain decisions, said Kiara Moon ’24, BMT co-captain and tournament director.
While BMT was victorious in the first two rounds of the competition at ORCS, they faced pushback in the next two rounds, including New York University, which has previously been a national champion, and Tufts University, which is “consistently very, very good,” he explained.
This year, the team’s mission was to get back to Nationals for the first time in six years — a goal that the team managed to achieve.
Moon said that the team’s lack of success earlier in her college mock trial career pushed this year’s team to work harder. “People stayed after practice (and) we met outside of practice,” she said.
Around three weeks before Nationals, a new case is introduced to competitors. This year’s case was a legal malpractice lawsuit that created a “novel challenge” for competitors, D’Ippolito said.
The weekend of Nationals is the “most stressful weekend in the entire semester,” Chandler said. All the teams at Nationals are “well put together, well-coached teams … they’re hard to beat.”
The team practiced for six to 10 hours a week during the regular season and ramped up to around 13 hours a week as Nationals approached to study all the “nooks and crannies” of the case, Chandler said.
The trip to Memphis began with a scrimmage on Thursday night before the start of the actual competition on Friday. The team competed against Yale, Baylor, UC Irvine and Harvard.
BMT was able to secure enough ballots to finish in sixth place, the highest in the team’s program history.
“It was an amazing moment for our team … to see all the work we put in … finally paying off,” Chandler said. “This year was really about … (putting) Brown University back on the map.”
Chandler also described how it was “amazing” to see the younger members of the team “grow … and flesh out their acting skills, their skills as attorneys.”
D’Ippolito spoke on the “terrific” skillset students build through participating in Mock Trial: “It’s going to help them with their presentation skills (and help them) absorb a lot of information and present in a way that is captivating.”
After his performance at the Nationals competition, Chandler was one of 16 students tapped to participate in Trial by Combat, a 1v1 Mock Trial-style competition. Being selected for the additional competition is a “prestigious and exclusive” invite, according to D’Ippolito.
This format entails the case being released on the first day of the tournament, giving participants just 24 hours to prepare their cases, aided only by D’Ippolito and one other self-selected student.
Chandler qualified for 1v1 competition, which will take place in Philadelphia June 23-25.