The Mock Trial Turned Muse: Students Tackle Cyberbullying and Discover New Law Careers

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Attorney Heidi Dudderar (left) advises the ITA defense team from Phineas Banning High School during ITEP’s 2nd Annual Law Day.

15 students from Phineas Banning High School’s International Trade Academy (ITA) received a day-long crash course in the U.S. judicial system and explored various careers in the legal profession during ITEP’s 2nd Annual Law Day.  From the comfort of the 14th floor of the Keesal Young and Logan, our young attorneys-for-the-day fiercely debated the legal ramifications of cyberbullying in the case of Billings vs. Pearson.

“There are so many things that can be argued in a case,” said Carlos. The ITA junior spoke shyly, but with new confidence and curiosity about the legal process.

His fictional client, Cathy Jean Pearson (Aka “the bully”), was free to go—the verdict came back as a hung jury.

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ITA students step into the Keesal Young and Logan library to discuss case notes and prepare for cross examinations.

Minutes prior, we had observed Carlos, writing feverishly on his notepad as the plaintiff and defense team participated in direct and cross-examination. The intensity of hands-on learning had momentarily stripped away his shyness.

On the plaintiff’s side, things were a bit somber. The team was not able to secure a win for their client, but they did gain valuable experience making persuasive arguments. They also set the bar higher for next year, noting they wanted to try a criminal case and use props – a robe and gavel for the acting judge. The 2014 Law Day was in the works, and all the adults in the room smiled approvingly.

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The firm’s dining hall transforms into a courtroom for ITEP’s 2013 Law Day.

“It was a lot of fun today – I liked it,” said Sam, another ITA junior who testified as a witness for the plaintiff’s side. However, he made a confession to us before boarding his bus. “I was looking forward to arguing, but I was a witness… I like arguing… I wanted to prove my point.”  Next year, Sam!

Everyone played a role in the mock trial, from court reporter to case witness to attorney, and after all the “scary” parts (talking, presenting and cross examinations) were over, students exchanged constructive criticism and a shared few laughs with the real-life attorneys, their teachers for the day.

“…They are expected to pick up a process and a way of thinking that attorneys work on their entire life, and they’re expected to do it in six hours, and many of them wow me every single time because they just do it! It’s amazing,” said Jennifer Meeker, ITA advisory board member and attorney for Nossaman.

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ITA students discuss mock trial details while the jury deliberates.

If a mock trial during a Saturday can engage a young mind and awaken a student’s full potential, imagine what other elements are left to be uncovered? Even if we just skimmed the surface of future dream careers, the results are nothing short of inspirational.

“I learned how much work lawyers have to do. It’s a lot of work… but having the experience today, it made me actually consider a future in law – it’s interesting,” said Carlos.

“My dream is to go to USC – that’d be a dream.” The junior also spoke about his interest in civil engineering and architecture.

Encouraging Carlos to dream big is the key to ensuring a bright future –both his own and that of his community.  Giving Carlos and his classmates the opportunity to explore their dreams through hands-on experiences such as Law Day is ITEP’s mission and our daily delight.

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Our hard-working team! Left to right: Attorney Heidi Dudderar, Attorney Jennifer Meeker from Nossaman LLP, Attorney Lisa Barnett from A. Lavar Tayor Law Offices and Susie Emami, ITEP Program Manager.

We are extremely grateful for the guidance and support of Jennifer Meeker from Nossaman LLP, Lisa Barnett from A. Lavar Tayor Law Offices and Heidi Dudderar. Thank you, ladies! You made the 2nd Annual ITEP Law Day special and successful. We’d also like to recognize our gracious host, Keesal Young and Logan for lending their offices, staff and catering services. 

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Filed under Banning High School, ITA

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