Picture this. During week days, the Mercer County Civil Courthouse is a busy place for lawyers and parties to interact in order to help resolve disputes. If you drive by on a Saturday morning, however, the Courthouse is closed and the neighboring streets are typically empty of cars. This was clearly not the case on Saturday January 29, 2011, when students from over a dozen area high schools competed in the 29th annual New Jersey State Bar Foundation’s Mock Trial Competition.

This year’s mock trial case dealt with a pedestrian/motor vehicle collision on school grounds. Each party claims that the other side was driving/walking in a “distracted manner” as a result of the use of personal electronic devices such as a cell phone and an MP3 player. Attorneys from Stark & Stark volunteered nights and weekend hours to help high school students learn how to properly conduct a trial. Students learned the difference between a direct and a cross examination; how to present an opening statement and a closing argument to a jury; how to develop a case theory; the importance of speaking with witnesses; and learning how to become comfortable making presentations before standing room only spectator crowds in courtrooms.

Each school had to provide two trial teams. Accordingly, students had to be familiar with and comfortable presenting both sides of the dispute. As an attorney coach for several years, I have greatly enjoyed seeing high school students blossom and become seasoned moot court litigators, who confidently and creatively present their cases. I’m sure that some of these high school students who participate as lawyers or witnesses will go on to college and law school, and become successful trial attorneys.