Lawyer-Turned-Teacher: Mock Trial Competition Teaches Students To Think On Their Feet

By Jesse Pittard

I have been involved with the North Carolina Bar Association’s Justice Iredell Middle School Mock Trial tournament for six years. The mock trial program is the most meaningful and influential activity that my students participate in. It helps students to become confident in themselves and their abilities.  Students who participate in mock trial not only learn about the justice system but acquire important skills that help them be successful in and out of the classroom.

Mock trial teaches students skills that are not easily acquired in the classroom.  First, mock trial helps to develop students’ analytical abilities.  Mock trial takes students beyond memorization.  Instead of memorization, students have to learn to organize facts, apply the facts to the law, and then to use these facts to build a case.  To see middle school students do this is simply amazing.

Second, mock trial assists students with becoming independent learners and workers.  Students can learn when to object, but it is up to the student to do so on their own in the courtroom.  Further, learning trial procedures and rules of evidence requires a great deal of our of class and practice time.  Students, through mock trial, are learning to work on their own and think on their feet. In the words of a mock trial student named Skylar, “Mock trial is no easy task, you have to think on your feet because you never know what the other team is going to say.”

Third, students are receiving something that is hard to teach in school. They are getting a glimpse of what the world outside the classroom is like.  They are learning what practicing law is about. They understand in a way few other middle schoolers understand about how our justice systems works. They fully understand the role of the judge and jury.  Nothing made me more proud than when two teachers were discussing the trial of Dylan Roof and one of my mock trial students walked up and said, “You have to understand the rules of evidence. You just cannot say that in court without laying the foundation for a hearsay exception.” This student was in seventh grade.

I, as well as my students, are truly grateful for the North Carolina Bar Association’s Mock Trial program.  It has made so much of difference in the lives of my students and myself.  This program has helped students grow and become more confident in themselves while at the same time helping them to learn about our justice system.  Thank you members of the Bar Association for providing this program.

Jesse Pittard was a practicing attorney for over 10 years and is now a nationally board certified teacher at the Wayne School of Engineering. Jesse received his BA from Wake Forest University, his master’s from University of South Alabama, his JD from Widener University School of Law, and his master’s of arts in teaching from East Carolina University.  Jesse is the scholastic activities director at his school, where he has overseen the development of the schools several academic teams.  Jesse has coached mock trial for six years.