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Kline School of Law Launches Nation’s First One-on-One Competition for Collegiate Trial Advocates

Trial by Combat Mock Trial Competition 2017-18 Participants

June 19, 2018

The Kline School of Law will hold Trial by Combat, the first competition in the U.S. that will pit individual college students against one another to determine the best trial advocate, on June 22-24.

The competition, which will be held at the Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy at 1200 Chestnut Street, will include students from a wide range of institutions, from Ivy League universities to regional colleges.

“We want to recognize the immense undergraduate talent in trial advocacy,” said Professor Justin Bernstein, the associate director of Kline’s Trial Advocacy program and creator of the competition.

While some 5,000 students at 700 colleges and universities take part each year in team-based mock trial competitions, Bernstein said, Trial by Combat will be the first where they can demonstrate their skills as individual advocates. 

“For high school students, there’s a one-on-one competition for the best trial advocate, and for law students, there’s already a one-on-one competition to recognize the very best,” Bernstein said. “The Kline School of Law is the first to recognize and celebrate the very best undergraduate trial advocates.”

That the competition will unfold inside the majestic Thomas R. Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy will make it that much more exciting and inspiring, Bernstein said.

Just 16 students were selected, representing institutions from around the U.S.:

  • Columbia University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Miami University
  • New York University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Northwood University
  • Ohio State University
  • Rutgers University
  • Stanford University
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Cincinnati
  • University of Richmond
  • University of Rochester
  • University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • University of Virginia
  • Yale University

To qualify, the participants must have won at least one All-American Award by the American Mock Trial Association, which sponsors collegiate-level competitions.

“We’re going to challenge them,” Bernstein said, explaining that the competitors will know nothing about the case until 24 hours before they go to trial, preparing witnesses, presenting opening and closing arguments as well as direct and cross examinations. “They’re flying solo.”

The students will be judged for their performance as witnesses and as advocates for the defendant and for the plaintiff/prosecutor.  

Attorneys and jurists from the greater Philadelphia area will serve as judges.

The first round of competition, which will be open to the public, will start at 9:30 a.m. on June 23. The final round, which will begin at 12:30 pm on June 24, will be live-streamed.