3L Jillian Kennedy was one of the two winners of the Montgomery County District Attorney’s (DA’s) Office 20th Annual Summer Intern Mock Trial Competition. The mock trial competition, which was held for the eight second-year law students who interned with the DA this summer, centered on a fictitious murder case and was conducted entirely online in order to adhere to social distancing restrictions.
Kennedy, who is a member of the Kline trial team but had participated in only one other mock trial competition before her internship, said that the trial advocacy class she took with professors Gwen Stern and Abbie Heller in the spring helped her develop the skillset she needed for the competition. “[Stern and Heller] showed us how to translate our advocacy skills over Zoom. We learned how to do a whole trial online. So, when I got to the intern mock trial competition, I felt very prepared,” said Kennedy.
Drawing from lessons learned in class and from feedback she received during the competition’s early rounds, Kennedy refined her strategy and presentation style to make the best of the online format. “I endlessly practiced using inflection in my voice and how I ordered my questions on direct and cross-examination to make sure I was not only keeping their attention but also ensuring they were noticing the important points I was making,” said Kennedy. To help the audience focus on her argument—and not the technology—Kennedy limited the amount of screen-sharing she did as she advanced through the competition. “In the final round, I definitely felt that the judges were more engaged and aware of my important points, so it was easier to prove my case.”
All of Kennedy’s preparation and attention to detail paid off. District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said Kennedy, along with the second winner, Leah George of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, “were just excellent in the homicide prosecution they conducted.”
Kennedy advises students who are participating in online mock trials to practice as much as possible, master the online platform being used and create back-up plans for technology failures. “If your Wi-Fi is glitchy or your Zoom won’t let you share your screen,” said Kennedy, “make sure your teammates know and have practiced taking over and sharing things for you. Technology is never 100-percent reliable.”