National High School Mock Trial

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A student learning and growing in a legal environment.

National High School Mock Trial

Welcome to the world of National High School Mock Trial! Imagine being in a courtroom, not just watching, but actually being part of an exciting legal case. It’s a chance to jump into the world of law and court cases. This competition is for anyone interested in how the legal system works or looking for a fun and challenging school activity.

In this blog, we’re going to take a closer look at what makes the National High School Mock Trial such a great opportunity. We’ll talk about everything from the fun of debating in court to the important skills and new friends you’ll make. Let’s get started!

What is the National High School Mock Trial?

The National High School Mock Trial Championship is a major annual event in the United States, where high school mock trial teams from across the country compete. This championship started in 1984 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Initially, it included teams from five states: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Over the years, the tournament has expanded enormously, now involving hundreds or even thousands of teams. These teams compete at various levels – district, regional, and state – to ultimately select one top team from each of the 50 states.

The championship is managed by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). It brings together the best teams from each region for the final showdown. For example, the 38th AMTA National Championship was held at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, from April 14 to 16, 2023.

Group of students sitting on their table.

Why should you join the National High School Mock Trial?

The National High School Mock Trial Championship is designed with several key objectives in mind, each aiming to benefit high school students in various ways. Firstly, the competition is an effective platform for instilling core values such as ethics, civility, and professionalism in students. These are fundamental principles that not only shape their personal development but also prepare them for future professional environments.

The championship serves as an educational tool, providing students with a deeper understanding of legal processes. Through participation, students gain insight into the workings of the law, the functions of courtrooms, and the broader legal system. This aspect of the competition demystifies the legal field, making it more accessible and comprehensible to young learners.

Another significant aspect of the championship is its focus on enhancing vital life skills. Participants develop and refine skills like attentive listening, effective speaking, comprehensive reading, and critical reasoning. These skills are not only crucial for the competition but are also invaluable in various aspects of life, including academic and professional settings.

The event also promotes better communication and collaborative skills among different groups. It creates a bridge for interaction and teamwork between students, their teachers, and legal professionals. This interaction fosters a sense of community and cooperation, enhancing the educational experience.

Lastly, the championship plays a motivational role, encouraging students to appreciate their academic endeavors more deeply. It opens up pathways for them to explore potential careers in law and related fields, igniting interest and providing direction for future professional choices. By participating in this event, students are exposed to new possibilities and are often inspired to pursue further studies and careers in the legal realm.

a high school student asking about internships

How do you get into the National High School Mock Trial?

Participating in the National High School Mock Trial Championship involves a multi-tiered selection process. Schools interested in competing at the national level must first engage in a series of preliminary competitions, starting at the district level, then moving on to regional and state tournaments.

The purpose of these initial stages is to determine the most skilled team from each state. This selection process ensures that the team representing a state at the national championship is the best among its peers.

In Michigan’s case, the process begins with 10 to 12 teams competing in the state finals. From these, the top four teams are chosen for the semi-finals. The competition intensifies as these teams vie for a spot in the championship round, where ultimately, two teams compete for the state title.

The winner of this final round earns the privilege to represent Michigan at the National High School Mock Trial Championship.

The overarching aim of these competitions goes beyond just winning. They are designed to impart knowledge about the law, court procedures, and the overall legal system to students. Moreover, they focus on developing valuable skills like teamwork, collaboration, and public speaking.

These skills are essential for the mock trial competition and the student’s personal and professional growth. Thus, the journey to the National High School Mock Trial Championship is as much about learning and skill development as it is about competing and achieving.

Group of students talking in a room.

How do I join the National High School Mock Trial?

If you’re interested in participating in the National High School Mock Trial Championship, here’s a guide to get you started:

Join or Establish a Mock Trial Club at Your School

Most high schools offer mock trial clubs for students. If your school doesn’t have one, consider starting a club yourself. Being part of a mock trial club is the first step towards competing in mock trial events.

Participate in Various Levels of Competitions

The journey to the national championship begins with local and regional mock trial tournaments. Success in these competitions can lead your team to state-level finals. The top-performing teams at the state level are then eligible to compete in the national championship.

Develop Important Skills

Engaging in mock trials is a great way to hone skills that are crucial not only in legal professions but in many areas of life. These include teamwork, collaboration, public speaking, critical thinking, and understanding legal concepts and terminology.

Network with Legal Experts

Through these competitions, you’ll get chances to meet and learn from individuals in the legal field. This networking can provide valuable insights and mentorship, aiding in your preparation for higher levels of competition.

Prepare for the National Level

If your team qualifies to represent your state at the national championship, intense preparation is key. This involves studying case materials in-depth, practicing your presentations, and sharpening your courtroom strategies and skills.

The National Mock Trial Championship organizes and oversees the national-level competition. Following these steps can lead you to a valuable and educational experience in the world of mock trials, offering a unique perspective on the legal system.

Close up of a microphone in a debate competition.

How hard is getting into the National High School Mock Trial?

The National High School Mock Trial Championship is organized in a way that ensures fair distribution of the costs associated with hosting the event. Each year, a different state takes on the role of hosting the tournament. This approach prevents any single state from bearing the financial burden of the tournament disproportionately.

Typically, the competition brings together 46 teams. These teams represent various regions, including Guam, South Korea, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and champion teams from states across the United States.

To join the Nationals, there are specific financial requirements that each participating state, territory, or country must meet. Firstly, there is a Membership Fee of $200 that needs to be paid by January 15th. This fee is necessary for eligibility but is separate from the tournament registration fee.

In addition to the Membership Fee, there is a Tournament Registration Fee of $500 for each team that wishes to participate in the championship. Both these fees are mandatory for participation in the tournament. The revenue generated from the Membership Fee is allocated specifically to cover the expenses that the NHSMTC, Inc. incurs in hosting or assisting in the hosting of the national championship.

For payment, the $200 Membership Fee should be made payable to NHSMTC and sent to the NHSMTC Treasurer. The fees ensure that the championship is financially sustainable and can continue to be a valuable educational experience for students across various regions.

When is the deadline to apply to the National High School Mock Trial?

The application deadlines for the National High School Mock Trial Championship are not uniform across all states, as they depend on the schedules set for local, regional, and state-level tournaments.

Each state has its own timeline for these preliminary events, which eventually lead up to the national championship. As an example, in the state of Michigan, schools intending to participate in mock trial events must submit their registration forms at least 48 hours before the scheduled date of the event. This is a common requirement in many states for mock trial competitions.

For a school to qualify for the national championship, it’s necessary to first engage in and succeed in these initial rounds of competitions. These include local, regional, and state tournaments.

It’s through excelling in these tournaments that a school earns the right to represent their state at the national level. Therefore, interested schools must be aware of and adhere to their state-specific registration deadlines and tournament schedules to ensure their eligibility and participation in the national championship.

Where is the National High School Mock Trial held?

The National High School Mock Trial Championship is a traveling event, taking place in different locations across the United States each year. This approach allows a diverse range of schools and students from various regions to participate in the competition on a national stage.

For instance, the 2025 championship is scheduled to be held in Phoenix, Arizona, from May 8th to 10th. Prior to that, the 2024 championship is set to take place in Wilmington, Delaware, from May 2nd to 5th.

By rotating the host site annually, the championship not only brings a fresh experience each year but also makes it more accessible to a wider audience of students, enhancing the competition’s appeal and reach.

Young woman speaking in front of a crowd.

When does the National High School Mock Trial take place?

The National High School Mock Trial Championship is scheduled to be held in Wilmington, Delaware from May 2nd to 5th, 2024. Moving forward to 2025, the event will take place in Phoenix, Arizona, over the weekend of May 8th to 10th. In 2026, the championship will be hosted in Des Moines, Iowa, from May 7th to 9th.

These varying locations and times are set by the National Mock Trial Championship organization. This strategy is intended to encourage wide participation from state mock trial programs both within the United States and internationally, ensuring diverse representation and accessibility for teams from different regions.

The National High School Mock Trial Championship is traditionally organized during Mother’s Day weekend each year, a tradition that has been ongoing for more than 20 years. This timing is strategic and serves several purposes:

  • It aims to maximize the involvement of state mock trial programs from across the United States and internationally.
  • The schedule is designed to ensure a level playing field for all competing teams.
  • It helps maintain the fairness and accuracy of the scoring system.
  • By scheduling it this way, the tournament minimizes the time students and teachers need to be away from class.
  • The timing is chosen to reduce clashes with academic testing schedules.
  • The weekend is selected to maximize the availability of real courtrooms for the rounds and to ensure a sufficient number of judges, who are experienced in high school mock trials.
  • This timing increases the number of cities that can potentially host the tournament.
  • It ensures there is enough hotel accommodation available during the spring season, which is often busy with various events like conventions and tourist activities.

Organizing each national tournament involves over three years of planning by the host committee. The final list of competing teams is only known by mid-April each year, just before the tournament in early May.

Throughout the three-year preparation period, state coordinators receive regular updates about the planning and schedule. These updates are provided through a bi-annual tournament newsletter, the NHSMTC website, a dedicated tournament host committee website, and verbal reports during the organization’s annual business meeting each May.

This comprehensive communication ensures that state mock trial programs are well-informed about the national tournament schedule well before the start of their state mock trial seasons each school year.

a female intern talking into the misrophone

How long is the National High School Mock Trial?

The National High School Mock Trial Championship spans several days with a variety of activities and competitive rounds. Here’s a simplified breakdown of the typical schedule:


  • Throughout the day, teams can use practice rooms at the host hotel. This is optional for all teams.


  • Teams have the option to use practice rooms all day.
  • In the morning, there’s a mandatory meeting for the Board of Directors.
  • In the afternoon, state coordinators have optional round table discussions followed by a mandatory meeting.
  • There’s a strongly suggested meeting for coaches and a mandatory orientation for student timekeepers in the afternoon.
  • All courtroom artist contestants must attend their orientation in the afternoon.
  • The evening features the official opening event with a welcome reception and pin exchange.


  • Two rounds of competition are held, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
  • In the evening, there’s a social event for the teams.


  • Two more rounds take place, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
  • The two finalist teams are announced in the afternoon.
  • The final round of competition is held in the afternoon or evening.
  • The evening concludes with an awards banquet.


  • In the morning, teams can pick up their score sheets.

This schedule offers a mix of competitive rounds, social events, and necessary meetings and orientations, making it a comprehensive, multi-day experience for participants.

Female student holding a laptop while standing next to a white wall.

Essential Preparation Guide: Key Steps and Strategies for Success in the National High School Mock Trial

Preparing for the National High School Mock Trial Championship involves a blend of academic study, practical skill development, and strategic planning. Here’s a guide on what and how to prepare:

Understand the Basics of Law and Court Procedures

Start by getting a good grasp of the fundamental principles of law and how courtrooms operate. This involves learning about the basic concepts and terminology used in the legal system. You should also study how court trials are structured, understand the different roles people play in a courtroom (like judges, lawyers, and witnesses), and familiarize yourself with commonly used legal terms and procedures. This foundational knowledge is crucial for participating effectively in mock trials.

Study the Case Material

Every year, the mock trial is based on a unique case scenario. It’s important to dive deep into this case material. Carefully examine all the details, including the facts of the case, the legal questions involved, and the arguments that both sides – the prosecution and the defense – might present. Understanding these elements from both perspectives is key to preparing your strategy and arguments for the trial.

Building Essential Skills for Mock Trials

Work on your public speaking skills to communicate clearly, persuasively, and with confidence. Practice giving speeches or presenting arguments in front of others, and seek feedback to improve. For example, you could join a debate club or a public speaking group to get more experience.

Develop your ability to critically assess information and form coherent, logical arguments. This can involve practicing with hypothetical scenarios, dissecting past legal cases, or engaging in debates where you analyze facts and apply legal principles. The goal is to train your mind to think like a lawyer, seeing various angles of a case and anticipating counterarguments.

Cultivate the skill of attentive listening, especially during witness testimonies or when opposing teams present their arguments. Practice taking concise and accurate notes that capture the key points.

This could involve listening to mock trial recordings or legal podcasts and writing down important information. Good note-taking helps you respond effectively during the trial and keep track of crucial details.

Role Preparation

If you’re assigned the role of a lawyer, concentrate on crafting compelling opening statements, practicing both direct and cross-examinations, and formulating impactful closing arguments. As a lawyer, your ability to present your case coherently and respond to the opposing side’s arguments is crucial. Work on understanding the legal aspects of the case and how to present them effectively.

Those taking on the role of a witness should deeply understand their character’s background and the testimony they will provide. This means knowing not just the facts of the case but also how your character fits into the narrative.

Practice delivering your testimony in a believable and consistent manner, and be prepared for both direct and cross-examinations from lawyers. Being a convincing witness requires immersing yourself in your character and understanding their motivations and perspectives.

Students debating in a conference room.

Engaging in Practice Trials for Hands-on Experience

Actively participate in mock trial simulations before the actual competition. These practice trials are crucial for gaining practical experience. They provide a realistic environment where you can practice presenting your case, dealing with objections, and making quick decisions under pressure.

In these simulations, you could role-play as a lawyer to practice your arguments, or as a witness to learn how to answer questions effectively. Feedback from these sessions is invaluable for identifying areas for improvement.

Observing others in practice trials can offer insights into different styles of argumentation and defense strategies. This hands-on approach is essential for building confidence and sharpening your courtroom skills.

Learn from Feedback

After each practice session or mock trial, it’s important to seek out and listen to feedback from various sources like your coaches, legal mentors, or even your peers. They can provide valuable insights into your performance, highlighting both your strengths and areas that need more work.

A coach might point out ways to improve your argument structure or suggest more effective ways to cross-examine a witness. Legal advisors can offer a professional perspective on your legal reasoning or courtroom etiquette. Even feedback from fellow students can be useful, as they might notice different aspects of your presentation or strategy.

Take this feedback seriously and use it to refine your skills. Practice implementing the suggested changes in your next session to continuously evolve and enhance your performance.

Teamwork and Collaboration

Effective teamwork is a cornerstone of success in mock trials. It’s crucial to work in harmony with your team members, as each person plays a vital role. Regular team meetings and practice sessions help build a cohesive unit.

Brainstorming sessions can be used to collectively develop strategies and arguments, and role-playing exercises can help each member understand and perform their part better. Communication is key – be open to sharing ideas, giving constructive feedback, and listening to others’ suggestions.

Also, remember that supporting each other, especially under the pressure of competition, is essential. Celebrate each other’s strengths and help to improve weaknesses. By cultivating a strong sense of unity and collaboration, your team can perform more effectively and adapt to the dynamic environment of a mock trial.

Students sitting on the chairs while talking.

Building Connections at the National High School Mock Trial

Building a strong network involves connecting with peers, legal professionals, and mentors during the National High School Mock Trial. These connections can provide valuable insights, advice, and future opportunities.

I. Strategies for Building a Network

Engage Actively with Peers

Take the chance to connect with other participants from various teams during the event. It’s a great opportunity to exchange stories and learn from each other’s experiences in mock trials. For instance, you could discuss how different teams prepare for their cases or handle courtroom challenges.

This kind of interaction broadens your understanding of mock trial strategies and helps build friendships and professional connections with peers who share similar interests.

Seek Mentorship from Legal Professionals

In mock trials, you often find legal professionals serving as judges or advisors. Take advantage of their presence by approaching them for advice and feedback. Don’t hesitate to ask them questions about the legal field, seek their opinions on your trial performance, or discuss any legal concepts you’re curious about.

You can also inquire if they’re open to a mentoring relationship, which could provide you with ongoing guidance and insights into the legal profession. For example, you could ask a legal expert how they started their career or for tips on improving your legal reasoning and courtroom presence. Building relationships with these professionals can be a valuable asset for both your current mock trial experience and your future career aspirations.

Participate in Social Events

Make sure to be a part of any networking events, social gatherings, or workshops that are organized during the tournament. These events are perfect for meeting new people in a casual and friendly atmosphere.

If there’s a dinner or a get-together after a day’s events, use that time to mingle with other participants, share stories, and exchange contact information. Workshops can also be a great place to learn and interact with others who have similar interests.

Being active in these social scenarios can lead to forming new friendships and professional contacts, which can be beneficial both personally and professionally.

Stay in Touch Post-Event

Once the tournament is over, it’s important to continue communicating with the people you met. Keeping in touch with these contacts can be done easily through social media platforms or professional networking websites. For example, you can connect with them on LinkedIn, or follow each other on platforms like Instagram or Twitter.

Regularly engaging with their posts or updates can keep the relationship active. You might also consider sending occasional messages or emails to catch up or share relevant information. This ongoing communication helps to build lasting professional relationships and can be valuable for future opportunities, whether it’s for advice, collaboration, or even job opportunities.

Remember, the connections you make during the tournament can become part of your professional network for years to come.

high school students in a class

II. Benefits of a Strong Network

Career Advancement

The relationships you establish during the mock trial can be a stepping stone to future career opportunities. The connections you make might open doors to internships, job offers, or valuable recommendations within the legal community. It’s a good idea to discuss your career interests and goals with the professionals and peers you meet.

They might know of or later come across opportunities that align with your aspirations. Additionally, someone you interacted with could end up recommending you for a position or referring you to other legal professionals. These connections serve as a network of contacts that can significantly aid in advancing your career in law or related fields.

Educational Growth

Connecting with seasoned legal professionals during the mock trial can greatly enrich your educational experience. These interactions can provide you with a deeper and more practical understanding of the legal system, offering insights that you won’t find in textbooks.

Legal experts can share real-world examples, personal experiences, or nuanced perspectives on complex legal issues. This kind of knowledge is invaluable and can give you a more comprehensive view of the legal world.

It’s beneficial to ask questions, engage in discussions, and absorb the wisdom and experiences shared by these professionals. Such learning can significantly complement your formal education and give you a head start in understanding the practical aspects of law.

a sociologist interviewing a couple

Support and Guidance

Connecting with seasoned legal professionals during the mock trial can greatly enrich your educational experience. These interactions can provide you with a deeper and more practical understanding of the legal system, offering insights that you won’t find in textbooks.

Legal experts can share real-world examples, personal experiences, or nuanced perspectives on complex legal issues. This kind of knowledge is invaluable and can give you a more comprehensive view of the legal world.

It’s beneficial to ask questions, engage in discussions, and absorb the wisdom and experiences shared by these professionals. Such learning can significantly complement your formal education and give you a head start in understanding the practical aspects of law.

Diverse Perspectives

Engaging with people from a variety of backgrounds during the mock trial can significantly broaden your outlook, which is especially important in the legal field. By interacting with individuals who have different experiences, cultures, and viewpoints, you gain a more diverse understanding of the world.

This diversity of thought is vital in law, where multiple perspectives can lead to more comprehensive and empathetic approaches to legal issues. For example, discussing a case with someone from a different region or legal background might reveal aspects you hadn’t considered.

Embracing these varied viewpoints not only enhances your problem-solving and critical thinking skills but also prepares you to work effectively with a wide range of clients and colleagues in your future legal career.

Networking at the National High School Mock Trial not only enriches your immediate experience in the competition but also lays a foundation for future academic and professional success.

Group of students talking in a room.

Discovering Future Careers with National High School Mock Trial: The Impact of Participation on Career Decisions

Participating in mock trials offers students a unique and immersive experience in the world of law and legal proceedings. This exposure goes beyond the typical classroom setting, providing a realistic glimpse into the workings of the legal system.

Students take on roles as attorneys, witnesses, and other court-related positions, engaging in simulations that mimic real-life legal disputes and trials. This hands-on experience is invaluable in helping students understand the nuances of legal work.

One of the key impacts of participating in mock trials is the development of critical skills that are highly valued in many careers. Students enhance their public speaking, critical thinking, and analytical skills, all of which are crucial in the legal profession and beyond.

They learn to formulate and present arguments, think on their feet and respond to unexpected challenges. These skills are transferable to a variety of fields, including law, politics, public administration, and business.

Mock trials provide a platform for networking with legal professionals. Judges, attorneys, and legal educators often play roles in these competitions, offering mentorship and insight into the legal profession. This networking can open doors to internships, job shadowing opportunities, and valuable connections that could influence career choices.

In addition to legal careers, the experience of participating in mock trials can spark interest in other related fields. For instance, students may develop an interest in criminal justice, forensics, or public policy. The collaborative nature of mock trials also teaches teamwork and leadership, skills that are essential in nearly every career path.

Mock trials can be a decisive factor for students considering law school or other higher education paths. The experience can either solidify their interest in pursuing law or open their eyes to other potential career paths they had not previously considered.

The National High School Mock Trial experience is a great opportunity for career exploration and development. By participating, students not only gain legal knowledge and skills but also embark on a journey of self-discovery, uncovering potential career paths that align with their skills and interests.

a gavel, pens and books laid down beside each other on a table

Final Thoughts

The National High School Mock Trial is a real dive into the world of law, a chance for you to grow, and maybe even the first step towards your future job. It’s all about thinking smart, talking with confidence, and working well with others, all while enjoying the drama of a courtroom setting.

No matter if you want to be a lawyer, or if you’re thinking about a totally different career, what you learn and experience in mock trials will stay with you for a long time. So, for all you students reading this, why not give it a try?

Play the part of a lawyer or a witness in a mock trial – it could take you to some interesting places. The courtroom is ready for you, and who knows? This could be the beginning of your own story in the world of law.

Looking for help with getting into pre-college programs? Think about working with college admissions experts like AdmissionSight. We have a lot of experience and have helped many students get into top universities around the world. Begin your journey to academic success – schedule a consultation with us today!



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