Last night I witnessed some of the finest lawyering I’ve seen in my over 16 years of practicing law. The attorneys I observed were quick on their feet and well-versed in courtroom procedure. They knew the record of their case inside out, displayed an excellent grasp of the law, and demonstrated a high level of professionalism.
The witnesses who testified came across as sincere and credible and capably facilitated the fact-finding process of the jury. It was fascinating for me to watch the trial unfold as each side put on their best case. Difficult questions from the judge or incisive objections from opposing counsel didn’t faze these attorneys at all; they were always ready with cogent responses, arguing and reasoning at a level beyond their years.
If what I have just described sounds like a trial in which I personally participated, then that would only be partially true. The occasion was the 2014 Santa Clara County High School Mock Trial tournament. For the last two years I have had the honor and privilege of serving as an attorney scorer in the tournament, which is held at Santa Clara County Superior Court in downtown San Jose. I enjoy volunteering to score these tournaments because I get to observe and critique the courtroom performances of some of the brightest high school students in Santa Clara County. These students are a credit to their high schools and to the coaches who give their time to foster students’ appreciation for the law and to promote a positive image of the legal profession.
The case this year involved a high school student who was being prosecuted for second-degree murder and possession with the intent to sell a controlled substance. I scored two mock trials in the early and late rounds of the competition. Now keep in mind that trials are stressful experiences, even for seasoned attorneys, and some of the students who participated are mere high school freshmen. Yet the students not only managed to get up and speak in front of a judge and jury, but did so with panache. They stood firm and remained composed in the face of objections from opposing counsel and adroit questioning from the bench.
I can honestly say that the calibre of student performance that I have seen in the Santa Clara County High School Mock Trial tournament the last two years is on par with that of many attorneys I have seen litigate in a real courtroom. The passion, freshness and idealism that these students bring to the mock trial competition is absolutely contagious.
After scoring a competition, I love talking to the students and giving them feedback on their individual performances. They are always so eager and appreciative, and I am only too happy to tell a possible future member of the bar that they are born to the work. The process is mutually fulfilling for both the student and the attorney.
Last night I walked out of the courtroom with a reawakened love for the adversarial system. I felt excited about going to work the next day. My commitment to serving clients and promoting the ideals of the legal profession was renewed a hundred times over. And I know that the future of law practice looks very bright indeed.
Timothy D. Widman is a San Jose Immigration Attorney and the owner of the Law Office of Timothy D. Widman.