Mock Trial Heads to Nationals for the Fifth Time in Six Seasons

Posted April 22, 2022

Note: This story has been updated to reflect the results of the National Championship Tournament.

Georgia Tech Mock Trial is headed to the national championship for the fifth time in six years, further cementing its place among the country’s best programs.

The team’s B squad earned a bid to the April 8-10 competition after posting a 6-2 performance in the American Mock Trial Association’s (AMTA) Opening Round Championship Series Tournament, hosted by Georgia Tech in March. At the event, public policy major Isabel Stafford tied for first out of 250 competitors for highest-ranked advocate, and William Goodall, a computer science major, earned an Outstanding Witness Award.

By earning a spot at the AMTA’s National Championship Tournament, Georgia Tech secures a place among the top 6% of teams nationally. Its consistent appearance at nationals is also the most during that time among schools in the Southeast.

“Our program’s success is a testament to how adaptable and hard-working the students at this school are,” Stafford said. “So many of them are willing to put in so much work for a club that has no impact on their future careers, which drives me to work that much harder.”

The Road to Nationals

The mock trial team, hosted within the Law, Science, and Technology program in the School of Public Policy, consists of students from various majors and competes against schools across the country. The team receives a case ahead of each tournament and, when competition day arrives, plays the roles of attorneys and witnesses in trying the case before a panel of judges.

At the Opening Round Championship Series Tournament, Georgia Tech’s two teams took home more awards than any of the 17 other schools in attendance, including neighboring Emory University. While the A Team did not advance to nationals, Goodall still took home an Outstanding Witness Award. In addition to Stafford, business administration major Surbhi Bhatter and computer science major Varun Aggarwal earned Outstanding Attorney Awards. This was the ninth year in a row that a group of Yellow Jackets had made it to that round, and the sixth straight year that two teams had done so.

“I am consistently amazed at what Georgia Tech students can do,” said Will Warihay, co-head coach. “Mock Trial teaches vital skills of public speaking, critical thinking, and the ability to think on your feet through a legal format. These are skills which will serve Georgia Tech students well regardless of whether they go to law school or go into the business world.”

Warihay coaches the team alongside Andy McNeil (PUBP 2001). They are Atlanta-area attorneys and part-time lecturers in the Law, Science, and Technology program.

The last time Georgia Tech Mock Trial appeared at nationals was in 2019, when the team placed 11th out of 48 teams. The competition was canceled in 2020, and Georgia Tech failed to qualify for the virtual competition in 2021. The 2022 national championship will be held Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Prepping for Pennsylvania

Throughout the season, Mock Trial practices twice a week, though they frequently do so more in the weeks leading up to a competition. Much of their training consists of team members repeatedly running material past each other, including opening statements, direct examinations, cross-examinations, and closing arguments.

“Our primary goal is that our material is simultaneously professional, as well as relatable and personable — that it appeals to our scorers in a way that shows we’re real people,” Stafford said.

Stafford and the rest of the mock trial team are looking forward to building greater camaraderie in Pennsylvania and bringing home awards.

“This team has worked so hard all year, and I only hope that they can enjoy their experience at the national championship to the fullest,” McNeil said. “This group is ready to go to Pennsylvania and show the country what Yellow Jackets can do.”

A Top-Ten Finish in Lancaster

Georgia Tech's team placed tenth overall at the National Championship Tournament, and sixth in their division. The group of second- and third-year students beat teams from Dillard University, the University of Texas, and Stanford University. Their only loss of the tournament was to the University of Chicago, who ultimately competed in the final round.

Georgia Tech Mock Trial also took home three All-American awards, given to the top 20 attorneys and witnesses. Aggarwal earned an All-American Attorney Award, while business administration major Jordan Spencer and chemical engineering major Vidhya Mallikarjunan earned All-American Witness Awards. This is the most awards Georgia Tech has ever taken home from this tournament.

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Grace Wyner

Communications Officer

School of Public Policy | Sam Nunn School of International Affairs