Campus & Community

Young Lawyers Hold Court — Local students try mock cases at Law School

3 min read
First-year Law School students Lisa McLean (left) in background and Laura Rinzel (right) wait for a verdict along with the Malden eighth-graders they coached as the plaintiffs in a mock trial in the Ames Courtroom at Austin Hall.

More than 150 students from four local junior high schools shed their bookbags and tennis shoes in favor of suits and ties last week during a series of mock trials at the Law School (HLS).

Diane Ring (left), assistant professor of law, plays the “judge” and Malden eighth-grader Melinda Chan is a witness in the mock trial.

Participants came from the Agassiz, Peabody, and Longfellow Schools in Cambridge, and from the Malden Middle School in Malden. The mock trials, held in the Ames Courtroom, were the culmination of the schools’ Kids in the Court program, and focused on fictional plaintiffs who were disciplined for violating school rules. All of the students in the program were given a role in the trial, either as plaintiffs, witnesses, or attorneys. HLS students acted as jurors, and Law School professors served as judges.

Chris Walsh (left) and Michael Conway-Simensi watch their case unfold as the defendants in the mock trial.

As a prelude to the mock trial, teams of HLS students visited each of the schools during the past eight weeks, describing how laws are made, how government structures operate, how the legal system functions, and the role attorneys play in the process. The children learned about statutes, evidence, discovery, questioning witnesses, and preparing opening and closing statements.

“The kids were phenomenal,” according to Law School student Maria Sanders ’01, a co-chair of Kids in the Court. “In the beginning, it’s challenging in the classroom … to help them understand [what the program entails], but once they get an idea of being in a court, of being in front of a judge and jurors, they begin to take it very seriously, and they really get into it.

Law School students Laura Rinzel (upper left) and Lisa McLean discuss their case as the plaintiffs.

“It’s also a unique program for the Law School students because it’s one of the few programs where you’re in it for the fun of it, and no one has any legal crisis or tragic life story that you’re involved with,” Sanders says. “You’re just there to teach the kids a little bit, but also to have a lot of fun with them, and give them a field trip experience that they’ll hopefully remember for a while.”

Wearing their finest clothes and on their best behavior, the young would-be attorneys made quite an impression at the Ames Courtroom last week. “I felt like a mother watching my 15 kids,” HLS student Suzette Smikle ’02 explains. “Every time each of them went up, I was sitting there hoping that they got it right, and it was just wonderful … I was so proud of them. They did an amazing job.”

Ames Courtroom at Austin Hall was the setting for the mock trials staged by Malden eighth-graders and coached by law students.