With the number of jury trials diminishing every year, courtroom appearances for young associates are rare, and the opportunity to prepare a closing argument or cross-examine a witness is even less likely. Recognizing the need to get its associates courtroom-ready even in the current climate, Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey LLP is in the midst of a three-week mock trial training exercise to help associates develop and hone their trial skills in a true-to-life courtroom environment.
The mock case file, obtained through the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA), details a product liability suit and includes two fact witnesses for the plaintiff and defense as well as engineering and pain and medical experts. The entire firm has been involved with this project as Carmody litigation associates act as counsel on both sides for all aspects of the trial with litigation partners serving as judges and faculty providing feedback, tips and suggestions on effective trial techniques. The firm’s business associates and many of the partners play the parts of witnesses and experts.
“Much has been said and written about the vanishing jury trial and it’s a fact that associates are getting less and less real-world experience in court,” said Brian T. Henebry, Managing Partner. “That can create a training deficit. This exercise provides them with comprehensive courtroom experience.”
The mock trial, which the firm is carrying out on three consecutive Saturdays, requires associates to research and prepare for trial, develop openings and closing argument, perform direct and cross examinations of fact and expert witnesses, get exhibits into evidence, and prepare witnesses for examination. The associates have to be prepared to address stern judges, objecting opponents and disagreeable witnesses. There have even been real life type challenges that have arisen like witnesses who are stuck in traffic.
“This exercise is providing a level of trial experience that many associates rarely see,” said associate Sarah S. Healey. “You can read about examining a witness, or watch an experienced trial lawyer do it, but it’s not until you have to think on your own feet that you really see everything that goes into it.”