The Cal Poly mock trial team competed against 48 other teams in the National Championship Tournament — one of only six California universities to qualify.
This was the first time the program made it to the National Championship since 2017 and was only the second time Cal Poly made the tournament in the team’s 15-year history.
“When we actually got that bid it was a huge shock and a great feeling to see our hard work pay off,” physics junior and Cal Poly Mock Trial President Yuval Shemesh said.
Competing daily from April 8 to 10, the competition was split up into two divisions of 24 teams, with Cal Poly going against schools such as Harvard, Yale and UC Berkeley. Traveling to Lancaster, PA, each team argued a fictional legal case in front of real judges –– the Mustangs narrowly fell out of the top ten with a 5-7 record.
“Competing against these teams, it really shows you what the best of the best is and what it means to put the level of work that a national championship contender really puts in,” Shemesh said.
The program’s path to the nationals was difficult. They first competed at a regional tournament where only a select few teams moved on. Then they went to the Open Round Championship Series where they finished third amongst 24 teams to move on to the National Championship Tournament.
The team could not have made it without the hard work and passion of its members, as the students meet four nights a week where they practice all the new material they have, according to Shemesh.
“People would not be arguing a fake case for months on end if they did not actually love it,” Shemesh said.
The program begins its recruitment at the start of every school year. This year, they started with five teams of six people, where each team is given a case problem and subsequently reevaluated based on skill level. The team then develops witness roles, new arguments for attorneys to utilize and methods for creating evidentiary objections in order to prepare themselves for competition, according to Shemesh.
Students who are interested in participating in the mock trial team can take POLS 295 and POLS 395 to help better prepare for competition while putting mock trials into the broader context of the legal system. Students can also attend the club showcase and sign up. Students may contact the team via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.