UMKC has once again advanced in a mock trial competition, this time in the American Association for Justice (AAJ) Student Trial Advocacy Competition. UMKC was in the top eight teams of 300 entered in the competition. The team consisted of Taylor Haas (3L), Mollie Harmon (3L), Nick Schmiemeier (3L) and Alison Stephens (2L). They will travel to Cleveland, OH to compete in the AAJ Nationals from March 27 to April 2.

“We want to beat Harvard,” said Schmiemeier and Stephens.

The team competed against the University of Denver in the semifinal (3-0), and the University of Colorado Boulder was their rival for the final round (5-0). The UMKC Law team played the defender’s side, with Schmiemeier and Stephens as the attorneys and Haas and Harmon taking on the role of witnesses.

The final case revolved around a boy who was assaulted while playing outside an ice-cream shop after closing hours. He sued the ice-cream shop for negligence as it was located in an unsafe neighborhood. Stephens praised Haas and Harmon in their roles, and explained witnesses from the opposing teams were tough. The team had to execute their roles perfectly in order to evoke the most beneficial responses from their witnesses.

“It’s different when you know your witnesses are professionals as well,” Stephens said. “At one point, a witness even asked me a question from the stand.”

According to Schmiemeier, it was an exhausting and intensive, yet rewarding competition.

This was Schmiemeier’s first mock trial competition. He did not participate in the 1L Last Team Standing Competition and felt pressure throughout the tournament. In the meantime, Stephens had preceding mock trial experiences, but AAJ was her “first big tournament.”

The team commended the team’s coach, Douglas Stripp Professor, Rafe Foreman, who encouraged their natural abilities and pushed them to be their best. Schmiemeier said he found Foreman’s feedback extremely helpful.

For the national tournament, the team will be working on the same case as the regional final. Stephens said this was advantageous, since the team could incorporate the effective strategies they used in the initial rounds and improve their own skills.

“Mock trial is an ongoing process,” Stephens said, in reference to constantly learning and reflecting on competitions as they’re happening. “I had to abandon the whole cross-questioning strategy after the first day in the regionals because it simply did not work. It was tough, but we made it through.”

In the end, the team only lost one ballot in the five rounds.

UMKC Law wishes them all the best in the upcoming national tournament later this month.