Photo provided by Emme Aylesworth.

The new legal debate club at the University of Maine, Mock Trial, has some high expectations for their future. After the disbandment of the university’s previous Mock Trial team in 2018, a few prospective students have sought to resurrect and revamp the former club.

Club founder and president, first-year Liam Hornschild-Bear, is a political science student with the intention to attend law school to become a corporate lawyer. At his high school, he participated in a Mock Trial team where he appreciated his time on the team. After arriving on campus, he worked with fellow club member and vice president Zachary Monteleone, a psychology student, and started the team back up again for students that are interested in debate or would like to have some experience in legal debate prior to attending law school. 

Mock Trial develops reasoning, speaking and logical thinking skills that can persist throughout stressful situations,” Hornschild-Bear said. “Whether you’re an actor/actress or an aspiring lawyer, we hope to act as a venue for you to practice your skills.”

So far, the meetings have consisted of team bonding sessions and practice debate topics such as the rights of students and the legality of federal laws enacted by Congress. Every so often, Hornschild-Bear will set a date where members are split into two groups and will have a formal debate on a topic of his choosing. The teams will have a few weeks to research their topic and create an argument to convince the other team and the club’s moderator. The members have expressed their enjoyment of their sessions and are determined to find a way to organize their arguments to be foolproof. 

However, the club has faced some minor setbacks they need to iron out in the first few days of the club’s creation. 

“[We] quickly noticed that we could not meet the demands of preparing for a successful trial in the amount of time available to us,” Hornschild-Bear said.

As a way to work around this problem, Hornschild-Bear advertised the club as a legal debate club that will develop the skills necessary to eventually become a Mock Trial team by the end of the semester or beginning of the next semester. The club debates in the Lincoln-Douglas format, where each team gets a few minutes to state their introduction and evidence. Meanwhile, the opposing team will have time to cross-examine their arguments and vice versa. It is a formal event that is treated with respect from both sides of the debate. 

Another problem this club is facing is finding interested students to increase their membership attendance, a common problem when a club just starts up. As of now, the club has only a few members. They hope to reach the required number of members by the end of this semester so they can have a full team and substitutions for competitions. 

“While we are actively seeking members of all skill levels, students with prior experience strongly contribute to the team and help decrease the learning curve for newcomers. We are still working on overcoming this issue and hope to find more members at the upcoming club fair,” Monteleone said. 

They have also deduced that many students have already made plans for their Friday nights, so they are in the process of finding a more convenient time for club members to meet. They already changed the location of the club from Jenness Hall to Colvin Hall, but as the anticipation of more members looms over their heads, the club’s leadership team hopes to find a meeting place more centralized to all areas of the college campus.

Once the club has made it through these challenging beginnings, they will begin the process of Mock Trial registration. They also hope to find an attorney to coach the team to ensure that the team will receive quality advice. They want to be confident for their first Mock Trial competition.

If you are interested in joining the club or have participated in Mock Trial while in high school, you can reach the members by contacting liam.hornschildbear@maine.edu or zachary.monteleone@maine.edu for any questions or contributions you would like to make to the club. As of now the club meets at 5 p.m. on Fridays in Colvin Room 401.