UNM Mock Trial Team Trophy
The trophy the UNM Mock Trial team received last week after placing 6th in the National Championship Tournament in Orlando, Florida.  Photo courtesy of UNMMT Twitter account, @UNMMT

The University of New Mexico Mock Trial program placed sixth out of 48 teams in the 30th National Championship Tournament, the final round of the American Mock Trial Association's annual tournament structure. The tournament was held recently in Orlando, Fla. and was hosted by the University of Central Florida.

The American Mock Trial Association was founded in 1985 by Dean Richard Calkins of Drake Law School. AMTA serves as the governing body for intercollegiate mock trial competition. Through engaging in trial simulations in competition with teams from other institutions, students develop critical thinking and public speaking skills, as well as knowledge of legal practices and procedures.

The journey begins in August, when the team is given their case from the AMTA. From there, the work begins. This year, the case was a criminal one, meaning the team prepared arguments for both prosecution and defense. The process is long and arduous, but is more than worth it in the end. "It requires the sacrifice of untold hours, weekends and social lives, but in the end it's only brought the team closer together," said Daniel Whiteley, a member of the team since his freshman year.

Interestingly, the team does not consist of only those interested in a career in law. There is a chemical engineering major on the team, for example. This is because the experience gives valuable skills to participants, regardless of their future career field. "It provides an unparalleled opportunity for students to hone their public speaking skills and show that hard work and dedication can produce great results," Whiteley said.

In addition to placing sixth in the national tournament, Valeria Garcia, the witness captain of the team, became the program's first All-American award winner as a witness. This, after the team recently won the Air Force Invitational in Colorado Springs, Colo, placing in the top four in Dallas in late October, placing top 10 in Claremont and second in Newport Beach.

The team's success has come on the back of teamwork, dedication and perseverance, especially financially. Currently, the team does not receive official funding from the university, and relies entirely on their own fundraising efforts.

For Whiteley, the team has become less of a program, and more of a way of life. "I've grown so close with everyone on the team. It really is a family," he said.