October 27, 2010by Brittany Hardy
For many, thinking of advocacy law may only conjure images of heavy courtroom drama bundled in neat 60-minute increments of "Law & Order." But for Baylor Law students Victoria Honey, Jennifer Salim, Aaron VonFlatern and Ashley Yearick, advocacy law means hard work, dedication, adrenaline and worthwhile preparatory experience for the practice they thoroughly believe in. The four, along with Waco lawyers Robert Little, make up Baylor Law's Tournament of Champions (TOC) Mock Trial team.
Baylor Law School's TOC team left on Oct. 26 for Pittsburg, Penn. TOC is an invitation-only competition, which reflects well on Baylor's success in the past.
One of the important goals of mock trial competitions is to garner understanding of the practical rules of court room etiquette. Baylor Law School teams have competed well in the past, because, through long hours of research, writing and coaching, students learn these rules.
"Other teams tend to be theatrical, relying on what they've seen on TV. What sets teams apart in these competitions is knowing the facts and the law of the case inside and out," Salim said.
As a result of these advocacy competitions, teams "learn court room procedure, so it's really applicable for real-world practice," Salim said.
Yearick added that Baylor Law School aims at preparing its students for their futures in real-world courtrooms, rather than simply for competition at hand.
"Sometimes judges will look for drama, but Baylor doesn't let us do that," Yearick said, "The coaches aren't just preparing us for mock trial. They're preparing us for real life. These competitions are the best for getting you ready."
According to Salim, "there's no substitute for hours put in" -- a motto, she and the rest of the TOC team have certainly lived out in their preparation.
"We would write drafts one night, and then go home the next day and change it completely. Then, do it again the next day," Yearick said.
The TOC team has been practicing six days a week, spending three hours of each of those days in the courtroom with their coach. Outside of that they spend extra hours writing, prepping and researching, equaling about six hours per day, beginning six weeks prior to competition.
Salim is most looking forward to the opportunity to cross-examine the other teams' witnesses. "They'll be trying to trip you up and to manipulate the situation. So, it's a big challenge and such a rush to make them admit they're wrong on stand. I think that's the one part that looks like T.V.," she said.
These competitions are an important addition to the law school experience, because advocacy is essential to any trial lawyer's career. "Advocacy is what you are as a lawyer," Salim said. "You're given someone else's issue, that is not yours, and you have to care about it. Being able to flip on the issues as a moment's notice is so important for real-life practice. Regardless of whether you think it is right or wrong, everyone deserves to be represented."
Salim described the competitions as both "time-consuming" and "addicting" and when asked whether she'll participate again, she said, "It all depends on whether Baylor asks me to do it again." Salim recognizes that being a part of these competitions have been a great honor during her law school career.
Yearick agrees: "It's just a really big competition and it's a huge honor to be on the team, a huge honor."
Yearick and Salim also agree that Baylor Law students learn to juggle many responsibilities as they participate in these competitions.
"That's another thing that makes Baylor so unique... We've had other huge responsibilities that we've been a part of, and that makes me proud," Yearick said.