This last Tuesday I volunteered to serve as a performance evaluator for the Nebraska Bar Foundation’s State High School Mock Trial Championship. The competition featured twelve state qualifying teams from high schools across Nebraska each seeking to be named the state champion thereby entitling it to represent Nebraska at the National competition to be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in May. The round to which I was assigned feature two very good teams. The two teams of six individuals (three advocates and three student witnesses for each team) were well matched and thoroughly prepared. It was a close round. I absolutely enjoyed spending the three hours watching these students compete.

I also absolutely learned from the experience as I do every time I watch younger students like these. I encourage trial lawyers out there to volunteer your time helping high schools, colleges and law schools conducting these types of competitions. I submit that you will often, perhaps even more often, learn as much from the students as they may learn from you.

Sometimes I watch the students compete and am reminded of basic things that trial lawyers do and why they do them. That reminder may come from seeing a student do something well such as lay proper foundation for an exhibit. That reminder may also come from watching someone struggle to do something such as control a witness, impeach a witness or enter an exhibit.

In this blog, once a week we write about sports. The analogy to sports is that participating in this type of endeavor is often a great refresher in the fundamentals; the ABC’s of trial practice. At every level of sport the truly elite players almost always have great fundamentals (same goes for elite businesses). People of average ability can often out-play those with superior ability just by being fundamentally sound. Take an opportunity to help students in your area in their efforts to learn fundamentals and you will find you are also helping yourself.