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Mock Trial


Mock Trial

The Mock Trial program is an inter-scholastic competition where high school students try a hypothetical criminal case. Many of the students are diverse and come from under-served schools. Lawyers from the San Francisco legal community volunteer to coach the fundamentals of persuasive public speaking and evidence advocacy, demonstrate techniques and critique the students in preparation for the city-wide competition.

The program was created to help students acquire a working knowledge of our judicial system, develop analytical abilities and communication skills, and gain an understanding of their obligations and responsibilities as participating members of our society. Students build their intellectual skills, gain confidence in their ability to present and support an argument, and often open their eyes to the possibilities offered by college, law school, and a career in law.


How Does it Work?

  • The students work with hypothetical case materials published by the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF), including facts, witness statements and rules
  • Each school fields a team of students to serve in the following roles: two or three lawyers, four witnesses, and a timekeeper/bailiff
  • Members of the San Francisco legal community coach the students on a weekly basis culminating with the city-wide competition
  • Each trial involves a pre-trial motion, opening statements, direct and cross-examinations (with objections), and closing arguments
  • Students are awarded points by a panel of three attorney scorers
  • The competition requires the efforts of attorneys and judges filling a variety of roles
  • The citywide competition takes place at the San Francisco Superior Court over four evenings in February, narrowing the field to one winning team that goes on to represent San Francisco in the statewide competition in March
  • The winner of the statewide competition represents California in the national competition in May

What is the Case?

Each year, CRF creates and produces a new set of Mock Trial materials based on an important issue facing America's youth. The materials include a hypothetical criminal case (including summaries of case law, witness statements, official exhibits, and simplified rules of evidence); lesson plans on the central issues in the case; and competition rules and guidelines.

What are the Volunteer Opportunities

  • San Francisco attorneys and law firms sign on to coach individual schools beginning in late August with an orientation and training.
  • Work with the students is weekly beginning in September concluding with competition in February
  • Superior Court judges open their courtrooms, and preside over the competition
  • During the competition in February, attorneys volunteer to serve as the "jury" for the competition, scoring each participant, and determining which teams will advance to the finals

Why volunteer?
Many attorneys find coaching to be a rewarding opportunity to affect young urban lives. It is also a good opportunity to hone trial skills.


Firm Sponsorships
Several San Francisco law firms sponsor the activities of the mock trial competition. In order to grow this program by adding new teams and opportunities to deepen the experience for the students, additional funding is necessary. Plans include developing training workshops and seminars for students.

To learn more about how you and your firm can become a sponsor, email Ann Murphy at


Steps to Volunteering

To learn more and to volunteer, email Ann Murphy at