Before Elias Neibart decided to start a boutique LSAT tutoring firm, he was an award-winning member of Emory University’s Mock Trial team. Each year college students from all over the country receive a case from the American Mock Trial Association and engage in trial simulations, serving as both witness and attorney and completing against other schools. Mock trial teaches critical thinking skills, public speaking, and persuasive argumentation — all skills essential to success as a lawyer and business owner.
I recently had the chance to talk to Elias Neibart and learn a little more about the personal and professional lessons he learned at Emory University and why he thinks mock trial is a great way for young adult to prepare themselves for the rough and tumble professional world that awaits after graduation.
“When I first joined the Emory University Mock Trial Team, I had little public speaking experience and absolutely no background in trial advocacy. The other new members on the team had all competed on their high school mock trial teams, so I knew that I would have to work very hard to keep up with my peers. With that said, learning how to do a mock trial is a daunting task.
The activity is complex and technical; students spend fifteen to twenty hours every week writing their examinations, practicing their speeches, and grappling with the Rules of Evidence. Thus, mastering mock trial was an uphill battle for me, but it was a challenge I eagerly accepted. And, it was through figuring out how to do mock trials during my first year of college, that I learned a valuable life lesson.
When many people are confronted with new problems and pushed outside their comfort zone, they passively wade into the unknown. In other words, they slowly and tepidly tackle the challenge before them, hoping to gain knowledge and expertise over time. While such an approach may be applicable to certain situations, an alternative method helped me achieve initial success.
When I first joined the team, I immersed myself in the activity; I read previous cases, memorized the relevant legal rules and case law, and watched hours of previous mock trial rounds. At team practices, I always insisted that I could practice my content—my speeches or my examinations—in front of the entire team. I asked for their honest feedback and always incorporated their comments and suggestions into my work. I jumped feet first into the activity, and through doing so, I was able to keep up with my peers who had four or more years of experience.
On that same note, however, mock trial also taught me the importance of teamwork and humility.
As a novice, I relied on my older, experienced teammates to counsel me through my first couple of seasons with the team. Although sometimes, asking for help is difficult, I realized how important it was to not only admit you need assistance but to also actively seek out help when necessary. And fortunately, my teammates graciously offered their time and expertise to me. Through mock trial, I learned the value of being a teammate, especially the importance of helping team members in their times of need.
Of course, however, after learning the basics of mock trial and taking leadership roles on the Emory University Mock Trial Team, I witnessed, first-hand, the benefits of participating in a collegiate public speaking activity. When college students enter the workforce or graduate school, they will be asked to make a presentation, run meetings, and talk with clients. Therefore, learning how to clearly and concisely articulate yourself is a skill that every university student should master. Collegiate mock trial offers students the opportunity to cultivate these skills in a competitive setting. Although they will not compete after they graduate, they will be able to utilize the tools developed in college as they enter their professional lives.”