Virtual Courtrooms: Mock Trial Over Zoom

Paige Jansen

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May 19, 2021
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Photo by Paige Jansen

Andrew Bush talks to the virtual courtroom over zoom as he gives his opening statements in a scrimmage against Waukee.

Zoom has become the new backbone of our world. From school to work, and to meet with family and friends, video conferencing has given us normalcy of human interaction throughout this difficult time. It’s also allowed us to continue with extracurricular activities, such as Mock Trial. With competitions years prior in person, moving these trials online has been a challenge for teams around the state, with every single one learning the best way to use zoom to their advantage to make the virtual courtrooms run smoothly. 

For second-year participant Andrew Bush, the change hasn’t been as effective as in-person trials. “I would prefer to have an actual mock trial, but we have adjusted pretty well this year and it hasn’t been going bad so far.” 

With this new virtual setting, the biggest difference and change is non-verbals. With presentation being a majority of the way a team scores points there is a limit of a person’s body moments and facial expressions on zoom. It’s more difficult to have direct eye contact, and that loss of actions must be made up for with the quality of the rhetoric. The intimidation of being in the same room as the competition has also decreased. Both the lawyers and witnesses work harder to show their best presentation of knowledge. 

“I like it,” said first-year participant Mindy Detrick. “It’s a good way to get both theatrical outlets when speech and theater are not going on. I’m curious as to what it will be like in person because I feel like there’s a lot more pressure in a non-virtual setting.” 

As the world continues to change daily, virtual mock trials are not certain to continue in the future, as it is unknown exactly how long the current situation will continue. However, in years to come, attorneys and witnesses can be back in a makeshift courtroom, arguing with teams from unknown schools and addressing the judge in person.