Mock Trial Winner Talks Tips For Closing Cases

Anna Mueller, a junior in public relations, excels in mock trial—court simulations pitting schools against each other in a contest of critical thinking, public speaking, and knowledge of legal practice. In March, she guided the University of Oregon team to the preliminary competition to the national championship; Mueller is also ranked 15th nationally as an individual performer. She’s a closer—she summarizes the team’s case during final arguments—and for Oregon Quarterly she laid down the law on how to win over judges and juries:

NO “I” IN TEAM: “When I close, it’s a summary of all the cool things my teammates did during the trial—without their good performances, I have nothing to talk about. Beyond that, especially with Zoom mock trial, while I’m talking they’re behind the camera giving me pieces of evidence, coaching, key points to hit. It’s very collaborative.”

A NO-DOZE ZONE: “I have to be focused on everything for 2.5 hours—I can’t check out ever. Every comment, every bit of evidence, every objection—I have to formulate an argument based on that. If I give a memorized speech, it won’t match what happened. We generally get five minutes to prepare closing arguments but sometimes we just go right to them.”

ASSERTIVE, NOT AGGRESSIVE: “Any attorney who is too aggressive in their argumentation can damage their credibility. But there’s a double standard for women particularly. I’ve been told I’m too loud ‘for a woman,’ I’ve been told to smile more, I’ve received one too many unnecessary comments on my appearance. I can’t be as loud or forceful as my male teammates.”

BE A SHOWSTOPPER: “At the same time, I’m a wake-up call to a judge who has perhaps mentally dozed off. I need to be very entertaining—our coach calls it ‘sauce.’ I’ve knocked over buckets being used as props, I’ve ripped up documents. At the University of Washington, I tore down a poster they had placed over our presentation. It’s very fun to walk across a courtroom, strut up to something, and yank it down.”

—By Matt Cooper, managing editor, Oregon Quarterly

—Photo by Charlie Litchfield, University Communications