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Northwood University Mock Trial Team Sets Sights on Title

February 18, 2021

Northwood University, like many other universities around the country, fields multiple Mock Trial teams in many competitions. Its top-ranked team launched the 2021 season with a strong showing on January 10 in a tournament hosted by the University of California-Irvine. Northwood defeated UCLA, the University of Chicago and Georgia Tech but lost to Tufts University. Northwood students cited for individual excellence included Simeon Lawrence of Elyria, Ohio (Outstanding Witness), Jake Walters of Mount Pleasant, Michigan (Outstanding Witness) and Parker Luchenbill of Fenton, Michigan (Outstanding Attorney).

At the January 24 tournament sponsored by the University of Chicago, Northwood finished sixth, defeating New York University and the University of Florida before splitting ballots with Wesleyan and losing to Tufts. Lawrence and Walters again earned Outstanding Witness Awards. Here are the University of Chicago tournament final standings:

  1. University of California-Berkeley

  2. Wesleyan University

  3. Tufts University

  4. Yale University

  5. University of Michigan

  6. Northwood University

Also on January 24, Northwood freshmen Pietro Vitale of Woodhaven, Michigan (Outstanding Attorney), and Jordan Barker of Hartland, Michigan (Outstanding Witness), won individual honors in a separate competition sponsored by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Northwood concluded the regular season on January 31 with a runner-up finish at a 24-team tournament sponsored by Indiana University. Northwood defeated teams from Carnegie-Mellon University, Florida State University and Miami University of Ohio before narrowly losing to a different Florida State team that earned the tournament’s top spot. Individual honors went to Simeon Lawrence (Outstanding Witness), Aiden Garvie of Elk Grove, California (Outstanding Witness), and J. Austin Wolfe of Cincinnati, Ohio (Outstanding Attorney). Here are the team standings:

  1. Florida State University (A)

  2. Northwood University

  3. Florida State University (C)

  4. Miami University of Ohio

  5. Case Western Reserve University

  6. University of Cincinnati

“Due to the pandemic, all of this year’s tournaments are virtual, which changes the dynamics, no doubt about it, but the core elements remain the same: using critical thinking, and communication and teamwork skills to persuade,” said Northwood University Mock Trial Program Director DeLois Leapheart.

Leapheart coached Northwood to the national championship in 2009, and the team frequently qualifies for the final round of competition. Leapheart is one of only 13 people named to the American Mock Trial Association’s (AMTA) Coaches Hall of Fame, and in 2019 she received the Neal Smith Award, which the AMTA presents to one individual annually in recognition of “outstanding and exemplary contributions to law-related education and its mission to promote public understanding of law and the legal process.”

More than 6,000 students representing more than 400 colleges and universities take part each year in AMTA competitions. Each involves a detailed case scenario, distributed in advance for students to study, that serves as the foundation for a realistic courtroom simulation.

“Mock Trial helps students develop the skills they need to succeed in business,” Leapheart said. “I can help them prepare, I can give them instructions, but when the competition begins, they have to make decisions in the moment, they have to rely on each other, and they have to evolve into a high-performance team.”

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