No objections here: Pomona’s Mock Trial team leads itself to success

A group of students dressed formally pose for the camera.
Despite their lack of a coach, Pomona College’s mock trial team is flourishing. (Courtesy: Pomona College Mock Trial)

Normally, when seeking legal help, one would look past a lawyer lacking experience or leadership, but Pomona College’s Mock Trial team presents some convincing evidence to the contrary. This year, the team has met with much achievement despite not having a coach, an anomaly for a collegiate mock trial team. The team is entirely student-run — perhaps the reason why it has found so much success. 

Without a coach, the team is led by an executive board made up by the president, vice president, treasurer and social community chair. These positions are usually held by upperclassmen, and the team elects new leaders upon graduation. Current club president Meghna Lohia PO ’22 works with the rest of the team’s executive board to tackle every facet of the club, including those a coach might normally oversee.

“Together we’re kind of in charge of every single thing that the club does from competing in tournaments, to training new members, to throwing parties,” Lohia said. “And all of that is really nice without a coach because it means that we are so self-directed … I think students on the team generally feel like they have a lot of initiative and autonomy to learn and contribute ideas.” 

With classes remote for all of last year, the club essentially shut down and wasn’t able to attend any practices or competition, nor bring in new members. Back in person since the fall, however, the club has made up for lost time and has about doubled its size by bringing in first-years and sophomores, totaling 23 students.

One of those new members is Dylan Bousquette PO ’24. Bousquette had wanted to join the Mock Trial team since he was accepted to Pomona due to his interest in the pre-law track. Not only does he value his newfound knowledge of trial and law, but he also valued the group of people he found himself around.

“I think that [the upperclassmen] have done a really great job of working to build community, and it’s a really great group of people,” Bousquette said. “Everyone would refer to someone as their Mock Trial mom or dad.”

While balancing her studies with running Mock Trial can be difficult, Lohia appreciates the kind of environment that a student-run club creates.

“I think being able to write our own material and train each other has been really beneficial and teaches us a lot about teamwork and mentorship … I’m happy without a coach, and I really wouldn’t want to change that,” she said.

Lohia does acknowledge one instance where having a consistent coach — rather than students who cycle out after four years — might benefit the program.

“The one big downfall about not having a coach is that there’s no institutional knowledge that’s consistently kept,” Lohia said. “It’s really important that each generation of seniors passes down as much as they can [to] the next class.”

However, she does think that the executive board tackled that issue effectively this year. 

“We’ve tried our very hardest to make sure that we have very thorough training [and] social events, [and are] creating a good vibe on the team,” Lohia said. “So, I think that [the new executive board] will carry that [knowledge] into the next year.” 

As one of the new students Lohia and the executive board worked to include, Bousquette finds their efforts to be a success. He said that not having a coach “creates a really trusting, less formal relationship that I think is good for the club.”

While the Mock Trial team already has a community to be proud of, their growth and performance in competitions this year is also something to celebrate. The club members spent much of the fall learning about how to compete, as the club actively seeks out newcomers with no experience. Additionally, with the competitions held remotely this year, the whole club had to learn how to compete virtually. 

Then, in the spring, the club split into three levels in accordance with the American Mock Trial Association’s rules. The groups are made based on ability and time commitment, with the “A” team being the most demanding of the groups. This year, the teams placed at their tournaments, and the A team even made it to the qualifying round for nationals. 

The team’s three levels also had many standout performances from individual students, resulting in numerous returners and newcomers bringing back awards. In total, the Mock Trial team earned more than a dozen prizes over the course of the semester.

“We did extremely well,” Lohia said. “We had numerous freshmen win awards, numerous returning members won awards … Usually, you have a president that has three years of experience under their belt, but I really didn’t have that and no one on [executive] board has that. So it’s an incredible feat, from my perspective, that we were able to gather all these new members, [and] then set them up for success.”

Lohia and three other seniors will graduate in May and leave the club in the hands of the rest of the team. Despite her parting from the team, Lohia will take a few lessons with her. 

“The public speaking skills, the teamwork, being able to manage different people’s identities and make sure everyone feels included and invited [will remain applicable],” she said.

She attributes those lessons to the community and commitment of the whole team.

“Surrounding yourself with people who make you feel really good about what you’re doing and make you feel like you can accomplish whatever you need to accomplish is so important,” Lohia said. “And I wouldn’t have stuck on the team if not for being surrounded by those kinds of people.”

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