Trial Lawyer Section’s Bedell Mock Trial Competition goes virtual
One of the Trial Lawyer Section’s most cherished traditions, the Chester Bedell Mock Trial Competition, will continue, despite a surging COVID-19 pandemic.
Section Chair Wiley Hicks says the January 20-22 competition owes its existence to the determination, hard work and creativity of section members, the generosity of state and federal judges who volunteered to participate — and the generosity of a Tampa legal services firm, Trial Exhibits, Inc., that is furnishing the technology needed to compete virtually.
“I think almost everybody universally wants the courts to go back to normal when it comes to jury trials,” Hicks acknowledges. “But we could not have done this in person.”
The event will mark the first time the Chester Bedell competition has been conducted virtually, but other states have blazed a trail, Hicks said.
“I know that the regional and national competitions have all been conducted virtually, probably for the last six months or so, so we have a template that we can work from,” he said.
Students from eight Florida law schools, divided into 16 teams, will vie for the top honor in what is known as the “Super Bowl” of Florida mock trial competitions.
Virtual has advantages, Hicks said.
Judges were easier to recruit because they didn’t have to invest travel time. And students will get to hone their skills in virtual jurisprudence, Hicks said.
“Students from some of the larger schools may have already competed virtually, but some students will likely be performing in a virtual courtroom for the first time,” Hicks said.
Virtual platforms have proven so efficient for the most routine legal proceedings that they will be the wave of the future, Hicks said.
“I don’t think there are going to be these cattle call motion calendars anymore,” he said. “It saves an immense amount of time, especially in places like Miami, where the commute can be 30 minutes to an hour both ways.”
The competition won’t lack suspense, Hicks said. Preliminary rounds kick off on Wednesday, but only two teams that survive quarter and semi-final elimination rounds will face off for the championship on Friday.
Hicks said he’s relieved that the health crisis didn’t force a cancellation.
“We’re happy that we were able to attract eight schools, and for those students who are seniors, this will be their last chance to compete,” he said.
For more information or to see a list of past winners, visit https://floridatls.org/chester-bedell/chester-bedell-foundation/mock-trial-competition/.