North Central College political science major and junior Jennifer Rieger earned second-place honors and a tuition waiver to attend John Marshall Law School after competing at the law school’s annual National Undergraduate Diversity Mock Trial Competition April 13-14.
Some 60 top students from colleges and universities across the country met at Marshall’s Chicago campus to compete for the chance to win law school tuition waivers. Rieger’s second-place finish in the individual best advocate award netted her a $9,000 prize in tuition waivers to John Marshall.
Students were assigned to teams at the beginning of the two-day competition. Rieger competed with a three-person team. “We had one hour to prepare for the first round,” she says. “The case was a civil suit with the plaintiff suing a police officer for excessive force that took place on a college campus during a protest. There were three rounds the first day and each member had to perform each role once: an opening and a cross exam, a direct and a closing, and a witness role.”
Students were scored based on individual performances, and those scores were combined to establish the team score.
“My team was ranked second at the end of the first day and invited back for the quarterfinal round on day two. We were pretty evenly matched against another good team with good competition,” Rieger says. Although her team lost in the quarterfinals, Rieger claimed a top individual best advocate award.
Professor of political science and faculty advisor for North Central’s Mock Trial team is Stephen Maynard Caliendo. “The scope of this competition is much narrower than the case our intercollegiate mock trial students work with each year, but the time to prepare is dramatically reduced,” he says. “Jennifer’s strong grasp of trial strategy and techniques give her an advantage in this context. She has an exceptionally creative mind with respect to preparing questions to elicit important information on direct examination and being persistent in her challenges on cross examination.”
The competition, says Rieger, was “a great opportunity to network with a lot of people and meet other students, teachers and deans, who were also judges. I was able to learn about the school’s mediation team and how to get involved.”
Rieger, a resident of Wayne, formerly of Bartlett, transferred to North Central College from Elgin Community College where she was enrolled in its paralegal program.
Participation in North Central College’s Mock Trial team is open to all full-time students of any major. Mock Trial participants learn to think on their feet, get the better of opponents and persuade a judge to rule in favor of clients; meet with prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys, sitting judges, medical examiners, crime and accident scene investigators, and crash collision professionals; argue a criminal or civil case; compete against teams from all parts of the United States in the American Mock Trial Association; and travel to tournaments in the Midwest. Some of North Central’s most successful participants have had diverse career interests, including teaching, journalism, history, theatre and business. Mock Trial scholarships are available to incoming students, both first-year and transfer.