The inaugural Tupper Classic mock trial invitational competition brought together students from 11 schools—including Princeton University, Brandeis University, Providence College, Northeastern University, and Boston College—to match wits and test their legal strategies against one another. Organized by Bryant University’s mock trial team, with partners across campus, the invitational is named for Bryant’s bulldog mascot and was an unqualified success.
“Holding an event like the Tupper Classic really helps to put Bryant mock trial, and the University’s Politics and Law program, on the map,” notes Andrew Hinckley ’23, president of Bryant’s mock trial student organization and the Classic’s lead organizer.
Creating a Classic
In intercollegiate mock trial competitions, students role-play as lawyers and witnesses and are judged on their persuasiveness and ability to analyze arguments. Invitational tournaments offer an important opportunity to practice their skills and prepare for regional-level competitions. The Tupper Classic is the only invitational mock trial tournament in Rhode Island and one of only a handful in the region, making it a vital staging ground for aspiring legal practitioners.
Although the tournament is brand-new, Hinckley reports there was immediate interest from a large number of schools: “This was an opportunity not only for Bryant students but also for every other school in the region."
The invitational was nearly a year in the making and required lots of organization, from managing logistics for the visiting teams to ensuring that the competition met American Mock Trial Association standards.
“We knew how big an undertaking this was. We knew it had to be a professional event and we had to consider every detail,” says Hinckley.
“I think the success of the Tupper Classic really demonstrates the strength of Bryant’s mock trial team, Politics and Law program, and College of Arts and Sciences.”
In addition to the members of the Bryant mock trial team and other student volunteers, the Tupper Classic received invaluable support from the University’s Center for Student Leadership and Involvement, the Bryant Law Society, and University faculty (including Associate Professor of Legal Studies and mock trial advisor Katayoun Alidadi, Ph.D.; Ilisabeth Bornstein, Ph.D., Lecturer in Legal Studies and Pre-Law Advisor; Terrance Turner, Instructor of Social Sciences; and Judy McDonnell, Ph.D., Professor of History and Social Sciences) as well as alumni and members of the local legal community who served as judges.
“This was a grassroots effort among many different people because there was a need for this,” Alidadi notes.
The effort paid off: Teams and judges praised the invitational for how well it was run. “Andrew and his team have demonstrated project management at its best in organizing the Tupper Classic,” Alidadi says. “They’ve taken everything they’ve learned in class and brought it to fruition in the form of a real competition with real stakeholders.”
For Hinckley, the Classic was an opportunity to show what Bryant students can do, both in the courtroom and beyond. “I think the success of the Tupper Classic really demonstrates the strength of Bryant’s mock trial team, Politics and Law program, and College of Arts and Sciences,” he says.
Prepared through experiential learning and key opportunities
Bryant’s Politics and Law and Pre-Law programs combine theory with practice to ensure that students receive the foundational education they need for success as the next generation of legal scholars and advocates. A focus on experiential education provides the real-world-ready knowhow necessary to excel in both law school and a wide range of legal professions.
In addition to the Tupper Classic competition, new opportunities for Bryant Politics and Law students include a recently established Affiliation Agreement with Villanova University’s Charles Widger School of Law, which allows qualified Bryant students to gain direct, early access to one of the nation’s preeminent law schools. A “3+3” program will allow Bryant students to complete their undergraduate requirements in three years and then enroll at Villanova Law for three years to earn a Juris Doctor (JD). A “4+3” program will also be available to qualifying seniors who meet all requirements, allowing them to advance directly to Villanova Law upon graduating from Bryant.
“In our Politics and Law courses we’re acquiring the knowledge that we need for our careers. But competing in mock trial helps you develop what you need to apply that knowledge."
The Tupper Classic was a great way to prepare for future opportunities like law school, say the members of Bryant's mock trial team. Competitors are held to strict standards in every element of the simulated trial—in this case, a wrongful death suit involving a tragic plane crash—from opening statements to cross-examining witnesses. The students prepare for both sides of the case in order to hone their legal acumen.
“Through Mock Trial, students develop an impressive list of important skills,” says Alidadi. “Verbal communication, advocacy, presentation, teamwork, strategy, confidence—all tools they’ll need for success.”
Being able to test themselves through competition was an ideal counterpoint to their studies, the students say. “In our Politics and Law courses we’re acquiring the knowledge that we need for our careers. But competing in mock trial helps you develop what you need to apply that knowledge,” says Cat Harris ’23, who is vice president of Bryant's mock trial team and preparing for a career in law after college.
“It really shows how strong the Bryant connection is, and how many alumni aren’t just going on to careers in law but are also willing to come back to help others.”
The skills students learn in mock trial are applicable no matter the field they plan to enter, says Accounting major Matthew Maciel ’23, who played a witness. “Skills like analyzing information, thinking on your feet, and being able to skillfully present ideas areas are needed no matter where you go.”
That first-hand, high-stakes experience students gain can be an invaluable learning tool. “Mock trial isn’t like preparing for a test or giving a presentation in class,” Hinckley states. “This is about taking everything you’ve learned, pulling out all the stops, and doing it for real.”
“There’s nothing like having to give your opening statement in front of a real judge,” Alidadi agrees.
A powerful alumni connection
The students also benefitted from the presence of the legal professionals who returned to adjudicate the competition and offer feedback after the trials were over. “We have so many successful alumni who feel like they really benefitted from their experience at Bryant and want to give back,” says Alidadi, who notes that alumni regularly come back to campus as guest speakers and in other capacities to share their experience and wisdom.
“This is an extremely important opportunity for students and for Bryant because it puts cements Bryant’s mock trial team’s status as a player in the mock trial community.”
“It really shows how strong the Bryant connection is, and how many alumni aren’t just going on to careers in law but are also willing to come back to help others,” Hinckley adds.
Tomas Ballester ’20, currently a JD candidate at the Boston University School of Law, was excited to pay forward the opportunities and education he received while he was a Bryant student. “I’m proud to be a Bryant alumnus and I want to be there for future law students,” he says. “I wanted to offer advice that would’ve been helpful to me.”
He was also excited to be part of the very first Tupper Classic. “I wanted to be there for the inaugural tournament because it’s an important event for the region,” says Ballester. “This is an extremely important opportunity for students and for Bryant because it cements Bryant’s mock trial team’s status as a player in the mock trial community.”