Mock Trial: Building a family

Mock Trial officers reflect on their past experiences and reveal what the club means to them

Jasmine Lee and Alyssa Hui


o outsiders, Mock Trial is simply another club that helps students develop speech and debate skills. However, for seniors Irene Mcnelis and Palak Jain, Mock Trial is much more than just a place where students gather to discuss law-related issues.

To them, Mock Trial is a family. A 30 member family.

“One of the most valuable things that I got from Mock Trial and not really anything else was that close-knit community,” McNelis said. “It wasn’t even that I would necessarily spend time with them outside of Mock Trial, but when we had club bonding stuff, it never felt like anyone was at risk of being left out or being excluded or any kind of cliques or anything.”

Members of Mock Trial gather to take a picture at one of their many competitions where they fight a fake case against other schools in front of a judge and a panel of attorneys. Photo used with permission of Irene McNelis

McNelis, who is an outreach manager, is in charge of the Mock Trial club that they established at Kennedy Middle School (KMS). As a third-year member, McNelis says her initial motivation to join Mock Trial was because of a friend who had been involved in the club.

McNelis revealed that back when she agreed to attend Mock Trial meetings, she had been going through an argument with her boyfriend, and the warm, inviting atmosphere of the club provided a contrast to her personal life.

“I felt like I was able to go and talk to everyone,” McNelis said. “I just feel like having a support group like that who I felt like I could talk to and really be myself and it’s not judgemental was amazing, and I hope that as members keep coming, that that part of it isn’t lost.”

In addition to the acceptance, Jain, who is the co-president of Mock Trial, has another observation of the members: they’re talented.

“When I was making the roster, I remember thinking that everyone had so much potential and our team was primed to do so well this year because everyone was so great right off the bat to start off with and that was something that I really enjoyed seeing,” Jain said.

Jain explains that the members had worked hard to prepare for weeks before she made the roster, and it paid off because of the improvements they made.

On top of the hard work that goes into Mock Trial, junior and co-president Sonali Merchia says the club is fun. As someone who has been a part of Mock Trial since the summer before her freshman year, her three years of experience also led her to study law in greater depth.

Junior and co-president Sonali Merchia draws on the whiteboard to explain important concepts to members of Mock Trial. Photo by Jasmine Lee

In her very first mock court case during that summer, Merchia’s older brother, a former officer of Mock Trial, gave her four witness statements to a trial 30 minutes before it began. Given this responsibility, Merchia, who was then uninterested in law, was suddenly forced to dive into understanding the varying laws associated with the witness statements. Within 30 minutes and some additional time observing the court situation, Merchia quickly unearthed a passion for the club after realizing the pleasure of speaking with authority in front of a cross attorney.

After finding her love for the club, Merchia was able to quickly make strong bonds and connections with other members.

“When you spend two hours a week, every week with someone […] you end up spending up so much time together that it’s just inevitable that everyone gets close and inside jokes pop up,” Merchia said, “People share portions of their lives [and] interesting bits about [themselves]. Everything gets together and we sort of just collide in a giant pot of collaboration.”

As a senior, Jain will be leaving the Mock Trial club behind as she graduates. She envisions the future club will be admired and well-known.

“I just imagine them being award-winning,” Jain said. “They’re going to win States, they’re going to do amazing because the team that we’ve been bringing up this year, they’re so incredibly talented and I’m really excited to see how they do in the future.”

While Jain expresses hope and expectations for Mock Trial, McNelis also continues to reinforce the importance of maintaining the close-knit group.

“I feel like that atmosphere where you have people remembering these intimate, really specific details about each other is something that I never experienced,” McNelis said. “I’ve never experienced such a strong bond in a group.”