On February 6-7, the University of South Carolina undergraduate mock trial team will host the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) regional competition, thanks in large part to the efforts of their coach, Amanda Stearns, who is also an alumna of the University of South Carolina School of Law.
Stearns said that mock trial has been a big part of her life since college, and through her involvement over the years, she has built a strong network of connections, including AMTA members who encouraged her to submit a proposal to host the competition.
“This is the first time USC has had this opportunity,” Stearns said. “The growth, success, and leadership of the team all contributed to USC earning the privilege to host such a prestigious event.”
Twenty-six teams from universities across the southeast will compete, including teams from Duke, Emory, and Furman, among others. Over the course of two days and four rounds, only six teams will advance, making USC an integral part of this mock trial competition.
Stearns, who graduated in December 2015 from the School of Law, started coaching the undergraduate team in 2013 during her second year as a law student.
Since that time, the mock trial team has enjoyed steady victories under her leadership, most recently besting 50 other teams to win the annual Mid-South Invitational Mock Trial Tournament in November 2015.
Stearns credits her coursework at the School of Law with helping her coach the team to a landslide victory at the tournament.
“As we got deeper into developing our arguments, I remembered a discussion about chain of custody from my criminal law class with Judge Few, and I realized this was missing from the team’s case. We included that at the competition, and it ended up being crucial to our win. It was so important.”
As a law student, Stearns not only coached the undergraduate team, but was also involved with the law school team, helping them win the 2015 Carolinas Invitational Mock Trial competition in October 2015. She also stays involved with middle and high school teams through her work at the South Carolina Bar.
Even though she has graduated, Stearns is still just as active at all levels. She remains coach of the undergraduate team, preparing them for this weekend’s AMTA competition. She is also assisting the law school’s coach, Brett Bayne, get ready to host the Texas Young Lawyers Association regional competition, held on Feb. 19-21.
Somewhere in there, Stearns finds time to study for the South Carolina Bar Exam, which she will take in late February.
“I will be celebrating the end of my bar exam by traveling the next day to Charleston and Myrtle Beach to prepare and coordinate the high school mock trial competitions, and then I’ll go back to writing this year’s middle school mock trial case,” she said.
Where does her passion and drive for mock trial come from?
“In college, mock trial really changed my life in so many positive ways, helping me become a stronger oral advocate and confident leader. So, when I got into law school, I knew I wanted to use my experience with mock trial to give back and help other students succeed. The students I have worked with have really challenged me in return, helping me grasp a deeper theoretical and practical understanding of the law,” she said. “Mock trial will be a part of me forever, and I plan to be involved for as long as possible.”
The AMTA competition will be held at the School of Law and the Darla Moore School of Business. You can keep up with the AMTA competition and get results throughout the weekend by following them on Twitter or on Facebook.