Savannah Law School has developed a rigorous training program designed to equip our advocacy teams with the skills necessary to win national competitions. Our system is characterized by strong faculty leadership and administrative support, and it focuses on four main categories: (1) selection process; (2) team composition; (3) team preparation for competition; and (4) coach training and management.
In January of each year trial team hosts auditions for team selection. Any student not already on trial team is eligible to audition, including 1L students. Auditioning students are required to review a packet of information and prepare and present a closing argument. The director of trial team and the coaches judge the auditions. Together they select the new members of trial team. Judges will use a rubric to score the students’ performance.
During the Spring semester, all new members of trial team are required to participate in trial team activities. Some students may be selected to participate as witnesses on competition teams or as shadow team members to aid the competition teams in their preparations. Those who are not specifically assigned a role on a competition team will be required to observe practices for those teams preparing for competition.
At the beginning of the Fall semester, trial team hosts an intramural competition. The director uses the critiques and results from the intramural competition to select competition teams for the school year.
Students should expect to compete in a minimum of one competition per year, and sometimes two. A student would never be required to compete in more than one competition per semester. Students may submit a notice of unavailability for particular dates prior to announcement of the competition teams. Declining placement on a competition team is permitted only once, and a student may be dismissed for repeatedly declining placement.
Once teams are selected, the coach creates a practice schedule taking into consideration the team members’ academic schedule. Most weekends are dedicated to practicing for competition, and students can expect to practice during the week as well. Coaches are also responsible for creating an agenda for each practice so that students understand what particular skills will be drilled at a given practice. Students are expected to work on their materials and presentation outside of regularly scheduled practices.
Trial team members are responsible for producing work product and turning it in to their coaches before practices. Coaches should set a schedule for when items are due and must review work product and provide feedback to the students either in writing or orally at practice. If a student is not producing satisfactory work product, the coaches should intervene; in extreme cases, a student may be dismissed from trial team for failing to prepare work product.
Managing & Training Coaches
Coaches are chosen from faculty and members of the legal community. Whenever possible, two coaches will be responsible for the team. Prior to release of the competition problems, coaches are expected to periodically meet with the team to establish rapport. Additionally, coaches should clearly express their expectations for how students should approach the competition.
Coaches are required to attend all practices to monitor the progress of the team and to adapt the agenda for practices to best promote the students’ development as advocates. The coach is responsible for teaching the rules of evidence, courtroom etiquette, witness management, civil or criminal procedure, trial practice and procedure, and other trial-related skills. Coaches will provide the team with a detailed agenda for practices. Based on the agenda, goals will be set for each practice. During practices, the goal will be the focal point of drills and critique. Any other problems or issues that may arise will be mentioned but should set as a goal for another practice.
All coaches must maintain a detailed journal/log throughout the year to record team meetings and practices. After competition, coaches are required to submit a detailed critique of each student on the team. The director reviews the journal/log and the critiques at the end of the year for use the following year in assigning students to competition teams.
The duties of team coaches are:
- Attend coaches training before the beginning of school;
- Attend the final round of intramurals;
- Attend try-outs held at the beginning of Spring semester;
- Cultivate camaraderie and teamwork among the students;
- Immediately address any problems among the students such as failure by anyone to participate equally, hostility, illness, or any other issues that may arise;
- Maintain a record of team meetings, practices, and the positive and negative aspects of the competition;
- Attend at least 1 workshop, conference, or webinar on training a successful trial team;
- Participate in periodic team meetings throughout the year; and
- Debrief the director following competition for purposes of improving performance the following year.