St. Mary’s undergraduates embrace mock trial team

Arts and Humanities
April 10, 2024

Undergraduate Team, Pre-Law Program propel students toward law careers

by Jayden Mendez 

During his internship at the Bexar County Courthouse in 2021, Eduardo Saucedo Moreno struck up a conversation with a local attorney about the lack of a mock trial team for undergraduate students at St. Mary’s University. 

The interaction sparked an interest in Moreno, who began looking into creating a program, which would not only augment the work of students in the Pre-Law Program, but also help develop skills for students of any major. 

“I went through all the paperwork to be able to create the registered student organization in the Fall 2021 semester,” Moreno said. 

A junior majoring in Political Science, Moreno is also a student in the Nelson Wolff Law Early Admission Program, which allows qualified St. Mary’s undergraduate students to earn a bachelor’s degree and a J.D. degree from the School of Law in less time.  

Andrea Heredia-Ortiz, left, and Eduardo Saucedo Moreno study in the library as part of the Undergraduate Mock Trial Team.

To be eligible, a student must have a cumulative GPA of 3.30 or better, earn a minimum score of 154 on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and complete a minimum of 91 undergraduate credit hours before starting law classes. 

With the help of Andrew Ponce and Ethan Stein, both Political Science majors planning to study law, Moreno, who serves as president, started the club in Spring 2022.  

Vice president Andrea Heredia-Ortiz, a senior International and Global Studies major with a minor in Spanish, said the duo are helping the team grow.  

“We’re always accepting new members,” Ortiz says. “We’re understanding and very flexible.” 

Between 20 and 40 students attend the biweekly Undergraduate Mock Trial Team meetings, with optional workshops offered to improve skills, such as persuasive argument, public speaking and case comprehension.  

New members learn about working on a court case from more experienced members. After three weeks of training, the newer students get a criminal or civil case and act out, with everyone playing multiple courtroom roles.  

The team also participates in scrimmages against other universities with mock trial teams, such as the University of Texas at San Antonio. 

“Being in this program allows me to expand my speaking skills, critical thinking, and just being able to communicate with others,” Ortiz said. “That’s one of the biggest takeaways, whether you want to be a trial attorney or not.” 

The benefits of Pre-Law and mock trial 

Leona Pallansch, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Pre-Law Program, said mock trial helps students elevate the learning experiences of those in the Pre-Law Program, but it offers more than just courtroom knowledge. 

For students of different majors, it’s a way to improve their academic and professional skills. 

“Mock trial is beneficial because it helps develop critical thinking skills and, perhaps more importantly, oral skills,” Pallansch said. 

“Being in this program allows me to expand my speaking skills, critical thinking, and just being able to communicate with others. That’s one of the biggest takeaways, whether you want to be a trial attorney or not.” 

Andrea Heredia-Ortiz, International and Global Studies major

For students with law school aspirations, it prepares them for a courtroom environment and helps them better understand the field.  

The Pre-Law Program also provides resources, such as internship and career opportunities, LSAT preparation classes and advice about law school.  

Since taking over the program in June 2023, Pallansch has integrated Lunch and Learn events and brings in speakers from the School of Law to talk to undergraduate students on various topics. She also offers group advising sessions in her office.  

“I hold these group sessions each semester to help my Pre-Law students and give them an opportunity to hear questions from other Pre-Law students and advice that may benefit them in the long run,” Pallansch said. 

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