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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

UD mock trial student attorney achieves only perfect score in the nation

By Lucy Waskiewicz ’24

University of Dayton senior Arabella Loera topped more than 7,300 mock trial students with the only perfect 40 score at the American Mock Trial Association’s regional and national qualifying tournaments.

Loera, a criminal justice studies major from Milwaukee with pre-law and communication minors, competed with UD's mock trial team at the first two rounds of the mock trial association’s tournament in February and March. She scored perfect 20s in each round, winning two “Outstanding Attorney" awards.

In April, Loera was selected one of only 16 students in the U.S. to compete in the elite mock trial solo competition, Trial by Combat, June 23-25 at Drexel University in Philadelphia. The winner will be recognized as the best mock trial student in the nation.

Loera described her perfect scores in the national tournament as “icing on the cake” of her mock trial career as she prepares to graduate in May.

“I’d never scored a 20 at the second round before, and I was so excited and proud I accomplished that before graduating,” Loera said. “The goal at competitions, of course, is to finish strong as a team, but individual awards are such a breath of fresh air to show you that all your hard work is being recognized. I’m also proud that this is something the University's mock trial program can use to garner interest and recruit new members.”

Approximately 700 student teams from more than 400 colleges and universities compete at the American Mock Trial Association’s national tournament every year. During the competition, students simulate a trial for a court case that remains the same throughout the academic year.

University of Dayton mock trial team

Participants compete in teams of six with three witnesses and three attorneys. They must prepare to act as either the prosecution or defense, depending on which side they're assigned for each of the four rounds.

In Trial by Combat, students compete one-on-one and must perform the roles of prosecution and defense attorney and witness. Competitors are given only 24 hours to prepare for the competition.

Laura Hume, the director of the University’s pre-law program and the mock trial team’s educator coach, said mock trial competitions allow students to develop skills such as public speaking, critical analysis of data and development and defense of an argument.

“For students who plan on continuing on to law school and a legal career, they learn the fundamentals of the judicial system as well as the rules of evidence and their application,” Hume said. “They also take the aforementioned skills to a higher level.”

Competitors are ranked by judges on how well they perform their assigned role throughout a trial’s opening statements, direct examinations, cross examinations and closing statements.

According to Hume, students are judged on their knowledge of the law, court procedure and grasp of the case. Judges also consider students’ poise and their ability to make well-reasoned objections, control witnesses and to think on their feet.

After every round’s trials, the top four students are ranked by four judges. A No. 1 ranking from one judge earns a student five points, making a 20 score the highest achievable at a single tournament.

“Getting an 'Outstanding Attorney' award usually takes 17 points. They frequently cluster around 18, with a few 19s,” Hume said. “The fact that Arabella was the only student attorney in the entire country to achieve a perfect 20 score at both rounds means that eight judges thought she was the best attorney they saw during competition.”

Perfect 40 scores are the most recent achievement in Loera’s history of mock trial success at UD. She earned seven "Outstanding Attorney" awards during the 2022-2023 mock trial season and six during the 2021-2022 season.

“Arabella has superior intelligence, but she combines it with the ‘Big Three D’s’ — drive, determination and discipline,” Hume said. “Throw in buckets of charisma and a cool killer instinct, and she's unstoppable.”

After graduation, Loera will attend the University of Dayton School of Law beginning in fall 2023. She was awarded one of two full-tuition scholarships through the Flyer Legal Pathways program, which partners with legal firms to provide underrepresented and underserved students with living stipends, mentoring and summer clerkships and a job as a new associate at a firm after law school graduation.

Loera said her four years of experience with the mock trial team were a defining influence on her post-graduate plans.

“I talked about mock trial so much while I was interviewing for the Flyer Legal Pathways program,” she said. “It’s that hands-on experience that employers want to hear about. It pushed me to the next level and gave me the skills I might not have gotten otherwise.”

For more information, visit the mock trial team and pre-law program websites.

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