LC Mock Trial Team Advances to Nationals


Fordham Mock Trial will be attending the National Championship at Furman University in South Carolina. (COURTESY OF NEILAB RAHIMZADA)


Fordham Lincoln Center mock trial “B” team will compete at the 32nd American Mock Trial Association National Championship Tournament the weekend of April 15 to 17 at Furman University in Greenville, S.C.

Alex Gottfried, a third-year law student at Columbia University, a co-assistant coach in the program and a co-coach of the “B” team,  attributed the team’s success to their endless dedication. “[The team] went above and beyond anything they needed to do—extra practices, extra tournaments, extra scrimmages where they got up at 6 a.m. to travel to New Haven to compete against Yale,” Gottfried said.

Gottfried co-coaches the “B” team with Andrew Breland, a first-year law student at New York University School of Law. Kavin Thadani, an attorney for the city of New York, is the head coach of the program.

FCLC has two mock trial teams, an “A” team and a “B” team. According to Gottfried, schools, FCLC included, generally try to “stack” their “A” team with their most skilled members, though they compete in the same league.

“B stands for better,” Neilab Rahimzada, FCLC ’16 and a co-captain of the “B” team, joked.

There has been slight controversy surrounding the team’s participation in the National Championship, as two members of the “A” team will be taking the spots from two freshmen on the “B” team to compete.

Gottfried explained that one team member is being brought back to the “B” team after he was moved to the “A” team this semester. This person competed in four out of six tournaments with the “B” team. “It feels like a reunion. We always thought that if we made it, he would [come] with us,” Gottfried said.

The other member being moved from “A” to “B” is a senior, and Gottfried explained that seniority, skill and experience were components of the decision.

Gottfried further exemplified the team’s dedication with the tale of the team’s journey to a tournament this past January on the weekend of “the Snowpocalypse,” the record-breaking snowstorm that immobilized New Yorkers.

“That’s part of the reason why they made it—not every team will do that. Not every team will go the extra mile,” Gottfried said.

Gottfried, who coached the “B” team for two years and competed in mock trial in high school and college for a total of eight years, also praised the team’s “natural intelligence [and] their ability to withstand the pressure.”

“They’re very good on their feet,” Gottfried said. “If you knock them off their script, they can still make a good argument.” He added that their collective good character and synergy helped them work cohesively.

Rahimzada was ecstatic when she found out the team was advancing. “Throughout the week, I found myself randomly smiling,” Rahimzada said.

Sandra Jovic, FCLC ’18, said, “I just remember, after the first round, there was nothing more I wanted than to win. You just get so invested that weekend, so when we made it, I was happier than I thought I was going to be.”

Rahimzada added, “Once you’re in the heat of the competition, it’s much more real. All the effort you put into it really comes to fruition, and I think people find that really empowering, and that makes us even more competitive.”

“I think it was one of the happiest moments our team experienced together,” Jovic said.

To qualify for the National Championship Tournament, the team had to advance through three levels of competition. Though the team began practicing the first week of school in September, the Regional Tournaments—at which any team from any undergraduate university is welcome to participate in—began in February.

The National Championship Tournament consists of two divisions, the Larry D. Estridge Division and the Kirkland & Ellis Division. After four rounds of competition with five ballots in each round, the winners of each division, those with the best record out of 20, compete in the final round.

Furman University, the host school of the tournament, “pulled out all the stops this year,” Gottfried said. “They built a courtroom for the specific purpose of hosting this tournament.” Several rounds will also be held at various courthouses in Greenville, S.C.

Furman has also enlisted 15 judges for the final round, according to Gottfried. He also anticipates a surprise appearance from a Supreme Court Justice, as Justice Elena Kagan came to a tournament his senior year of college and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was present at a previous tournament hosted by Furman.

The team had been practicing and performing the same case all year. For the National Championship, they have been assigned a murder case and have much less time to prepare with the new material.

Gottfried said, “The weakness in our preparation is just going to be the lack of time, because we had three-and-a-half weeks total from the time of our last tournament, and the first week of that was spring break. So I think that’s what we’re going to have to overcome. We’re practicing a lot to try to compensate for that.”

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, it was stated that Alex Gottfried is the head coach of the “B” team and that Neilab Rahimzada was the sole team captain of the “B” team. Instead, it is the case that Alex Gottfried is an assistant coach of the program and a co-assistant coach of the “B” team, along with Andrew Breland, a first-year law student at New York University School of Law and that Neilab Rahimzada is a co-captain of the team, along with Sam Denholtz, FCLC ’17. It was also previously stated that the competition consists of three ballots and that those with the best record out of 12 ballots compete in the final round. It is acrtually the case that there are five ballots per round at the competition and the teams with the best records out of 20 ballots compete in the final round.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article, incorrectly identified Kavin Thadani, as “Kevin Thadani.”