Alumni Spotlight: Mock Trial

Last updated: April 17, 2023, at 3:31 p.m. PT

Originally published: April 17, 2023, at 12:05 p.m. PT

students mock trial

Hi there! My name is Aditi Srinivasan. I am currently a freshman at the University of Washington, where I’m majoring in computer science and competing on the UW Mock Trial team as a defense attorney. After having been involved with the YMCA’s Mock Trial program throughout all four years at Skyline High School, I am now a part-time high school coach to make the same legal education more accessible to others. I’m also working with the Y Mock Trial Executive Board on ways to incorporate technology into competition processes.

Thanks to the Y, I’ve learned how to write legal speeches, think on the spot, and analyze cases in detail. It’s been incredibly heartwarming to come back after graduating and help students find their passion for public speaking.

As former Vice President and Varsity Co-Captain of Skyline Mock Trial, the executive board and I were able to make self-taught public-school history in Washington by placing 2nd at the 2022 State Tournament. By making it to the coveted championship round despite not having access to full-time coaches, we proved to the entire Washington Mock Trial system that success doesn't depend on how many resources you have, but rather how you utilize what’s available. Without the help of our advisor — Mr. Von Trapp — as well as dedicated volunteers, committed members, and a board who spent their free time learning how to increase our competitive edge, we would not have been able to propel our program from “good to elite” (Judge Michael Finkle).

The thrill of objecting and passionately defending a company is not something I do as a computer science student, which is why I continue this passion on the side by competing in collegiate Mock Trial. However, I had a rude awakening when I learned that success in collegiate Mock Trial is not defined by theatrics, but legal spontaneity. Because any witness combination can be called and any case theory pursued, it is a court far closer to real life, whereas high school court has a foreseeable, structured agenda. So, I found myself throwing my scripted speech away and coming up with something entirely new on the spot during a prestigious invitational at UCLA. I was outside of my comfort zone, but this experience helped me become a critical thinker in high pressure environments. This critical thinking in court translated to ethical thinking in computer science.

A group of students holding up a trophy.

While I am not a pre-law student, the skills I gained in the courtroom have helped me make positive, large-scale impacts in the technology field. When arguing a defense, I always keep the best interests and reputation of my client in mind. Similarly, when developing apps or pursuing internships, I always publish software that best meets my customers’ needs. I also consider the ethics behind the technical decisions I make, and whether the benefits outweigh potential risk factors when dealing with AI. Given the current trend in AI, this angle of thinking has never been more important in the technology industry. Advocating for clients in court has also helped me gain public speaking skills to advocate for gender equality in computer science through various nonprofit efforts. Mock Trial taught me that every action I take — in both court and tech — is bigger than myself, since my clients’ life experiences depend on it.

Graduating from the Y’s program helped me realize how important skills from Mock Trial are in any given career field. It’s our responsibility to help tackle bigger societal issues by increasing students’ civic engagement, which is why UW Mock Trial helps various high schools with their Mock Trial programs across Washington state as part of their fundraising efforts. It has been an honor to participate in this as a part-time coach at a high school which I was able to help qualify for their state tournament.

I look forward to continuing to help the Y equip more students with legal skills, and it is my hope that one day all citizens think critically and ethically with the goal of being service-minded, regardless of the career path they choose to pursue.