Mock trial experiences help law student win national trial advocacy scholarship

Penn State Law student Kyle Peasley has won the 2013 Trial Advocacy Scholarship awarded by the American Association for Justice (AAJ), the leading organization representing plaintiffs in the U.S. with more than 50,000 members. Peasley is the only recipient of this $2,500 nationwide scholarship.

“I’ve been working toward this since I started law school,” Peasley said describing how he founded the law school’s student chapter of the AAJ and was elected president of the organization’s executive board.

As a first year student, Peasley served as the presiding judge for Penn State’s Mock Trial team during practice rounds and invitational tournaments. “The undergraduates are amazing. They meet four or five times a week to get ready for competitions,” he said, adding that this role helped him hone his skills. He currently serves as Penn State Law’s Mock Trial chairman. Last year, he organized and judged the school's first-year mock trial tournament and he said he is looking forward to the upcoming competition.

Though the extracurricular activities are time consuming, Peasley said that they are fun as well. “Because first-year law students haven’t even had the benefit of evidence class, their objections are sometimes unfounded,” he said. His favorite one from last year was, “I object because … I didn’t really like what you said.” As part of his role coaching first-year mock trial competitors, he held hours at Starbucks so students could ask him questions about the admissibility of evidence and other issues they may be confronting.

Grant Keener, director of admissions for Penn State Law and a mock trial coach for Penn State undergraduates, said the AAJ Trial Advocacy scholarship is well-deserved. “Kyle’s courtroom skills, coaching ability, and dedication to mock trial have enriched Penn State’s law school and undergraduate trial teams and provided a shining example for his fellow students,” he said. 

Peasley has been involved in more than mock trials. As a second-year law student, he worked at the Clearfield County District Attorney’s Office as part of his externship. “You really get a feel for everyday practice. There are a lot of thefts, DUIs, that sort of thing. We had one guy who had been arrested 16 times for driving with a suspended license,” Peasley said, adding that he felt good getting the defendant off the streets for a few months since he hadn’t been taking his arrests seriously. He is heading back to Clearfield for the second semester of his externship which will give him more courtroom time.

This past summer Peasley returned to Arizona, where he graduated from the University of Arizona, to work for a federal district court judge.

For his final year at Penn State Law, Peasley hopes to boost participation in AAJ's Student Trial Advocacy Competition, invite more trial attorneys to campus for student engagement, and hold several mock trial classes to better prepare first- and second-year students for Penn State Law's 2014 Mock Trial Tournament. All of this will get him ready for his ultimate ambition: a position in the U.S. Attorney’s Office or as a district attorney.

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Last Updated August 30, 2013