For Rhodes alumna Anna Smith, serving as an attorney coach for the Rhodes Mock Trial team is a way to give back to the program that offered her many educational opportunities during her career at Rhodes.
After participating in Mock Trial in high school, the Arkansas native realized that she was destined for law school. So when looking at colleges, Rhodes became her top choice for its prestigious academic reputation and its successful Mock Trial program. Rhodes has placed in the nation's “top ten” on 16 occasions and holds the record for consecutive national championship tournament appearances at 23. The team, created and coached throughout its existence by Professor Mark Pohlmann, has made it to the national final round seven times and have won the national championship on four separate occasions.
Anna began competing in Mock Trial as a first year student at Rhodes and played the role of an attorney all four years. Her skills earned her the title of captain for the A-Team during her junior and senior year, and her leadership helped lead the team to the final round of the national competition.
Anna now serves as the attorney coach for the A-Team, teaching students about rules of evidence and helping them learn courtroom procedure. The attorney coaches teach the students how to walk around a courtroom and how to deliver public speeches. They mostly focus on the legal, technical arguments and help students understand how to present a case to a jury. Anna says, “I love coaching mock trial because of the students and professionals I get to work with every day. We make a lot of demands on our students and they always come through. I am extremely honored to play a role in their education, but more than that I am really fortunate to get to know them as people.”
Anna attributes the success of the Rhodes Mock Trial team to Coach Mark Pohlmann and the support from the college. She says, “Mark Pohlmann separates our program from others in the country because he’s been here since the program started. He has served as president of the national board, knows everything about Mock Trial, and is extremely committed to his students’ success. Also, without Rhodes’ support of the students and the faculty, I don’t think we’d be as successful as we’ve been in years past.”
Even though many participants in Mock Trial do not go to law school, they carry with them the skills they’ve obtained wherever they go. Anna claims, “The greatest asset about doing Mock Trial is that it develops skills you can take with you anywhere in life. You cannot overvalue the ability you learn in Mock Trial to think on your feet, to gain confidence, or to develop analytical skills. Being able to set yourself apart from Ivy League students in the way that Rhodes College Mock Trial does is what makes the program rewarding.”
After graduating from Rhodes, Anna attended Duke Law School. She now works at the Monroe Firm in downtown Memphis, where she acts as a legal assistant to Bill Monroe on local cases while awaiting her Tennessee license. She also practices as an attorney in Northeast Arkansas.
By: Brianna McCullough ’10