Teenage legal eagles from across the state are sharpening their skills in competition and turning the classroom into the courtroom.
Would-be lawyers from Northwestern Regional High School in Winsted are participating in a mock trial program has been going strong for more than two decades.
"I think Mock Trial is one of the most authentic learning experiences students can experience," Howard Winterson, teacher and adviser to Northwestern's program, said.
He would know. He was a practicing attorney for 16 years before he turned in his briefcase for the blackboard eight years ago.
At Northwestern, Winterson's Mock Trial program is both an extracurricular activity and part of his course called "American Law And Justice." All the students spend months preparing a case, learning the rules of evidence and courtroom etiquette.
"They try a case just like it would be tried in Superior Court. It's the same process. They're in front of judges," Winterson said.
Sophomore Dan Torrey from Norfolk has been involved with Mock Trial since he arrived at Northwestern in the fall of 2007 and he relishes the opportunity to argue the points of law alongside his colleagues.
"The actual trial is the best part. It's a rush getting up there and talking in front of everyone and having all that preparation and seeing it all come together," Muirhead said.
Another senior, Cody McClave, has enjoyed the mock trial experience and has learned something very important for his future career plans.
"Now that I've seen what a lawyer can do, I definitely don't think I can do it for a living," he said.
Nevertheless, Cody and his Northwestern cohorts have fared well in competition. Both the club and class teams won their case in the preliminaries and advanced to the upcoming state quarterfinals.
Winterson said he is amazed at the students' enthusiasm and his enjoyment of the entire process.
"I sit during mock trial and think 'Wow, this isn't right. I'm having all this fun and I'm getting paid for it," Winterson said.