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Celebrating Success and Recognizing Leadership:  Seton Hall Law’s Mock Trial Program Receives an Endowment in Honor of Dean Hobbs

Mock TrialThanks to the generosity of Anthony P. DiTommaso, Jr. ’97 and his family, Seton Hall Law School’s Mock Trial Program now has an endowment to ensure its long-term growth and success.

The Mock Trial Program, founded in 2008, enables Seton Hall Law students to hone their legal skills by putting them into practice competitively. Students learn how to conduct a trial - from opening statements to direct and cross examination to closing arguments - in preparation for their participation in national interscholastic mock trial competitions. Members of the Mock Trial team, called the Mock Trial Board, are chosen through a rigorous formalized selection competition.

This fledgling program is making its mark. Last school year, Mock Trial Board students attended the American Bar Association National Labor and Employment Law Trial Advocacy Competition, which was sponsored by Brooklyn Law School and held at the New York City federal courthouse, and the Texas Young Lawyers’ Association National Trial Competition (NTC) at Temple University Law School, advancing to the semi-finals in the NTC. In fall 2009 one of Seton Hall’s teams competed in the regional finals of the NTC and a Seton Hall Law student received the Best Advocate Award. Inspired by these achievements, DiTommaso and his family committed $50,000 as a lead gift toward creating a $100,000 endowment for the Mock Trial program.

Mock TrialThe Co-Chief Executive Officer of Ivy Realty, a regional commercial real estate company, DiTommaso serves on the Law School’s Board of Visitors. With his 20-plus years of real estate experience, has been a valued consultant to Dean Patrick E. Hobbs on the Law School’s student housing project.

DiTommaso is particularly impressed by the Mock Trial program because it reflects the remarkable growth of Seton Hall Law under Dean Hobbs’ leadership. He explained, “Dean Hobbs spearheaded a strategic planning process that is reshaping the legal education process for Seton Hall Law students. New initiatives, like the enhanced Skills Curriculum, which sponsors the Mock Trial program, give Seton Hall Law students an edge as legal scholars and, ultimately, as practicing attorneys. It is gratifying to see the Strategic Plan come to fruition so successfully and to witness, through programs like Mock Trial, how students are flourishing as a result.”

The Mock Trial Board is driven by dedicated students and, just as importantly, by a devoted, enthusiastic teacher. “Coach Jen,” as she is known to her students, came to Seton Hall Law after years with the Bronx District Attorney’s Office where she honed her own skills as a litigator. Coach Jen describes her job as “teaching people to speak on their feet so they can bring together the legal and evidentiary issues in a persuasive matter.” She encourages her students to present the evidence to the jury in such a way that they “see it, feel it, and touch it.” Coach Jen is understandably proud of her students: “The competition judges tell our students that they are more ready to try cases than most people in law firms.” In addition to coaching the Mock Trial Board, Coach Jen teaches several Skills courses, including Persuasion and Advocacy and the advanced trial advocacy course, Trial of a Criminal Case. Skills Program Director Professor Maya Grosz describes Coach Jen as “a dynamic and inspirational teacher and mentor” and notes that the 20 students who participate annually on the Mock Trial Board benefit greatly from her guidance.

The students agree. As Katie Myers ’11, Mock Trial Board Co-chair, describes it, “The most rewarding part of my experience with the Mock Trial Board has been the knowledge I've gained. When I came on the team last year, I knew nothing about actually trying a case. But Coach Jen was so patient, she sat down with the whole team and really taught us all the evidentiary rules, how to argue them in court and how to apply them, along with using her years of experience as a prosecutor to guide us and help us understand what will or won’t resonate with a jury. All that training paid off, especially when I arrived in Evidence class after my first semester on the team – I was knowledgeable and confident in my abilities. I owe it all to Coach Jen and the team for teaching me more than I could ever learn in a traditional class room.”

Co-chair Alec Colquhoun ’11 said, “I want to do whatever is necessary to build Mock Trial into a national award-winning program. In many ways it is the story of David vs. Goliath because many of the teams that we will face have much more experienced, larger and more developed programs than we have. But we are not intimidated.”

Katie and Alec agree: “This is our year to take home first place.”

DiTommaso wanted to ensure that the success of the Mock Trial program is permanently linked with Dean Hobbs, which is why he requested that the Mock Trial Board’s selection competition be named in Dean Hobbs’ honor. Just as the Ronald J. Riccio First-Year Moot Court Competition is named in honor of Former Dean Ronald Riccio, the Hobbs Mock Trial Board Selection Competition will become an annual occasion to celebrate Seton Hall Law’s continued rise under Dean Hobbs.

DiTommaso notes, “I encourage my fellow alumni to join me in recognizing Dean Hobbs’ outstanding leadership, which has transformed our law school. This is a wonderful opportunity to create a substantial endowment for a great program and, at the same time, to thank Dean Hobbs for the last 12 years of a job very well done.”

To make a contribution in honor of Dean Hobbs, please make your check payable to “Seton Hall Law School – Hobbs Mock Trial” and send it to Seton Hall Law School, Attn: Asst. Dean Vicki Fleischer, Office of Alumni & Development, One Newark Center, Newark, NJ 07102. For questions about the Mock Trial Board or honoring Dean Hobbs, please contact Dean Fleischer at vicki.fleischer@shu.edu or call 973-642-8512.