The hot seat: What it’s like to be an attorney and witness


Photo by: Beth Cortez-Neavel. Courtroom gavels similar to those used by the judges at the Youth and Government District Conference.

Asking questions and being asked are two completely different feelings. Both roles are equally scary and both rely heavily on each other to make it through the round and get the verdict you’re hoping for. I have been in youth and government since my junior year and both years have proven without a doubt to be quite exciting.

I took on the tough role of becoming an attorney during my first year of youth and government and boy, was it an adventure. I had no experience with mock trials and had no idea what I was doing. So, with all of this considered, I went for it and became an attorney, which meant that I would have to prove to the judge why the defendant was guilty or not guilty.

Taking on the role of an attorney was a lot harder than I expected it to be. I had to come up with questions to ask each witness in order to create a different side to the story whether or not that be in favor or against the defendant. Being an attorney meant that I was in charge of guiding the flock of sheep known as witnesses and trying to lift them back up when they fell.

I had to know all of the objections that could be made and the worst of them all: actually objecting to questions the opposing team would ask. It takes a lot of confidence to stand up and tell the judge that the attorney from the other team is asking a question that isn’t allowed. It takes even more confidence to come up with questions on the spot and to pretend to know what you’re doing.

Taking on the role of a witness was not as intense as an attorney. However, when you are in the hot seat, many mistakes can happen, causing the other side to win an argument. For example, this year, on our final round of the day, one of our witnesses slipped up and said something that definitely helped our opposing team. Had it not been for our attorney to reroute our witness and raise her out of the six foot grave that she dug for herself, we might of lost the case.

Being a witness means that you must commit to learning anything and everything from the affidavits of the characters you choose. Being a witness who needs to be an expert in a particular field to answer really specific questions is even more nerve wracking as you have to remember their credentials and pretend that you know everything that your character you’re portraying knows. And of course, you have to sit through the dreaded cross examination.

Cross examination is when the opposing team tries to ask you questions to try to make you go back on your statements, trip up, and make their case look stronger by trying to take on different angles. This is scary for both the witness and the attorneys, as they no longer know what to expect and you have to cross your fingers that they don’t ask you questions that you don’t have answers to. You are the clay and the attorneys are the hands that mold you into whatever shape, but you must be the good quality clay and not play-doh that can be easily impeached.

Being both an attorney and a witness allowed me to see both aspects of participating in trial. From wanting to object for your attorneys to  wanting to make your witness shut their mouths, both roles include responsibilities that will have you objecting before I finish my closing statement, however, I am glad that I got to sit in both seats as it has given me more confidence in asking and answering questions. I feel like I am stronger in the way I speak and I hope that this feeling will carry with me as I go into college and am not a part of Youth and Government anymore.