Laying Down the Law

Law clerk Corey Anderson observes the courtroom from his seat in front of the judge. He has done the research to make sure the judge knows all the facts of this case, but on Sundays and Wednesdays, he coaches our mock trial team.

Mock trial is a competitive program where students act as lawyers or witnesses to put on and try a fictional case. Every year it rotates between criminal and civil cases with set facts given by the Arkansas BAR association. Students who play lawyers question other students who play as witnesses. The lawyers try to bring out the facts of the case through their witness and their questions. Witnesses are more theatrical while lawyers have to follow real-life courtroom procedures.

Mr. Anderson is from Douglasville, Georgia, outside of Atlanta. He currently works as a law clerk for US Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe. He first got involved with mock trial in high school. “I went to Douglas County High School. I was in the international baccalaureate (IB) program. IB is basically like Advanced Placement (AP) but it is your full schedule and it is taught on an international curriculum standard. I don’t know exactly why I decided to join mock trial. It seemed like an interesting club and I got involved with a lot of other stuff, but mock trial was the one that really stuck,” he said.

Mr. Anderson didn’t know what career he wanted early on. “It wasn’t until sophomore year when I realized I wanted to go into law, and it was honestly because of mock trial. Before then I had set my sights on computers and technology. I was always the tech-guy fixing stuff for teachers and family, so I wanted to go to Georgia Tech and do software engineering or computer engineering. I fell in love with mock trial sophomore year and decided I would rather do law,” he said.

The mock trial national competition, reserved for the winners of the state championship, is in Athens, Georgia, this year. Mr. Anderson went to college at the University of Georgia in Athens. He got his undergraduate degree in political science with a minor in computer science in 2014. “It was the only school I applied to. A lot of my friends were going there and they had a good program for my degree. I loved college and I had a blast. I steered my classes toward law classes which I really enjoyed an excelled in. Athens is one of the prettiest places I know. You have access to everything there. I was really outdoorsy, I was in the Boy Scouts and got Eagle Scout, so I had that going for me. Athens is not a very far drive from the Appalachian Mountains so there is a lot of good hiking up there.”

Mr. Anderson also joined the mock trial team at his university. “I met a lot of my best friends on the University of Georgia mock trial team and I still talk to them regularly. My mentor, Brian Mink, was a senior and the president of the mock trial team when I was a freshman. He was the captain of my team and I learned way more about mock trial from him and UGA than I ever did in high school because everything was so technical at Georgia. My freshmen year our team got third in the nation and missed the championship by a slight margin which was disappointing, but it was a good year for Georgia,” he said.

Mr. Anderson applied to law school in 2014. “It seems pretty daunting and it was pretty daunting at the time, but looking back I probably could have streamlined the process a little bit. You have to take the LSAT which is like the SAT for regular college, but you take it to get into law school. That’s a really hard test that you really have to study for and it’s rough. I took a course on how to basically attack the test. There is reading comprehension and also a section called ‘logic games’ where they give you a scenario like ‘Suzie is taller than Bob and Bob is shorter than Nancy’ but much more complex and detailed and you answer a bunch of questions based on that. Those were fun to me and I enjoyed doing those questions, but they were very hard to do,” he said.

Mr. Anderson applied to a lot of laws schools but decided on the University of Arkansas. “I applied to the University of Arkansas because a lot of my family is originally from Arkansas, I have multiple cousins that went there for undergrad, and I have family that currently live in Arkansas. Once they offered me a scholarship it was a pretty easy choice,” he said.

Mr. Anderson said law school was extremely challenging. “Law school is a beast. I would agree that law school is one of the hardest things lawyers go through, but I enjoyed it. The first year especially I did more work than I ever thought imaginable and nothing from high school or college compared to that, but it was also more rewarding. It was hard, but it was also fun. I put in the time and effort and I had a good study group of friends which made it easier,” he said.

Mr. Anderson went on to create and coach the University of Arkansas mock trial team and graduated law school in 2017. “Some graduates go on to be employed by big law firms, there are some in Little Rock, others might start their own firms. I knew that what I do now, as a law clerk for Judge Volpe, would be a really good step for me as far as a career goes,” he said.

Mr. Anderson interned for Judge Volpe his freshman year of law school. “He is a great boss, he is very helpful, and is a good mentor so I was pretty confident going into being a clerk for him. As a federal law clerk, I do a lot of research and writing into the cases that come before Judge Volpe. I primarily do evaluations for a ‘Writ of Habeas Corpus’ which is a petition prisoners file when they think they are in jail unconstitutionally. I am in the courtroom every time we have a hearing taking notes about what I’ll need to write about later. That is my favorite part of my job because I get to see everyone do their thing in court and then I get to hear Judge Volpe’s opinions on how everyone does, so I can learn for myself what works and what doesn’t work in a courtroom. Most of the time a law clerk is a temporary position. My term is two years and it will end in August of 2019,” he said.

Judge Volpe used to be an assistant US attorney, so he helps Mr. Anderson work toward his step in his career. “Ultimately I want to be a US attorney or prosecutor for the state because I love criminal law and courtroom stuff and that is the position that gets the most courtroom time. The majority of cases don’t go to trial and you don’t get as much courtroom time as you see in the movies and shows. Criminal US attorneys prosecute federal crimes such as guns, drugs, and some immigration crime while civil US attorneys handle people suing the federal government,” he said.

Mr. Anderson got involved in mock trial once again when Judge Volpe hired him. “Mock trial is just such an addiction of mine, and I love doing it. I actually asked Judge Volpe if he knew of any mock trial opportunities, and he pointed me toward the Catholic and Mount Saint Mary team. I always love doing it and I wanted to give back because I had really good coaches in high school and in college. I honestly see myself in a lot of the students we have, just their passion for wanting to do it and their excitement for it. While it is more behind the scenes, it is just like a sport where there is a competition at the end and lots of practices in between. Practice makes perfect and we get better every time we have practice. The most difficult decisions the coaches have to make is assigning roles. Some students really want a certain spot, but someone else may be really good for that spot, but overall this year that has gone very well,” he said.

Cameron Willis is a senior on the mock trial team. He says Mr. Anderson is a very involved coach. “Coach Anderson has been in mock trial before and is now an actual lawyer, so he is knowledgeable about everything we could need to know. He is really great at explaining case law and how certain laws apply to our particular trial and in real life. He is down to Earth and easy to talk to about anything. I can’t imagine mock trial without him,” Willis said.

Dax Debin is a senior on the mock trial team. “Some of the coaches who were there when I started left, and Coach Anderson stepped in as the new coach. He is at every practice and makes sure to teach us what we need to know for competition. He did mock trial in high school so he knows what we are going through and how to help with that,” Debin said.

Mr. Anderson says his mock trial experience was invaluable when he went into law school. “Coaching and doing mock trial at this level is important foundationally, especially for the students who eventually want to end up going to law school. My favorite part of mock trial is when you get to see a student you are coaching reach that ‘aha’ moment when they figure out what we’ve been trying to explain to them. I had that experience in high school when it finally clicked for me what hearsay is. It is very rewarding when you see a student’s skills progress and they really get it,” said Mr Anderson.

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