BLSA Mock Trial Team Advances to National Finals

YLS students at NEBLSA
NEBLSA competition team members Trenaj Mongo '26, Naji Thompson '26, Jordan Andrews '26, and Danielle Hopkins '26.

A team of first-year Yale Law School students with no previous mock trial experience placed second at the Northeastern Black Law Students Association (NEBLSA) Constance Baker Motley Mock Trial competition in Buffalo, New York earlier this month. The team will now advance to the national competition March 7–10 in Houston.

Naji Thompson ’26, Jordan Andrews ’26, Danielle Hopkins ’26, and Trenaj Mongo ’26 started preparing for the competition in November, practicing for multiple hours every week. Their coach, Hadiyah Cummings ’24, helped the team members strengthen their understanding of trial advocacy, the federal rules of evidence, and the case packet.

Although Yale Law School has an active Black Law Students Association (BLSA) chapter, the school has not sent a team to the NEBLSA competition in over a decade and has never in recent history sent a trial team to compete on the national level. 

“It was a really rewarding experience,” said Hopkins. “I learned a lot, not just about the federal rules of evidence, but about litigating in general.”

The NEBLSA mock trial started with 16 teams competing in knockout rounds until the final round, with the top three teams advancing to the national finals.  

The mock trial format had two students serving as prosecuting attorneys and the other two as defense attorneys, with each pair serving as witnesses for the opposing side. The Yale teammates worked together to create both the prosecution and defense theories of the case, which was a criminal trial following the murder of a 6-year-old girl by strangulation. 

Andrews said that several experiences helped the team members prepare for the competition, including their first semester Criminal Law class. 

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law James Forman Jr. ’92 assisted by judging a scrimmage on campus between Yale and another law school a few weeks before the competition. Additionally, three of the four team members and their coach are taking Evidence with William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law Stephen Carter ’79 this term, which Andrews said has been helpful to inspire their work outside the classroom.

As their coach, Cummings said that the team’s dedication has gotten them to the finals.

“They are a true testament to what it looks like when you put in the work and run your own race,” Cummings said. “No gimmicks, just hard work and a whole lot of faith.”