Nandini Raisurana, '25, and Caleb Silvergleid. '25, stand in Stern Plaza

Undergraduates explore law through Mock Trial, classes

July 6, 2023

The small plane erupted into a fireball upon crashing into a mountain. Both the pilot and the sole passenger, Morgan Felder, died on impact. Months later, Felder’s widow sued Koller Campbell Air LLC, the company that owned the plane, in court. Fabricated by the American Mock Trial Association, the case Felder v. Koller Campbell Air, LLC gave teams of college students the chance to compete in simulated court trials held throughout the country during the 2022-23 academic year.

Among the undergraduates representing University of Richmond at several of these Mock Trial competitions was Caleb Silvergleid, ’25, a history and philosophy major and leadership studies minor and a member of Richmond’s Phi Alpha Delta pre-law fraternity. Judges named him best attorney in two intercollegiate mock trials this fall. In spring 2022, he received two best witness awards.

“Mock Trial is designed to create better lawyers,” said the junior from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. “You win based on your public-speaking skills and your knowledge of the rules. In addition to training with my Richmond Mock Trial team, the public speaking and debating I’ve done in my leadership studies classes helped prepare me. What I’ve learned about social psychology in Jepson classes also contributes to my thinking about the principles of law.”

Like Silvergleid, Nandini Raisurana, ’25, said her Richmond Mock Trial experience, which included coaching from attorneys, gave her insights into how trials work and affirmed her desire to pursue a legal career. “I learned how to evaluate a lot of information, form arguments from different perspectives, and think critically and analytically on my feet,” said the leadership studies and political science major.

The Richmond Scholar from Mumbai, India, said many of her leadership studies classes also buttressed her budding interest in law.

“In my Justice and Civil Society class, I sat in on court hearings where I watched criminal, custodial, and duty cases play out in real time,” she said. “We debated the impact of significant legislation and Supreme Court cases on minority communities in Dr. Peter Kaufman’s Leadership and the Humanities class and often held court-style trials in class. In Dr. Javier Hidalgo’s Critical Thinking class, I learned argument mapping—an extremely useful method for making, analyzing, and evaluating arguments and an essential skill in the legal profession.”

Summer provides other opportunities for the two Spiders to explore the law. Last summer, Raisurana received Richmond Guarantee funding to conduct her research on the extent to which the International Court of Justice has helped combat the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar. Next week, Silvergleid will join 12 other Richmond undergraduates at Jepson at Cambridge, a five-week law-focused program at the University of Cambridge. He will take classes in international public law and comparative U.K.-U.S. public law and tour several London courts, including the Royal Courts of Justice.

Taken together, these experiences will help them in their future legal careers, they said.