School’s mock trial program is a family affair for Flahertys

By | May 5, 2011

Dan and Beth met while they were in law school at UW-Madison. Dan works out of the Appleton and Milwaukee offices of Godfrey & Kahn in the area of corporate law. Beth, whose concentration was public interest law, took a leave of absence from her career when their third child was born.


Beth Flaherty and her four children, Bridget, left, Grace, Curren and Joe, are pictured at Xavier High School. Not pictured is Beth’s husband Dan, a practicing attorney. Grace and Joe are members of Xavier’s varsity mock trial team. Bridget is on the junior varsity team. (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)

The Flahertys, members of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Neenah — as busy as they are between Dan’s career, Beth’s volunteer work, and the kids’ interests in music, track, cross country, tennis, scouting and, of course, mock trial — probably spend more time together than most families. Dan is one of the coaches of Xavier’s varsity mock trial team. The team recently won the Wisconsin state championship and is preparing to compete at nationals in Phoenix, Ariz. the first week in May.

Dan and Beth did not have the opportunity to participate in mock trial when they were in high school but Beth can see that it would have been helpful in preparing them for college and law school.

“I think it would have helped from a number of perspectives. First is thinking on your feet and being able to verbalize answers to professors’ questions or in a discussion setting. Law school is taught in a Socratic method where the professor will ask a question and randomly call on someone. When you start law school that’s pretty intimidating but if you’ve had experience in mock trial you would be really prepared for that,” said Beth.

Their oldest son Joe is a senior at Xavier and one of the varsity mock trial team captains. After his years participating in mock trail, he is considering a career in law himself. This fall he will be attending school at either Bowdoin College in Maine or Middlebury College in Vermont, which, by chance, has a collegiate mock trial team.

“I think being in mock trial helped when I was applying to colleges,” said Joe. “Mock trial helps so much with the interviewing process — you have to present yourself well. I am an attorney on the team now but I used to be a witness so I was used to the ‘cross examining.’”

Younger sister Grace, who is a sophomore and on the varsity mock trial team, didn’t think law was in her future until joining mock trial this year. Her role on the team is one of the expert witnesses — an environmental lawyer. Grace described the case they are preparing for nationals.

“It’s very much focused on environmental laws. It’s based in a town in Arizona. An Indian tribe is suing a mining company for contaminating their sacred water. The expert is focusing on much of the environmental racism that goes along with the case,” she said.

The team has to have both sides prepared for the case before the competition because they won’t know until about 15 minutes beforehand whether they will be the defendants or plaintiffs.

“We’re actually trying to get in contact with some of the lawyers in my dad’s firm who work with Native American laws daily because it’s such a prevalent issue in Wisconsin,” noted Grace.

Youngest sister Bridget, a freshman, felt a bit of pressure to join mock trial since her older siblings were involved. “I did want to join to have the experience,” said Bridget. “I auditioned as a witness but I ended up being an attorney on the junior varsity team so that was surprising, I wasn’t really in for that much work but I ended up really liking it. Now I see why Joe and Grace like it so much.”

Team competes in nationals

The Xavier varsity mock trial team is the Wisconsin state high school mock trial champions. They will be competing in nationals the first week in May in Phoenix, Ariz.

Varsity team members are captain Joe Flaherty, captain Sarah Dremel, Eric Wert, Morgan Krause, Grace Flaherty, Alex Gregorski, Sarah Metropulos, Meggie Christopher, Kassandra DiPietro, Sam Zlevor and Hannah Thiry.

The team is coached by attorney Kevin Lonergan, attorney Dan Flaherty, attorney Mark Christopher, Judge Mitch Metropulos and teacher-coach Kelli McGreevey.

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