Congratulations to our 2018 Scholarship Winner: Bailee Bui! See the winning scholarship essay below.

The Illinois Trial Team is announcing a first ever scholarship opportunity for University of Illinois students!

The 2018 Higgins & Brancheau, Aceves & Perez Scholarship presented by the Illinois Trial Team will be awarded for the fall semester of 2018. The winner of the scholarship will receive a $1,600 award.

Applicants for the scholarship must:

  • Be undergraduates at, or committed to, the University of the Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from any major. They must be attending the University in the fall of 2018.
  • Have an undergraduate GPA of 3.20 or above; incoming freshman applicants’ high school GPAs must be 3.50 or above (assuming they do not have an undergraduate GPA already).
  • Submit an essay (two page maximum, 12 point Times New Roman font, double-spaced) on one of the following topics: Why is it important to study the law? – or – Why should someone participate in an organization like the Illinois Trial Team while in college?
  • Send their applications to by May 15, 2018. The email must include a PDF copy of the applicant’s undergraduate academic history (or high school if an incoming freshman) and the essay. The subject of the email should be “2018 Scholarship Application”


Applications will be capped at 75 entries with a maximum of 1 application per person. Current and former members of the Illinois Trial Team may NOT apply. All applicants, however, are encouraged to try out for the Illinois Trial Team in the fall!

Many thanks to our scholarship sponsors:

Gold Sponsors ($500 contributed or more)
-Higgins & Brancheau, LLC (Chicago, IL)
-Law Offices of Aceves & Perez, P.C. (Chicago, IL)

Bronze Sponsors ($100 – $250 contributed)
-James Komperda, Komperda Law (Park Ridge, IL)
-Jeff Schulkin, Law Offices of Jeffrey M. Goldberg (Chicago, IL)
-Torricelli & Limentato Law (Champaign, IL)


2018 Scholarship Winner: Bailee Bui

Prompt: Why should someone participate in an organization like the Illinois Trial Team while in college?

OJ Simpson played football in high school, but it did not help him in his multi-million dollar civil suit. It is strange to think that law, despite being a part of everyday life, and something that affects every single person in this country, does not get the same amount of emphasis as a youth activity as does sports. Certainly, high schools teach the Constitution and everyone must take government, but there is nowhere near the same excitement for the mock trial team (if there even exists one, as many high schools do not even have one) making regionals as there is for the homecoming football game. The point is not to bash sports; the point is that many students do not have the access or exposure to a mock trial team. Because the mock trial team is such a rarity in the high school system, it should be taken advantage of at colleges that do have it.

The mock trial team is great way to learn the legal system and specifically, how trial works. Living in a country where laws govern many things from minor speeding infractions to big murder cases, it is important to not only know the laws and ones’ rights, but how the process of trial works. The right to have a trial was given so that one had a chance to appeal for their innocence, and it should be in the best interest to familiarize oneself with that system. It may be hard for college students to obtain accurate and clear information to these complicated legal proceedings, but joining the mock trial team allows students to not only experience the different situations, but to fully immerse themselves in what is happening. They can learn how witness affidavits and evidence can influence the outcome of decision and how to look at multiple sides of a case. This encourages critical thinking and problem solving, which are key skills for success in college. In one aspect, the mock trial team is a great way to expand not only legal knowledge, but general knowledge and skills as well.

The mock trial team is also a great experience beyond learning new information pertaining to law. Through this process, one can develop new bonds and friendships. Especially at UIUC, it can be hard to make friends in bigger organizations as it is such a big campus. Mock trial team is an amazing opportunity to be put in smaller groups and form natural relationships as one works with others in close settings to solve a problem. This mirrors real-life work situations, not just in the legal field, but in hospitals, academic settings, and company workplaces. Even if a person may not particularly have an initial affinity for law, they can develop a passion for it in mock trial team because the process of dissecting a case can be quite enjoyable. In addition, people get the chance to dress up and travel to different colleges and hold actual mock trials and proceedings. There are many experiences and different people to meet and gain from. In reality, the demographics of the legal field are more homogeneous, but because college campuses are more diverse, mock trial teams have people from all sorts of backgrounds that join to offer their different perspectives and enlighten others. Mock trial team is an engaging student organization beyond the traditional ones found on college campuses that allow different experiences and people to enter one’s life.

College is a time to try new things and prepare oneself for the future. Mock trial team is an embodiment of this. It is a completely different experience to most, but one that proves to be well worthwhile, not only in the things one can learn, but in the experiences and friendships one can gain. Though mock trial team is a great way to give pre-law students a simulation of how trials occur, it is just as useful for students that are pre-med to art majors. It is an enriching way to learn more about the legal system, and with more people joining it in college, it can pave way for the emergence of mock trial teams at more colleges and high schools, and increase youth interest in law, so that there are less OJ Simpson-like incidents in the future.


2018 Scholarship Honorable Mention: Derick Fong

Prompt: Why is it important to study the law?

Through our reason, just about everyone has a value set. From virtue ethicists to ethical egoists, we all have some set of principles and beliefs that guide our own personal lives and our understanding of the external world. From these values come our vision of justice and injustice in the world. When moral crimes happen — those actions that so obviously violate fundamental principles of morality — we should feel distressed and seek to redress those crimes. And while some value sets are more consistent, well thought-out, and plausible than others, but nevertheless we should all strive to bring our beliefs and our actions into alignment. It is never enough to simply believe in our minds that sexual assault should be stamped out or that animals have rights that must be protected or that financial criminals should be brought to justice. Our obligation to morality is to bring about the realization of those principles. We have to act upon our beliefs and ensure that we take concrete steps toward effecting justice into our world. And that, in a rather roundabout way, is the reason why it is important to study the law.

The practice of the law offers, in an almost unique way, the ability to actualize our understanding of justice and bring about consistency between our beliefs and our actions. There are countless ways for lawyers to be able to create change and make a difference. For example, government lawyers — whether for the Department of Justice or state’s attorney’s offices or the Fed or for any number of organizations that do vital work for our country — have the tremendous privilege of being able to represent the public interest. From prosecuting the criminal elements in our society to investigating suspected financial crimes, they are able to create change in the world and aim toward a more just state. There is, of course, no hope to provide an exhaustive list of the ways that lawyers can realize justice. All the necessary tools are available to every newly minted JD.

However, far from exclusively being a professional experience, law school can allow students the ability to investigate themselves the implications and plausibility of their views. The law rests at a busy intersection of political philosophy, ethics, and political science. Our understanding of one can only help to supplement and complement our understanding of another. The history of academic thinkers who served concurrently as philosophers, jurists, and politicians is long and rich. Far from coincidence, this is a natural convergence of thoughts and roles. Our study of the law can enrich and augment our study of the remainder of the humanities and social sciences, as well as the other way around. In a very robust sense, the study of the law is the practical culmination of our inquiry into the humanities and social sciences. The value of these branches of academics, and the discipline of law in particular, cannot be understated. They inform us of morality, justice, and wisdom. They instruct us on what to believe and how to act. The law fits appropriately as the practical arm of these disciplines — the thing that lets us act on our values and shape the world as they believe is right.


2018 Scholarship Honorable Mention: Daniel Hlebasko

Prompt: Why should someone participate in an organization like the Illinois Trial Team while in college?

Taking courses in school are surely an important part of expanding one’s mind, but organizations like the Illinois Trial Team are also essential to one’s growth. I have had the amazing opportunity to take part in the Normal Community High School mock trial team for the last two years, acting as both a witness and assistant captain, and I can definitively say that I have learned at least as much from my time on the team as I have from any class in school. Reflecting on my time, I realize that joining the mock trial team at my school was one of the best decisions I could have made to improve myself during my high school career.

Being a part of this mock trial team has expanded my ability to analyze an issue critically and create a logical argument in response. While I was portraying a doctor for one of the competitions, I needed to look into medical discussions online that I had no basis of knowledge in, then pick apart the arguments to identify what information I needed to make my stance more convincing. I had never researched anything very extensively before, but I gained some experience through mock trial, and that experience supported me when writing a research paper for AP Language and Composition during my Junior year. Furthermore, I have spent a lot of time reading through both the case and the direct that my attorney and I created to ensure that the argument we were making was logical and easy for the jury to follow. Because of my close scrutiny, I have realized the power the language has and how to create a convincing argument by manipulating words, which is a skill I can take to more than just the mock trial team.

In addition to learning critical thinking skills, through my work in organizing and helping the newcomers on our team, I got experience in leadership and communication, which would have been difficult to learn in a high school class. At the start of the 2017-2018 season, our team lost many of our former members, as they were seniors the year prior. Only four veteran members were left at the start of the season, myself included. As I was the only witness that competed in a previous year, I was tasked with training many of the new witnesses. With the help of my attorney, the captain, we directed the newcomers on how to write directs and answered the many questions that they had throughout the season. As a result, we gave the best performance that the Normal Community Mock Trial Team has given in years, with all three witnesses that I worked with winning awards at some time during the season.

For me, mock trial has interested me in studying law in the future, a degree that I couldn’t have imagined striving for before joining the mock trial team. I will surely look to join the mock trial team at the University of Illinois, as I hope to continue expanding my knowledge and enjoying being on the team. Additionally, I would highly recommend the team to anyone: the skills of critical thinking and communication gained from being on this team are invaluable. I believe that students should join the Illinois Mock Trial Team because it is one of the many organizations that inspire the characteristics of leadership and logic in all of its members.


Thank you who all to applied for our inaugural scholarship! We look forward to seeing you at tryouts in the fall!