Playing Defense

Karleigh Miller ’13Karleigh Miller’s career as a criminal defense attorney has its roots in a Central College activity. The 2013 grad took part in mock trial, which lets students play the roles of attorneys and witnesses.

“Mock trial was one of the best experiences I had while I attended Central College,” Miller says. “I participated all four years. We won bids to the Opening Round Championship Series in 2012 and 2013 while I was on the team. I loved every minute I competed.”

After graduating from Central with majors in history and political science, Miller attended Creighton University School of Law, where she earned both a J.D. and a master’s degree in negotiation and conflict resolution. Today, Miller is an associate at Cohen Law Offices L.L.C. in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The firm only takes criminal cases and covers roughly 12 counties in northwestern Wisconsin. Miller has worked there since passing the bar exam in 2016.

Miller enjoys the liveliness of her work. “There are new issues to address each day,” she says. “I am learning constantly how to be a better lawyer.”

One trial that stands out to her the most is a case she defended in 2017. She served as the second chair attorney in an international homicide case with her boss. They spent nine straight days (including Saturday and Sunday) in trial. In the end, their client was found not guilty based on self-defense.

“The year of hard work paid off to hear the two-word verdict,” Miller says. “Mock trial at Central taught me how to argue a case and speak in front of a room full of people.”

Her love of the law blossomed at Central, especially during her time with the mock trial team. But Miller says the skills learned during mock trial are useful outside of legal professions.

“It is a misconception that you need to be a certain major to participate in mock trial,” she says. “Mock trial is useful for all majors. Most of my friends who participated in mock trial are in careers that are not legal-related. Many work for universities, art museums and marketing for businesses.

“The skills you learn in mock trial—speaking clearly, thinking critically and knowing how to stay calm under pressure—benefit every career.”

— Karleigh Miller ’13


Central College hosts the Dr. Donald P. Racheter Mock Trial Invitational each winter, hosting teams from across the region. This January, Karleigh Miller ’13 served as one of the judges at the annual event.

Central College hosts the Dr. Donald P. Racheter Mock Trial Invitational each winter, hosting teams from across the region. This January, Karleigh Miller ’13 served as one of the judges at the annual event.

Mock trial helps students build priceless skills to use their entire lives. Anyone can compete on the team. “The roles in mock trial include more than just attorneys. There are witnesses and experts,” Miller says. “All participants are required to learn how to think through problems in the case and present their parts well. They learn to be confident in their ability to present information and to present that information well.”

Miller continues to stay active in mock trial. She volunteers as a judge for Central’s mock trial tournament as well as at tournaments in Eau Claire. Her time with the team gave her an advantage when starting out in the courtroom. The skills she learned helped “put me ahead of the game as a young lawyer since I am extremely comfortable presenting a case and being in front of a jury.”


Governed by the American Mock Trial Association, mock trial is an activity designed to teach students real-life skills such as problem-solving, logic and public speaking. Central has been part of mock trial since its inception in 1984.

Central is currently raising money for the program endowment.

The endowment will support:

  • Challenging students to win against prestigious teams.
  • Growing participation with more student competitors.
  • Enriching students’ experience with professional mentors.
  • Building team success through dedicated preparation.
  • Traveling to face rigorous competition throughout the country.
  • Establishing Central College as a national competitor.

For more information or to make a gift, visit priority/mock-trial.

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