Mr. Perotti Lays Down the Law at Mock Trial


Starting during the 2016-17 school year, students in the Intermediate School began participating in Mock Trial with the help of sixth grade teacher Mrs. Katherine Owen and local lawyer Thomas Perotti.

Mr. Perotti volunteers his time to the Mock Trial team, attending various meetings throughout the year to help Mrs. Owen coach and guide the students through procedures like opening statements and witness examination.

“In the beginning, [his help] was everything. He knew courtroom procedures and helped walk the kids through different parts of it,” said Mrs. Owen. While she knew some basics of how a typical courtroom worked, she described the professional influence as instrumental in the kids’ learning process.

In addition to providing this first-hand knowledge of the courtroom itself, Mr. Perotti also has the opportunity to provide the kids with anecdotes about the kind of strange cases and clients he has come across.

“After practicing law for 23 years, I have handled a great variety of unusual and interesting cases, and have many stories to share, which the students seemed to enjoy hearing about,” described Mr. Perotti.

Not only do the students enjoy hearing about Mr. Perotti’s experiences, but they also look forward to hearing his feedback about their own performances, which Mrs. Owen describes as extremely constructive.

“He’s always positive with the kids…All the kids leave feeling good about how they performed,” Mrs. Owen said, elaborating that they receive constructive adjustments as opposed to blunt criticisms.

For Mr. Perotti, this coaching experience has been a unique one, as he has been working in law for many years, but has never coached youngsters, such as those in Mock Trial, before.

“I’d had no experience working with Middle School students. I have taught Personal Injury Law at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio,” explained Perotti. “One day, my then sixth grade daughter, Maddie, came home and said ‘Dad, Mrs. Owen needs a lawyer to help her with Mock trial”’. I learned that the theme was Johnny Tremain, and because I love American History, and Mrs. Owen was so nice, I was sold.”

One would never guess that Mr. Perotti had never worked with kids, much less with Mrs. Owen, as the partnership between the two has been seamless.

“When I first started, I really didn’t know what I was doing. He was patient and he took the time and never made me feel like I didn’t know what I was doing. Now I feel so well-prepared and qualified and it’s all because of his help,” described Mrs. Owen.

Mr. Perotti echoed these sentiments, praising Mrs. Owen’s skills with keeping the team on track.

“Mrs. Owen makes the experience very gratifying for me as she ensured the class was organized and prepared,” he stated.

However, both coaches agreed that the most rewarding part of Mr. Perotti’s work with the Mock Trial team is the growth they have seen in the students.

“Public speaking forces students to push past their fears, whether standing before a group of peers, or as in Columbus at the Mock Trial Competition, a panel of judges, and risk “failure”. After the Mock Trial Competition, the students were all exhilarated at having tried something so daunting,” said Perotti.

This type of enthusiasm is exactly what Mr. Perotti was striving for when first volunteering his time with the team, as he and Mrs. Owen hoped to energize student interest in their futures.

“My goal is to help them to see law as a possible career path, and to continue to cultivate their gifts,” Perotti stated, continuing that overall, he just wants to see students “to have fun while learning.”

Mrs. Owen echoed this emphasis on the future, saying “He’s in the field…this is his expertise. For him to be able to share that…is awesome.”

Overall, Perotti’s volunteering with the team has been instrumental with building student confidence and ambition, but he continues to remain humble about his impact.

“Chagrin students, whether they are aware yet or not, are burgeoning future leaders of society,” Perotti emphasized, showcasing his true care for the growth of the team.