Skip to content

Ames Moot Court Competition

For more than 100 years, Harvard Law School’s Ames Moot Court Competition has been one of the most prestigious competitions for appellate brief writing and advocacy in the nation.

collage of photos from Ames Moot Court

In one of the most anticipated events of the year, contestants stand in the Ames Courtroom before an illustrious panel of distinguished jurists to demonstrate their skills in oral argument. As it has since 1911, the competition draws standing–room–only crowds as two 3L teams argue before the judges. A justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is usually a member of the three-judge panel. Making the final round is one of the school’s greatest honors. Winners have been memorialized on bronze plaques in the Langdell Hall reading room.

“I learned that you have to prepare the brief as a kind of science of the case and do the oral argument as a kind of art.”

Kathleen M. Sullivan ’81
Best Oralist, Ames Moot Court Competition, 1980

From Harvard Law Today

How the Ames Process Works

  • First Year Ames Competition

    The First Year Ames Moot Court serves as the academic focus of first-year students’ second semester of Legal Research and Writing (LRW). All first-year J.D. students participate. The work of briefing and arguing a case is an essential part of a Harvard legal education and helps students develop critical skills in argument and logic.

    Students work in pairs to compose briefs on the merits of a hypothetical appellate case. Cases are assigned by students’ Legal Research and Writing instructors, the Climenko Fellows. The Fellows, together with members of the Board of Student Advisers who serve as teaching assistants, teach students how to research and write their briefs and help them prepare for oral arguments.

  • Ames Qualifying Round

    The Qualifying Round is the first round in the upper-level Ames Competition. All second-year students or joint-degree students currently enrolled in their first year of post-1L law school courses are eligible to participate.

  • Ames Semi-Final Round

    The students participating in the Semi-Final Round start the competition in the 2L year and rise to the final four spots through their strong research abilities and excellent written and oral advocacy.

  • Ames Final Round

    The students participating in the Final Round start the competition in fall of their 2L year. Two teams progress to the Final Round in their 3L year through their strong research abilities and excellent written and oral advocacy. Past Ames Competition participants include Professor Cass Sunstein, Dean Kathleen Sullivan, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and Justice Harry Blackmun.

Two students outside look at a paper

Helping Students through the Ames Process

The Board of Student Advisers (BSA) is an organization of upper-level students who serve as administrators of the Ames Moot Court Competition. The BSA’s mission is to build a community among first-year students and among the diverse student body of Harvard Law School.

Learn more about the BSA