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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS 6473303

Harvard Law School Moot Court records


This collection consists of handwritten notes of moot court cases taken by students. Notebooks were kept either by individual students or by groups. There are also several volumes of docket lists.


  • Creation: 1825 - 1873


Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.


1 collection (24 volumes in 2 Paige boxes)

This collection contains records of Moot Court cases argued at Harvard Law School between the years 1825 and 1873. The collection is made up of three distinct groups of material. The first consists of what may be considered to be “official” records of Moot Court cases, which appear to have been kept collectively by classes of students. Most entries include the faculty members serving as justices for each case. Presiding judges are indicated in the container list. The volumes in this group cover the years 1845 to 1873, excluding the years 1828-1831, 1834-1841 and 1853. The second group consists of records kept by individual students who observed or participated in the Moot Court cases. The volumes in this group cover the years 1832-1833, 1836-1839, 1845-1846, 1848, 1848, and 1860. The third consists of docket lists of cases heard in the Moot Court each term between 1838 and 1868. Volumes of Moot Court records include docket lists, transcriptions of statements of facts, briefs, and judges decisions.

Historical/Biographical Information

Moot court cases were argued as part of the Harvard Law School curriculum from the 1820’s until 1897. Professor Stearns instituted the practice in the first years of the Law School, when the student body averaged only a dozen students. During the mid-1820’s the students generally held over 30 moots over the course of the school year, with each case lasting two to three hours.

Under Professors Story, Ashmun and Greenleaf, the moot courts became even more central to the curriculum. Moots were held once a week, usually on Friday afternoons; in later years, as the number of students at the Law School grew, the frequency increased to two or three times each week. The professor wrote a statement of facts the week before a case was to be heard, and two counsel were assigned to each side, one from the Senior class and one from the Junior class. Each student at the school was assigned to a case in rotation according to class standing. Every student present, regardless of his role, took detailed notes on the proceedings, often transcribing in full the statement of facts, the briefs and the judge’s opinion. Professor Story presided over many of the moots. Many of the cases he gave out had been or were to be argued before him in the U.S. Circuit or Supreme Court. Professor Greenleaf also presided over moots, and he often gave out cases that arose before him in the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Cases given out by Story generally focused on subjects like commercial law, agency, and equity, while those given out by Greenleaf were more varied.

During the 1850’s, moots continued to be of great importance at the Law School. They were generally held twice each week, and the cases were often actual ones that were pending or had been recently decided. Lawyers from Boston would often attend these sessions to take notes on the proceedings. However, in the years immediately preceding the Civil War interest in the moots decreased, as did their frequency.

Under the leadership of Christopher Columbus Langdell, the utility of the moot court system was questioned. With the extension of the program of study to three years, professors were already overburdened, and in November 1879 the Law School faculty voted to suspend the moots for the rest of the year. In 1880, rather than abolishing them completely, the faculty made the moots a voluntary exercise, and began to hold only four per year. Interest in the faculty-sponsored moots continued to wane, while participation in moot courts held by various student law clubs increased. This pattern continued until the faculty decided to discontinue the moot court system. The last moot was held on March 10, 1897.

Series List

  1. Series I: “Official” Volumes of Moot CourtRecords

    The volumes are arrangedchronologically.

  2. Series II: Moot Court Records Kept by Individual Students

    The volumes are arranged chronologically.

  3. Series III: Moot Court Docket Lists

Within each series and/or subseries individual items or folders are identified by box and folder number. For example, the number 5-12 corresponds to box 5, folder 12.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Contact Curator of Modern Manuscripts and Archives.

Processing Information

Processed by Erica Bicchieri, 2002. Edited by Ed Moloy, May 2004.



Harvard Law School. Moot Court Records, 1825-1873: Finding Aid
Harvard Law School Library, Cambridge, MA 02138
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository

Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.

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