Gelatin silver print, 11 x 14 inches
Photographs of Harvard Law School Students: Clubs, Organizations, Activities
This photograph depicts the members of the Westengard Law Club in 1912-13. Named for Jens Iverson Westengard (LL.B. 1898; Bemis Professor of International Law 1915-18), the Westengard Club was one of the most prominent clubs during the early twentieth century. Highly competitive, student-run institutions, law clubs formally argued and adjudged cases in moot courts, and served as an important part of the social fabric of Harvard Law School (HLS) for decades after their inception in the 1820s. Admission to the “best” clubs was determined by social status, academic ability, and sometimes undergraduate affiliation (the Kent Law Club, for example, consisted of graduates of Yale College). During the nineteenth century, law club members tended to argue cases that were on the faculty-run moot court docket, awaiting with amusement the differences between their decisions and those of the professors. By 1908, HLS housed over fifty student-run law clubs, and almost every HLS student belonged to one. The clubs observed social and collegial ties while also claiming as their primary goal the pursuit of legal research and oral argument.
This photograph was taken 2 to 3 years after a seismic shift in the functionality of law clubs: in 1910, the institution of Board of Student Advisors and the Ames Competition in Appellate Brief Writing and Advocacy allowed law clubs to compete against each other in eliminating rounds, and the Ames Competition quickly became the epicenter of student moot court activities.
In 1911, a bequest in honor of the late Dean James Barr Ames, who graduated from the law school in 1872, established a formal competition awarding prizes to the most successful oralists and teams.
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. The competition is the culmination of a two-year process which begins during the 2L year in qualifying and semi final rounds. The preparation continues in the 3L year as two teams of six advance to the final round. Making the final round is one of the school’s greatest honors. Winners have been memorialized on bronze plaques in Langdell Hall.