Designing Speculations from Moot Courts

metaLAB J-Term course

Can design speculation demand more from the law? In this hybrid J-Term course, Harvard Graduate School of Design students, faculty, and staff will have the opportunity to reimagine the law school moot court as a public site for speculation, making tangible the elaborate fictional scenarios developed in past competitions, thereby exploring how design can make arguments possible through law.
Harvard Graduate School of Design

Course Instructors: Sankalp Bhatnagar and Phoebe Walton

Course Tutors: Elena Kuran, Brandon Martinez, and Kelsey Cumiskey

Course Format: Hybrid/GSD 10am-12pm on M/W/F January 3-12, 2024

In 1911, students at Harvard Law School founded the Ames Moot Court Competition as the first co-curricular space for law students to practice their legal writing and presentation skills before a panel of experienced judges. In the last century, “mooting” has become a commonplace practice throughout legal education in the United States. In law schools, moot court competitors analyze and debate fictional fact patterns, invariably making complex legal arguments through elaborate hypotheticals, concrete counterfactuals, plausible scenarios, and even absurd extrapolations. The competition itself, however, is won through written briefs submitted and oral arguments, with one team winning the competition, and awards for best brief and best oralist typically distributed.

How might law school moot courts work if its competitors were also awarded a prize for best speculation? Participants in this course (open to current GSD students, faculty, and staff only) will be introduced to moot courts in general before identifying a fictional fact pattern used previously in particular by engaging with the Ames Moot Court Competition Archives in the Historical & Special Collections of the Harvard Law School Library. Informed by extensive documentation available in this collection, teams will combine their skills to craft sophisticated design speculations, giving tangible representation to one or more arguments made in the archival case, competing as teams for the inaugural “best speculation” prize of Ames. Expected course activities include an introduction to the design of the Ames by its organizers, a field trip and site visit on campus to Harvard Law School, tutorials with law students to explain legal scenarios, and a final prize awarded by a guest critic. Participants will expand existing forms of speculation into new sites using design fiction.

Register via GSD

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Image Credits: Photographs of Harvard Law School Events (1948)