Bales Trial Competition

“I learned a lot about forming a story from questioning my witness, and tying together the important aspects in closing argument. It was really learning by doing!”

The Bales Trial Competition is an introductory-level tournament focused on criminal law. It is designed to introduce first-year students to trial advocacy and encourage them to consider joining the competitive Board of Advocates Trial Team. Typically 40 students participate, requiring approximately 33 volunteer judges. The Board of Advocates and the Bales Family Endowment sponsor the competition.

The Bales Competition features approximately 20 teams of two students, divided between prosecutors and defense attorneys, trying a fictional case. The students receive training on effective direct examination, cross examination, and opening and closing statements. Board of Advocates Trial Team members coach the individual teams and, along with local practitioners, judge the preliminary rounds of the competition. Experienced trial attorneys judge the final round. No previous trial experience is required!

“Great experience to get feet wet in mock trial. Fun planning experience, amazing coaching and overall just a very positive experience.”


Who Can Compete?

The competition is open to all first-year JD students except students on the Board of Advocates Trial Team. The purpose of the competition is to allow 1Ls to get a taste of trial work. No experience is needed and participants will be randomly selected. If there is space available, 2Ls and 3Ls who did not participate as a 1L and who are not on the Board of Advocates Trial Team may participate.

In the month before the trials, experienced trial advocates will give trainings on effective direct examination, cross examination, and opening and closing statements. In addition, Board of Advocates members will assist with presentation and individual coaching. Teams are expected to practice on their own and to be prepared to present a professional case on competition day. All teams will be given feedback from judges. Those considering trying out for outside competition trial teams are highly encouraged to participate. Again, no previous trial experience is required. 

2020 Final Round


Important Dates

All competitors should be prepared to attend the following training dates: March 3rd, 5th, 10th, and 12th from 12:45pm – 2pm.

All competitors MUST commit to the following preliminary round competition dates: March 18th, 19th, and 30th from 5:30pm – 9:00pm.

The final will take place on April 2nd from 5:30pm – 9:00pm. Competitors must plan to be available to compete on this date if they advance to the final.

Peter Bales

Peter Bales

Berkeley Law alum Peter Bales ’10 created and generously funded the Bales Competition, which provides a unique opportunity for first-year students to get a taste of trial advocacy.

Mr. Bales is an attorney at Buchalter and represents clients in civil litigation, at trial and appellate levels, in state and federal courts. His expertise includes complex business disputes, financial institutions litigation, trade secrets and unfair competition litigation, employee mobility disputes, intellectual property disputes, and class actions. In addition to other facets of the litigation process, Mr. Bales advises his clients on alternative dispute resolution options that are available in both state and federal court, such as mediation and arbitration.

Mr. Bales has been recognized as a Northern California Super Lawyer Rising Star from 2013 to 2017. He is a member of the San Francisco Bar Association, the San Francisco Barristers Club, and the Business Law Section of the California State Bar.

Questions? Contact the Student Directors at or to Sarah Wright-Schreiberg, Director of the Advocacy Competitions Program, at to learn more.

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