January 21, 2011
I wanted to drop a quick line to tell all you eager 0L’s out there in internet land a bit about the infamous “J-Term” at HLS. All 1Ls are required to take a course entitled “Problem Solving Workshop” during a three-week period following winter break and prior to the start of second semester.
Over the last several decades, HLS has built up a reputation for providing an overly theoretical legal education to its students. Now in its second year, the Problem Solving Workshop is a small but meaningful step toward eliminating this perceived barrier to everyday practice. My section (yay section 6!) was fortunate enough to have a distinguished local attorney teach our course for the last three weeks, and I think I can safely speak for everyone when I say that we’ve learned quite a lot about working with clients. The Problem Solving Workshop has brought a welcome third dimension to the black and white pages that tend to dominate a traditional legal education.
Basically, each 1L section is led through a practical workshop that engages critical thinking skills through real-world problems. Each morning, monday through friday, my 80-student section meets to discuss a given legal problem. Then, for the rest of the day, we meet in pre-assigned groups of 4 or 5 team members to draft an assignment that’s usually due by 6 p.m. It looks and feels like real legal practice, but it’s all neatly packed into a compelling and relatively stress-free, pass/fail course. So far, we have covered everything from drafting a child labor policy for a multi-national corporation to helping to resolve a landlord-tenant dispute. OK, back to class for me!