Tuesday, March 26, 2019

JET-Powered Learning: New 1L January Experiential Term courses focus on skills-building, collaboration and self-reflection

First published in Harvard Law Today

Credit: Lorin Granger. Zekariah McNeal ’21 (left) participates in a simulated negotiation with course architect Michael Moffitt, the Roger D. Fisher Visiting Professor in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. McNeal worked as an electrical engineer in Oklahoma before coming to law school.

“Imagine that you’ve come to law school knowing that you want to be a great public interest lawyer or an inventive entrepreneur or a savvy trial lawyer. Or you want to focus consciously on what it takes to be an effective public- or private-sector leader. Or perhaps you don’t yet know exactly what you want to do but you’re curious about the options the world holds for you. Through a sweeping array of new, innovative, hands-on courses, Harvard Law School’s new January Experiential Term gives 1L students a chance, early in their time on campus, to learn by doing, to work in teams, and to explore—or discover—what inspires their passion in the law. . . .

The new curriculum offers a range of courses from which to choose, all with an emphasis on skills training, self-reflection and interaction with real practitioners. Teamwork and collaboration are also emphasized, and many of the courses are team-taught.

Michael Moffitt, the Roger D. Fisher Visiting Professor in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, designed the Negotiation Workshop for the 1L January Experiential Term. Closely modeled on the Law School’s highly successful upper-level Negotiation Workshop, it was a particularly intense course among the 1L JET choices, Moffitt says. Each day, students were placed in a series of simulated negotiations so they could practice negotiation skills, and videotaped so they could receive individualized feedback from instructors. Students met from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily to work on negotiation skills-building, then reviewed the videos in the evenings. “I was really, really impressed with the work that they did. It exceeded my expectations,” says Moffitt.

Zekariah McNeal ’21, who worked as an electrical engineer in Oklahoma before law school and hasn’t decided on a legal career path, chose the Negotiation Workshop because it would provide him with useful skills no matter what he ends up doing. “These negotiation skills aren’t just for the boardroom and for sitting across from a business partner, they’re also for everyday life,” McNeal says, adding that the course spurred his interest in a career that involves resolving disputes through collaborative solutions.”

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