Courses

Comprehensive Learning in Negotiation, Mediation, Facilitation and Conflict Resolution

Harvard Dispute Systems Design Clinic & Clinical Seminar

Students in the Harvard Dispute Systems Design Clinic advise clients on how they can more effectively engage conflict within an organization. Students may assist an organization in conducting a conflict assessment, designing a dispute resolution system, assessing an ongoing set of dispute management processes, or resolving a current conflict or series of conflicts. Students will learn skills that may include conducting interviews for stakeholder assessments, facilitating learning dialogues, running focus groups, making design recommendations, leading teams, and presenting to clients. Past clients include federal and state agencies, nonprofits, religious organizations, transnational corporations, small start-up companies, professional sports teams, municipalities, local government officials, and universities.

Students in the clinic will have the chance to manage senior-level client relationships and are asked to work through difficult concepts and problems directly with clients and their clinical supervisor. Students work in a team of 2 to 3 students, typically collaborating on single project for one client during the entire semester. By working for a single client, students have the unique chance to collaborate on a project from start to finish. Click here for a listing of current and past clinic clients.

If you have questions about the clinic, feel free to email Program Coordinator Tracy Blanchard

Credits: The DSD Clinic can be taken for between 3–5 credits. Each credit equals 4 clinic hours (3=12, 4=16, 5=20). Because our clients and their presenting questions are real and we expect students to be responsive to them, we strongly recommend registering for a minimum of 3 credits.

Add/Drop Deadline: The add/drop deadline for the Fall of 2024 Clinic is Friday, August 23, 2024. The add/drop deadline for the Spring of 2025 is Friday, December 13, 2025. 

Additional Co-/Pre-Requisites: Either the Winter Negotiation Workshop or the Spring Negotiation Workshop is recommended, but not required. LLM Students: LLM students may apply to the clinic through the LLM General Clinic Application

Placement Site: HLS 

Students who enroll in this clinic may count the credits towards the JD experiential learning requirement. Enrollment in this clinic may fulfill the HLS JD pro bono requirement depending on project assignment. Please contact the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs ([email protected]) for more information. 

Negotiation Workshop

Most lawyers, irrespective of their specialty, must negotiate. Litigators resolve far more disputes through negotiation than by trials. Business lawyers, whether putting together a start-up company, arranging venture financing, or preparing an initial public offering are called upon to negotiate on behalf of their clients. Public interest lawyers, in-house counsel, government attorneys, criminal lawyers, tort lawyers, and commercial litigators all share the need to be effective negotiators. This Workshop, by combining theory and practice, aims to improve both the participants’ understanding of negotiation and their effectiveness as negotiators. Drawing on work from a variety of research perspectives, the readings and lectures will provide students with a framework for analyzing negotiations and tools and concepts useful in negotiating more effectively. 

 The Winter Negotiation Workshop is intensive and time-consuming. Participants should have no other work commitments during the winter term. Specifically, participants should be available each day from 9:00am until 5:00pm (although class will often end earlier). There will be simulations and videotaping on some evenings and some weekends. Class attendance is essential and required at all sessions including the evening and weekend sessions. Students may not take the Workshop if they have other courses that conflict with the daily hours or with any other significant obligation during the winter term. There will be no classes during the spring term. Participants will spend much of their time in a series of negotiation exercises and simulations where, as negotiators and critical observers, they will become more aware of their own behavior as negotiators and learn to analyze what works, what does not work, and why. 

The Workshop will be limited to 144 students who will be divided into six working groups of 24 each. Sessions of the full class will be devoted to demonstrations, discussion problems, lectures, video and film. Much of the time devoted to exercises and simulations will take place in the smaller working groups, each of which will be led by an experienced instructor and a teaching assistant.  In addition to participating in the daily activities, students will be expected to keep a daily journal and write a short paper. The journal is submitted weekly during the winter term, and then annotated and resubmitted during the spring term, after a month’s reflection. The final annotated journal and paper will be due at the beginning of March. During the first week of the Workshop, students will be given an opportunity to elect to take the Workshop on a pass/fail basis. For cross-registrants the availability of the pass/fail option is dependent on the policies of their home school. No one will be admitted to or allowed to complete the course who is not present when the course begins. Participants should adjust their travel plans accordingly. 

The Spring Negotiation Workshop is intensive and time-consuming. It meets Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:45 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. The Workshop will be limited to 144 students who will be divided into six working groups of 24 each. Plenary sessions of the full class will be devoted to demonstrations, discussion problems, lectures, video and film. Participants will spend much of their time in a series of negotiation exercises and simulations where, as negotiators and critical observers, they will become more aware of their own behavior as negotiators and learn to analyze what works, what does not work, and why. 1Ls will be admitted to the course through the elective registration process during the fall semester. The remainder of the slots will be open to all 2Ls, 3Ls, LL.M.s and cross-registrants who will be interspersed within the working groups. In addition to participating in the daily activities, students will be expected to keep a journal and write a short paper. The journal is submitted weekly. This course has no final examination. During the first week of the Workshop, upperclass JD and LL.M. students will be given an opportunity to elect to take the Workshop on a pass/fail basis. For cross-registrants, the availability of the pass/fail option is dependent on the policies of their home school. 

Application Procedure for Cross-registered Students 

A limited number of students enrolled in graduate degree programs at other Harvard graduate schools, the Tufts-Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and MIT will be admitted to the Negotiation Workshops. MIT students are not eligible to enroll in the Winter term Negotiation Workshop. 

The Winter 2025 Negotiation Workshop will be taught at Harvard Law School Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Workshop will begin at 9:00 am sharp on Monday, January 6, 2025. No one will be admitted to or allowed to complete the course who is not present when the course begins. Participants should adjust their travel plans accordingly. The Workshop will meet for its final class on Friday, January 24, 2025. For credit information, please visit the course catalog listing. 

The Spring 2025 Negotiation Workshop will be taught at Harvard Law School Wednesdays and Thursdays, 3:45 to 7;15 p.m. The Workshop will begin at 3:45 pm sharp on Wednesday, January 29, 2025. No one will be admitted to or allowed to complete the course who is not present when the course begins. Participants should adjust their travel plans accordingly. For credit information, please visit the course catalog listing. 

Applicants for both courses should know that participation in the Workshop requires that students be highly proficient in English—able to absorb complex factual memoranda quickly, write well under severe time constraints, and participate fully and clearly in all negotiation exercises. 

Both Negotiation Workshops are demanding courses requiring full participation during the course period. Note especially in making travel plans (including those affected by inclement weather) that students who are not present at the beginning of the course (9:00 a.m. ET on the first day of the Winter Workshop and 3:45 p.m. on the first day of the Spring Workshop) will be dropped from the course immediately and replaced by a student on the wait list. 

You may apply online for admission to the Winter and/or the Spring Negotiation Workshop by filling out our online application form and submitting your resume along with a letter of interest. Your full application package—online application form, resume, and letter of interest—must be submitted by noon EST on Friday, October 4, 2024. 

Within three business days from the time of your application submission, you will receive an email confirming receipt of your application. If you do not receive a confirmation email please email the Workshop Coordinator. 

To increase your chances of admission to either of these workshops, we suggest you apply to both workshops, indicating any preference you may have between the two which we will take into consideration. While we make every effort to honor applicants’ semester preferences, however, this is not always possible. Please note that offers of admission to the Workshop for a particular semester are not transferable to another semester.  

Your application letter should tell us succinctly who you are, why you want to take the Workshop, what experiences you have had that may enrich the Workshop for others, how the Workshop fits into your broader academic or career goals, and any other information you deem relevant and persuasive. 

As indicated in the winter and spring course descriptions, each Workshop is taught as a unified course by a team of instructors, each of whom will be responsible, with the help of a teaching assistant, for a working group of 24 students. Using diversity as a primary consideration, admitted students will be assigned to specific working groups within the Workshop. All applicants will be notified of their status by email according to the following schedule: 

Applicants for the Winter 2025 Negotiation Workshop will be notified of their status at a date to be announced early in fall of 2024 and will have an announced deadline to accept or decline the specific offer of admission they received. Please note: The Winter Workshop has an early drop deadline of November 8, 2024. The course may not be dropped after this date without the written permission of the instructor. Students dropping the course after the deadline will receive a WD on their transcript. 

Applicants for the Spring 2025 Negotiation Workshop will be notified of their status at a date to be announced early in fall of 2024 and will have an announced deadline to accept or decline the specific offer of admission they received. Please note: The Spring Workshop has an early drop deadline of November 29, 2024. The course may not be dropped after this date without the written permission of the instructor. Students dropping the course after the deadline will receive a WD on their transcript. 

Those applicants to whom an offer of admission to either Workshop is not made will be placed on a waitlist. Offers of admission to waitlisted students will be made on a rolling basis, at the discretion of the Workshop admissions team. Please note that it is our strict policy not to inform students of their specific position on the waitlist. 

Please direct all questions concerning the Negotiation Workshop to the course coordinator at [email protected]

Dispute Systems Design for Justice

This 2-credit seminar is designed to help students learn and interrogate the theory and practice of dispute systems design (DSD). DSD is the process by which dispute systems designers seek to assist organizations (courts, schools, associations, companies, and communities) to create systems for proactively engaging disputes in an effort to promote feedback, responsiveness, accountability, and organizational effectiveness.  

At its best, DSD can enable us to surface and engage latent and live disputes, offering constituents of a system a pathway to be heard and to seek redress for unmet needs, while also inviting an organization to identify and address patterns of inequity. At its worst, it can serve to stifle concerns, impeding meaningful accountability while providing cover to the sponsoring organizations, enabling them to avoid making real changes. Over the course of the semester, we’ll seek to understand what makes the difference.  

We will explore the foundations and guiding principles of DSD, as well as a variety of case studies and forms of dispute processing, focusing our attention on the questions of whether and how traditional and nontraditional approaches promote justice and whether and how they might be improved. We will look at the role of the designer, the ethics surrounding this work, and consider what practices and principles might help move the field forward.  

Advanced Negotiation: Multiparty Negotiation, Group Decision Making, and Teams

All lawyers work in environments that present opportunities to work with multiple parties—whether across the table, behind the table, or as colleagues on a team or in a group. This workshop will explore the special challenges and complexities of multiparty negotiation, group decision-making, and working collaboratively in teams. Using simulations, large- and small-group discussions, exercises, lectures, video recording, reflective journals, and extensive work in small teams, the workshop is designed to help students engage with frameworks, tools, and perspectives that will allow them to become more intentional and effective lawyers in multiparty settings in the future. 

Topics addressed in this 4-credit workshop will include: process design and management in a multiparty context, coalition dynamics and strategy, preparation methods, decision rules for groups, the role of emotions and identity, managing constituencies, and facilitation, among others. 

For purposes of arranging multiparty class simulations, all class sessions are mandatory. 

Prerequisites: Negotiation Workshop

Facilitation Workshop: Leading Challenging Conversations in Business, Politics, and the Community

Lawyers facilitate. We routinely handle matters that require us to lead groups of people to work together in order to solve problems, reach decisions, and resolve conflicts. We collaborate with clients and colleagues to develop legal strategies, negotiate complex deals, build consensus on policy proposals, and coordinate with colleagues around duties and responsibilities. We may work with community stakeholders, family members, or local officials to increase understanding, resolve a dilemma, or re-build trust. And facilitation is not limited to legal practice—entrepreneurs, consultants, public officials, for-profit and non-profit executives alike facilitate. Yet despite how integral this work is to the modern workplace, few lawyers or other professionals receive training in how to organize, run, and effectively facilitate gatherings of people—especially when there are strong emotions involved. 

This 4-credit workshop introduces students to the theory and practice of facilitation, both in traditional legal as well as non-legal contexts. It provides opportunities for students to develop the skills necessary to run effective meetings, work with people in conflict, lead group problem-solving efforts, and more. Like the Law School’s Negotiation Workshop, this Workshop will integrate intellectual and experiential learning by combining readings, lectures, and discussions with frequent exercises, extensive review, live and filmed examples, individual and small group reviews, and careful analysis of the facilitation process and the process of learning from experience. In addition to traditional facilitation skills, we will explore thorny questions of power, inclusion, emotions, and identity. 

Prerequisites: Negotiation Workshop. Attendance at all sessions is mandatory in order to accommodate various group exercises and simulations. 

Transitional Justice: Dispute Systems Design and Durable Peace

After periods of widespread conflict or repression, the regular justice system of a country is unlikely to be able to deliver an adequate response that provides sufficient redress for victims and heals the society. Transitional justice refers to the judicial and non-judicial processes and mechanisms countries may use to seek to address mass or systemic war crimes and violations of human rights, including prosecutions, truth-seeking processes, reparations programs, and guarantees of non-recurrence, primarily institutional reforms. Practitioners and scholars largely agree that transitional justice is critical to achieving a durable peace and preventing future harms, however, there is no formula for transitional justice and the needs of each context are unique. 

This 2-credit seminar will examine transitional justice through a lens of dispute system design, engaging questions such as: 

  • When should a transitional justice system be established?
    • When is a context ripe for transitional justice? How can tensions between justice and peace be addressed? 
  • Who should design and implement the transitional justice processes?
    • Who should be the design decision-makers? Who should be consulted? Who should have ownership of the transitional justice system? 
  • How should a transitional justice system be designed?
    • Which judicial and non-judicial processes and mechanisms should be used and how should each be designed? How do these processes and mechanisms intersect and interact with each other? What values should be promoted and what remedies should be provided? 
  • When is transitional justice complete and how should the transitional justice system be evaluated? 

How do implementers know when transitional justice has been concluded? What metrics can be used to evaluate the successes and shortcomings of a system? 

All of the above are live and heavily debated questions in the field of transitional justice and will be discussed in the reading group through a combination of readings, country-specific case studies, and a simulation on designing transitional justice. The reading group will also connect with one or more guest speakers who engaged in the design and implementation of transitional justice in their countries. 

Mediation Clinic & Mediation Clinical Seminar

Clinic placements are with the Harvard Mediation Program (HMP) and offer the opportunity to co-mediate disputes filed in local courts with a focus on small claims cases. A typical week might include 2-3 hours participating in a mediation as a co-mediator or observer and 1-2 hours engaging in preparation for mediation, written self-reflection, and debriefing with other HMP mediators, or completing other projects in support of the mediation process (e.g., collecting feedback from mediation participants). HMP’s Clinical Instructor will work with you throughout the semester to participate in debriefing cases you co-mediate and to provide coaching and feedback.

Clinical students must complete HMP’s basic mediation training either before or during the semester of participation in the Mediation Clinic and must also be enrolled in the classroom co-requisite for the Mediation Clinic, which is a one-credit clinical seminar. Additional information about the Mediation Clinic and Seminar, including HMP’s upcoming training dates (totaling approximately 34 hours) are listed on the Harvard Mediation Program website.

This clinic is currently offered in the Fall semester. You can learn about the required clinical course component, clinical credits and the clinical registration process by reading the course catalog description and exploring the links in this section.

Reading Groups

Informal Small Discussion Groups: Digging Deeply into a Chosen Topic

1L Reading Group

When faced with conflict our instinct is often to lock into our views and focus on what our counterpart fails to understand. We strengthen our resolve, rehearse our arguments, and point out what someone else is missing. Not infrequently, we become defensive and stop listening, focusing instead on reassuring ourselves of our own rightness. When we get too locked into our judgment of another’s views and behavior, we can become trapped in the conflict, unable to move past it.

Other times, conflict serves not to limit our growth, but to fuel it. It can offer us a deeper understanding of who we are, what we value, and how we can embody our ideals. In these moments, we are able to expand our perspective to understand our role in the situation and what learning it holds for us. In these moments, conflict serves as a pathway to transformation.

How do we move beyond our conceptions of wrong and right to a place of learning and growth? How do we see and accept conflict as an invitation to expand our view of who we are and how we are interconnected?

Over the course of our conversations, we’ll look to different conceptions of the self, theories of justice, and religious and moral philosophies to reflect on whether and how these models might help us liberate ourselves from the narratives that keep us locked into conflict in our own lives.

Contemporary Dilemmas in Dispute Resolution

This reading group will explore situations and applications that challenge core principles in negotiation, mediation, and dispute systems design work. When placed in certain contexts, bedrock ideals in many interest-based models of dispute resolution—impartiality, joint contribution, validity of multiple perspectives—may begin to seem less benign. To bring to life the challenges and explore the contours of these ideals, contexts for our discussions may include the relationship between negotiation and activism; the role of process and dialogue in a polarized social and political environment; the challenges that misinformation and disinformation pose to models of dispute resolution and conflict engagement; and other recent examples. 

What is the responsibility (if any) of the conflict management “neutral” to have and apply a particular view of justice and morality? How can practitioners account for and address power imbalances between parties without re-entrenching them? How do we grapple with principles that, when applied in certain ways, or by certain actors, could lead to results that are deeply discomfiting at a moral or ethical level? And how do different approaches to managing conflict help—or hinder—a search for “truth”? 

We will explore these questions together in the reading group through course materials such as scholarship from negotiation theory and moral philosophy; current news articles and commentary; and podcasts and other modes of storytelling, including artwork and poetry. 

Political Dialogue in Polarized Times

According to the U.S. Elections Project, in November 2020 Americans cast their votes for President at the highest rate of participation in 120 years. The number of votes cast for the two principal candidates were the highest and second highest in US electoral history. 

And yet . . . commentators, scholars, and casual observers alike have been calling the 2020 Presidential election one of the most polarizing and divisive in recent memory—topping even 2016, and 2012 before it. Genuine dialogue between those with differing and competing views on contentious political issues has steadily declined in both public and private spaces. Conflicts escalate and are exacerbated through anonymous, or at best impersonal, social media platforms that amplify vitriol and misinformation at digital speed. The country increasingly is polarized not on the basis of differing views on the issues, but on the very meaning of truth itself.  “Pro” and “con” seem quaint in this hyper-partisan era that glorifies demonization and dehumanization of the “other”. 

Meetings of the reading group will be devoted to reading and discussion on the purposes, shape, form, methods, limits, and critiques of political dialogue. We will explore the state of, and the history of, politically driven conversation in American life and provide participants an opportunity to explore the possibilities, benefits and limits of civil dialogue as a tool to bridge deeply polarized communities, groups, and identities. 

There are no pre-requisites required for this reading group beside a willingness to engage openly and bravely with classmates on political issues that may touch on identity, emotions, perceptions, privilege, and perception. Attendance at all sessions will be required. 

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