by Lisa Brem, Case Studies Program Manager
The Problem Solving Workshop (PSW)—a mandatory first-year course at Harvard Law School—has been successfully integrated into the curriculum for five years. The course is a major departure from the rest of the first-year doctrinal courses, focusing instead on hands-on participation from students and community practitioner volunteers, team projects producing legal work product, and playing various legal roles. The course expands students’ ideas of what it means to be a lawyer. Students consistently report that they appreciate the opportunity for hands-on work and meeting with active practitioners.
The Case Studies Program has produced a short video featuring Professors Todd Rakoff and Joe Singer, authors of several PSW case studies and creators of the course in its current iteration. Professors Rakoff and Singer discuss how PSW came to be, how it addresses shortcomings in legal education, their experience teaching the course, and insights about their favorite case studies, such as Landlord’s Dilemma and Medical Stent. The video also includes interviews with students about their experience in the course and footage from PSW classrooms.
The PSW format has inspired other HLS professors, including Jonathan Zittrain, John Palfrey, Charles Nesson, and Susan Crawford, to expand into “advanced” problem solving courses in Internet and Society, Intellectual Property, and Cyberlaw.