Harvard Law School’s incoming class of students will get a head start on their legal studies this summer. The school will soon launch the second iteration of its Zero-L program—a first-of-its kind curriculum of online courses designed to give new students some legal basics and a roadmap of what to expect once they arrive on campus.
I caught up with professor Glenn Cohen, who developed Zero-L with associate dean for strategic initiatives Jessica Soban at the direction of dean John Manning, to talk about the program and how it’s evolving after the pilot last summer. What initially struck me was that Zero-L has a very different focus than the existing pre-1L programs that I’m familiar with. Those tend to target admitted students with relatively low LSAT scores who may benefit from a legal foundation before they begin. Cohen confirmed my hunch that Zero-L didn’t come about because Harvard was worried that its new 1Ls wouldn’t be able to keep up. (Its median LSAT this year was 173. They’ll be fine.) Rather, the school hopes that the program will give new students a smoother transition into law school life.
I like this idea. On the one hand, you don’t want to overwhelm incoming students with work in their last summer before their life is basically taken over by law school. On the other hand, Zero-L is an acknowledgment that law school really is a whole new world and that even highly qualified students can use a little help when it comes to navigating the unfamiliar landscape. (This ain’t The Paper Chase, folks.) In fact, this seems like a pretty cost effective way to give incoming students a smoother on-ramp. Once you develop the videos, it shouldn’t cost much to make them available to each year of new 1Ls.
Unsurprisingly, Cohen told me that Harvard has already been approached by other law schools with inquiries about sharing Zero-L. It’s an idea the school is open to, he said. (Interested parties should reach out to him directly.)