Problem Solving for First-Year Law Students

7 Elon L. Rev. 413 (2015)

Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 17-33

18 Pages Posted: 20 May 2017 Last revised: 17 Nov 2017

Date Written: June 5, 2015


Law students need to learn how to solve client problems and not just how to interpret and apply the law to the client's situation. This article describes the Problem Solving Workshop, a course required for all first-year students at Harvard Law School. It is designed to help students focus on determining the client's goals, the facts necessary to help the client and to apply the law, the various laws that create both constraints and opportunities, and the options available to solve the problem. We describe both the structure of the problems used in the course and the problem solving methodology, as well as tips on how any professor can create such problems for her or his own course. The problems used at Harvard Law School are available for use by law professors at any school at very low cost, and new problems are being written and posted from time to time. The problems can be found by going to The Case Studies website at Harvard Law School under the Subject of Problem Solving.

Keywords: problem solving, counseling, practical training

Suggested Citation

Singer, Joseph W. and Rakoff, Todd D, Problem Solving for First-Year Law Students (June 5, 2015). 7 Elon L. Rev. 413 (2015), Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 17-33, Available at SSRN:

Joseph W. Singer (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Todd D Rakoff

Harvard Law School ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

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