Think of an honest used car salesperson. The very idea might seem like an oxymoron. That’s not because no honest people ever sell cars. It’s because the profession as a whole is not considered trustworthy by the public. What if that sense of mistrust were not limited to the used car lot but had spread to institutions the public relies on every day? It has, according to Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig.
First-year law student Mara Chin Loy didn’t follow a traditional path to Harvard. The first person in her family to go to law school, she majored in human biology and minored in Italian at Stanford. Though her job as a domestic-violence program associate with the Center for Court Innovation in New York City familiarized her with some aspects of the legal system, she didn’t know quite what to expect when she was accepted to HLS.
“I was not very familiar with law school as a process,” Chin Loy recalls. But by the time Chin Loy arrived on campus, she felt well-prepared for her first semester. That’s because she—along with all first-year J.D. students (called “1Ls”) and all LL.M. students—participated in Zero-L, a new, 10-hour online course featuring a dazzling array of HLS professors. Zero-L provides a grounding in things like the separation of powers, the basics of American constitutional law, and the stages of civil litigation. It also covers how to read a case and explains the Socratic method, offering tips on how to speak in class in response to a cold call.