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Common knowledge

Harvard Law School’s new Zero-L online course helps prime incoming students for success

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.

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