New Case on the Realities of Business Development

New Product: Chasing Growth at Sasker Devereaux

EM: Business development is a critical component of any successful law practice, but poses challenges unique to each partner.  A new discussion-based case study, Chasing Growth at Sasker Devereaux, profiles law firm partners struggling with business development; through the case study format, each participant unearths personally relevant lessons. Lisa Rohrer, the executive director of the HLS Case Development Initiative, shares her thoughts on the latest CDI case:

LR: This case is the second time we’ve collaborated with Kevin Doolan, a guest faculty member in our Executive Education program, on practical challenges facing lawyers in law firms today.  The first case, Three Vignettes on Pricing of Professional Services, dealt with pricing and this latest collaboration is about business development. The case chronicles a managing partner as he debates how to encourage and support his partners in their business development efforts. We also “get into the heads” of two partners who are struggling with these issues. One of them is a very technically proficient and somewhat introverted partner who needs to rebuild his practice after losing several large clients but is not sure where to start. He ends up at a networking event where he feels extremely uncomfortable and leaves early, feeling sorry for himself. The second partner has attended a sales training course and absolutely crashes and burns when she attempts to apply what she learned to a real client prospect. The case also addresses the concept of cross-selling, why it can be so annoying to clients, and how it can be done effectively.

One lesson from the experience of the partners in the case is the importance of authenticity and finding approaches that work well with your personality. When we teach this case, we focus on a range of strategies and tactics that can be applied by different types of people in different situations. In many instances, the best “sales” tactics don’t feel like selling at all and the case enables a lively discussion about the different approaches. Kevin used the case in a recent Accelerated Leadership Program for law firm partners and I think the characters in the case really resonated with the participants. Sometimes in law firms, people are afraid to say that they really aren’t sure how to do something and so skills like business development are not adequately addressed. The case enables us to tap into the insecurities so many of us feel when faced with developing new business.  Using a story instead of a lecture, we can elicit the emotional aspect of their day-to-day experience, which creates a more memorable and impactful class session.

I’ve enjoyed working with Kevin because he comes at case writing from the perspective of a practicing lawyer and law firm leader from over 25 years at the law firm Eversheds in the UK. While the case itself is based on a fictional firm, it is certainly grounded in the reality that Kevin saw in his law firm days. The fictional case study is also fun as a writer because you have more freedom to be creative with the details and personalities of key characters. The challenge, then, is to not be so creative that the characters become unbelievable. We did a lot of tweaking of the case to strike the right balance so that the case is interesting to read yet grounded in the reality of law firm life. As always, we welcome the thoughts of readers and instructors about how our cases play out in the classroom, so please do send feedback.

To share your thoughts on “Chasing Growth at Sasker Devereaux” or any of our case studies or role plays, email hlscasestudies@law.harvard.edu or call 617-495-8689.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To Save or Not to Save? New High-Stakes Multiparty Role Play on Infectious Disease

New Product: Drug Trial Committee

6136_PHIL_scientists_PPE_Ebola_outbreak_1995Imagine that a deadly infectious disease, the Anthella virus, is spreading throughout the world population. Scientists everywhere are rushing to find a cure. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have just developed an antidote. Unfortunately, there are only three doses. Who will be saved?

Based on the Ebola outbreak of 2014, a new role play from Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program involves the life-or-death policy decisions of a public health crisis. Written by Professor Robert Bordone, clinical instructor Alonzo Emery, and clinical fellow Sara del Nido, Drug Trial Committee is easy to implement but challenging to negotiate.

As members of a committee seeking to provide transparency in allocating resources in national health crises and disasters, participants are tasked with deciding unanimously who may receive medical treatment. Participants must choose three of seven candidates: a beloved reality TV star; a single public interest lawyer; a stay-at-home dad with health issues; an undocumented seasonal worker with a family abroad; an epidemiologist infected while researching a cure; a young prodigy with a history of depression; and the prodigy’s brother, a recovering addict. The other four candidates will not be treated. If the group cannot decide, the drug’s efficacy will expire and all, presumably, will die.

The case requires approximately an hour to teach and just five minutes of student preparation, but introduces students to the process of multiparty negotiation in an emotionally charged, time-pressured scenario. First, participants deliberate for approximately thirty minutes; the remainder of the hour may be used to debrief the exercise. Instructors may tease out how processes were formed, what criteria were used, what group dynamics transpired, and the advantages and disadvantages of various processes. Discussion of values, transparency, and fiduciary duty may arise. Instructors have the option to precede the case with a slideshow of images, so that participants develop an emotional connection with the patient candidates.  The case may also be adapted for a decision rule other than unanimity—such as a chairperson with final authority or simple majority rule. This case works best with at least four groups of five, but is manageable with four to six participants or larger groups.

To download Drug Trial Committee, visit HLS Case Studies. Educators and staff of non-profit institutions are eligible to receive review copies free of charge.

Posted in Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program Blog Posts | Leave a comment

New Teaching Note: Legislating Intellectual Property Law in the Digital Age

Product: From Sony to SOPA: The Technology-Content Divide

A teaching note is now available for From Sony to SOPA: The Technology-Content Divide, a classic Problem Solving Workshop background note about tensions in intellectual property law.

Opponents to the Stop Online Piracy Act feared the end of free speech on the Internet.

Opponents to the Stop Online Piracy Act feared the end of free speech on the Internet.

With the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2011, the conflict between copyright holders, technology producers, and legislative enforcers boiled over. SOPA was designed to increase federal powers to curb online copyright infringement. The Act proposed that Internet Service Providers shut down domain names with infringing content, that search engines not link to infringing content, and that businesses not transact with infringing sites. The Act would also make unauthorized streaming illegal. However, opponents feared censorship and limitations on fair use. It was the first proposal to make sweeping restrictions on the unfettered Web, far less targeted than take-down notices.

The “Sony to SOPA” background and teaching notes set up an engaging and thoughtful debate about SOPA and intellectual property. Authored by HLS Professor Jonathan Zittrain and former HLS Professor John Palfrey, the background note surveys over twenty years of legal precedent beginning with the Sony v. Universal Studios (“Betamax”) decision. Providing a primer on peer-to-peer, torrenting, and other file sharing platforms, the background note prepares students to analyze and discuss the controversial 2011 SOPA legislation. Suggested supplemental readings include the text of SOPA and a white paper on the DNS concerns in the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), a related bill.

As the teaching note details, the workshop is designed to take place for six hours over four days, but can be adapted to different time constraints. Participants adopt the roles of stakeholders in the SOPA legislation: general counsels at Google, the Motion Picture Association of America, and PayPal; the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Senator Ron Wyden, who led the opposition to SOPA; venture capitalists; lobbyists at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and DNS (Domain Name System) experts.

On Day One, the instructor guides the class in interpreting the bill, and the DNS experts present their assessment of SOPA. Stakeholder groups then draft a memorandum interpreting the bill and highlighting concerns with it. Day Two consists of a debate among the stakeholder groups, launched by those in support of SOPA. For homework, participants write longer memoranda proposing changes to the bill. Day Three involves another debate based on the memoranda, and stakeholders have the opportunity to amend their proposals in class before a final discussion. Day Four reviews the outcome of the SOPA bill and debriefs the workshop exercise. There is also opportunity to include a guest speaker on intellectual property law.

Educators, staff at non-profit institutions, and trainers can access this teaching note through HLS Case Studies. Registered members of the site can download the background note at no cost.

Posted in Problem Solving Workshop Blog Posts | Leave a comment

Case Studies Q&A: New Case on the Management of Legal Departments

New Products: Driving Blind at General Motors (A) and (B)

Nathan Cisneros, case writer at the HLS Case Development Initiative, shares his behind-the-scenes perspective on crafting a case based on public sources, messy chains of command, and cover-ups:

EM: What inspired the case study?

Chevy Cobalt, the car central to the ignition switch recall

Chevy Cobalt, the car central to the ignition switch recall

NC: In February 2014 General Motors (GM) issued the first in a series of recalls for a serious safety defect that was linked to over a dozen deaths. As the automaker expanded the recall by millions in the ensuing months, many onlookers wondered if anyone had a firm handle on the problem. GM’s new CEO, Mary Barra, was the company’s fourth in five years. She was blindsided by the recall but quickly won praise for her promise to conduct a full and complete investigation. It was a promise she needed to make. Early reports suggested GM had known about the defect since at least 2004; the federal government, victims, car owners, and shareholders all wanted to know why GM waited over a decade to remove unsafe cars from the road.

As winter melted into spring and summer we at the Case Development Initiative watched the GM case with increasing interest and horror. Murmurs in the press and on Capitol Hill suggested that GM’s own legal department, the department meant to protect the company from exactly this sort of problem, might actually have contributed to the recall delay. Finally, in June 2014, a 315-page independent report commissioned by GM was released. It described in excruciating detail how GM’s legal and engineering departments played hot potato with an ignition switch defect for years. Just weeks later, Barra was in front of Congress with general counsel Michael Millikin at her side, deflecting questions from Senators about why she hadn’t yet fired her top lawyer.

For Barra, the report was the end of the discussion. For us it was just the beginning. What happened at GM, and what can we learn from this terrible tragedy?

EM: What challenges and opportunities did the case writing process present?

NC: We were very interested to learn about how the legal department interfaced with the rest of GM. What were its responsibilities? Legal departments are embedded in complex organizations. Even with the best intentions miscommunications happen and competing interests emerge. We were not sure at first we would have enough material to explore these questions because we relied entirely on publicly available information. However, the combined detail of GM’s independent report, Congressional testimony, and the many excellent accounts by journalists convinced us to give it a try.

We were also mindful of the opposite problem—too much detail. Case studies are meant to facilitate useful classroom discussion about important strategic and professional challenges. “Useful classroom discussion… useful classroom discussion…” We returned to this phrase over and over while preparing the GM case. There was so much detail, so many interesting side stories. However, at the end of the day the classroom discussion is what counts, and all those details and interesting anecdotes should be on the page only if they facilitate a “useful classroom discussion.”

EM: How did the students react to the case study? Did anything surprise you in the classroom? Any memorable experiences?

NC: We piloted this case with a group of senior in-house lawyers. The opening vignette describes CEO Barra and GC Michael Millikin’s appearance before Congress in July 2014. Participants were also shown a video of the proceedings. I saw several grimaces as senators asked Millikin’s boss why he hadn’t yet been fired. It is a brutal clip. I thought participants would be very interested in Millikin’s fate, and whether CEO Barra made the right call. After all, it is such a stomach-twisting scene. However, participants were much more interested in Millikin’s concrete actions in the days and weeks after the recalls were first announced. They didn’t want to debate whether or not he should remain GC. They wanted to know what he did as GC, and what he else he could have done.

EM: What, if anything, would you do differently next time?

NC: We divided our narrative into an (A) and (B) case. The (A) case tells the story through July 2014, when Millikin appeared before Congress, which is where we intended the narrative to finish. However, several important developments since convinced us that an addendum should be written, which became the short (B) case.

Unfortunately, this tragic story has not yet reached the final chapter. It has been one year since GM’s first big ignition switch recall, and in that time the number of fatalities continues to climb. We all look forward to someday soon reading about how GM has repaired both itself and its reputation with GM customers from this terrible series of events.

Posted in Case Development Initiative Blog Posts | Leave a comment

New MOOC Blends Multimedia Case Studies and Synchronous Online Participation

JuryX: Deliberations for Social Change juryx_608x211_0212

By Amanda Reilly

One of the central duties of the traditional institution of jury was to preserve popular conceptions of justice and evaluate the power of the government—to determine the truth or falsity of factual allegations and to maintain impartiality. Yet over time, the institution of jury in America has lost its efficacy, also diminishing to some extent the art of deliberation in our society.  A new massive open online course (MOOC) is an experiment in reclamation, empowerment, and problem solving, and will blend case studies and virtual, synchronous participatory learning for a novel and impactful educational experience.

Professor Charles Nesson

Professor Charles Nesson

JuryX: Deliberations for Social Change, a new, free HarvardX online course launched by Harvard Law School Professor Charles Nesson, challenges students to examine and rethink the concept of jury,  as well as to be active participants in the deliberation process. During the 12-week course, students are introduced to not only historical legal cases but also case studies about social issues, such as the decriminalization of marijuana and efforts to legalize it in Jamaica, the potential for the Olympics and World Cup to advance education around the world, identity and anonymity as they pertain to the NSA leak by Edward Snowden, and the problem of increased police brutality against young black men, crystallized in the hashtag #icantbreathe.

JuryX encourages students to exercise and hone their deliberation skills, exploring techniques for participating in juristic discussions on numerous topics and debating solutions to contemporary social problems. This course also reconceptualizes experiential learning online by employing multimedia case studies; Unhangout, a platform for video chat discussion groups; and open social media (e.g., Facebook and Loomio). JuryX case studies will later be available for download through HLS Case Studies. Register for the MOOC here to get an exclusive look!

School:  HarvardX

Course Code:  HLS3x

Classes Start:  March 10, 2015

Course Length:  12 weeks

Amanda Reilly is the Program Associate at HLS Case Studies.

Posted in Legal News and Debate, Problem Solving Workshop Blog Posts | Leave a comment

Law, Ethics, and Policy in Humanitarian Crises: A Student Perspective on New Simulations

New Products: Somalia in Crisis: Famine, Counterterrorism, and Humanitarian Aid

By Danae Paterson

In the fall of 2014, the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC) offered prototypes of two case studies under the thematic umbrella of Somalia in Crisis: Famine, Counterterrorism, and Humanitarian Aid. The first case study focuses on an NGO General Counsel simulation, and the second centers on a National Security Council simulation. Both simulations entail a nuanced fact pattern based on the humanitarian crisis of the 2011 Somali famine, which presents a variety of complicated tensions and dilemmas. I took part in the prototypes of both case studies, which were facilitated by PILAC Director and HLS Lecturer on Law Naz Modirzadeh and Senior Researcher Dustin Lewis. Revised and published in February 2015, these case studies are now freely available for use in classroom study or professional instruction.

somalia2The NGO General Counsel simulation asks students to assume the role of general counsel to a U.S.-based and U.S.-funded international nongovernmental organization (INGO) conducting humanitarian aid work in the context of the Somali famine crisis. The quintessential tension of the case study rests on the professional aims of the INGO to provide relief to targeted Somali populations, on one hand, and U.S. counterterrorism laws, which may prohibit the work of the aid groups in portions of the territory controlled by a listed terrorist organization (al-Shabaab), on the other. The general counsel must navigate the complicated legal, policy, and ethical tensions at the intersection of counterterrorism agendas and international humanitarian aid, and ultimately advise the INGO President on the matter. The simulation allows the student to engage with and interview key INGO actors (the INGO’s Regional Director, its Senior Policy Advisor, and the Chairwoman of its Board), produce a written memo, and conduct a final presentation.

whitehouse_historypgThe National Security Council simulation incorporates the same fact pattern but asks the students to assume very different roles. Students may be assigned to represent actors organized into five teams: 1) the National Security Council Staff; (2) the Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Department of the Treasury; (3) the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security; (4) the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Office of the U.S. Representative to the United Nations; and (5) the Office of he Vice President. These respective teams represent different interests and goals, and the ultimate task of the simulation requires the five teams to work collaboratively to develop consensus on policy recommendations in relation to humanitarian aid and counterterrorism in Somalia. Students are asked to facilitate, give verbal presentations, and/or draft memos, depending on their assigned teams.

Ultimately, both simulations present unique and challenging opportunities both to grapple with the law and to engage in a professional application of legal, facilitative, and client-attorney skills. These experiences are especially valuable in terms of interviewing diverse stakeholders and presenting complex legal concepts to non-lawyers. These are critical skills in the practice of law, but a mode of experiential learning that is often absent from the traditional legal classroom. A particularly challenging exercise in this general skillset is the presentation in the NGO General Counsel simulation, which requires students to synthesize the legal arguments made in their written memos in a fashion that is simultaneously informative, accurate, and persuasive, as well as sensitive to the different interests at stake and accessible to a non-lawyer. This means that the student must not only understand deeply his argument to identify the key points and articulate them but also anticipate the priorities and interests of his audience. The student must also be prepared to adequately answer questions from the varied group of stakeholders.

These simulations take the student far beyond the requirements of a typical law school assignment, which ends at the submission of a written work product. In actual legal professional settings, a lawyer will, after producing the formal legal advice, often have to continue to engage in a sophisticated, responsive, assuring, and competent manner with a client. In certain respects, these skills may be what matter most to a client, beyond the sophisticated legal argumentation a lawyer develops. In these ways, the simulations add incredible value to the traditional legal educational experience by creating the space to develop a more critical legal and professional skill set.

Danae Paterson, a J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School, has been a research assistant at PILAC since December 2014, contributing to its case studies portfolio.

Posted in Program on International Law and Armed Conflict Blog Posts | Leave a comment

Case Writer Q&A: Nathan Cisneros

Nathan Cisneros, a case writer for the Case Development Initiative at Harvard Law School, sums up his job as “talking with interesting people about interesting events and then sharing what I’ve heard with interested people.” Today he shares with us the importance of compelling questions and collaboration in case writing:

EM: What subjects do you focus on? What sort of work are you doing now?

NC: The Case Development Initiative writes cases about topics not usually covered in law school: How do you manage people? How do you weigh career options? How do you reform an organization? These are questions any professional might ask, but we are able to examine them through the eyes of a lawyer. For example, in 2014 we reported a great sponsorship program in a large law firm, and investigated a major scandal at a large American company [forthcoming].

We also examine big challenges confronting the legal services industry today: How does a law firm survive in a shrinking market that is more competitive than ever?  How does a legal department wade through the proliferation of legal services options and still deliver quality service for the firm? We are finishing an update of a case about a major law firm that seemed to have uncovered the secret to successful law firm mergers. We are also looking at how traditional law firms deal with novel legal services products.

EM: How do you approach the case writing process?

NC: I’ve always thought that it is best to start with an interesting question or surprising event. If you start with a compelling question you usually discover a compelling answer, whatever it may be. Since case studies are richly detailed narratives of real-world events, we can’t choose our own ending. However, if we begin with a gripping question we invariably arrive at a captivating resolution. Needless to say, our primary objective is to create a useful tool for classroom discussion, not a page-turner, but they feed into one another. It is far easier to provide nuanced perspectives on a strategic challenge or professional dilemma in case studies built around a truly puzzling incident.

EM: What challenges have you faced in the research and writing processes? How have you overcome them?

NC: Case studies are primarily pedagogic tools. We want our cases to stimulate interesting classroom discussions about important decisions professionals are likely to encounter. I sometimes find myself slipping into journalist mode (what’s the angle?) or social scientist mode (add a citation!), which pulls away from that primary goal.

Fortunately, the best way to overcome any writing or research challenge is to tackle it as a team! I work with two excellent case writers. I’m never abashed asking a silly question or sharing first drafts because I know my colleagues will steer me in the right direction.

EM: Do you have any tips for case writers or teachers in the legal classroom?

NC: There is no standard text or curriculum on how to handle the business of providing legal services. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be taught! The case method allows instructors and students to examine strategic and career challenges together to see what works and what doesn’t. Students exposed to a broad range of cases in the classroom will have a deep well of experience from which to draw when they encounter professional challenges outside the classroom.

Posted in Case Development Initiative Blog Posts | Leave a comment

Case Writer Q&A: Dr. Lisa Rohrer

New Products:

Sponsorship at Wilmer Cutler & Pickering (A): Yoon-Young Lee
Sponsorship at Wilmer Cutler & Pickering (B): The Sponsor’s Perspective

Lisa Rohrer is a seasoned case writer and the Executive Director of the Case Development Initiative at Harvard Law School. She co-wrote CDI’s latest two-part case study, Sponsorship at Wilmer Cutler & Pickering, about a junior attorney who received transformative guidance and opportunity through the sponsorship of a senior colleague.

Visit our website to download the A and B cases, but first, hear from Dr. Rohrer about the value and energy of the new case:

EM: What inspired the case study?

LR: The topic of sponsorship is a great way to provide perspective on two pressing issues facing law firms today: the training of junior attorneys and diversity. While many law firms have had mentoring programs for some time, sponsorship is a much newer concept. A sponsor is someone who doesn’t necessarily provide emotional support to a younger colleague but actually will put their own reputation on the line by opening doors to opportunities that the younger attorney may not have otherwise had access to. Sponsorship is often used in the context of diversity programs (to help women and minority attorneys gain more visibility with clients and powerful partners) but it’s not strictly a diversity issue. It is also a tool to think about talent development and ways can law firms promote younger attorneys in an environment where many clients are looking for “grey hair” and experience.

Scott Westfahl (faculty director of HLS Executive Education) and I had the idea to write a case about sponsorship but needed a subject. So we reached out to a friend of ours, Ida Abbott, who just finished writing a book on the topic to see if she had come across any stories that would make a good case study. She is the one who introduced us to Yoon-Young Lee at WilmerHale (the new name for the Wilmer Cutler & Pickering firm after a merger a few years ago). Lee, coincidentally, was a classmate of Scott’s at HLS in the 1980s. It was a fun connection to make and this link helped to facilitate the initial conversations.

EM: What challenges and opportunities did the case writing process present?

LR: My co-author Nathan Cisneros and I thought for a long time about how to present the case study in a way that would promote the most learning in a classroom environment. Yoon-Young had suggested we speak to a number of people who had worked closely with Ted Levine, her sponsor. We ended up with a lot of great stories and needed to decide how much of the case should be centered around Yoon-Young’s relationship with Ted and to what extent we should bring in these other voices. We ultimately decided to frame the case from her perspective and use quotes from the other interviews to help paint a picture of Ted’s work style and leadership.

As it turned out, the people who Yoon-Young referred us to are all really influential lawyers. Two of them are GCs of major financial organizations and others are practice leaders in big prestigious firms. Yoon-Young herself has been on the executive committee at WilmerHale for over ten years. This aspect of the case was unexpected and makes for a great point of discussion because the people who worked with Ted are not only great lawyers, but also have emerged as leaders in the profession. Of course we’ll never know how much Ted is responsible for their success, but they all certainly expressed to us that they felt he contributed significantly to their professional development.

EM: How did the students react to the case study? Did anything surprise you in the classroom? Any memorable experiences?

LR: One thing that surprised us a bit in the classroom was how strongly students felt (both positively and negatively) about Ted’s work style. We’ve taught the case with law firm professional development professionals and they were also split in terms of their evaluation of his approach. We have been really pleased to see what a vigorous discussion ensues as we debate the pros and cons of a style that is less about making the associate feel good and more about pushing them intellectually and sometimes emotionally. For people who have an initial distaste for Ted’s style, it’s been interesting to watch them change their mind as we work through the benefits of his approach. You can sometimes notice the light bulbs going on as they start to see a different perspective, which is really rewarding.

EM: What, if anything, would you do differently next time?

LR: One of the aspects of the relationship between Yoon-Young and Ted is that is grew pretty organically. It’s not something a firm could have engineered. We’d like to eventually pair this case with a second case that examines a law firm’s attempts to create a culture of sponsorship that would help promote women and minorities. In writing the case, we saw the opportunity to provide another case about what firms can do to more actively promote sponsorship behavior.

Posted in Case Development Initiative Blog Posts | Leave a comment

#1 Role Play Gets An Update

Product: Diego Primadonna

Brazil_&_Chile_match_at_World_Cup_2010-06-28_6Diego Primadonna, the top downloaded material from HLS Case Studies, has been updated to review the full Seven Elements of Negotiation.

In this negotiation simulation, an aging soccer star and a Brazilian soccer club broker a contract deal. During the negotiation, participants will practice probing for interests, creating value, defining the zone of possible agreement, and implementing distributional strategy.

The confidential roles remain the same, but the updated case expands the previous general instructions about options and criteria.  Based off of the classic elements of principled negotiation from Fisher and Ury’s Getting to Yes, Diego Primadonna’s new general information enumerates issues (that can translate to interests); alternatives; creative options; possible criteria (to prove legitimacy); communication; relationship; and commitment. The Seven Elements sheet should be distributed after participants negotiate the role play, to enhance the debrief discussion and elucidate additional strategies.

To download the new Diego Primadonna, visit HLS Case Studies. Educators and staff of non-profit institutions are eligible to receive review copies free of charge.

Posted in Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program Blog Posts | Leave a comment

5 Questions with Professor Robert Bordone: Creating a Storyboard to Support Learning Goals

Product: Hesperia Seed Initiative

Hesperia Seed Initiative, our latest simulation, has been years in the making, undergoing many classroom tests and iterations before publication. In our blog last month we introduced you to the multiparty role play, in which stakeholders negotiate the terms of an agricultural initiative regarding genetically modified seeds. Faculty author Professor Robert Bordone sat down to talk with us about the process and the possibilities of writing a simulation.

EM: What inspired the simulation?

Professor Bob Bordone

RB: We teach a unit on multiparty negotiation for our spring negotiation workshop, and for many years we used a case called Harborco. Many people have done it already, and we wanted to replace it in our curriculum with a new case that was hot right now. Hesperia bridges many of the worlds that our students go on to work in: it has NGOs, big multinational companies, government officials, university interests, public health issues, and food. All of our students have an interest in negotiation, but the context really varies: they go on to do government work, international work, domestic work. What’s neat about this case is that it’s all in there.

Plus, the topic of genetically modified seeds is a growing, live, important issue: there are issues of justice and issues of science. There’s a great New Yorker article from August called Seeds of Doubt, which talks about GMOs. We were often tracking some real-life entities in our minds as we built out different roles for the simulation.

But we didn’t start with the issue of GMOs. When we create a simulation, we first think about our learning points. Then we look for a vehicle or a story for those learning points: we have a brainstorming session, look at the newspaper, and see what’s interesting to the group. For Hesperia, we had a two-hour session. We asked ourselves: what are our interests with respect to these possible topics? We also wanted staying power. A case study might favor current events, but if you’re developing a simulation for years, you want it to last.

EM: What challenges and opportunities did the writing process present?

RB: Primarily, we needed to be able to educate our students about biotechnology. I’m not a food policy or science expert, nor was our target audience. We needed to write a case short enough to use in a basic negotiation class, but we needed to educate students enough to be versed for the negotiation.

Another challenge – which made the case unique – was the balance between scorable and nonscorable components. You have to test it a lot, because within the scorable parts, you want people to pay attention to the points. When you include nonscorable elements, it’s like an exhaust pipe, a release from the pressure of negotiating for points-based agreements. We needed to stress that the points still mattered.

In the early iterations, it was too easy to create value and make concessions outside of the point structure. It made the negotiation too easy. In real life, when you’re negotiating salary, perks matter, but the money is always important. In a simulation, it’s easier to disregard the money and accept the corner office instead.

But when we went the other direction and focused on the scorable components, no one talked about value-creating opportunities. A lot of the scorable games do not have interests embedded in them, only bottom lines. Those games might be fun, but there are fewer learning opportunities.

It was a challenge to create a point structure with the right ZOPA (zone of possible agreement), one with just the right number of possible agreements. With each change to the scoring grid, we had to track the whole storyboard: six parties and five issues.

Simulations are great opportunities to implement my teaching model: tell, show, do, review.  I can choose the learning goals and then put the storyboard around it. I find a story and characters, and make sure our students get excited about it. Food law is growing in popularity, and GMOs are among the most important security issues in the world, given climate change and a growing population. This case also discusses the distributional justice around food scarcity, and acknowledges the importance of business models in sustaining food security initiatives.

EM: What advice do you have for case writers and teachers in the legal classroom?

RB: Simulation writers (and case writers) should always start with a pedagogical reason for developing a case. It doesn’t work to start with a context. They need to think about the end of the case: what will the teaching points be? Then, they build a case around that. No matter how clear you think a case study or simulation is, you need to test it in the classroom, because people will read it differently.

I want teachers to know that this simulation can be used for many different pedagogical purposes. My advice is to know why you’re using it. It can be used to teach process, emotions, coalition formation, and more; the teaching note goes into some of these different approaches.

EM: How did the students react to the simulation?

RB: They loved it. It was one of those classes where class was over and they were hanging around, continuing to talk about it.  It had the amount of resonance I see from my most successful simulations and cases.

Instructors should be aware that students really get into the simulation. There can be a fair amount of emotion when they’re so embroiled in the issues.

EM: What else should we know about Hesperia?

RB: It’s not just for law school. I could envision it being used in public policy school, business school, the school of public health. And if people find innovative ways of teaching it, I want to hear their feedback!

Posted in Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program Blog Posts | 1 Comment