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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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#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.

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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!

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Case Studies Greatest Hits

As the year comes to a close, we’d like to share our greatest hits of 2014. Do you have our top cases and role plays yet?

Top Three New Cases of 2014:

  1. Sue the Consumer: Digital Copyright in the New Millennium (FREE)

An Advanced Problem Solving Workshop background note about the Recording Industry Association of America’s lawsuits against illegal fire-sharing and peer-to-peer music downloading, first directed at companies and later at downloaders. This note discusses the U.S. regime of statutory damages, relevant file-sharing technologies, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and gets readers to envision a future for end users and digital content.

  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (FREE)

A Problem Solving Workshop case in four installments that places participants in the role of new attorneys at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, tasked with interpreting the bureau’s statutory mandate to “consider the potential benefits and costs” of rulemakings. Part 1 of the case outlines the problem and relevant court decisions, while Part 2 asks participants to evaluate whether the agency has followed mandates, precedent, and best practices. Participants develop policy guidelines with respect to particular objectives in Part 3, and synthesize these guidelines into a memorandum in Part 4.

3. Set Sale!

A role play in which a law firm negotiates the sale a small collection of art to a museum. This role play introduces basic negotiation concepts and teaches students to manage distributive issues.

Ten Most Downloaded Cases of 2014:

1. Diego Primadonna

A negotiation role play in which a veteran soccer player tries to sign with a Brazilian football club experiencing a slump. In striking a deal, participants will practice probing for interests and creating value, in addition to learning about the zone of possible agreement and distributional strategy.

2. Ernest Shackleton’s Journey to the Endurance

A discussion-based case study about explorer Ernest Shackleton’s dramatic voyage to the Antarctic, a great example of effective teamwork and leadership in crisis.

3. The Case of the Medical Stent

A four-part Problem Solving Workshop case chronicling a contact negotiation about a medical device that ultimately fell apart. Aspects of the arrangement led either to litigation or to settlement. The case highlights the disparity between the negotiated arrangement and the lived relationship, and allows students to view contracting as a problem solving process. The case also delves into ethical issues and strategy.

4. The Case of the Commissioner’s Choice

A four-part hypothetical Problem Solving Workshop case based a real regulatory dilemma. A local Department of Health and Environment must decide whether to issue a permit to a coal power plant, considering public welfare, political aspirations, climate change, and job creation. Participants weed through a hefty administrative record to advise the department’s Commissioner about her legal authority and the repercussions of her decision. Participants will deliver both a memorandum and an oral presentation.

5. Three Vignettes on Pricing of Professional Services

A discussion-based case study with three examples of pricing: the first involves a client choosing between pricing structures for home renovation; the second discusses a client’s request to discount the firm’s services; and the third looks at how to respond to client requests for alternative fee arrangements. Participants weigh merits of various pricing structures, learn to balance a variety of factors, and make space for both creativity and standardization.

6. Client Service at Fraser and Stephens

A discussion-based case study presenting three situations at a mid-size law firm: the first involves a client complaint about a partner’s attitude and commitment; the second looks at the problem of a client’s proliferating work; and the third discusses the response needed when a client quietly hires co-counsel. Firm leaders and professionals can reflect on what it means to be client-oriented and service-focused.

7. Ellen Harvey

A discussion-based case study in which a partner at an accounting firm reflects on her success and mentoring. This case highlights the link between development and organizational performance as well as the ways senior professionals can mentor their colleagues.

8. Bingham McCutchen: Combinatorial Mathematics

A discussion-based case study about a local law firm’s rise to international prominence through a series of mergers. The case discusses inorganic growth, the logistics of acquisition and merger, and the challenges of managing a burgeoning firm. Participants will think about strategy, change management, and future trajectories.

9. Practice Economics in a Professional Partnership

A discussion-based case study about drivers of profitability in professional service partnerships and the relationships between these drivers. This case is excellent for management or business planning courses.

10. Harborco

A six-player, multi-issue scorable negotiation role play disputing the construction of a deep-water port. Harborco, the consortium interested in building the port, must promote buy-in and gain support from other stakeholders in order to obtain a necessary license. Participants learn more about coalition strategies and elementary utility analysis.

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New Multiparty Negotiation is (Not Entirely) about Keeping Score

New Product: Hesperia Seed Initiative

A philanthropic initiative to introduce genetically modified seeds on the island nation of Hesperia has great potential: either to save the food supply affected by climate change and insect blights, or to destroy the fragile biodiversity and local genetic resources. Citizens and officials alike have debated not only the impact of GMOs but also the corporate control of the project: by partnering with one agricultural company, the nation’s farmers risk establishing a crop lien dynamic or becoming helpless if the company ever cuts the seed supply.

Lettuce_seeds_(464344612)Although supporters of the seed initiative consider it possible to mitigate these risks, the President of Hesperia is not convinced. He has put a moratorium on the importation, sale, and use of genetically modified seeds—but is willing to reconsider if five of six stakeholder groups agree on five seed initiative policies.

Hesperia Seed Initiative, the latest role play package from Professor Robert Bordone, is an intermediate-to-advanced multiparty negotiation simulation. This case has six roles, representing the sponsoring philanthropic foundation, the agricultural company developing genetically modified seeds, an NGO with interests in food security, the national biosafety agency, a local seed research center, and the United Nations. For larger courses, instructors can set up multiple games or create teams to represent each role.

The negotiation is “scored” to bring out tensions between creating and claiming value: each player has a confidential points system that scales their relative interest in each of the five policy issues and sets a minimum threshold for accepting a policy proposal. In addition, each player has unquantified interests that can be used to leverage deals or create impasses. Multiparty negotiation simulations with both scorable and non-scorable components are rare, says Professor Bordone.

Participants will identify interests and create options in a complex negotiation; appreciate the importance of process; see multiparty relationships and coalition dynamics in action; and learn how to break impasses. The case comes with an extensive teaching note with four review plans:

  • Discussion of creating and distributing value
  • Discussion of multiparty process and coalitional dynamics
  • Circle chart analysis in game groups
  • Discussion of challenges, followed by class-wide circle chart analysis

Each review plan includes reflection on what worked well and what to do differently in the future.  The preparation, negotiation, and review takes about three hours, but the review can be extended for highly engaged groups.

Hesperia Seed Initiative is available on the Case Studies website. Registered educators, staff at non-profit institutions, and trainers are eligible for review copies free of charge.

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HBS Shares: How to Make Class Discussions Fair

The Participation Tracking Tool

Yesterday, we got to learn how our friends at Harvard Business School are thinking critically about call patterns and grading in case-based classes. HLS Case Studies came together with case-based programs across the university on Tuesday for the second meeting of the Harvard Affinity Group for Case Studies, an open partnership forged to share best practices and advance case-based learning.

Paul Craig

Paul Craig

At the meeting, Paul Craig, Associate Director of Learning Technologies at HBS’s Educational Technology Services, shared how HBS tracks class participation. Based on an earlier tool developed by Professor Benjamin Edelman with input from other faculty and the Christensen Center for Teaching and Learning, HBS created a custom tool that helps professors not only record participation, but also learn about their students.  Professors utilize the tool to understand both semester-long and class-by-class trends in discussion.

HBS operates primarily on the case study method of teaching. Professors are presented with a challenging environment for facilitating discussion: required courses at HBS enroll about 90 students in each section, all in seats preassigned by the registrar. At an institution where participation comprises up to 50% of a student’s grade, professors must fairly facilitate and assess discussions that last over an hour while avoiding distracting and scrutinizing behaviors like taking notes.

Willis Emmons, Director of the Christensen Center for Teaching and Learning at HBS, chimed in to explain that quality is co-produced by student and instructor: the more a professor stays with and probes a student, the more that student can develop a quality response. To grade fairly, professors must manage the discussion with both equity and depth.

Designed to address these concerns, the participation tracker is a web-based tool for easily logging the student’s name and comment, with live time-stamping enabled. While the professors lead discussion, staff scribes use the participation tracker to record comments. The tool also allows scribes to note whether a student was observed to be absent or cold-called. Rather than keep a full transcript of the class session, the scribes make brief notes to jog the professor’s memory about the comment. The scribes never read the case and thus intentionally cannot suggest the quality of the comment. The scribes rotate through the class sections to preclude any favoritism or student influence.

After class, the professor can review and edit the scribe’s notes, assign values to the participation, and mark excused and unexcused absences. The tool also provides web-based and print-out class cards with a student’s picture, background, and name pronunciation.

Once the participation grades are assigned and finalized, the tool offers the professor statistics that can improve her classroom facilitation. A color-coded report presented as a seating chart displays who spoke most recently, who participated the most or least, and who has gone the longest without participating in a class session. Statistics in other reports compare the demographic breakdown (male/female and US/non-US) of the class with the percentage of comments and cold-calls for each demographic. The same comparisons are applied to the rows and sections of a room, to see if a professor tends to call on, for example, the back of the class or the left side. To show progress, the tool also provides data about a student’s participation and a professor’s call patterns over time. With this information, professors can be more thoughtful about how to avoid bias and give every student a fair chance to speak.

The tool was designed to support the professor’s discretion: it is flexible enough to accommodate different participation grading systems, and the design of its analytics favors neither quality nor quantity of participation as a standard. Craig explains that the tool needed to be flexible to be adopted widely.

Craig’s team is exploring LTI (learning tool interoperability), with the potential to bring the participation tracker to other institutions.

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