thegoat2019 wrote:Anyone who's taken the Negotiation Workshop as their 1L Spring Elective have any thoughts on it? Is it worth having 8 hours of class every week, how much of a commitment is it, the substance of the class, etc. Thank you!
I'll give my two cents on this (I took it Spring of 1L and am a 3L now). The short version is that I think it's worth it some circumstances, but not as many as the course organizers would have you believe. And although I'm happy that I took the course while at HLS, I wish that I would have taken something else for my 1L elective.Course description.
I’ll start by describing the course. You meet twice a week from 5:00–9:00 or some similar time. Those hours will be divided into four roughly-equal increments: one hour of formal lecture, one hour of mock negotiation, one hour of reviewing the negotiation, and one hour of small-group discussion/lecture. It’s usually in that order, but not always. The class has about 140 people, which are further divided into 7 or so “working groups” of twenty people each. Everything except the formal lecture takes place in the small group. You get to know these people well, and I made a few lasting friendships out of mine.
The downside of this structure is that you’ll usually only spend about an hour per day doing actual negotiations, frequently much less. That’s not a negative in itself, but it is to the extent that it means the other three hours will be some variation of a lecture. The small group discussions are interactive, but it’s still a lot of material to get through—and it’s very often repetitive or dull. Meeting at night does not help attention levels, not to mention that it can make preparing for your other classes a bit more difficult. It’s essentially two weeknights per week that you’re not going to get much reading done, if any. Four hours is a long time, and even though 9:00 isn’t that late, I was usually too mentally/emotionally drained to meaningful preparation for class after the workshop met. You also have to prepare for the negotiations outside of class time, which takes maybe another hour or so per class. Lastly, although there is reading assigned for each class, I only know one person who ever did it.
The upside of the structure/course is that—due to the long hours—your interpersonal skills really do improve. At least mine did, and I think others from my working group would say the same. I’m not necessarily a better negotiator, but I’m absolutely a better communicator (some would say those are synonymous, but I digress). Another good thing about the course is that it’s fun. The negotiations are engaging and well thought out. The instructors are excellent, and it’s not a legal topic. There are a lot of cross registrants too. My small group featured MIT, HBS, HKS, and two other Harvard grad schools. It can be tough to really engage with those people as a 1L, but even seeing them on a weekly basis reminds you that there’s more to the world than law school.
As far as grading goes, the regular curve applies to 1Ls. You have to submit twice-monthly journal “reflections” of about 2000 words or so. Then there’s a “final journal” (longer length) and a research paper. I think every working-group leader grades differently. For mine, I think that classroom participation and thoughtful journals were a prerequisite for an H, but not a guarantee. In other words, you have to take all aspects of the course seriously in order to get an H.
I’ll also say that I think the people who run the program WAY overhype it to 1Ls. It’s actually not all that tough to get in (I think my year there were <10 1Ls who wanted it but didn’t get it), it’s not universally recognized by employers as a positive signal, and it’s not going to change your life. People for whom it was the best class in law school are in the minority. So don’t get oversold at the pitch meeting.
Having an accurate picture of the course is the first half of your decision. The second half is comparing the course to your other options.Which 1Ls should take the course?
I think the course makes a lot of sense for transactional types, especially people who are going to focus on deal work. You’ll meet some like-minds, and the course goes a along way towards improving your “bedside manner” with clients and opposing parties. Taking this course is also a no-brainer for HBS dual-degree students and for HLS students who are looking to make the jump to consulting (assuming the B-school doesn’t have a better analog?). I’m not certain, but I think transactional employers recognize it as a good/worthwhile choice.
It should also go without saying that this course makes sense for anyone who wants to take Deals or other offerings for which the Workshop is a prerequisite. For people who are focusing generally on corporate work, it might make more sense to take corporations as your elective depending on which areas of corporate law you are more interested in. It’s probably also a good call for people who don’t know what they want to do.Which 1Ls should think twice before taking the course?
Would-be litigators and clerks should not take this course as 1Ls. That’s a strong point, but I think it holds. I’m going into litigation. Out of everyone I interviewed with—screeners, callbacks, judges etc.—precisely no one was impressed that I took it. Most people didn’t know what it was, which meant that more than a few times I was left explaining why—upon my first opportunity to choose my coursework—I elected to take a mushy, vaguely transactional-sounding Workshop. It’s not impossible to give a good answer to that question, but you’re better off if it doesn’t arise in the first place, especially for 1L private-sector interviews.
For EIP, it may not matter as much. If you’ve got the grades for litigation, you’re probably going to be ok. But for clerking it’s a different story. Now that all the feeder/fancy judges interview during the summer following 1L, you’ve really only got one slot on your transcript to demonstrate to the judge what kind of student you are and what you’re interested in. Much better to take something like Admin or 14th (subjects that judges are equipped to talk about and interested to quiz you on). I realize this advice only applies to 20% or so of students, but I really can’t emphasize enough how useless it would be to take this class as a 1L for future clerks and litigators. But perhaps others will have a different view.Closing thoughts.
Negotiation is a fun class—the most fun that I had at HLS (though nowhere near my favorite class). However, unless you’re really interested in the material or need it as a prereq, I’d think twice about taking it as a 1L. Between the class (8 hours), preparing for negotiations (2 hours), and writing the journals (2 hours), the workshop easily takes more time than a black letter course like Admin or 14th. Even if you slack off, you’ve still gotta be in class 8 hours a week minimum, and you’re not allowed to skip or miss.
For anyone who knows what they want to do, I think the best use of the 1L elective is to get a headstart in understanding your field. For some, the Workshop fits that bill. For the rest, I’d consider taking something else. The workshop isn’t an easy H, it’s not a blow off class, you can’t miss it, and it takes a bunch of time. All of which means that it’s also not the right course for people who are burnt out from 1L Fall and want to pad their schedule.
Finally, I'll add the usually disclaimer that all of this is just my opinion. I’m sure there are divergent views that are equally supportable. The only thing I’d really fight for here is that aspiring clerks/HLR/magna/lit-boutique types should steer clear of this, at least for 1L.
ETA that this post is directed at 1Ls who are considering NW as their spring elective.