Zero-L by Harvard Law School

Zero-L teaches foundational legal concepts and demystifies the law school experience. Students learn the rudiments of the U.S. legal system, legal vocabulary, how to read a case and more in a flexible, on-demand format, helping law schools ensure everyone starts with a common baseline of knowledge.

Legal Knowledge that Lays the Groundwork for Success

Zero-L covers:

  • ESSENTIAL LEGAL CONCEPTS FROM FIRST-YEAR COURSES
  • THE ORGANIZATION OF THE FEDERAL AND STATE COURT SYSTEMS
  • HOW TO READ, ANALYZE, AND BRIEF A CASE
  • THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND CAREER OPTIONS FOR LAW STUDENTS
  • CONNECTIONS BETWEEN LAW AND OTHER DISCIPLINES

Law School Testimonials

“Zero-L enables us to connect with incoming students in a way that prepares them for law school and eases their nerves. It provides an important supplement to orientation and directly serves our access mission.”


Dionne Koller
Associate Dean, Professor of Law and the Director of the Center for Sport and the Law, University of Baltimore School of Law
“Zero-L helps incoming 1Ls build a solid foundation and prepare to hit the ground running on day one of law school.”


Victoria McCoy Dunkley
Assistant Teaching Professor and Director, Academic Success Program, Northeastern University School of Law

Zero-L Modules and Lessons

Engaging learning experiences that ease the transition from undergraduate or professional work environment to law student.

INTRO TO ZERO-L

Students are introduced to Zero-L’s structure and goals.

This module includes:

  • OVERVIEW OF ZERO-L CONTENT
  • INTRO TO THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
  • INTRO TO THE FACULTY LEADERS
HOW TO READ A CASE AND UNDERSTAND PRECEDENT

Students prepare to read a case (an essential tool in law school from day one) and understand the precedential effect of prior cases. This module also includes an introduction to typical kinds of common law arguments.

Lessons include:

  • HOW TO READ A CASE
  • COMMON KINDS OF LAW ARGUMENTS
  • PRECEDENT: WHAT DOES THE DECISION MEAN FOR FUTURE CASES?
INTRO TO LAW AND THE COURT SYSTEMS

Students are introduced to the set-up of the U.S. legal system and the lawyer’s role in it. They’ll learn about the structures of the federal and state court systems, the order of authorities in each system, and key distinctions in types and sources of law in the U.S.

Lessons include:

  • KINDS OF LAW
  • THE FEDERAL COURT SYSTEM
  • THE STATE COURT SYSTEMS
A PREVIEW OF 1L COURSES

Students preview the content and organizing principles of 1L Courses.

Lessons include:

  • THE STAGES OF CIVIL LITIGATION
  • INTRODUCTION TO CRIMINAL LAW
  • INTRODUCTION TO TORT LAW
WORKING WITH STATUTES

Students are introduced to the statutes, learn the many steps for a bill to become a law, and receive an introduction to how judges interpret statutes. 

Lessons include:

  • HOW A BILL BECOMES LAW
  • HOW TO READ A STATUTE: INTRODUCTION
  • HOW TO READ A STATUTE: TOOLS OF INTERPRETATION
LEGAL THEORY AND SCHOLARSHIP

Students are introduced to some of the larger theoretical questions raised by law, such as rules versus standards, ex ante versus post perspectives, and how legal scholarship connects the study of law to the methods of other disciplines.

Lessons include:

  • RULES VS. STANDARDS
  • EX ANTE VS. EX POST
  • USING ECONOMICS TO ANALYZE LEGAL QUESTIONS
INTRO TO THE LEGAL PROFESSION

Students are introduced to the U.S. legal profession, different kinds of lawyering, and the skills involved in giving legal advice.

Lessons include:

  • LAWYERS: WHO ARE THEY AND WHAT DO THEY DO?
  • THE SKILLS INVOLVED IN GIVING LEGAL ADVICE
  • KINDS OF LAWYERING
TEST DRIVE: APPLYING LEARNING

Students apply their learning by analyzing a brand new case and trying their hand at “briefing” it. They practice writing out the four things that students most commonly cover in a case brief: the facts, procedural history, holding, and rationale. They then get to compare their work to a sample brief for the case and go deeper into the case.

This exercise includes:

  • A PRACTICE CASE
  • A BRIEFING EXERCISE AND SAMPLE CASE BRIEF
  • A CASE DEEP DIVE
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Learn foundational legal knowledge.

Randall L. Kennedy

Michael R. Klein Professor of Law


Comprehension checks assess legal knowledge.

I. Glenn Cohen

James A. Attwood and Leslie Williams Professor of Law and Faculty Director for the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology & Bioethics


Learn foundational legal knowledge.

Annette Gordon-Reed

Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History, Harvard Law School, and Professor of History, Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences