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Educator Community

Using Your Harvard Law Case Study

Why use case studies? 

Case studies encourage

---> student participation

---> persuasive speaking

---> learning from others' diverse knowledge and points of view

---> critical thinking and problem solving

---> hands-on learning through class role plays and exercises.

Who uses case studies? 

Case studies are used in undergraduate, graduate, executive education, and professional development courses, workshops, and seminars.

Harvard Business School pioneered the use of case studies in its curriculum, but several other Harvard professional schools (such as the medical school and the graduate schools of education and public health) have all employed case studies.

How is a typical case study taught in a law class?

For a discussion-based case study, instructors may assign questions prior to class to focus students on the particular issues, then use those questions as the launching pad for a lively class discussion. Instructors may identify students who hold opposing views and ask questions designed to stimulate debate; they encourage input from others on both sides of the issue until the students uncover most or all of the learning points identified in advance by the instructor. 

Workshop-based case studies use class disucssion of key topics, but also include some type of exercise, simulation, or role play. Often students are required to work alone or in groups to produce work product, such as a legal brief, a press release, draft legislation, or legal opinion.