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The Case of the Unpaid Interns

 Duncan Farthing-Nichol, with Todd Rakoff  
Product number:
40 pages
Product Type:
Workshop-Based Case Study
Link to Faculty Author Page:
For-Profit Trainers:
September 2015

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This simulation puts students into the role of the newly-appointed regulatory director of the fictional Felix Institute—a start-up incubator and policy advocate for school-to-work transitions.

There has recently been much debate on the validity of unpaid internships—a topic highly relevant to the Institute’s work. Students are given materials to review on both sides of the argument, and are asked to articulate an appropriate policy approach that fits into the current legal framework. Students must then defend their policy on their feet.

The simulation is taught in the Problem Solving Workshop at Harvard Law School, a required 1L course. It is also well suited for lawyering skills classes, simulation courses that encourage hands-on learning, and courses on lawyers as advocates.

Time allotted for teaching: in the HLS course, the case study is taught over three class periods, but could be condensed into one or two class periods. Students are tasked with writing a policy memo, devising a legal test to determine criteria for FLSA employee status, and presenting their proposal before a fictional board of directors.

Table of Contents

This problem set consists of three parts:

  • Part 1-The Problem First E-mail from Executive Director to You: An email assignment from the students’ boss asking for a policy position on unpaid internships.
  • Part 2-Problem Continued Second E-mail from Executive Director to You: An e-mail assignment from the students’ boss to write a proposed comment and a memo to the Board defending the comment.
  • Part 3 - Relevant Law A compilation of the relevant law

Learning Objectives

Primary Objective: Students will endeavor to articulate the appropriate policy approach to a controversial problem for which the best solution is not obvious, no matter where one sits on the political spectrum.

Secondary Objectives: Students will…

1) Develop the systems thinking necessary to address a multi-stakeholder policy problem as an independent advocate.
2) Appreciate the difficulty of making policy decisions with limited information.
3) Begin to understand the virtues and challenges of using statistics in policymaking.

Subjects Covered

Labor law 

Labor Rights Lawyers as Advocates 



Geographic: United States

Industry: Employment, Higher Education

Event Year Begin: January, 2016

Hard Copy

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