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Founded in 1817, Harvard Law School is the oldest continually operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world. (William & Mary Law School opened in 1779, but closed due to the American Civil War, reopening in 1920. The University of Maryland School of Law was chartered in 1816, but did not begin classes until 1824, and also closed during the Civil War.)
Approximately 1,990 students attend HLS each year: 1,750 J.D. students, 180 LL.M. students, 60 S.J.D. candidates. The faculty includes more than 100 full-time professors and more than 150 visiting professors. The curriculum of more than 260 courses and seminars covers a broad range of traditional and emerging legal fields.
Harvard Law School is a place for people who love ideas that make a difference in the world. HLS is alive with thinking, research, and advocacy. We address law’s interaction with public policy, ethics, business, information and biomedical technologies, and human needs and perceptions. We invite close analysis of institutions, rules, and practices—and also of their potentially unintended consequences in people’s lives. Fundamentally, our community of faculty, staff, students, and alumni advance law and justice in service of society.
In July 1817, the creation of the Law School was announced with the promise that students would “have access to a complete law library.” The library was housed in the office of the University Professor of Law, and had a budget of $681.74.
In 1820, the Library had 584 titles. Three years later the Joseph Story collection of over 1,000 books was added. In 1832, the Library was moved to Dane Hall. By 1841 there were 6,100 volumes in the collection, enough to allow “the student to verify every citation which is made in Blackstone’s Commentaries.”
The above LSAT and GPA data pertain to the fall 2016 entering class.
*Medians have been calculated by averaging the 25th- and 75th-percentile values released by the law schools and have been rounded up to the nearest whole number for LSAT scores and to the nearest one-hundredth for GPAs.
|Director of admissions||Jessica Soban|
|Application deadline||February 1|
|Approximate number of applications||5,454|
Law School Admissions details based on 2016 data.
|Tuition and fees Full-time:||$60,638 per year|
|Room and board||$22,262|
The grading system for J.D. Students is described briefly below. It is important to highlight that there is no published curve with respect to the distribution of grades and that there are no class rankings.For additional information about grading, please visit grading section of the Handbook of Academic Policies
Honors, Pass, Low Pass or Fail Grades
All Harvard Law School courses, seminars, clinicals and written work – with the exception of courses offered Credit/Fail (see Credit/ Fail below) – will be graded Honors, Pass, Low Pass, or Fail (“H, P, LP, or F”).
Dean’s Scholar Prizes
Dean’s Scholar Prizes may be awarded to J.D. students in recognition of outstanding work in classes with seven or more Harvard Law School J.D. and LL.M. students following the drop/add period.
All reading groups and independent clinicals, and certain courses with prior approval from the Vice Dean for Academic Programming, will be graded on a Credit/Fail basis. Faculty may not award Credit/Fail grades without prior consultation with the Vice Dean for Academic Programming.
All work done at foreign institutions as part of the Law School’s study abroad programs will be graded on a Credit/Fail basis.
Dean’s Scholar Prizes may not be awarded in courses graded on a Credit/Fail basis.
Harvard Law Review
Forty-six editors are invited to join the Review each year. Twenty editors are selected based solely on their competition scores. Seven editors, one from each 1L section, shall be selected based on an equally weighted combination of competition scores and 1L grades. Three editors shall be selected based on an equally weighted combination of competition scores and 1L grades, without regard to section. Sixteen editors shall be selected through a holistic but anonymous review that takes into account all available information. No student is invited to join the Law Review without first completing the writing competition.
A student who completes the requirements for the J.D. degree with distinction will receive the degree cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude.
Latin honors at graduation will be based on the average of the three annual grade point averages (GPA). GPA will be calculated for each year of study and then averaged across the three years to determine Latin honors.
For all students, in calculating annual GPAs, each grade, including the Dean’s Scholar Prize, is weighted in accordance with the number of credits earned in the course.
|summa cum laude||4.75 GPA|
|magna cum laude||Next 10% of the graduating class|
|Cum laude||Next 30% of the graduating class|
|Name of Award||Awarded for/to|
|Addison Brown Prize||The bequest of Addison Brown, LL.B. 1855, established a prize to be awarded annually or biannually for the best essay written by a student on a subject related to private international law or maritime law. This year the award is $9,000. A paper can be submitted in accordance with the instructions above or nominated for consideration by any instructor under whose supervision the paper was written during the academic year.|
|Animal Law & Policy Program Writing Prize||The Animal Law & Policy Program awards, annually, up to two prizes to the Harvard Law Students writing the best papers in the field of Animal Law and Policy, or in a related field addressing a topic that directly pertains to animals (such as Environmental Law, Food Law, International Law). The papers eligible for consideration will be ones written during the current academic year, in conjunction with a course, seminar, clinic, graduate degree, or as an independent study project at the Law School. The amount of each prize is $1,000.|
|Victor Brudney Prize||This prize was established by the Program on Corporate Governance in honor of Professor Victor Brudney, Robert B. and Candice J. Haas Professor in Corporate Finance Law, Emeritus. This prize may be awarded annually to the best student paper on a topic related to corporate governance. The amount of the prize is $1,000.|
|Davis Polk Legal Profession Paper Prize||The purpose of this prize is to encourage deeper reflection and consideration by HLS students about their chosen profession, its role in society, and the many challenges that lawyers face in a rapidly-changing world. Paper topics must relate to the legal profession itself or to a related aspect of the delivery of professional services. This could include (but is not limited to) topics such as legal careers, the management of law firms, legal departments, and other legal service providers, diversity or gender-related issues, the impact of globalization or other social trends upon the profession, the role of lawyers and legal institutions in society, changes in the profession over time, comparisons between lawyers and other professional service providers, and the like. The amount of the prize is $1,000.|
|Roger Fisher and Frank E.A. Sander Prize||This prize was established in 2007 by the Program on Negotiation in honor of Professors Roger Fisher, the Williston Professor of Law, Emeritus, and Frank E.A. Sander, the Bussey Professor of Law, Emeritus. This prize may be awarded annually to the best student paper on a topic related to negotiation, dispute systems design, mediation, dispute resolution, or ADR. Professional school students currently enrolled in a PON-affiliated degree-granting program at Harvard, MIT, or the Fletcher School at Tufts are eligible for the prize. The amount of the prize is $1,000. The winner’s name will also be engraved on a wall plaque to be displayed at the Program on Negotiation. Please note: the deadline for paper submissions for this prize is May 5, 2017.|
|Yong K. Kim ’95 Memorial Prize||This prize was established by the East Asian Legal Studies program in memory of Yong K. Kim A.B. ’92, J.D. ’95 through the generosity of his parents, Professor and Mrs. Joe H. Kim, his family, and many friends at and beyond the Law School. A prize of $1,500 is awarded to the student who makes the most significant contribution to the life of the Law School’s East Asian Legal Studies program. That contribution may take several forms. It may entail authorship of a paper concerning the law or legal history of the nations and peoples of East Asia, or legal issues concerning international relations in the region or with the United States. Alternatively, it may entail active and creative participation in EALS and the fostering of understanding at Harvard Law School regarding East Asia and its interaction with the U.S. The prize recipient should also possess Yong Kim’s interest in and enthusiasm for fostering U.S.-East Asian understanding and plan a career that will further advance these interests. Papers may be written in conjunction with a course or seminar or as an independent study project at the Law School. This prize has special submission instructions. Please check the Prize Submission Instructions page for more information.|
|Islamic Legal Studies Program Prize on Islamic Law||ILSP will award a prize of $1,000 annually to the Harvard Law School student writing the best paper in the field of Islamic law or on the intersection between other religious legal traditions and Islamic law. Papers eligible for consideration will be ones written during the current academic year, addressing any topic in Islamic legal history and theory, Islamic law and society, and Islamic comparative law – including these topics as related to other religious legal traditions.|
|Laylin Prize||The Laylin Prize was established in memory of John Gallup Laylin, J.D. 1928, by his firm, Covington & Burling LLP. A prize of $4,000 is awarded for the best paper written by a student in the field of public international law. To be considered, a paper must be nominated by the faculty supervisor. A paper is eligible for nomination if it was written during the current academic year for Law School credit (or to fulfill a Law School degree requirement) and if the supervisor deems it to be the best paper that he or she has supervised on the topic during that same year.|
|LGBTQ Writing Prize||This prize may be awarded annually to the best student paper concerning Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer legal issues. The amount of the prize is $1,000.|
|Mancini Prize||Established in honor of Federico Mancini, a judge of the European Court of Justice, the Mancini Prize is awarded annually to the student writing the best paper in the field of European law and European legal thought. The paper should be one written during the current academic year and must relate to European law. The prize is $2,000.|
|Irving Oberman Memorial Awards||The bequest of Isabel B. Oberman established this award in 1973 in memory of her husband, Irving Oberman, A.B. 1917. It provides for an annual prize of $1,000 to be awarded by the dean for the best paper by a student of the School on each of seven current legal subjects. In the academic year 2016-2017, papers addressing topics in the following subject areas will be eligible for Oberman Awards: Bankruptcy; Constitutional Law: Separation of Powers, Federalism and the Fourteenth Amendment; Environmental Law; Family Law; Intellectual Property; Law and Social Change; and Legal History.|
|John M. Olin Prize in Law and Economics||This is a $1,000 prize for any outstanding student paper applying economic analysis of law to a legal topic. Generally, the prize is awarded in May each year. This prize has special submission instructions. Please check the Prize Submission Instructions page for more information.|
|Project on the Foundations of Private Law Prize||Established in 2011 by the Project on Private Law at Harvard Law School. This prize may be awarded annually to the best student paper on a topic related to private law. The amount of the prize is $1,000.|
|Sidney I. Roberts Prize Fund||This prize was established by Roberts & Holland LLP in honor of its founding partner and his significant work in the area of tax law. The fund provides an annual prize of $5,000 for the best student paper in the field of taxation. The papers can be written in conjunction with a course or seminar or as an independent study project at the Law School.|
|Klemens von Klemperer Prize||The Klemens von Klemperer Prize Fund was established in 2013 by the von Klemperer family as a tribute to the late Professor Klemens von Klemperer and his many decades of dedication to teaching and motivating students. The fund provides support for the Klemens von Klemperer Prize, to be awarded annually to the Harvard Law School student who writes the most compelling essay on the subject of Resistance. Students are encouraged to consider a broad range of issues and ideas; interdisciplinary links to subjects outside the strict study of law such as History, Literature, Religion, Art, Philosophy, and Technology are encouraged. Consideration will also be given to Resistance issues as they arise in other countries, including those which involve international relations. The amount of the prize is $3,000 and the winning student will be expected to attend a dinner to be held on April 21, 2017. Please note: the deadline for paper submissions for this prize is extended to 12:00pm ET on Monday, April 3, 2017.|
|Stephen L. Werner Prize||Through a bequest made by Edith L. Fisch, in memory of her late husband from the HLS class of 1932, the Steven L. Werner Prize was established in 2009. The Werner Prize will be awarded annually to the Harvard Law School Student writing the best paper in the field of criminal justice, including (but not limited to) criminal law theory, substantive criminal law, criminal procedure, legal ethics in the criminal context, and comparative and international criminal law and institutions. Students may submit only one paper each for this prize. The prize is $1000. A paper can be submitted in accordance with the instructions above, or nominated for consideration by any instructor under whose supervision the paper was written during the academic year.|
Harvard Business Law Review - The Harvard Business Law Review (HBLR) stands at the intersection of law and business. Publishing thematic issues that feature short, policy-oriented essays from academics, practitioners, and regulators, HBLR promises to bridge the worlds of theory and practice. For students, the journal provides an unmatched opportunity to engage with business law beyond the classroom.
Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review - Founded in 1966 as a “journal of revolutionary constitutional law,” the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review has become the nation’s leading progressive law journal. Our mission is to promote social change and intellectual debate through the publication and advancement of innovative legal scholarship, and we are committed to exploring new directions and perspectives in the struggle for social justice and equality. CR-CL fosters progressive dialogue within the legal community by publishing two issues annually, featuring innovative articles. Recent volumes address such issues as affirmative action, civil liberties in the aftermath of September 11th, housing and employment discrimination, the rights of immigrants, and criminal justice. CR-CL is also committed to fostering progressive dialogue on the Harvard Law School campus and serves as an intellectual and social meeting place for a diverse group of progressive students. Visit harvardcrcl.org for more information.
Harvard Environmental Law Review - The Harvard Environmental Law Review is one of the nation’s leading environmental law journals, and has been dedicated to publishing high-quality, cutting-edge scholarship for over 30 years. ELR publishes two issues each year on a wide variety of topics, including climate change, air and water pollution regulation, energy, land use, international environmental law, administrative law, and law and economics. ELR is committed both to making major contributions to the field of environmental law and to providing substantive learning opportunities to its staff.
Harvard Human Rights Journal - The Harvard Human Rights Journal publishes two issues annually in conjunction with the Law School’s Human Rights Program. The Journal provides a forum for scholarship on a broad range of topics related to human rights, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law. The Journal publishes cutting-edge pieces by academics, human rights practitioners, government and international organization officials, and law students alike. The Journal also hosts an annual Human Rights Conference at the Law School.
Harvard International Law Journal - The oldest and most-cited student-edited journal of international law, the Harvard International Law Journal covers a wide variety of topics in public and private international law. The Journal publishes articles and comments in international, comparative, and foreign law, as well as the role of international law in U.S. Courts and the international ramifications of U.S. domestic law. The ILJ also publishes student-written work. In addition to an annual Student Note Competition, the ILJ publishes student-written pieces on recent developments in international law and reviews of new books in the field.
Harvard Journal of Law & Gender - The Harvard Journal of Law and Gender, formerly the Harvard Women’s Law Journal, is among the nation’s foremost student-edited feminist law journals. Since its first publication in 1978, the Journal has been devoted to developing and advancing feminist jurisprudence and to combining legal analysis with political, economic, historical, and sociological perspectives. In recent years, the Journal has published leading articles by professors, practitioners, and students on varied topics, including domestic violence, sexual harassment, reproductive rights, transgender legal rights, and women in the military.
Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy - The Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy is one of the five most widely circulated student-edited law journals in the country, making it the leading forum for conservative and libertarian legal scholarship. The Journal publishes three issues each year on a broad range of legal and public policy topics. Recent articles have explored issues such as military commissions, gun control, the First Amendment, judicial confirmations, same-sex marriage, racial desegregation, the Patriot Act, and originalism. The Journal has published symposia on Law and the War on Terrorism, International Law and the Constitution, and Law and Freedom.
Harvard Journal of Law & Technology - Since its inception in 1988, the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology has published writings by academics, practitioners, and policymakers on a variety of topics, including intellectual property, biotechnology, e-commerce, space law, computer law, cybercrime, the Internet, and telecommunications. JOLT is the most cited legal technology journal in the world, and in the top three of all specialty journals, nationwide. During the academic year, the Journal hosts lectures, panel discussions, and an annual Symposium dedicated to promoting knowledge of technology and the law. As technology advances and the law concurrently develops, JOLT will continue to have an influential role in the ongoing interchange between these two fields. This year, JOLT is pioneering a radical new online initiative that will bring together, in one place, all developments in the field of law and technology.
Harvard Journal on Racial and Ethnic Justice - Founded by the Black Law Students Association, the vision of the journal is to advance progressive legal scholarship by focusing on the intersection of race, class, gender, and the law. The journal seeks to promote a conscientious and honest dialogue on issues of race and class in the law through publishing articles by academics, practitioners, and students. Past issues have presented a tribute to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and a forum reexamining the impact of Brown v. Board of Education, 35 years after the initial decision.
Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law - The Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law (JSEL) provides the academic community, the sports and entertainment industries, and the legal profession with scholarly analysis and research related to the legal aspects of the sports and entertainment world. The legal issues raised in these fields frequently draw from areas as diverse as antitrust law, civil procedure, constitutional law, contract law, corporate law, copyright law, labor law, and real estate law. JSEL serves as a forum in which scholars from these and other disciplines can discuss the law as it relates specifically to the sports and entertainment industries and the unique issues raised therein. JSEL strives to be the premier source for academic analysis of these issues, such that scholars, industry professionals, news media, and the general public turn to JSEL when complicated legal issues arise in the sports and entertainment community.
Harvard Journal on Legislation - The Harvard Journal on Legislation is the foremost student-edited journal on legislation and legislative reform. Published twice a year, the Journal presents pieces from academics, members of Congress, practitioners, and current students. In addition, one issue each year features articles developed around the annual symposium on an important topic of public policy. The Journal deals with a range of legislative topics, including Affirmative Action, punitive damages, family law, executive agency regulation, and anti-terrorism legislation.
Harvard Latino Law Review - The Harvard Latino Law Review provides a forum for the scholarly discussion of legal issues affecting Latinos and Latinas in the United States. Recent articles have addressed issues including education, the impact of NAFTA, corporate responsibility, and acoustic segregation. HLLR also promotes Latino scholarship through the annual publication of a conference or symposium on Latino legal issues.
Harvard Law & Policy Review - The Harvard Law & Policy Review provides a prominent forum for debate and discussion of innovative progressive and moderate legal policy ideas, analysis and proposals. The Review invites innovative approaches to policy challenges by progressive legal scholars, policymakers, and practitioners. HLPR serves as a nexus between the worlds of academia, policy-making, and practice, with a focus on promoting first-rate scholarship with practical application to societal challenges. HLPR is the official national journal of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS).
National Security Journal - NSJ is a student-edited, faculty- and practitioner-advised, online academic journal. It serves both as a contribution to the universe of ideas surrounding national security law and policy and as a source for updates on relevant fields. NSJ welcomes article submissions from both academics and practitioners in the national security field. Preference is given to relatively brief pieces so as to facilitate a broad range of submissions, readership and discourse.
Harvard Negotiation Law Review - The Harvard Negotiation Law Review is a semi-annual journal dedicated to publishing academic articles on alternative dispute resolution that would be of interest to legal scholars, professionals, and practitioners. Alternative dispute resolution is the fastest growing section of the American bar Association and has become a primary focus of research and scholarship in the legal profession. HNLR publishes on topics as diverse as the role of religious fundamentalism in international negotiations the success rate of student mediations in elementary schools, and game theoretic approaches to negotiation.
Unbound – Harvard Journal of the Legal Left - Unbound is an online journal of the legal left at Harvard Law School and also the community of left-affiliated students, professors, and practitioners who publish it. Unbound’s central project is to stake out a space for left legal work that incorporates both new politics and new critical theory, while maintaining both systemic critique and productive self-interrogation. In recent years Unbound editors have published articles concerning international law, sexuality, immigration, race, and economics, and this past spring they hosted a major symposium on resistance and the law.
The Upper-Level Ames Moot Court Competition was established in 1911 as the result of a bequest by the late Dean James Barr Ames. The Board of Student Advisers is charged with administrating the Competition, which over the years has become one of the most-anticipated events on the Harvard Law School calendar. Click here for a list of past winners of the Competition.
The Competition takes place in three rounds, beginning with the Qualifying Round (held in the fall of competitors’ 2L year), followed by the Semi-Final Round (held in the spring of competitors’ 2L year), and culminating in the Final Round (held in the fall of competitors’ 3L year).
Harvard Law School Clinics provide students with hands-on legal experience under the supervision of attorneys who are not only great practitioners but also trained in individually educating and mentoring students. With clinical placements through In-house Clinics (internal to HLS with an on-campus office) and Externship Clinics with hundreds of placements at independent organizations outside of HLS, in more than 30 areas of the law, in both public and private sectors, and the opportunity for students to create their own independent projects, HLS offers more clinical opportunities than any law school in the world.
There are 18 In-house clinics (internal to Harvard Law School with an on-campus office), taught by 15 Clinical Professors of Law and more than 60 Clinical Instructors and Lecturers on Law. Each clinic is tied to a classroom component, in which clinical experiences supplement and contribute to further discussion, bringing to bear many aspects of the law and particular issues.
Externship Clinics Harvard Law School offers 11 Externship Clinics with hundreds of placements at government agencies and organizations across the United States. Like the In-house clinics, they are taught by faculty and experienced attorneys who are experts in their field. Each clinic is accompanied by a required course component, where students get the opportunity to reflect on the legal issues they work on throughout the semester.
Some of HLS’s externship clinics include:
The Continuing Clinical Program - Some students may be invited back by a clinic for another semester to complete cases/projects and perform advanced clinical work. With approval of the clinic, the Continuing Clinical Program allows a student to continue their clinical work into subsequent semesters and across academic years. Students must complete the required number of clinical hours in order to receive academic credit. Independent clinical projects are not eligible for continuing clinical credit. Students must have the consent of the clinical supervisor and Clinical Faculty Director in order for the Continuing Clinical application to be reviewed.
The Independent Clinical Program - The Independent Clinical Program is designed for students who are interested in a specialized area of the law or field of practice that is not currently offered in Harvard Law School’s existing clinical curriculum. Students may do an independent clinical project in the Fall, Winter, or Spring term. They may work at organizations throughout the United States and around the world during the winter term only. A number of students take the opportunity to work away from campus during the Winter term.
Starting Salaries (2014 Graduates Employed Full-Time)
|Private sector (25th-75th percentile)||$160,000|
|Median in the private sector||$160,000|
|Median in public service||$60,000|
|Graduates known to be employed at graduation||87.3%|
|Graduates known to be employed ten months after graduation||91%|
Areas of Legal Practice
|Graduates Employed In||Percentage|
|Business and Industry||5.1%|
|Public Interest Organizations||10.7%|
Harvard Law School offers 11 Externship Clinics with hundreds of placements at government agencies and organizations across the United States. Like the In-house clinics, they are taught by faculty and experienced attorneys who are experts in their field. Each clinic is accompanied by a required course component, where students get the opportunity to reflect on the legal issues they work on throughout the semester.
The Petrie-Flom Center Student Internship program has hosted Harvard undergraduate and graduate students with an interest in the Center’s work. We particularly welcome applications from students studying health policy, philosophy, bioethics, law, medicine, business economics, and the sciences, as well as those interested in technology and communications. In the past, the internship has involved two primary components: (1) attendance at the Center's events, including the Health Law Policy and Bioethics Workshop at Harvard Law School, as well as other lectures and panel discussions; and (2) assistance with Center projects, such as blogging at Bill of Health, content development for our website, and other research and writing.
One of the best ways to get essential international public service experience and enhance your knowledge and skills is through a summer internship. Because the internship experience can vary wildly depending on the particularities of your host organization, we offer the following words of advice for researching and preparing for a summer internship: Before applying for an internship, you should try to ensure that your interests, strengths and goals are a good match for the organization you have in mind. Research organizations through their websites or other print information and contact past interns. In some cases, the organization you are researching may be able to refer you to a non-staff member (such as a former intern) with whom you can speak about the work of the organization and/or living and working in the destination city or country.