Harvard Law School
The information on this page was provided by the law school.
Official Guide to ABA-Approved JD Programs
Harvard Law School (HLS) combines the resources of the world’s premier center for legal education and research with an educational environment designed to enrich individual and interactive learning. The result is a uniquely vibrant and collaborative community. Harvard’s scope generates enormous vitality through its depth of academic options, wide array of research programs, diverse student body drawn from across the nation and around the world, and global network of distinguished alumni. Harvard Law School offers students a curriculum of unparalleled breadth: more than 500 courses, seminars, and reading groups that together reflect the remarkable range of the faculty’s expertise and interests. Law students have many opportunities for intellectual engagement with faculty and classmates. Over 240 of our courses and small group seminars have fewer than 25 students enrolled. First-year sections have 80 students, and opportunities to work directly with faculty members abound. For example, all first-year students may join intimate (fewer than 15 students), faculty-led reading groups on topics ranging from cyberlaw to climate change to terrorism. Subsequently, reading group participants can rely on the faculty leader of those small groups as their advisor throughout their time at HLS. Harvard’s extensive resources and collaborative approach create unmatched opportunities to prepare for leadership in public service, private practice, the judiciary, academia, business, or government.
HLS strongly promotes public service. The school guarantees funding for summer public interest work, and over 430 JD students received funds to work throughout the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries in 2017. The Office of Public Interest Advising provides comprehensive services to students pursuing public service careers. The Low Income Protection Plan allows graduates substantial financial flexibility to pursue lower-paying employment, and a variety of fellowship programs provide additional support to graduates entering public service. Reflecting its public service commitment, HLS has a 50-hour minimum pro bono work requirement, with students actually completing an average of 586 hours of pro bono work during law school.
The centerpiece of the HLS experience is working directly with scholars who shape the landscape of American and international law. The faculty includes leading specialists in every subject area. Beyond the classroom, students and faculty produce cutting-edge research and influence the development of the law and of societies around the world.
Programs of Study
To guide students as they move through the three years of law school and to create a tool for better coordination and collaboration between faculty members, the faculty has developed “programs of study.” Students do not sign up for any program; nor should any student feel compelled to adhere to one. Instead, the programs of study reflect the best advice from faculty about how to approach particular subjects and potential careers. The seven programs of study offer suggestions about how students can navigate our extensive course offerings with a sense of their relationship to different avenues of study and opportunities to move progressively through more advanced work before graduation. The programs of study can give students a picture of how different courses and seminars can relate to the work of practicing lawyers and academics, and how clinical work, summer opportunities, and fellowships also enhance your learning and development.
The seven programs of study are:
- Criminal Justice
- International and Comparative Law
- Law and Business
- Law and Government
- Law and History
- Law and Social Change
- Law, Science, and Technology
Harvard Law School presents students with tremendous opportunities to engage in the world. International students comprise about 17 percent of the 1L class, coming from more than 16 countries. With hundreds of current students going abroad each year to work, study, engage in research, or advocate for change, HLS is truly a global crossroads. Each year, the Law School offers more than 100 courses, seminars, and reading groups taught with an international, foreign, or comparative law component. Research centers, such as the East Asian Legal Studies Program or the Program on International Financial Systems, offer students access to visiting scholars and cutting-edge ideas through colloquia, conferences, and research opportunities. Harvard’s 5,000 alumni living outside the United States provide an unparalleled network for potential collaboration and camaraderie. In addition, scholars come to HLS from all over the world to make use of the incredible international collections housed in the law library.
The Clinical Program is one of the most important and valued aspects of a Harvard Law School education, confirming our commitment to providing our students with the best possible educational experience. With dozens of in-house clinics and hundreds of externships, Harvard Law School has more clinical opportunities than any law school in the world. Some of the clinics include:
- Capital Punishment Clinic
- Child Advocacy Program
- Criminal Justice Institute
- Criminal Prosecution Clinic
- Cyber Law Clinic
- Education Law Clinic
- Employment Law Clinic
- Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic
- Family & Domestic Violence Law
- Government Lawyer
- Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic
- Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinic
- Health Law and Policy Clinic
- International Human Rights Clinic
- Housing Law Clinic
- Predatory Lending and Consumer Protection Clinic
- Sport Law Clinic
- Supreme Court Litigation Clinic
Clinical education at HLS helps to introduce and explore the roles and responsibilities of a lawyer. Taking a clinical course may aid students in thinking about what sort of law practice or lawyering work they like most. Mentored practice, in an educational setting, also helps students begin to understand their learning styles while getting a head start on developing the skills they will need when they begin their careers.
The Clinical Program at Harvard Law School has three basic components:
- direct student responsibility for clients in a realistic practice setting;
- supervision and mentoring by an experienced practitioner; and
- companion classroom sessions in which clinical experience supports and contributes to further discussion and thought.
Seventy-five percent of the class of 2017 participated in clinical work while at HLS. Many students find that this practical lawyering produces a sense of personal accomplishment as well as professional development because, in many cases, they are truly increasing access to justice for the most marginalized members of society. HLS also offers externship placements at various government agencies, nonprofits, and small firms. Many students take advantage of the winter term, spending three to four weeks off campus in a clinical setting and then coming back to campus and continuing the work remotely for the following semester. Students can also design independent clinical work projects that are tailored to unique interests.
At HLS, a wide variety of extracurricular activities complement and enrich the classroom and clinical experiences. Whether exploring professional interests, serving the public, or merely socializing, students engage in an enormous range of activities on the HLS campus beyond the classroom. At present, there are more than 100 student organizations and journals at HLS. Student organizations based on social, political, service, or professional interests plan workshops, panels, concerts, networking opportunities, and conferences for almost every day of the academic year. Other activities planned by first-year social chairs, the second-year social committee, the third-year class marshals, and the Dean of Students Office create a collegial and community-oriented environment on campus. Students are given a wide range of opportunities to create and implement ideas for activities and are encouraged to pursue their interests by forming new student organizations or planning one-time events.
Employment After Graduation
More than 500 employers recruit on campus at HLS each year. Upon graduation, roughly 60–65 percent of HLS graduates enter private practice, about 20 percent enter judicial clerkships, and about 10–15 percent enter public interest or government work, business and industry, academia, or other unique pursuits. Virtually every year the number of HLS graduates clerking for the US Supreme Court surpasses the number from any other law school. In fact, approximately one-quarter of all Supreme Court clerks over the last five years graduated from HLS. After clerkships, many HLS graduates pursue careers in public interest, government, and academia.
HLS does not provide a profile chart because it would be based solely upon undergraduate GPA and standardized test scores. Admission decisions are based on many factors beyond the GPA and LSAT or GRE. Each application is read thoroughly by our team of admissions professionals and faculty admissions committee members. Although most admitted candidates graduated near the top of their college classes and present test scores in the top few percentiles, a significant proportion of candidates who meet these characterizations may not be offered admission. At the same time, some admitted candidates apply with lower quantitative credentials but have professional and academic achievements that impress the admissions committee. Candidates with higher grades and scores tend to be admitted at higher rates than candidates with lower grades and scores, but at no point on the GPA or LSAT/GRE scales are the chances for admission to Harvard Law School zero or 100 percent. You can read more about our 1L class profile online. We hope you will apply and please let us know if you have questions.