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First Year

Entering Harvard Law School as a first year student (a “1L”) is an exciting experience. You are immediately immersed in learning the basics of the law. In the beginning, your academic schedule is straightforward. Every 1L takes the required first-year courses: Civil Procedure, Contracts, Criminal Law, Legislation and Regulation, Property, Torts, Problem Solving Workshop, and Legal Research and Writing (LRW).

First-year students are also invited to participate in first-year reading groups organized around topics proposed by faculty members, and these often provide a setting for meeting people with common interests and finding a faculty mentor.

In the spring semester of the 1L year, you will also have the opportunity to choose an International or Comparative Law Course and an upper-level elective course. The Law School has a number of different ways for you to get advice and guidance as you choose from the broad array of upper-level offerings.

1L Faculty Leaders

The faculty leaders of each of the seven 1L sections are a resource for their students for orientation, course registration, and general advising. Each section also has faculty affiliates from the different fields of legal study represented at the Law School who are available for advising.

Board of Student Advisers

Recognizing that new students benefit greatly from mentoring by 2Ls and 3Ls, the Law School has a program through which each member of the Board of Student Advisers (BSA) acts as a mentor to twelve to fifteen first-year students. Members of the BSA also serve as student teachers in the LRW course, offer small-group advising on particular topics, and provide one-on-one guidance to 1Ls needing additional assistance.

Through this mutually-enriching relationship, 1Ls receive counseling and tutoring as well as general support as they make their way through the first year.

Second and Third Years

HLS faculty actively mentor and advise students and are the best resource for you as you shape your law school experience.

Programs of Study

In contrast to the highly-structured first-year program, second and third year courses, with the exception of the required professional responsibility course, are entirely elective. With over 300 hundred courses to choose from, the HLS curriculum is unmatched in breadth and depth by any other law school. In order to assist you in navigating our course offerings, the HLS faculty has developed Upper-Level Programs of Study. The six programs of study are Criminal Justice, International and Comparative Law, Law and Business, Law and Government, Law and Social Change and Law, Science and Technology; each program includes a group of faculty with expertise in related fields who advise students.

The programs represent the collective advice of the faculty about crafting an academic schedule that moves progressively through the offerings in certain areas of the law.

You may decide that you want to focus your upper-level studies within one of these programs, but there is no requirement that you do so. Learn more about the Programs of Study.

Written Work

HLS students have a wide range of opportunities to write for academic credit.

Academic Support

From time to time, students find that, beyond guidance about choosing courses or Programs of Study, they need additional support in their studies. See more information about Academic Support Services at HLS.

Harvard Law School Handbook of Academic Policies

The Handbook contains the School’s academic rules and policies, including detailed information about the requirements for the J.D., LL.M. and S.J.D. degrees, registration and submission deadlines for all academic work, and policies regarding exams, academic honesty, and leaves of absence. See the Handbook of Academic Policies.