International Legal Studies

Harvard Law School has a singular commitment to international and comparative law. We stand apart from other U.S. law schools in treating this area as equal to all other first year offerings—we consider an international perspective foundational to legal inquiry.

Our community includes students from more than 85 countries, faculty members whose expertise spans the world, renowned visitors and scholars from abroad, and an extraordinary global alumni network.

Each year, hundreds of HLS students work, study, and conduct research in dozens of countries, supported by research centers and fellowship programs. The International Legal Studies office is dedicated to facilitating these opportunities.

Coursework + Clinical Offerings

More than 90 courses and reading groups focus on international, foreign, or comparative law. HLS is the only law school in the country in which every first year J.D. student takes an international or comparative law class.

Students can engage in supervised projects spanning the globe through HLS clinical offerings, including investigating prison conditions in Brazil with the International Human Rights Clinic and evaluating dispute systems at the Asian Development Bank through the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program.

In the summer of 2015, Molly Doggett ’17 worked at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, examining international standards for the treatment of critically ill detainees.

2015 Chayes Fellow Aditya Pai '17 in India

In the summer of 2015, Aditya Pai ’17 analyzed the effectiveness of the Sehgal Foundation’s legal literacy camps in the Mewat district of India.

International Opportunities

Specialized programs support experiential learning and immersion in foreign legal cultures. In 2016-2017, more than 200 HLS students worked, studied, or conducted researched abroad in 49 countries. Frameworks included research/writing projects and independent clinicals during the three-week winter term abroad, a summer engaged in international public interest, fieldwork through the Ghana Project, and a semester taking classes at a foreign law school.

Library + University Resources

The world’s largest academic law library and the vast resources of Harvard University combine to offer unparalleled opportunities for international legal research and study.

Research Programs + Centers

HLS’ research programs and centers provide opportunities to work directly on notable projects with an international scope, such as the Program on International Law and Armed Conflict’s work to develop a single online resource for international counterterrorism efforts; the Center for the Legal Profession’s Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economies research collaborative in Brazil, China, and India; and the Islamic Legal Studies Program and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society’s collaboration on SHARIAsource, an online portal of resources and analysis on Islamic law.

During the 2016 winter term, Mark Jia ’16 assessed pathways for reforming Hong Kong’s campaign finance laws at the Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre. 

Spotlight on:

Recent ILS News

World Trade Organization, front and center: A Q&A with Professor Mark Wu

Harvard Law Today

The lead organizer of the decennial academic conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), assistant professor Mark Wu ’96, spoke about the most pressing issues affecting trade and the WTO, and how he sees the future of trade policy.

Two Harvard Law students chosen for international ethics fellowship program

Harvard Law Today

Phil Caruso ’18 and Pamela Nwaoko ’16 are among 12 law students selected by FASPE (Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics) to participate in a two-week program in Europe this summer, which uses the conduct of lawyers and judges in Nazi Germany as a launching point for an intensive course of […]

Koen Lenaerts LL.M. ’78 on leading the EU’s highest court

Harvard Law Today

President of the European Court of Justice Koen Lenaerts LL.M. ’78 keeps a photo engraving of Austin Hall in his home office in Leuven, Belgium. The image reminds him of the course he took from then HLS Professor Stephen Breyer ’64 (a 2L named John G. Roberts was also in the class), his LL.M. thesis […]

Exploring International Legal Studies

Roadmaps Banner Web

Read about some of the amazing ways students have explored international legal studies at HLS:

  • A winter term filming a documentary on water rights in India.
  • A semester in Beijing studying comparative law.
  • Developing an international business plan through the Harvard Innovation Lab.
  • A summer in Lebanon collecting testimony on the treatment of refugees.
Read all seven stories