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.
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.
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.
Specialized programs support experiential learning and immersion in foreign legal cultures. In 2016-2017 more than 200 HLS students worked, studied, or conducted research 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.
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.
For a year, HLS students explored the successes and challenges facing religious and ethnic minorities in Iraqi Kurdistan on behalf of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. They worked with a team of nearly a dozen researchers, including an incoming HLS 1L, to craft a groundbreaking analysis of a region regarded as a refuge for religious minorities in the Middle East.
The conference is the latest iteration of a series of conferences held periodically by a loose consortium of schools–including Harvard Law School, the University of Geneva, Renmin University of China, and the University of Sydney, Australia–on themes of broad shared interest.
They don’t all want to be immigration lawyers, but this year, hundreds of Harvard Law School students have made immigrant rights their business.
Exploring International Legal Studies
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.