Eligibility

Harvard Law School students may study abroad in either semester of their second or third year.

  • HLS students may not study abroad during their first year, but may begin the application process for a 2L semester abroad.
  • Transfer students who have completed their first year at another law school are eligible to study abroad in their 3L year.
  • J.D. students who are foreign nationals will not be approved for study abroad in the country in which they have received a first degree in law.
  • J.D. students who are enrolled in joint degree programs may not be eligible for the semester abroad program.
  • Students wishing to study abroad in spring of their 3L year will not graduate at the end of that semester and will receive their HLS diplomas the following year once all graduation requirements are met. This can have ramifications for taking the bar exam and starting employment.

Students initiate the planning process for their own program of study. The International Legal Studies staff is happy to work with students in order to help them develop an appropriately tailored application that meets the program’s requirements. This involves thinking through educational objectives, identifying the country and school for study, and developing a preliminary list of courses.

Students who have spent a semester abroad report that advance planning helped them to minimize any complications presented by being away.

Many of the academic calendars abroad (particularly those in the southern hemisphere) do not coincide with Harvard’s academic calendar. Students who spend the semester at foreign schools may find that the different calendars present opportunities for summer internships and jobs, and that it is possible to apply for jobs in the US as well as to study abroad. However, it is the students’ responsibility to plan carefully for their return to Harvard, their search for summer and/or permanent employment, other commitments at home, and to avoid (or reconcile) conflicts with summer jobs. Students at an institution where the semester runs through January may be eligible for exemption from the HLS winter-term residency requirement. However, this does not change the total credit requirement for graduation, so students should plan carefully to ensure they meet the requisite credit amount.

Students considering a semester abroad are encouraged to meet with a member of the International Legal Studies staff as needed. All applicants must do so at least once prior to, or shortly following, the submission of an application.

Application Process

Application materials for semester abroad (independent semester abroad and exchange programs) are due by:

  • September 15 for study abroad in the spring
  • February 15 for study abroad in the fall

The Study Abroad Committee, which consists of faculty and staff, reviews the completed HLS application and takes into consideration the student’s academic record at Harvard Law School to date and his/her motivation for study abroad, including educational objectives and the “fit” between those objectives and the proposed program of study and the selected institution abroad. If 25% or more of the credits a student has earned at HLS have been graded LP or lower, the presumption of the Study Abroad Committee is not to approve the application.

In evaluating applications, the Study Abroad Committee considers each proposal on its own merits. There is no advantage to applying for an exchange program as opposed to an independent semester abroad; both types of programs are regarded equally.

The Study Abroad Committee will select students in accordance with the designated number of HLS places for each exchange program. If there are more applicants whose proposals are approved than there are designated places, the Study Abroad staff will determine whether the exchange partner school can accommodate additional HLS students. If not, the approved HLS students may choose to be placed on a waitlist in case a spot becomes available, or to pursue a second choice.

Please note that students applying for designated spots in the HLS exchange programs must be recommended by the HLS Study Abroad Committee, but ultimately selections are made by the foreign law schools. Students applying for the independent semester abroad program must receive approval from the HLS Study Abroad Committee, then apply directly to, and be accepted by, the host institution in accordance with the foreign school’s application process. If the foreign school does not accept a student, he/she may submit a revised proposal to the committee for an independent semester abroad.

Students who would like to discuss the possibility of obtaining disability accommodations for study abroad should contact Lakshmi Clark-McClendon, Assistant Director of Student Services, at lclark@law.harvard.edu or (617) 496-2437.

Application Form

Please download and submit one of the following forms:

The first part of both applications includes basic contact information, and asks the student to:

  • provide the names of two proposed faculty advisors, one at HLS and the other at the foreign school (students accepted for a semester at Sciences Po will have a foreign advisor assigned to them)
  • describe his/her educational objectives, and how a semester abroad at a foreign law school and the proposed course of study would help the student achieve them
  • provide examples of law courses he/she would like to take at the foreign school, with descriptions and the number of minutes each class meets per week
  • describe his/her proficiency with the usual language of instruction at the foreign school (or, if classes are taught in English, with the local language)

In completing the application form, students are asked to be as specific as possible, but to limit each answer to 250-300 words.

The Independent Semester Abroad application includes a section for specific information about the foreign law school, including its name and location, the duration of the semester abroad, the average academic load for a regular student, and the school’s grading system and evaluation process.

Students applying for an independent semester abroad must supply evidence (in the form of official language or other documentation) of the school’s accreditation. According to ABA Criteria Section I.C.1., the school must be “government sanctioned or recognized, if educational institutions are state regulated within the country; recognized or approved by an evaluation body, if such an agency exists within the country; or chartered to award first degrees in law by the appropriate authority within the country.”

Additional Documentation

In addition to the completed application form, students are required to submit:

  1. An official copy of his/her Harvard Law School transcript (from the HLS Registrar’s Office), reflecting grades through the fall or spring semester preceding the application deadline (e.g. spring grades for applications due in September, fall grades for applications due in February). Transfer students must also provide an official transcript from the law school where they completed their first year. (Please note that requests for HLS transcripts may take 3-5 days to process, so applicants should plan accordingly.)
  2. A copy of his/her resume.
  3. A letter (or email) from his/her proposed Harvard faculty supervisor indicating that he/she is willing to act as the student’s supervisor during the proposed time abroad and commenting on the student’s proposed program of study.

To demonstrate language proficiency, students may be asked to provide additional documentation or participate in an interview.

Selection for Designated Places in Exchange Programs / Acceptance by Foreign School

The Study Abroad Committee will select students in accordance with the designated number of HLS places for each exchange program. If there are more applicants whose proposals are approved than there are designated places, the Study Abroad staff will determine whether the exchange partner school can accommodate additional HLS students. If not, the approved HLS students may choose to be placed on a waitlist in case a spot becomes available, or to pursue a second choice.

Please note that students applying for designated spots in HLS exchange programs must be recommended by the HLS Study Abroad Committee but ultimately selections are made by the foreign law schools. In some instances, the foreign school may require students to complete additional application forms. It is not necessary to complete the foreign school’s application before the deadline (September 15 for spring, February 15 for fall) for turning in the HLS semester abroad application. If the foreign school does not accept a student, he/she may submit a revised proposal to the committee for an independent semester abroad.

The Locations page has more detailed information about each exchange program.

A student applying for the independent semester abroad program must first receive approval from the HLS Study Abroad Committee, then apply directly to the host institution in accordance with the foreign school’s application process and receive an acceptance from the foreign school.