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ILS Semester Abroad: FGV

Fundação Getulio Vargas Schools of Law, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo

Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) was founded in 1944 to prepare leaders for the public and private sectors in Brazil. The country was then laying the foundations for its future economic growth, a process that resulted in fast-paced development. In recent decades, institutional reforms in Brazil have given rise to new problems that require a new perspective on teaching law in the country. Brazil’s increasingly important role in international trade and foreign investment has led to a questioning of classical approaches to law and to the emergence of new areas of scholarly interest in the practice of law.

Drawing on FGV’s vast experience in teaching and researching in the areas of economics and public and business administration, FGV established Law Schools in Rio de Janeiro and in São Paulo in 2002. Since their founding, both Direito SP in São Paulo and Direito Rio in Rio de Janeiro have played an important role in the transformation of corporate law and legal studies in Brazil and in serving as interlocutors in judicial reform and policy-making. FGV is also home to the FGV Chamber of Conciliation and Arbitration and the Center for Social Policies.


HLS exchange students may choose to study at either FGV’s Direito SP in São Paulo or Direito Rio in Rio de Janeiro. São Paulo is one of the cultural capitals of Brazil and Direito SP is located just blocks from Avenida Paulista, home to many of the world’s largest financial institutions and a symbol of the city’s economic leadership in South America. Direito Rio is located in a traditional beachfront neighborhood in Brazil’s captivating Rio de Janeiro, world-renowned for its stunning natural beauty. Both schools are accessible using public transportation.

HLS students at the São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro campuses have access to the support and resources of Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS) Brazil Office, which include online pre-departure orientation information as well as on-site support once students arrive.

Course Offerings and Credits

Course loads will vary from student to student. HLS students may receive a total of 10 to 12 ungraded classroom credits in relation to work done through the semester abroad program. Please see Academic Requirements for more information about course requirements and how semester abroad credits are calculated.

Curriculum and Teaching Methodology

FGV’s law schools in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo have developed a highly innovative curriculum that has received the highest classification granted by Brazil’s two institutions that evaluate academic rigor: the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Brazilian Bar Association.

Classes are conducted using the Socratic method, with students called on to actively engage in discussion. Several techniques are used to ensure participation, including: case studies, role playing, reading workshops, debate panels, mock courts, assemblies and other legal contexts. Every method is conducted in an interactive environment between the student and the teacher, and takes place in groups with a limited number of students.

FGV Direito Rio (Rio de Janeiro)

Course Information and Grading:

The undergraduate program is structured in three cycles: Foundational, Professional and Specialization. The latter cycle directs studies to one of the two areas: Business Advocacy or Public Advocacy and Judiciary Power. Cycles are distributed in 10 periods, each one comprising a semester. The first six periods are full time – from 7:30 a.m. to 5:40 p.m. The remaining four periods are part-time – from 7:30 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.

Each semester consists of two periods of six to eight weeks of teaching followed by one to two weeks of exams. Courses are taught weekly, from Monday through Friday. Classes are 1 hour and 40 minutes in length and, in most cases, occur twice weekly.

The grading system at FGV Direito Rio is from 0 to 10. Students need to have a minimum grade of 7 to pass. Grading criteria are determined by each professor and generally include written exams, class participation, presentations in seminars, and academic assignments. To pass, students must attend at least 75% of the classes for each course.

HLS students may enroll in courses in both the undergraduate program and graduate programs, schedule permitting. Current course offerings are listed here.

In order to take full advantage of the experience at FGV Direito Rio, international students are encouraged to take the following courses during their time there: Technical Legal Portuguese and Brazilian Legal Interpretation.

Subject to specific approval, students may cross-register in courses offered by FGV Schools of Economics or Business Administration

Teachers, researchers and students conduct research and develop pioneering projects at research centers focusing on technology and society, law and economics, and justice and society.

Read a Q+A with Samantha Glover ’14 about her semester at FGV Direito Rio.

FGV Direito SP (São Paulo)

Course Information and Grading:

FGV Direito SP’s undergraduate degree is structured in four cycles. Each of the five years of the program is designed as an integral part of the overall degree. The first three cycles (1st to 3rd years) are full-time courses, which is not typical in Brazil. This enables students to build a solid foundation. The 4th cycle (4th and 5th years) offers students the option to study part-time.

HLS students may enroll in subjects in any semester of the undergraduate course, as well as graduate courses at GV Law, schedule permitting.

Through its Global Law Program, FGV Direito SP offers a number of courses that may be of interest to HLS students, including an introduction to the Brazilian legal system and courses on capital markets and the Brazilian regulatory and financial systems. With permission, HLS students may take one or two of these classes.

The grading system in the undergraduate course at FGV Direito SP is from 0 to 10. Grading criteria are determined by each professor and generally include written tests, class participation, presenting seminars, and academic assignments. To pass, students must receive a minimum grade of 6 in undergraduate-level courses and 7 in graduate-level courses and must participate in at least 80% of the classes for each subject. Faculty members strongly encourage class participation (which usually counts 20–30% of the final grade), and attendance is mandatory. Class size usually ranges between 30–50 students.

Detailed information regarding methodology, grading, curriculum structure and requirements can be found on the FGV Direito SP website and in the Exchange Student Handbook.

Language Proficiency

Classes at FGV are taught in Portuguese. It is highly recommended that students have prior knowledge of Portuguese. Given the high degree of similarity between Portuguese and Spanish, fluent Spanish speakers are eligible to apply. In their application they must detail the program of study of Portuguese they intend to follow in order to prepare sufficiently for a semester abroad. Prior to study abroad, HLS students may improve their language proficiency and receive credit for foreign language courses at Harvard College in accordance with the HLS cross registration policy. Students may also find it helpful to arrive in Brazil early for language acclimation and/or to take a language training course before law classes begin. Direito SP offers a free 30 hour intensive Portugese language course in August and February, though please note that neither credit nor certification is available with this course.

Academic Calendar

The academic year at FGV, both in São Paulo and in Rio de Janeiro, is divided into a first semester that takes place from February through June, and a second semester that takes place from early August through mid-December.

Application Process

Students interested in the FGV exchange program should follow the Semester Abroad application process described on the Semester Abroad Eligibility and Application page.

Students approved by the HLS Study Abroad Committee must also submit the following to FGV:

  1. Current transcript
  2. Curriculum vitae
  3. Copy of first page of passport
  4. Statement of interest
  5. Two passport photos with name on back

The exchange agreement stipulates that one FGV reserve at least one spot for an HLS JD student each year. HLS may recommend more than the allotted number of candidates but ultimately selection of the students will be made by FGV.


FGV does not offer on-campus housing. However, FGV and the David Rockefeller Center’s Brazil Office can offer assistance with finding accommodations close to the law schools. Local websites like OKUPE and KeyMate may also prove useful.

Contact Information

For further information, please contact Sara Zucker at (617) 495-9030 / or Andre Barbic at (617) 496-8732 /

For questions about FGV Direito São Paulo, please contact Prof. Maria Lucia L.M. Pádua Lima, Director of the International Affairs Office, at, or Maria Christina Castilho, Assistant, International Affairs Office, at

For questions about FGV Direito Rio, please contact Marília Moreira Mello Araújo, the Law School’s Executive Coordinator of the Undergraduate Course in Law, at