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 assessing traditional dispute resolution systems in Bhutan through the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program.
Molly Doggett ’17 worked for a summer 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 2017-2018, almost 300 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.
Mark Jia ’16 spent a winter term assessing pathways for reforming Hong Kong’s campaign finance laws at the Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre.
In January 2019, 60 HLS students traveled to 34 countries, conducting research for writing projects or undertaking independent clinicals with support from the Winter Term International Travel Grant Program. Read their stories and view their photos.
In January 2019, 12 Harvard Law School students traveled to 12 countries as Cravath International Fellows. During Winter Term, they pursued clinical placements or independent research with an international, transnational, or comparative law focus. Four of these students describe their experiences
Professor William Alford ’77, the vice dean for the Graduate Program and International Legal Studies, delivered a chair lecture on the occasion of his appointment as the inaugural Jerome A. and Joan L. Cohen Professor of East Asian Legal Studies at HLS.
Dieter Grimm LL.M. ’65, a former justice of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, and a noted scholar, academic and public intellectual, spoke at Harvard Law School.
Exploring International Legal Studies
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.