International Legal Studies
Harvard Law School has shifted to remote operations in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Please click here to connect with ILS (meet the staff, contact us by email, or come to office hours).
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 100 courses and reading groups focus on international, foreign, or comparative law. Every J.D. student takes an international or comparative law class during their time at HLS.
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 2018-2019, more than 275 HLS students worked, studied, or conducted research abroad in 53 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 research on Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economies in India, Brazil and China; and the collaboration between the Program in Islamic Law and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society 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.
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Chayes International Public Service Fellows have re-examined their summer plans, considered alternatives, and found ways to still engage in substantive legal work with an international focus. In a Q&A, two of these students share their stories.
During Winter Term 2020, 12 Cravath International Fellows traveled to 12 countries and jurisdictions to pursue independent clinical placements or research projects. In a profile on Harvard Law Today, four of these students describe their experiences.
As Professor William P. Alford ’77 completes 18 years as vice dean for the Graduate Program and International Legal Studies, Professor Mark Wu takes on the role. Read more on Harvard Law Today.
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.