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.
International Legal Studies welcomed His Excellency Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, the Vice President of Nigeria (center, to the right of Dean Manning), for a luncheon and conversation with HLS students and faculty members. Vice President Osinbajo has served as Vice President since 2015, and is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. He has been a professor of law (and chair of the public law department) at the University of Lagos, and a Senior Partner of Simmons Cooper Partners, a commercial law practice, and has also served as member of the Cabinet in Lagos State, where he held the position of Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice.
Photo courtesy of Novo Isioro
As dozens of HLS students plan to pursue public service work abroad this summer, Jonathan Kaufman ’06 and Lillian Langford JD/MPP ’13 recall that seeds planted during their own 1L summers grew, strongly and directly, into the work they are doing today.
In his time at Harvard Law School, Jung, a Chayes Fellow in 2016 and 2017, has completed extensive coursework and clinical training in children’s rights, human rights and child protection, criminal justice, international and foreign law, and human rights advocacy and negotiation to shape a future career in child advocacy.
In 2018, ten HLS students, selected as Cravath International Fellows, traveled to nine countries to pursue clinical placements or independent research with an international, transnational, or comparative law focus. Here, four of them describe their experiences.
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.