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Students initiate the planning process for their own program of study, thinking through their educational objectives, identifying the best country and school for study, and developing a preliminary list of courses to take while abroad. The International Legal Studies staff is happy to work with students in order to help them evaluate options and develop an appropriately tailored application. Students who have spent a semester abroad report that advance planning helped them to derive maximum benefit from the experience and minimize any complications presented by being away.

Many academic calendars abroad (particularly those in the southern hemisphere) do not align perfectly with Harvard’s academic calendar. HLS students who spend the semester at foreign schools may find that the different calendars provide them with opportunities to undertake summer internships and jobs, and that it is possible to conduct a job search for employment in the United States as well as to study abroad. However, students should plan carefully for their return to Harvard, their search for summer and/or permanent employment, and other commitments at home.

Students studying abroad at an institution where the semester runs through January can be exempted 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 to discuss their options and plans well before submitting an application. A required interview with a member of the International Legal Studies staff will be scheduled shortly after the submission of an application.

Eligibility

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 be eligible for the semester abroad program but should check with International Legal Studies and the other Harvard school about requirements.
  • Students may study abroad in spring of their 3L year but will not graduate at the end of that semester and will receive their HLS diplomas the following academic year once all graduation requirements are met. This can have ramifications for taking the bar exam and starting employment.
  • The presumption of the HLS Study Abroad Committee is that students applying for a semester abroad are proficient in the primary language of the destination country such that they are able to navigate university systems and take one or more law classes in that language. If not, the students must explain how they propose to manage these challenges and derive full benefit from a program of study abroad.  (See further information, under Semester Abroad: Academic Requirements, in the section on foreign language proficiency.)

Application Process

Application Process

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

  • October 1 at 5 p.m. for study abroad in the spring*
  • February 15 at 5 p.m. for study abroad in the fall

*Students needing an extension should contact International Legal Studies before October 1 at ils@law.harvard.edu.

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 their 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 a student has failed a course, or received grades of LP in 25% or more of the credits earned at HLS, 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, the student 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, Director of Student Services, at lclark@law.harvard.edu or (617) 496-2437.

Application Forms

Application Forms

Please download and submit the relevant application form:

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). Please review the role of faculty advisors, under Semester Abroad: Academic Requirements.)
  • describe their 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 they would like to take at the foreign school, with descriptions and the number of minutes each class meets per week
  • describe their 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. Students should review the information on the Semester Abroad: Academic Requirements page while developing the application.

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

Additional Documentation

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

  1. A resume
  2. A current official Harvard Law School transcript from the HLS Office of the Registrar.* The transcript should include the student’s most recent reported grades as of the application deadline. Official transcripts must be sent directly from the Office of the Registrar or, if delivered by the student, arrive in the original signed and sealed envelope. (Please note that requests for HLS transcripts may take 3-5 days to process, so applicants should plan accordingly.) Transfer students must also provide an official transcript from the law school where they completed their first year. 
  3. A letter (or email) from his/her proposed Harvard faculty supervisor indicating that they are willing to act as the student’s supervisor during the proposed time abroad and commenting, specifically, on the appropriateness of the student’s proposed program of study

*Transcript requests:  Students can order their official transcript online by going to https://hls.harvard.edu/dept/registrar/transcript-requests/ and selecting the “Online Transcript Ordering System.” While HLS is in remote operations, most transcripts will be delivered via email. When placing an order, the student should list the appropriate intended recipient(s) and their mailing address(es), for future reference. When the Registrar’s office processes the request, they will first email a copy of the transcript to the student placing the request. The student should then respond to that email requesting that the Registrar send the transcript to the intended recipient(s) and provide the intended recipients’ email address(es).

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

Selection and Acceptance: Next Steps

Selection and Acceptance: Next Steps

EXCHANGE PROGRAMS

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, the student may submit a revised proposal to the committee for an independent semester abroad.

The Semester Abroad: Locations page has links to more detailed information about each exchange program.

INDEPENDENT SEMESTER ABROAD

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.