- What is Harvard Law School?
The world’s premier center for legal education and research, Harvard Law School provides unparalleled opportunities to study law and related disciplines in an energetic and creative learning environment. A Harvard Law education prepares students for success in a number of careers, including law practice, public service, business, and academia. Through its faculty, students, and alumni, Harvard Law School is able to contribute solutions to the world’s most complex legal and social challenges.
Our students come from all over the United States and more than 70 countries around the world. Most are pursuing a J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree, while many others are earning an LL.M (Master of Laws) or the S.J.D. (Doctor of Juridical Science). Outside the classroom, there is a rich variety of student practice organizations, professional interest groups, social groups, and student journals, which allow students to pursue many interests.
Harvard is home to the world’s largest academic law library. Its collections, numbering nearly two million volumes including international volumes in the Lewis International Law Center, support the teaching and research activities of the School and serve as a resource for legal scholars throughout the world. Harvard Law School’s outstanding faculty and extraordinarily gifted students and alumni, its size and prodigious resources, and its location at the heart of Harvard University all contribute to its leadership role in American and international legal education.
Harvard Law School is one of the 12 degree-granting schools which form Harvard University.
- What academic programs does Harvard Law School offer for International Students who have studied law before?
The LL.M (Master of Laws) and the S.J.D. (Doctor of Juridical Science) degrees are intended for students who previously have earned an initial law degree. Most of the students enrolled in these programs come to HLS from other nations. The one-year LL.M program provides students who already have excellent legal training and experience—many have served as practicing lawyers, judges, diplomats, community leaders—with broad latitude to design a course of study that will give them an expanded understanding of law and legal theory. The S.J.D. is a still more advanced degree, intended for students who wish to pursue a career in legal education. Graduates of the S.J.D. program are teaching in the world’s finest law schools and producing scholarship at the highest levels. For more information on these programs, visit the graduate program website.
- What academic programs does Harvard Law School offer for International Students who have never studied law before?
The J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree is a three-year post-graduate program that first gives students the intellectual foundations for legal study, and then gives them the opportunity to focus their studies on areas of particular interest. The program culminates with a third-year paper that requires students to engage in a rigorous exploration of some aspect of the law or legal system.
In the US, law is a postgraduate course, so eligibility requires a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) by August of the year of intended enrollment at HLS. The J.D. degree at HLS requires three years of full-time study, and new students begin their studies at the beginning of September each year.
The J.D. degree is a program in US law, enabling a graduate to become a practicing lawyer in the US, though HLS does offer an extensive curriculum in international law. To practice in the US, one must first pass the bar exam for a particular state (more details below). Many students do this the summer after they graduate, taking the exam around the end of July.
- What use would a J.D. degree be to a non-US citizen?
There are many possible and distinct answers to this question. They all stem from the fact that the Harvard Law J.D. degree program is one of the most internationally renowned and respected courses in the world. In addition, the HLS curriculum has generous offerings in international and comparative law.
Outside of the US, many global law firms practice US law and thus require lawyers who have been trained with a J.D. degree. For example, there are more than 30 firms offering positions to US lawyers straight out of law school in London, at salaries which are generally higher than those for British solicitors of the same age. Also, in many countries, having practiced (as a US lawyer) for a number of years, a person would typically have the opportunity to take the local “bar exam” equivalent and become a dual-qualified lawyer.
Also, HLS strongly promotes public service as an integral aspect of lawyers’ training, requiring the completion of at least 50 hours of pro bono work before graduation. HLS students gain practical experience while serving the public through an extensive clinical program, term-time externships, and several student-practice organizations. Summer Public Interest Funding is guaranteed for all students who work in public service during either or both summers between matriculation and graduation (see below). During the summer of 2016, 64% of 1Ls received Summer Public Interest Funding (SPIF). There are many opportunities for graduates entering Public Service, with the support of the Low Income Protection Plan. Many such public service jobs are international in nature (e.g. the UN, developmental banks) and encourage applicants with diverse backgrounds with a J.D.
Approximately 5% of Harvard law graduates will pursue a career in business and industry, and the J.D. degree is highly respected in those fields as well.
- What are the eligibility requirements for applying to the Harvard Law School J.D. program?
Three types of students may consider applying to the HLS J.D. Program. This includes (1) regular J.D. applicants, (2) Junior Deferral Program applicants (JDP), and (3) transfer applicants.
- Regular J.D. applicants are eligible to apply if they will have a bachelor’s degree by August of the year they intend to enroll at HLS. Regular J.D. applicants must also take either the LSAT or GRE tests as part of your application requirements. The J.D. degree requires three years of full-time study, and new students begin their studies only in the fall semester of each year. Apart from for practicing lawyers, we have no part-time, distance, on-line or summer programs. For more information, please review the J.D. Regular Program applicants FAQs.
- Junior Deferral Program applicants must be recognized by their undergraduate institution as graduating in spring 2019 and commit to a deferral period of at least two years before matriculating at HLS. For more information, please refer to the JDP FAQs.
- Transfer applicants must have completed one year of full-time study in a J.D. program (or one third of total credits required in a part-time program) at a United States law school that is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Students may apply for transfer to begin the second year of J.D. studies in the fall semester only. Please note that transfer applicants applying in the summer of 2017 must have taken the LSAT. For more information, please visit the Transfer Applicant FAQs
- Do you require the TOEFL?
The J.D. program at Harvard Law School does not require the TOEFL.
- What about the personal statement?
The Personal Statement is an essay that applicants write as part of the admissions process. See Application Components for more details.
- Where can I find more out about the bar exam?
Please visit the American Bar Association website for more information.
- Is financial aid available for international students?
All students who demonstrate financial need according to a combination of federal and institutional guidelines receive adequate financial assistance to complete their course of study. International and U.S. citizens alike qualify for the full range of need-based grants. The most important point for an international student is that Harvard treats international applicants exactly the same as US applicants for the purposes of financial aid. Any loans which the US government would give to a US applicant, Harvard will match through its own loan program. Harvard does not offer merit-based scholarships. All financial aid is based on financial need.
For more information about financial aid, visit the HLS Student Financial Services Office web site.
The Low Income Protection Plan (LIPP) is one of the most generous loan forgiveness programs in the nation. This program helps relieve the burden of repayment of educational loans for J.D. graduates in qualifying jobs. Qualifying jobs include all full-time jobs in non-profits, government, or academia and law-related jobs in the private sector. As with need-based aid, international students and US students are treated exactly the same for the purposes of determining LIPP eligibility. Click here for more information on LIPP.
- Who can I contact if I have more questions about financial aid?
Please visit the Student Financial Services website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.