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Jessica Soban

  • Natasha Onken

    Natasha Onken appointed assistant dean for student financial services

    January 7, 2021

    An interview for a job she didn’t apply for turned out to be a career-defining opportunity for Natasha Onken, who has since devoted her life to helping students succeed.

  • Welcome to Zero-L

    Harvard makes online course for incoming students available to all law schools for free this summer

    May 20, 2020

    Amid COVID-19, Harvard Law School will offer Zero-L this year for free to any interested U.S. law school to help them and their incoming students bolster student success rates and overcome COVID-related pre-matriculation educational challenges.

  • Andy Boes sitting in Harkness

    Common Knowledge

    August 28, 2019

    Harvard Law School’s new online course Zero-L helps prime incoming students for success

  • Ahead of the Curve; Inside Harvard Law School’s Zero-L Program

    May 8, 2019

    Harvard Law School’s incoming class of students will get a head start on their legal studies this summer. The school will soon launch the second iteration of its Zero-L program—a first-of-its kind curriculum of online courses designed to give new students some legal basics and a roadmap of what to expect once they arrive on campus. I caught up with professor Glenn Cohen, who developed Zero-L with associate dean for strategic initiatives Jessica Soban at the direction of Dean John Manning, to talk about the program and how it’s evolving after the pilot last summer.

  • Takeaways from Harvard Law’s Admissions Experiment

    August 27, 2018

    ...Now that the school has admitted the first cohort of students under the GRE and expanded deferral programs, I rang up associate dean for strategic initiatives and admissions Jessica Soban to see how it went. She gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to both initiatives. Here's what Soban told me about the GRE pilot. "We had a lot of theories going in about what populations might find this to be an interesting option. What we found was exactly that. Our GRE pool of applicants was more likely to be international, and more likely to have significant work experience. They were more likely to have a graduate degree. They were more likely to have a STEM background, and they were more likely to come from an underrepresented racial group."

  • It’s now possible to get accepted into Harvard Law before the end of junior year and take a few years off

    May 4, 2017

    Beginning this fall, juniors in college can apply to Harvard Law School through a deferred-admissions program intended to encourage students to pursue another experience for a couple of years before starting their legal education. School officials particularly hope to lure students interested in science, technology, engineering and math fields to consider the law, since advanced technical knowledge and skills are in demand. “It’s incredibly valuable to have your attorney understand the underlying biology or the underlying coding systems or the underlying physics that are driving the legal questions,” said Jessica Soban, associate dean for admissions and strategic initiatives.

  • Harvard Law Expands Deferral Program, Pushing Students to Gain Work Experience

    May 4, 2017

    Harvard Law School, expanding a pilot program for Harvard undergraduates, said Wednesday that it would allow juniors accepted from any college to defer admission as long as they finish college and spend at least two years working, studying or pursuing research or fellowships...Harvard Law’s latest step allows college graduates to broaden their experience while knowing they have a secure law school berth, said Jessica L. Soban, the school’s associate dean for admissions and strategic initiatives. “This allows students to go and do something they love, and not to feel they have to build their résumé,” Ms. Soban said...“By offering admission to the most promising college juniors, we can encourage them to pursue important and fulfilling experiences without concerns about effects on a later application to law school,” Martha Minow, the law school’s dean, said in a statement.

  • Harvard Law Will Save Undergrads a Spot—Terms and Conditions Apply

    May 4, 2017

    College juniors around the globe will soon have the chance to snag a seat at Harvard Law School—with a catch. They must first graduate and work for two years before showing up on the law campus. The school announced Wednesday that it is expanding a three-year-old pilot program that allows juniors at Harvard College to apply and gain early admission with the agreement that they work, study, complete a fellowship or conduct research for at least two years after finishing their undergraduate degrees and before starting their legal studies. Beginning in the fall, juniors from any college or university, as well as their international equivalents, are eligible for the school’s Junior Deferral Program. It’s believed to be the first program of its kind at a U.S. law school, said Jessica Soban, associate dean for admissions and strategic initiatives...Legal employers are increasingly looking to hire law students with some work experience, Soban said, and those experiences make for richer classroom discourse. “Having someone who can draw on their real-world experiences or who can draw on a difficult client situation, that’s something that’s really valuable and makes the classroom discussion much more robust,” she said.

  • Law School Expands Junior Deferral Program to Students at All Colleges

    May 3, 2017

    Harvard Law School’s Junior Deferral Program will expand to accept applications from undergraduate juniors at colleges and universities nationwide in the fall of 2017, the Law School announced Wednesday...Jessica L. Soban ’02, the Law School’s chief admissions officer, said she felt the program had been sufficiently tested and was suited to expand. “We have been talking for the past several years about this being a pilot and collecting information from students who move through the program to understand what success it has really had for them,” Soban said. “This is the point where we feel like we have moved through an entire cycle with one cohort of participants in the program.”

  • Harvard Law School’s Moneyball Moment

    April 25, 2017

    Why would Harvard Law School, one of the most elite law schools in the country, decide to change the admissions criteria that it has used for the past 60 years? One would be tempted to assume that it’s a response to the plummeting number of applicants at law schools around the country: even Harvard’s number of applicants is down 18% since 2011, though it still has far fewer spots than applicants. So why Harvard, why the change and why now?...It is to Harvard’s advantage to increase access to top talent and to be able to cast a wider net. As Jessica Soban, Harvard Law School’s Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and Admissions, put it, “Harvard Law School works to eliminate barriers to legal education for top talent. We seek that talent from a variety of backgrounds: across different academic disciplines, different countries, and different socio-economic backgrounds.”

  • Harvard Law School Drops Mandatory LSAT – Will Others Follow?

    April 12, 2017

    Harvard Law School recently announced that it will no longer require the Law School Admissions Test, or LSAT, as its only admissions exam. Beginning this fall, students can either take the Graduate Records Exam, known popularly as the GRE, or the LSAT. Jessica Soban, associate dean for strategic initiatives and admissions at Harvard Law School, tells GoodCall® the change is designed to increase access for U.S. and international students...Also, Soban explains that some students who consider going to graduate school also consider going to law school. “Students with technology or other STEM backgrounds might also want to get (for example) a master’s degree in Computer Science, but it is burdensome and costly to study for and take one test to get in graduate school and have to repeat the cycle to get into law school.”

  • Harvard Law is now accepting the GRE. Could other schools follow?

    March 21, 2017

    When the University of Arizona started accepting a generic graduate school exam for law school applicants last year, the national group that oversees such admissions chastised the university and threatened to oust it from its membership. But now that Harvard, the gold standard, is following suit, there is growing hope that dropping the traditional Law School Admissions Test as a requirement for applicants across the country could lead to a larger and more diverse group of lawyers entering the field...Accepting the GRE could make the school more attractive to international students, graduate students applying from fields such as computer science, and low-income students, said Jessica Soban, the associate dean for strategic initiatives and admissions. “Introducing choice into the process can lower the barriers for students, and that could have benefits for any law school,” Soban said.

  • The ‘Trump Bump’ for Law Schools Is (Kind of) a Thing

    March 20, 2017

    Is the Trump administration's early turmoil a gift to legal education? Pundits have speculated that Washington's recent turbulence will spur a surge in law school applicants, given the armies of lawyers—hailed by many as defenders of democracy—that assembled at airports around the country in the wake of President Donald Trump's so-called Muslim ban...Harvard Law School has seen a 5 percent increase in applications this year, said Jessica Soban, associate dean for strategic initiatives and admissions. But the school also saw a 5 percent rise in applications last year, before Trump took office, so it's hard to chalk the difference up to the man now in the Oval Office.

  • Three Years In, Junior Deferral Program Remains in ‘Pilot’ Stage

    March 20, 2017

    ...In the fall of 2018, McIntyre plans to return to Cambridge with the second class of students admitted through the Harvard Law School’s Junior Deferral Program...Jessica L. Soban ’02, associate dean of admissions at the Law School, declined to provide admissions statistics for the program because, she said, it is still in a pilot stage. The first class of students accepted through this program will begin their studies at the Law School this fall. Soban said, however, that the school does not have a fixed number of spots available in any given JDP application cycle. “We have no preset notion going into any JDP cycle about how many students we will be admitting, so our goal is to get and admit and to find all of the talent that is available with no set number of applicants in mind,” Soban said. “Given that the number of applicants has fluctuated and the number of admits has fluctuated, the admit rate has also fluctuated in each of the three years.”

  • GRE vs LSAT: Which exam should you apply to Harvard Law with? (subscription)

    March 17, 2017

    Last week, Harvard Law School announced that starting in Fall 2017, it will accept the GRE as an alternative to the LSAT from applicants to its J.D. programme. This makes it the second U.S. law school – the University of Arizona launched a similar pilot last year – and the only top-tier one to open up this option...“There are any number of potential applicants who might be impacted by this announcement in one way or the other,” said Jessica Soban, Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and Admissions at Harvard Law School. The school covers multiple groups with its new policy, she pointed out, including those who have already completed graduate studies in another field, the international student population, U.S. college students studying abroad, and those with financial need

  • Harvard Becomes Second Law School to Accept GRE for Admission

    March 9, 2017

    Harvard Law School announced on Wednesday that starting in the fall it will accept the GRE as an alternative to the LSAT from applicants seeking to enroll in the school. Harvard becomes only the second American Bar Association-accredited law school to accept the Graduate Record Exam. The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law announced last February that it would accept either the Law School Admission Test or the GRE in an attempt to expand its applicant pool. The school admitted 12 current students who submitted GRE scores...Jessica Soban, associate dean for admissions and strategic initiatives at Harvard Law, said in an interview Wednesday that accepting the GRE should help the school draw more students with science and technology backgrounds, which are sorely needed in the legal profession, and applicants who already have graduate degrees. Those students most likely will have already taken the GRE.

  • Harvard Law, Moving to Diversify Applicant Pool, Will Accept GRE Scores

    March 9, 2017

    Harvard Law School, moving to open its doors to a larger, more diverse pool of applicants, said on Wednesday that it would accept the graduate record examination, known as the GRE, for the admission of students entering its fall 2018 class...The change “will encourage more students in the United States and internationally from a greater degree of disciplines to apply,” said Jessica Soban, assistant dean and chief admissions officer. Applicants who want to can still submit LSAT scores. The GRE test is offered many times each year and in numerous locations around the world, Ms. Soban said in an interview. In addition, she said, “many prospective law school applicants take the GRE as they consider graduate school options.”

  • Harvard Law to accept GRE scores for admission

    March 9, 2017

    For 70 years, the LSAT has been a rite of passage to legal education, a test designed to gauge students’ ability to learn the law. But its dominance could change. Beginning this fall, Harvard Law School will allow applicants to submit their scores from either the Graduate Record Examination or the Law School Admission Test...Harvard, by contrast, saw a 5 percent increase in applicant volume both last year and this year, said Jessica Soban, associate dean for admissions and strategic initiatives. “Regardless of the number of applicants we have, this initiative is about making sure the most qualified candidates continue to consider us,” she said.

  • Law Schools Offer New Curriculum to Address Modern Issues

    December 13, 2016

    Change is inevitable. As issues in law continue to evolve and emerge, law schools must update their curriculum to prepare their students to practice in a modern landscape. ... Like Berkeley, Harvard Law also understands the value of technology. According to The Crimson, Harvard Law has actively been seeking law students with STEM backgrounds, and they have already created programs such as the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics to bridge science and the law. “This is the direction that the world is headed. Some of the most interesting questions in law right now are driven by science moving faster than the law does,” Harvard Law School chief admissions officer Jessica L. Soban told The Crimson. “The profession needs—and Harvard Law School kind of driving that needs—people who are able to engage on these topics and are interested in these topics.”

  • To Keep Pace with Tech, Law School Seeks STEM Students

    May 6, 2016

    As Harvard Law School admissions officers finalize next year’s class, they do so with an eye toward a group of fields that deviate from the traditional path to legal studies: STEM. Law School chief admissions officer Jessica L. Soban said the percentage of admitted students with backgrounds in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—will remain in the double digits for the second year in a row, reflecting a deliberate effort by Law School admissions officers in recent years to increase the number of students with such backgrounds...Law School clinical professor Christopher T. Bavitz said he thinks students with STEM backgrounds possess skills well-suited to the law. “There are a lot of reasons why people with tech backgrounds can do well in the law,” he said. “A lot of law practice is explaining complicated concepts to people...and people with science and tech backgrounds do that well. I think they’re great analytical thinkers in ways that kind of map on to the thinking lawyers do.” The Law School has pioneered programs bridging science and the law. The school’s Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics—which was established a decade ago—was the first of its kind among law schools, according Faculty Director and Law professor I. Glenn Cohen, putting Harvard ahead of peer institutions.