Sciences Po Law School, Paris
Established in 1872, the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (known as “Sciences Po”) is one of France’s most selective and highly regarded universities. Traditionally known for its academic focus on political science and economics, Sciences Po also offers robust programs in law, communications, finance, business, urban policy, management, and journalism. With a significant international student population and a strong global focus, Sciences Po ranks as one of the world’s elite academic institutions.
Sciences Po Law School (SPLS) was created in 2009 in order to train lawyers with an emphasis on critical thinking and creativity, as well as to equip them to play leadership roles in both law and business. The Law School’s main areas of academic focus include economic law, the law of globalization, and legal theory. It offers specialized courses of study that feature small group teaching with an emphasis on inter-disciplinary approaches, and is home to the Centre on Changes in Governance and Public Law (MADP) and the Centre for European Studies and Comparative Politics.
While many SPLS students are French, 20% of the student body is comprised of people from 32 other countries. The faculty currently includes 18 tenured professors, 2 associate professors, and 26 visiting professors, as well as more than 125 adjunct professors and lecturers, including judges and practicing lawyers.
Spending a semester abroad at Sciences Po “was an amazing opportunity to explore different areas of the law in a European context. In addition to the subject matter learning and exposure to diverse practice areas, it was useful for career planning to discover the different legal employment options available in France. Sciences Po Law School offers a wide range of courses covering French, European and international law. The courses are taught by both academics and practitioners, with a pretty even mix between the two.”– Fred Chung ’20 (past participant in semester abroad program, Sciences Po Law School)
Course Offerings and Credit
HLS students enrolled in the program can choose from the rich array of graduate-level courses offered at the Law School and in other departments at Sciences Po. The first year of the Master in Economic Law program features courses that focus on the fundamentals of law and economic law, while the program’s second year courses are designed to provide a comprehensive theoretical and practical approach to legal issues in a global context. They can provide a helpful foundation for those who plan to work in international litigation or arbitration; as in-house counsel for multinational groups or as human rights advocates; or as legal advisors within international organizations such as the WTO. Research opportunities related to issues of global law and governance may also be available.
Courses are available in both French and English. Enrollment in particular classes may be limited based on classroom size and HLS students should also note that first- and second-year spring semester courses start on different dates (see Academic Calendar, below).
Sciences Po does not have an add/drop period; once students have selected their courses, they may not make changes. Students should note, too, that many Sciences Po courses have a strict policy regarding attendance and absences from class are not permitted.
Nash Santhanam ’23 spent the fall semester of his 3L year at Sciences Po. Read about his experiences.
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.
Sciences Po offers courses in both French and English. It is recommended that students who wish to take law courses taught in French have at least a “C1” level of proficiency. HLS students who wish to take courses in English should carefully review the English-language course offerings to ensure that they are able to create a program of study that is suitably robust and consistent with their academic and career interests.
Prior to study abroad, HLS students may improve their language proficiency and receive credit for foreign language courses at Harvard College in accordance with the HLS cross registration policy. Students may also find it helpful to arrive in France early for language acclimation and/or to take a language training course before law classes begin.
The academic year at Sciences Po Law School is divided into two semesters; the fall semester runs from September through mid-December and the spring semester runs from January through mid-May.
HLS students should note that spring-semester courses in the Master’s in Economic Law program have two different start dates — one for first-year courses and one for second-year courses. Second-year classes begin in early January and first-year classes begin later in January. HLS students may select from both sets of offerings but should be mindful of the start dates when planning a semester abroad.
Application Process and Timeline
Students interested in the Sciences Po cooperative program should follow the HLS Semester Abroad application process described on the Semester Abroad: Planning and Application page.
Students approved by the HLS Study Abroad Committee must also complete the SPLS on-line application process for exchange students, which may include uploading supporting documents such as a CV, a letter outlining the student’s reasons for studying at Sciences Po, transcripts and official language testing results. HLS will provide students nominated to study at Sciences Po with more information on this process.
HLS may recommend multiple J.D. students to study at Sciences Po Law School each year but ultimately selection of the students will be made by Sciences Po. Since the establishment of the HLS-Sciences Po program, the number of HLS J.D. students spending a semester at Sciences Po has ranged from three to eight annually.
Sciences Po is located in the heart of Paris, providing a unique and stimulating academic environment in a vibrant cultural and political setting. The campus is in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, minutes from the Seine and the Latin Quarter and within walking distance of Notre Dame de Paris, the Panthéon, the Musée du Louvre, the Assemblée Nationale, and many other monuments, museums and cultural institutions. Outside of class, students can take advantage of the fantastic array of arts, music, theatre, and food that Paris offers, as well as more than 200 student organizations within the university itself.
Sciences Po does not have on-campus housing for its students; as a result, HLS students must find their own accommodations. Sciences Po maintains a housing webpage that provides information on housing options to help students in their search, as well as advice on renting in France, housing benefits to which students may be entitled, and other topics. The Sciences Po website also offers a checklist of practical information for international students.
Information about disability accommodations at Sciences Po may be found on the school’s website. Information from the French Ministry of Higher Education on services for the disabled is also available.