May 6, 2019
For another inside look at the transfer admissions process, we spoke with 2L James about his experience. James joined the Harvard Law Review the summer of his transfer to HLS, and has shared his advice for prospective students below.
Tell us about your path to Harvard Law School. How did you decide to transfer?
Like most law students, I didn’t enter 1L expecting to transfer —honestly, I never thought about it. But as the year progressed, and transferring became an option, I started to do my due diligence and to imagine myself in a new place. Pretty quickly, HLS became my top choice. The large, diverse class would ensure that I would be able to find a group of friends and adjust socially. The course catalog had a breadth and depth that no other school’s could rival. Although I knew I would miss my friends and professors from 1L, the opportunities at HLS were too exciting to turn down. Once I was accepted, the chance to be on the Law Review sealed the deal. I don’t regret my decision to transfer one bit, and I am so glad I chose Harvard.
How was the experience of joining Harvard Law Review?
I’ll never forget when I got the call offering me a position on the Harvard Law Review. It was one of those moments that you know, right as it’s happening, will be life-changing. A few days after that call, I arrived in Cambridge and began Law Review orientation. Immediately, I was blown away by the caliber of the other editors. They all had such impressive backgrounds and aspirations. The pace of conversation was electric. It was a bit overwhelming, but inspiring.
Everyone on the Law Review was incredibly welcoming, and we quickly got on to learning how to do the job before us. One pleasantly surprising aspect of orientation (that I was worried about beforehand) was that I didn’t feel at all marked as an outsider. Lots of the 2L editors didn’t know each other all that well from 1L, so many didn’t even realize that I was a transfer. (In fact, as late as this semester I’ve had people on the Law Review be surprised to learn that fact.) Those who did know didn’t see me as a second-class member of the community in the slightest. All that made the landing a lot softer.
The pace of work on the Law Review can be intense, and they throw you right in the deep end. But two things are worth emphasizing: it’s doable, and it’s rewarding. You’ll find yourself working on Law Review at times when your peers are relaxing. But you’ll also find yourself enjoying the process of digging into new legal challenges on a daily basis, growing as a writer and thinker.
What would you want prospective transfer students to know about HLR?
HLR can be mysterious for HLS students — and doubly mysterious for prospective transfers.
Certainly one thing I didn’t understand before joining is how much HLR values and fosters community. We have our own building on campus, Gannett House, where you can nearly always find editors doing HLR work, chatting in the kitchen about something they’ve been thinking about, or playing games. There’s constantly the option to go to social events: game nights, parties, football games, even a formal banquet. One week in April there were nine such events taking place! Some of my closest friends at HLS are from the Law Review. Working hard together in a supportive environment is the best way to form strong bonds.
Also, be aware that the competition is at the beginning of the summer (unlike most other schools’ transfer competitions). The dates are May 18-25, and you have to register by May 10 to have the packet sent to you (more info here: https://harvardlawreview.org/about/). We realize the challenges that this timeline can present for transfer students, but if you’re considering transferring I would strongly encourage you to do what you can to participate. HLR is worth it! The competition involves two parts: editing a piece of writing and writing a note. The packet does a great job of explaining everything you need to know, but please reach out if you have questions in the meantime.
Finally, know that there are an amazing number of opportunities the Law Review offers. You have three chances to publish during your two years (my 2L note comes out in June!). You can run for officer positions. You can change the way the institution operates during “Transition” in January. I made the Law Review’s first crossword this year. There are many ways to make your mark.
Good luck! Deciding to transfer is a deeply personal process. But I don’t know of a single transfer at HLS who regrets the decision.