Part of Harvard’s main campus in Cambridge, the Harvard Law School represents one of the most influential professional programs of any kind.
Dating back to its first funded professorship in 1817, Harvard Law School claims the title of longest continuously operating school of law in the United States. Its graduates go on to become world leaders, politicians, activists, artists, and public figures of all kinds.
The student-run Harvard Law Review sets the standard for case review. The program also is home to the Harvard Law Library, the largest repository of United States legal resources.
Programs of study range from Criminal to International Law, including specialized programs focusing on social change, technology, business, and history.
Harvard Law School students can cross-register for coursework at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at the Fletcher School at Tufts for coursework relating to diplomacy and economics.
Extensive clinical and pro bono programs give Harvard Law students a chance to gain practical experience. Externships and clinical programs provide training in ethics, advocacy, and organization.
From Presidents and First Ladies to international legal advocates, from civil rights beacons to Nobel winners, from notorious spies to a couple of Miss Americas and a Jeopardy! champion, Harvard law graduates populate every facet of the nation’s identity and culture.
Harvard Law School Acceptance Rate
Almost 10,000 applications for the class of 2024 might seem like an impossible number. But Harvard Law accepts large incoming classes, separating each year of students into cohorts of 80 students who all take classes together.
From the nearly 10,000 applicants, 685 were offered admission, and 560 enrolled, giving Harvard law a 7% admissions rate.
Examining the school’s data regarding accepted members of the Class of 2024, hopeful applicants can see evidence of the admissions department’s wide definition of leadership.
While Congressional interns, Rhodes scholars, student body presidents, and editors-in-chief figure prominently, the list also includes Peace Corps volunteers, Teach for America volunteers, wilderness first responders, actors and stand-up comedians, and a beekeeper.
For candidates whose records provide the foundation for a robust application, a few strategies can help with the selective admissions process.
Participation in extracurricular activities that correspond to the skills needed for the practice of law—model UN, debate, clerking or interning for law offices, serving as a legislative intern—all help show a strong inclination and aptitude for the law.
With average LSAT scores at 174 for incoming students, hopeful candidates should take care to prepare for LSATs, either with coursework, practice tests, or tutoring.
While Harvard Law also accepts GRE scores, if the student has an active LSAT score, it must be reported during the application process.
A campus visit can show the seriousness of intent on the candidate’s part. If it’s feasible to visit the campus in person, applicants should try to do so.
While it won’t directly impact the application process, the insights could be valuable during the completion of the personal statement, in which candidates are encouraged to explain how they would be suited to study at Harvard Law.
Harvard Law School Tuition
When combined, the approximately $68k tuition, room and board, health fees, and supplies add up to a little over $100k for each year of Harvard Law. Around 40% of JD students qualify for some kind of Law School grant assistance.
Grant eligibility is calculated by subtracting available resources from the year’s budget; students whose need exceeds $49,500 receive grant assistance.
Once the Law School determines the amount it will grant, students may apply for student loans or for many outside scholarship opportunities.
Harvard assesses parent and student income in factoring grant eligibility, but students may petition to waive parent information.
The HLS Office of Career Services helps students search for law firm scholarships, especially scholarships designed to extend financial support to groups traditionally underrepresented at law firms.
Harvard Law encourages accepted students to look closely at all available revenue sources, including groups they or their families might be associated with, from employers and civic organizations to the military.
Harvard Law School Requirements
The admissions process for Harvard Law School requires some standard features like a solid undergraduate academic record.
Harvard Law favors no specific major or type of major, but students must demonstrate evidence of high academic achievement and intellectual capability.
Excellent writing skills show a candidate’s likely success in the program, so applicants should carefully craft the required personal statement.
The admissions department will consider a second, optional statement from an applicant, but only if the applicant needs to address issues outside the scope of the required statement.
All applicants for the JD program must furnish LSAT or GRE scores from a test taken within five years of application. The top quartile of the Class of 2024 scored 176 on the LSAT and earned a GPA of 3.98. The middle 50% of that class scored 174 with a GPA of 3.92.
Applicants submit a resume with their application. While candidates should avoid repeating information available in other parts of the application, the optional statement can be used to elaborate on any interesting or relevant work experience in the resume.
Letters of Recommendation hold a special place of importance in this process, and applicants should be sure to secure up to two or at most three letters from people who can speak directly to the candidate’s fitness for Harvard Law.
Legal professionals, politicians from the candidate’s district if they know them personally, or former instructors can all make good recommenders; Harvard suggests asking for a letter from at least one academic source.
Harvard Law applications include questions related to character and fitness for the profession, and the program urges candidates to research the character requirements for the jurisdiction in which they plan to sit for the bar examination. The admissions committee invites some candidates for interviews over Zoom.
Harvard Law School Notable Alumni
Seventeen Supreme Court justices, including four sitting justices, graduated from Harvard Law, arguably making it the most influential judicial body in the nation.
Around 70 federal court judges trained at Harvard Law, as did twelve United States Attorneys General.
Two Presidents, Rutherford B. Hayes and Barack Obama, graduated from Harvard Law.
Around 70 members of Congress, ranging in political leanings from Barney Frank to Mitt Romney, all studied at Harvard Law.
In a testament to Harvard’s program and to the influence of American political and legal processes globally, a host of world leaders also attended and graduated from the law school at Harvard.
Shankar Dayal Sharma, the former President of India, and members of the British Parliament David Lammy and Anthony Lester, Baron Lester of Herne Hill, attended Harvard Law.
Judges in the International Court of Justice representing the United States, South Korea, Egypt, South Africa, Belgium, and other nations studied law at Harvard.
United Nations commissioners Mary Robinson and Navanethem Pillay, along with Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, are all graduates.
Law school faculties across the country are filled with Harvard Law alumni. Harvard alumni account for sixteen university presidents and 24 law school deans.
From Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), to NAACP co-founders William English Walling and Archibald Grimké, Harvard-trained legal minds work on behalf of civil and human rights.
Alumni David A. Morse won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a labor advocate. Causes including free speech, animal rights, reproductive rights, environmental issues, and health access rights number among the institutions and associations founded and run by Harvard alumni.
Artists in several fields studied at Harvard Law, including writers Brad Leithauser, Susan Power, Mohsin Hamid, Scott Turow, and poet and Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish.
Salsa legend, actor, activist, and former Panamanian candidate for President Ruben Blades earned a degree in international law from Harvard.
Food critic and social commentator Jefferey Steingarten and Benjamin Bradlee of the Washington Post graduated from Harvard Law.
American painter George Hitchcock attended, and Jackie Fox, bass player for the rock band The Runaways, returned to her given name of Jackie Fuchs to earn her JD from Harvard.
Harvard Law School Ranking
Considering its scope and reach, Harvard Law might be ranked the top law school by some institutions. U.S. News, the generally-accepted standard, typically places Harvard in the top three schools, after Yale at the top and usually Stanford at the second spot.
Ranking methodology considers test scores and GPAs of accepted students, assessments by legal professionals and by other law school instructors and administrators, campus resources, student debt incurred, and placement of graduates.
The global ranking entity QS ranks Harvard Law at number 1 worldwide, ahead of Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, and the London School of Economics.
Harvard Law’s international focus may earn a higher score from QS, who considers the number of research citations per paper for each institution, along with a program’s H-index, a score compiled from data related to the productivity and impact of published works.
Harvard Law ranks at number 1 for business and corporate law, dispute resolution, and constitutional law.
The program takes second place for contracts, criminal law, and international law, and remains in the top ten programs for environmental law, tax law, and health care law.
Should You Attend Harvard Law School?
Harvard Law searches out highly intellectual, analytical, intrepid candidates to become trained advocates for the U.S. Constitution and for the rights of all people.
For those who want to shape the future of American political thought, judicial philosophy, ethical business, and responsible technological practices, Harvard Law provides the necessary training and tools for future leaders.
With all its history, reputation, and power, Harvard offers the most options for a candidate pursuing a legal career.
But if geographic situations or personal preference make three years of residence in Cambridge inaccessible, many options for legal study online exist.
Many law schools also offer flexible in-person coursework for working professionals who find a career or financial reasons for maintaining their current position.
Harvard Law has worked in recent years to establish an increasingly supportive campus community, fostering academic rigor through challenging coursework, diversity, and systems that encourage cooperative learning rather than competition.
Students now graduate having completed 50 hours of pro bono work, setting the expectation of community service alongside a vigorous intellectual life.
Three years at Harvard Law can open up the world, not just the field of law, for the right candidate. If you are ready to accept the greater challenge, Harvard Law is looking for you.