Each class in the three-year JD
program has approximately 560 students, among the largest of the top 150 ranked law schools in the United States.
The first-year class is broken into seven sections of approximately 80 students, who take most first-year classes together. Harvard's uniquely large class size and prestige have led the law school to graduate a great many distinguished alumni in the judiciary, government, and the business world.
According to Harvard Law's 2020 ABA
-required disclosures, 99% of 2019 graduates passed the Bar exam.
The school's graduates accounted for more than one-quarter of all Supreme Court clerks
between 2000 and 2010, more than any other law school in the United States.
Harvard Law School's founding is traditionally linked to the funding of Harvard's first professorship in law, paid for from a bequest from the estate of Isaac Royall Jr.
, a colonial American landowner and slaveholder. Today, HLS is home to the largest academic law library
in the world
as well as 391 faculty members.
Bequest by Isaac Royall, founding, and relationship with slavery
Harvard Law School's founding is traced to the establishment of a "law department" at Harvard in 1817. Dating the founding to the year of the creation of the law department makes Harvard Law the oldest continuously-operating law school in the nation. William & Mary Law School
opened first in 1779, but closed due to the American Civil War
, reopening in 1920.
The University of Maryland School of Law
was chartered in 1816, but did not begin classes until 1824, and also closed during the Civil War.
The founding of the law department came two years after the establishment of Harvard's first endowed professorship in law, funded by a bequest from the estate of wealthy slaveowner Isaac Royall, Jr.
, in 1817.
Royall left roughly 1,000 acres of land in Massachusetts to Harvard when he died in exile in Nova Scotia, where he fled as a British loyalist during the American Revolution
, in 1781, "to be appropriated towards the endowing a Professor of Laws ... or a Professor of Physick and Anatomy, whichever the said overseers and Corporation [of the college] shall judge to be best."
The value of the land, when fully liquidated in 1809, was $2,938; the Harvard Corporation
allocated $400 from the income generated by those funds to create the Royall Professorship of Law in 1815.
The Royalls were so involved in the slave trade, that "the labor of slaves underwrote the teaching of law in Cambridge."
The dean of the law school traditionally held the Royall chair, deans Elena Kagan
and Martha Minow
declined the Royall chair due to its origins in the proceeds of slavery.
The Royall family coat-of-arms
, which shows three stacked wheat sheaves on a blue background, was adopted as the school crest in 1936, topped with the university motto (Veritas
, Latin "truth").
Until the school began investigating its connections with slavery in the 2010s, most alumni and faculty at the time were unaware of the origins of the seal.
In March 2016, following requests by students, the school decided to remove the emblem because of its association with slavery;
it has yet to design a replacement seal.
In November 2019, Harvard announced that a working group had been tasked to develop a new seal.
Royall's Medford estate, the Isaac Royall House
, is now a museum which features the only remaining slave quarters in the northeast United States. In 2019, the government of Antigua and Barbuda
requested reparations from Harvard Law School on the ground that it benefitted from Royall's enslavement of people in the country.
Growth and the Langdell curriculum
By 1827, the school, with one faculty member, was struggling. Nathan Dane
, a prominent alumnus of the college, then endowed the Dane Professorship of Law, insisting that it be given to then Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story
. For a while, the school was called "Dane Law School."
In 1829, John H. Ashmun, son of Eli Porter Ashmun
and brother of George Ashmun
, accepted a professorship and closed his Northampton Law School
, with many of his students following him to Harvard.
Story's belief in the need for an elite law school based on merit and dedicated to public service helped build the school's reputation at the time, although the contours of these beliefs have not been consistent throughout its history. Enrollment remained low through the 19th century as university legal education was considered to be of little added benefit to apprenticeships in legal practice. After first trying lowered admissions standards, in 1848 HLS eliminated admissions requirements entirely.
In 1869, HLS also eliminated examination requirements.
In the 1870s, under Dean Christopher Columbus Langdell
, HLS introduced what has become the standard first-year curriculum
for American law schools – including classes in contracts
, criminal law
, and civil procedure
. At Harvard, Langdell also developed the case method
of teaching law, now the dominant pedagogical
model at U.S. law schools. Langdell's notion that law could be studied as a "science" gave university legal education a reason for being distinct from vocational preparation. Critics at first defended the old lecture method because it was faster and cheaper and made fewer demands on faculty and students. Advocates said the case method had a sounder theoretical basis in scientific research and the inductive method. Langdell's graduates became leading professors at other law schools where they introduced the case method. The method was facilitated by casebooks. From its founding in 1900, the Association of American Law Schools
promoted the case method in law schools that sought accreditation
20th century: institutional criticism
During the 20th century Harvard Law School was known for its competitiveness. For example, Bob Berring
called it "a samurai ring where you can test your swordsmanship against the swordsmanship of the strongest intellectual warriors from around the nation."
When Langdell developed the original law school curriculum, Harvard President Charles Eliot
told him to make it "hard and long."
An urban legend holds that incoming students are told to "Look to your left, look to your right, because one of you won't be here by the end of the year."Scott Turow
's memoir One L
and John Jay Osborn
's novel The Paper Chase
describe such an environment.
In addition, Eleanor Kerlow's book Poisoned Ivy: How Egos, Ideology, and Power Politics Almost Ruined Harvard Law School
criticized the school for a 1980s political dispute between newer and older faculty members over accusations of insensitivity to minority and feminist issues. Divisiveness over such issues as political correctness
lent the school the title "Beirut on the Charles."
In Broken Contract: A Memoir of Harvard Law School,
Richard Kahlenberg criticized the school for driving students away from public interest and toward work in high-paying law firms. Kahlenberg's criticisms are supported by Granfield and Koenig's study, which found that "students [are directed] toward service in the most prestigious law firms, both because they learn that such positions are their destiny and because the recruitment network that results from collective eminence makes these jobs extremely easy to obtain."
The school has also been criticized for its large first year class sizes (at one point there were 140 students per classroom; in 2001 there were 80), a cold and aloof administration,
and an inaccessible faculty. The latter stereotype is a central plot element of The Paper Chase
and appears in Legally Blonde
In response to the above criticisms, HLS eventually implemented the once-criticized
but now dominant approach pioneered by Dean Robert Hutchins
at Yale Law School
, of shifting the competitiveness to the admissions process while making law school itself a more cooperative experience. Robert Granfield and Thomas Koenig's 1992 study of Harvard Law students that appeared in The Sociological Quarterly
found that students "learn to cooperate with rather than compete against classmates," and that contrary to "less eminent" law schools, students "learn that professional success is available for all who attend, and that therefore, only neurotic 'gunners' try to outdo peers."
Under Kagan, the second half of the 2000s saw significant academic changes since the implementation of the Langdell curriculum. In 2006, the faculty voted unanimously to approve a new first-year curriculum, placing greater emphasis on problem-solving, administrative law, and international law. The new curriculum was implemented in stages over the next several years,
with the last new course, a first year practice-oriented problem solving workshop, being instituted in January 2010. In late 2008, the faculty decided that the school should move to an Honors/Pass/Low Pass/Fail (H/P/LP/F) grading system, much like those in place at Yale and Stanford Law Schools. The system applied to half the courses taken by students in the Class of 2010 and fully started with the Class of 2011.
In 2009, Kagan was appointed solicitor general of the United States
by President Barack Obama
and resigned the deanship. On June 11, 2009, Harvard University president, Drew Gilpin Faust
named Martha Minow
as the new dean. She assumed the position on July 1, 2009. On January 3, 2017, Minow announced that she would conclude her tenure as dean at the end of the academic year.
In June 2017, John F. Manning
was named as the new dean, effective as of July 1, 2017.
In September 2017, the school unveiled a plaque acknowledging the indirect role played by slavery
in its history:
In honor of the enslaved whose labor created wealth that made possible the founding of Harvard Law School May we pursue the highest ideals of law and justice in their memory
The acceptance rate for the JD Class of 2022 was 12.3%.
HLS is ranked as the third best law school in the United States by U.S. News & World Report
, the most widely referenced rankings publisher in the American legal community.
HLS is ranked first, with a perfect overall assessment score of 100.0, by QS World University Rankings.
It is also ranked first by the Academic Ranking of World Universities.
This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (October 2019)
More than 120 from the last five graduating classes have obtained tenure
-track law teaching positions.
Adjusted for student body size, this puts Harvard in second place among U.S. law schools
, about 2 percentage points ahead of Stanford and Chicago (which tied for third place) but behind Yale.
According to the Employment Summary for 2014 Graduates, 90% were employed in bar passage required jobs and another 4.4% were employed in J.D. advantage jobs.
The total cost of attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses) at Harvard Law for the 2017–2018 academic year is $92,200.
The shield of Harvard Law School until 2016, with three garbs or sheaves depicted as a symbol of slavery.
In 2016, the governing body of the university, the Harvard Corporation
, voted to retire the law school's 80 year old arms. The arms, depicting three garbs (the heraldic
term for wheat sheaves), was based in part upon the coat of arms
of Isaac Royall Jr.
, a university benefactor who had endowed the first professorship in the law school. The shield had become a source of contention among a group of law school students, who objected to the Royall family's history as slave-owners.
The president of the university and dean of the law school, acting upon the recommendation of a committee formed to study the issue, ultimately agreed with its majority decision,
that the shield was inconsistent with the values of both the University and the law school. Their recommendation was ultimately adopted by the Harvard Corporation and on March 15, 2016, the shield was ordered retired.
Student organizations and journals
HLS Student Government is the primary governing, advocacy, and representative body for Law School students. In addition, students are represented at the university level by the Harvard Graduate Council
Harvard Law Review
Students of the Juris Doctor
(JD) program are involved in preparing and publishing the Harvard Law Review
, one of the most highly cited university law reviews
, as well as a number of other law journals and an independent student newspaper. The Harvard Law Review
was first published in 1887 and has been staffed and edited by some of the school's most notable alumni.
In addition to the journal, the Harvard Law Review Association, in conjunction with the Columbia Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and Yale Law Review also publishes The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation
, the most widely followed authority for legal citation formats in the United States.
The student newspaper
, the Harvard Law Record
, has been published continuously since the 1940s, making it one of the oldest law school newspapers in the country, and has included the exploits of fictional law student Fenno for decades.
The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, formerly known as the Harvard Law School Corporate Governance Blog
, is one of the most widely read law websites in the country.
The Harvard Law Bulletin
is the magazine of record
for Harvard Law School.
The Harvard Law Bulletin
was first published in April 1948. The magazine is currently published twice a year, but in previous years has been published four or six times a year. The magazine was first published online in fall 1997.
Harvard Law School student journals
Harvard's prestige and large class size have enabled it to graduate a large number of distinguished alumni.
Rutherford B. Hayes
, the 19th president of the United States, graduated from HLS. Additionally, Barack Obama
, the 44th president of the United States
, graduated from HLS and was president of the Harvard Law Review
. His wife, Michelle Obama
, is also a graduate of Harvard Law School. Past presidential candidates who are HLS graduates, include Michael Dukakis
, Ralph Nader
and Mitt Romney
. Eight sitting U.S. senators
are alumni of HLS: Romney, Ted Cruz
, Mike Crapo
, Tim Kaine
, Jack Reed
, Chuck Schumer
, Tom Cotton
, and Mark Warner
Other legal and political leaders who attended HLS include former president of the Republic of China
), Ma Ying-jeou
, and former vice president Annette Lu
; the incumbent Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong
, Andrew Cheung Kui-nung
; former chief justice
of the Republic of the Philippines
, Renato Corona
; chief justice
, Sundaresh Menon
; former president of the World Bank Group
, Robert Zoellick
; former United Nations high commissioner for human rights
, Navanethem Pillay
; the former president of Ireland
, Mary Robinson
; Lady Arden
, Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
and Solomon Areda Waktolla
, Deputy Chief Justice of the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia
. Deputy Chief Justice Solomon Areda Waktolla
is also member of the Court of the Permanent Court of Arbitration
is the first elected sikyong
of the Tibetan Government in Exile
. In 2004, he earned a S.J.D.
degree from Harvard Law School and was a recipient of the 2004 Yong K. Kim' 95 Prize of excellence for his dissertation "Democracy in Distress: Is Exile Polity a Remedy? A Case Study of Tibet's Government-in-exile".
Dr. Lobsang Sangay, Tibetan Prime Minister in Exile
of the school's graduates have served on the Supreme Court of the United States
, more than any other law school. Four of the current nine members of the court graduated from HLS: the chief justice
, John Roberts
;associate justicesNeil Gorsuch
; Stephen Breyer
; and Elena Kagan
, who also served as the dean of Harvard Law School
, from 2003 to 2009. Past Supreme Court justices from Harvard Law School include Antonin Scalia
, David Souter
, Harry Blackmun
, William J. Brennan
, Louis Brandeis
, Felix Frankfurter
, Lewis Powell
(LLM), and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
, among others. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
attended Harvard Law School for two years.
Attorneys General Loretta Lynch
, Alberto Gonzales
, and Janet Reno
, among others, and noted federal judges Richard Posner
of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
, Michael Boudin
of the First Circuit Court of Appeals
, Joseph A. Greenaway
of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals
, Laurence Silberman
of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals
, and Pierre Leval
of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
, among many other judicial figures, graduated from the school. The former Commonwealth solicitor general of Australia and current justice of the High Court of Australia
, Stephen Gageler
, senior counsel
graduated from Harvard with an LL.M.
Legal scholars who graduated from Harvard Law include Payam Akhavan
, William P. Alford
, Rachel Barkow
, Yochai Benkler
, Alexander Bickel
, Andrew Burrows
, Erwin Chemerinsky
, Amy Chua
, Sujit Choudhry
, Robert C. Clark
, Hugh Collins
, I. Glenn Cohen
, Ronald Dworkin
, Christopher Edley Jr.
, Melvin A. Eisenberg
, Susan Estrich
, Jody Freeman
, Gerald Gunther
, Andrew T. Guzman
, Louis Henkin
, Harold Koh
, Richard J. Lazarus
, Arthur R. Miller
, Gerald L. Neuman
, Eric Posner
, Richard Posner
, John Mark Ramseyer
, Jed Rubenfeld
, Lewis Sargentich
, John Sexton
, Jeannie Suk
, Kathleen Sullivan
, Cass Sunstein
, Laurence Tribe
, Edwin R. Keedy
, C. Raj Kumar
and Tim Wu
Research programs and centers
- Animal Law & Policy Program
- Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society
- Center on the Legal Profession (CLP)
- Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice
- Child Advocacy Program (CAP)
- Criminal Justice Policy Program (CJPP)
- East Asian Legal Studies Program (EALS)
- Environmental & Energy Law Program
- Foundations of Private Law
- Harvard Initiative on Law and Philosophy
- Harvard Law School Project on Disability (HPOD)
- Human Rights Program (HRP)
- Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP)
- John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics and Business
- The Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law
- Labor and Worklife Program (LWP)
- The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics
- Program in Islamic Law (PIL)
- Program on Biblical Law and Christian Legal Studies (PBLCLS)
- Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy
- Program on Corporate Governance
- Program on Institutional Investors (PII)
- Program on International Financial Systems (PIFS)
- Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC)
- Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World
- Program on Negotiation (PON)
- Shareholder Rights Project (SRP)
- Systemic Justice Project (SJP)
- Tax Law Program
In popular culture
The Paper Chase
is a novel set amid a student's first ("One L") year at the school. It was written by John Jay Osborn, Jr.
, who studied at the school. The book was later turned into a film and a television series (see below).
wrote a memoir of his experience as a first-year law student at Harvard, One L
Film and television
Several movies and television shows take place at least in part at the school. Most of them have scenes filmed on location at or around Harvard University. They include:
Many popular movies and television shows also feature characters introduced as Harvard Law School graduates. The central plot point of the TV series Suits
is that one of the main characters did not attend Harvard but fakes his graduate status in order to practice law.
- ^ Veritas appears on Harvard university's arms; heraldically speaking, however, a 'motto' is a word or phrase displayed on a scroll in conjunction with a shield of arms. Since 1692 University seals have borne Christo et Ecclesiae (for Christ and the Church) in this manner, arguably making that phrase the university's motto in a heraldic sense. This legend is otherwise not in general use today.
- ^ "About". Harvard Law School. Harvard University. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
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- ^ "Harvard University". U.S. News & World Report – Best Law Schools. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
- ^ "Bar Passage Rates For First-time Test Takers Soars!", by Kathryn Rubino, February 19, 2020. Retrieved September 4, 2020.
- ^ Badenhausen, Kurt (March 8, 2011). "The Best Law Schools For Getting Rich". Forbes. Retrieved January 7, 2016.
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- ^ "Bar Passage Rates For First-time Test Takers Soars!", by Kathryn Rubino, February 19, 2020. Retrieved September 4, 2020.
- ^ "Bar Passage Outcomes". American Bar Association. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
- ^ "Brian Leiter Law School Supreme Court Clerkship Placement, 2000-2010". www.leiterrankings.com. Retrieved December 17, 2017.. However, because of its greater size, approximately 2.5 times that of Yale, Harvard had a greater total number of Supreme Court while Yale has a significantly higher per-capita placement of clerks on the Court. Id.
- ^ "About". Harvard Law School. Retrieved January 7, 2016.
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- ^ a b Id.
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- ^ Clark, Solomon (1882). Antiquities, Historicals and Graduates of Northampton – Solomon Clark – Internet Archive. Steam Press of Gazette Print. Company. p. 277. Retrieved March 10, 2015. john ashmun northampton harvard law school.
- ^ a b "Book Note: Exploring the Organization and Actions of Legal Professions: Honor Seeking and Echoes of Political Revolution" (PDF). Harvard Law Review. 120: 1089. 2007. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
- ^ Kimball, Bruce A. (2006). "The Proliferation of Case Method Teaching in American Law Schools: Mr. Langdell's Emblematic "Abomination," 1890-1915". History of Education Quarterly. 46 (2): 192–247. doi:10.1111/j.1748-5959.2006.tb00066.x. JSTOR 20462057.
- ^ Bruce A. Kimball, '"Warn Students That I Entertain Heretical Opinions, Which They Are Not To Take as Law': The Inception of Case Method Teaching in the Classrooms of the Early C.C. Langdell, 1870–1883," Law and History Review 17 (Spring 1999): 57–140.
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- ^  Archived February 18, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
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- ^ Harvard Law School to ditch controversial shield Steve Annear. Boston Globe. March 14, 2016. Retrieved April 26, 2016
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- ^ "Home - Environmental & Energy Law Program". Harvard Law School. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
- ^ "Project on the Foundations of Private Law". Project on the Foundations of Private Law. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
- ^ "Harvard Initiative on Law and Philosophy". projects.iq.harvard.edu. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
- ^ "Harvard Law School Project on Disability". Harvard Law School Project on Disability. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
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- ^ "Harvard Law School | Institute for Global Law and Policy". iglp.law.harvard.edu. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
- ^ "HLS The John M. Olin Center". www.law.harvard.edu. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
- ^ "Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law". Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
- ^ "Labor and Worklife Program". lwp.law.harvard.edu. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
- ^ "The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School | Petrie-Flom Center". The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
- ^ "Program in Islamic Law". pil.law.harvard.edu. March 6, 2021. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
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- ^ "Home". Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
- ^ "Negotiation and Leadership". PON - Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
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- ^ "Harvard Law School Tax Law Program". Harvard Law School Tax Law Program. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
- Bennett, Drake (October 19, 2008). "Crimson tide: Harvard Law School, long fractious and underachieving, is on the rise again – and shaking up the American legal world". The Boston Globe.
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