Harvard Law School
The oldest continuously operated law school in the United States and one of the most famous in the world, Harvard Law School requires little introduction. Consistently ranked in the top 3 in the country, HLS is one of the most selective institutions in the United States, typically admitting less than 15% of applicants. Despite having some of the largest classes (over 500 JD candidates annually), the race for spots is highly competitive: Candidates need to demonstrate not only a stellar academic record (median GPA of 3.86), but also stand out in their personal statements, extracurricular activities and/or work experience.
The list of notable HLS alumni is certainly too long to enumerate, and the lucky graduates will join ranks with the likes of former President Barack Obama (and former First Lady Michelle), five out of the nine sitting Supreme Court Justices (Chief Justice Roberts and justices Breyer, Kennedy, Gorsuch, and Kagan – the latter coming in after a stint as Harvard Law School’s dean), leading politicians Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz, and many more.
HLS is located in Cambridge, MA, just a short subway ride from Boston, which – when students choose to leave the comfort of Harvard Square – provides easy access to the great history, food, and sports tradition the city offers. Additionally, the school is located in close proximity to dozens of other quality universities (including MIT, Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, Brandeis, and many more), ensuring that there’s never a dull moment for students.
Despite Harvard Law School’s large class size, the school groups students in smaller classrooms to provide as much student-faculty interaction: While 1L classes are typically comprised of over 80 students, entering students participate in first-year reading groups of 10-12 people, each with faculty leaders who also serve as advisors. Moreover, the majority of HLS’s 400 offered courses (more than any other law school in the country) have fewer than 25 students enrolled, including more than 75 seminars in which small groups of students work directly with a faculty member.
In addition to the many opportunities to learn from some of the best legal minds in the country (including Dean John Manning and Cass Sunstein), HLS students can cross-enroll in other top-notch schools’ classes such as Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and even MIT.
While each student is free to enroll in any classes they wish, HLS offers optional programs of study, directing students to classes and faculty aligned with their specific areas of interest. The offered programs are in the fields of Law and Government; Law and Business; International and Comparative Law; Law, Science, and Technology; Law and Social Change; Criminal Justice; and Law and History.
Finally, to encourage collaboration between students and alleviate some concerns prospective students may have had about HLS’s cutthroat reputation, the school instituted an “honors”/“high pass”/”pass”/”low pass” grading system, and class rankings or curves are never published.
Clinical and Experiential Learning
HLS offers a great variety of clinical programs, most instructed by practicing attorneys rather than HLS faculty, and all are open to 2Ls, 3Ls, and LLM students. Almost 80% of HLS graduates participate in at least one clinic, which give students not only invaluable hands-on experience, but also a way to satisfy the school’s requirement that students take on 50 pro bono hours.
Most clinics are conducted in a traditional setting, with the students engaging clients and supervisors directly, and meeting in a group later on to discuss the experiences and lessons learned. However, HLS offers other avenues to gain real world experience, including externship clinics across the country, independent clinical research anywhere in the world, and pro bono participation through one of many of the school’s student organizations.
Class Size: 561
Students of color: 45%
Median LSAT: 173 (low 170, high 175)
Median GPA: 3.89 (low 3.79, high 3.96)
- Law Firms: 63.1%
- Judicial Clerkships: 19.2%
- Business & Industry: 4.2%
- Government/Public Interest: 13%
- Education: 0.5%
*Geographic statistics not disclosed by school.