What is LawBrain?
It's a living legal community making laws accessible and interactive. Click Here to get Started »

Harvard Law School

From lawbrain.com

Harvard Law School consistently tops law school ranking lists and continues to churn out large numbers of law school graduates each year. In addition to the small town atmosphere provided in the big city, Harvard Law School’s size and resources afford its students the ability to immerse themselves in nearly any legal topic in which they are interested.



Harvard Law School, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was founded in 1817, and lays claim to being “the oldest continually operating law school in the United States.”[1]  It was not always easy, however. In 1827, Harvard Law School was down to one professor and one student. Harvard Law was saved by and alumnus as well as an influential dean. From then on, Harvard Law School has been directed in a manner to be an elite institution of legal education, and continues to maintain that status.

Harvard Law School has come a long way from its early beginnings, and today, hosts about 1,900 students each year, offering them various J.D., LL.M., and S.J.D. degrees. Harvard Law School maintains a faculty of 101 full-time professors and offers over 260 courses and seminars each year.[2]

Admission statistics for Harvard Law’s Class of 2013 is based on a total of 7,610 applications. Only 11% of those who apply are offered admission (833), and of those 833 accepted applicants, 561 choose to enroll. The male to female ratio is broken down at 52/48, with 37% of applicants identifying themselves as students of color. The entering class is represented by 42 different states and 22 foreign countries.[3] 

Cost is a concern for any graduate school applicant, and law school tuition frequently tops the list of expenses. Tuition at Harvard Law School is $43,900 per year, with room and board expenses estimated to be an additional $18,457.[4]

For that expense, Harvard Law School offers a low student to faculty ratio – 11:1. Harvard Law also offers countless opportunities for public service, requiring students to complete a minimum of 40 hours of uncompensated service prior to graduation. Harvard Law also offers students the opportunity to accumulate multiple graduate degrees with no fewer than 5 joint degree programs. Students can also try their hands at the law international with study abroad exchange programs as well as Harvard’s own joint J.D./LL.M. program in conjunction with Cambridge University in England. Harvard Law is also no stranger to hands-on education, offering nearly 30 in-house clinics and hundreds of externship opportunities.

Career-wise, while the legal profession as a whole has been affected by the weak economy, Harvard grads, though cautious, are still optimistic. And they have good reason to be – despite weak employment numbers across a large variety of law schools, 97.1% of Harvard Law graduates are employed at graduation.[5]


Of course, rankings are vitally important to not only a school but also its students and alumni. Schools continually seek to improve their standing on the various lists and know that rankings are a big part of why students choose to attend a school. Students seek out highly-ranked schools to improve their employment prospects, and alumni appreciate graduating from schools with high rankings for their future career development. It also goes without saying that a high ranking often affords a certain amount of arrogance, or even feelings of superiority over others, often assumed by schools, students, and graduates. For its part, Harvard Law School #2 by U.S. News and World Report,[6]  #2 by Top-Law-Schools.com,[7]  and #6 by Vault.com.[8]

What They Are Saying

Because of Harvard’s large class sizes, it has been accused of being a “diploma mill” and an institution unconcerned with the quality of education offered as compared to some of its smaller competitors.[9]

Harvard Law School is not at the top of the list for sending significant numbers of graduates to Biglaw jobs, however, some of this might be explained by the fact that many Harvard graduates go on to complete judicial clerkships, but frequently migrate to Biglaw after the clerkship is complete.[10]


Harvard Law School has been at the center of many controversies through the years. One such controversy arose when Harvard banned the military from recruiting on campus through its Office of Career Services (in protest of the armed forces don’t ask, don’t tell policy).[11]

More recently, questions have arisen as to whether Harvard Law School is guilty of “grade inflation” – due to their having removed numeric grading in favor of pass/fail system instead.[12]

And even Harvard Law Students are not immune from being in controversial news. An email considered to contain racist ideology from a 3L Harvard Law School student and law review member made the rounds on the internet after it was distributed using the Harvard Black Law Students Association listserv.[13]

Notable Professors

  • Lawrence Lessig
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
  • Christopher Columbus Langdell
  • Joseph Story
  • Alan Dershowitz
  • Martha Minow

Notable Alumni

Harvard Law School counts numerous former students who went into private practice or state, federal, or even international government work. The following is a small sampling of those notable alumni:

  • President of the United States Barack Obama
  • First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama
  • United States Supreme Court Justice John Roberts
  • United States Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan


  1. http://www.law.harvard.edu/about/history.html
  2. http://www.law.harvard.edu/about/faq.html
  3. http://www.law.harvard.edu/prospective/jd/apply/classprofile.html
  4. http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/harvard-university-03074
  5. http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/harvard-university-03074
  6. http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/harvard-university-03074
  7. http://www.top-law-schools.com/rankings.html
  8. http://www.vault.com/wps/portal/usa/education/schoolprofile?programid=1501&programtype=2954&video_flag=0&pagetype=school
  9. http://www.top-law-schools.com/harvard-law-school.html
  10. http://abovethelaw.com/2011/03/best-law-schools-for-getting-a-biglaw-job-2011/
  11. http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/jun/30/elena-kagan/kagan-says-height-military-recuitment-controversy-/
  12. http://blog.powerscore.com/lsat/law-school-grade-inflation-causes-controversy/
  13. http://abovethelaw.com/2010/04/hls-3ls-racist-email-goes-national/


FindLaw John