Harvard Law School

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Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School
Established 1817
School type Law School
Endowment US$1.7 billion
Parent endowment $32 billion
Dean Martha Minow
Location Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Enrollment 1,880
1680 JD
150 LLM
50 S.J.D.
Faculty 248[1]
USNWR ranking 2[2]
Bar pass rate 98.19%[1]
Website www.law.harvard.edu
ABA profile Harvard Law School Profile

Harvard Law School (also known as Harvard Law or HLS) is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1817, it is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world.[3][4] The law school is generally considered one of the most prestigious in the world.[5][6]

HLS has a considerably bigger class size than most law schools – each class in the three-year J.D. program has approximately 560 students, the largest of the top 150 ranked law schools in the United States.[7] With a current enrollment of 1,741, HLS has about as many students its three closest-ranked peer institutions (first-ranked Yale, third-ranked Stanford, and fourth-ranked Chicago) combined. The first-year (1L) class is broken into seven sections of approximately 80 students who take most first-year classes together. Harvard's uniquely large class size and its 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 2013 ABA-required disclosures, 86.9% of the Class of 2013 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation.[8] Harvard Law School graduates have accounted for 568 judicial clerkships in the past three years,[when?] including one-quarter of all Supreme Court clerkships.[9] Adjusted for its student body size (Harvard's class is roughly three times bigger than those of most peer institutions), this put Harvard in second place, with 1 percentage point more clerkships than third-place University of Chicago Law School, and about half as many clerkships as Yale Law School.

Harvard Law was founded by the estate of Isaac Royall, Jr.. Royall's coat-of-arms, with its three stacked wheat sheaves, is on the school's crest. The current Dean of Harvard Law School is Martha Minow, who assumed the role on July 1, 2009. The law school has 234 faculty members.[10]

Langdell Hall at night
Austin Hall
Langdell in the winter
Wasserstein Hall


Harvard Law School's campus is located just north of Harvard Yard, the historic center of Harvard University, and contains several architecturally significant buildings.

From 1849 to 1855, the Harvard Branch Railroad terminated within what would become the present Law School campus, close to its southwest edge. Austin Hall, the law school's oldest dedicated structure, designed by architect H. H. Richardson, was completed in that vicinity in 1884. The law school's student center, Harkness Commons, was designed by the Bauhaus's founder, Walter Gropius, and his firm, along with several law schools in the country. Together they make up the Harvard Graduate Center complex. Langdell Hall, the largest building on the law school campus, contains the Harvard Law School Library, the most extensive academic law library in the world.


Founding by Isaac Royall[edit]

Harvard Law School was established in 1817, making it 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.[11] 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.[12])

Portrait of Isaac Royall, painted in 1769 by John Singleton Copley

Its origins can be traced to the estate of Isaac Royall, a wealthy Antiguan who immigrated to Boston. His Medford estate, the Isaac Royall House, is now a museum which features the only remaining slave quarters in the northeast United States. The Royall chair was traditionally held by the Dean of the law school. However, because Royall was a slaveholder, Deans Elena Kagan and Martha Minow declined the Royall chair. The Royall family coat-of-arms was adopted as the school crest, which shows three stacked wheat sheaves beneath the university motto (Veritas, Latin "truth").[13]

Growth and the Langdell curriculum[edit]

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."[14] 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.[15] 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.

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, property, torts, 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.[16][17]

20th century: institutional criticism[edit]

Throughout most of the 20th century, HLS was often believed to be a competitive environment. For example, Dean Berring of University of California, Berkeley School of Law once stated that he "view[ed] Harvard Law School as a samurai ring where you can test your swordsmanship against the swordsmanship of the strongest intellectual warriors from around the nation."[18] When Langdell developed the original law school curriculum, Harvard University President Charles Eliot told him to make it "hard and long."[19][20] The school's competitive culture gave rise to the urban legend of a dean at the school telling incoming students, "Look to your left, look to your right, because one of you won't be here by the end of the year."[21] 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."[22]

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."[23] 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,[24] 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[20] 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."[23]

21st century[edit]

Elena Kagan
Dean Minow

Under Dean Elena 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,[25][26] 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 (H/P/LP) 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.[27]

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, and she assumed the position on July 1, 2009.

HLS is currently ranked second by the U.S. News & World and Report, behind only Yale Law School. Its acceptance rate was 15.4% in the 2013–14 admissions cycle, and its yield rate of 66.2% was the second-highest of any law school in the United States.[28][29]

Harvard Law Review, other journals[edit]

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.[30] In addition to the journal, the Harvard Law Review Association 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.

Hauser Hall

The law journals are:


According to Harvard Law's official 2013 ABA-required disclosures, 86.9% of the Class of 2013 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation.[8] More than 120 from the last five graduating classes have obtained tenure-track law teaching positions.[31] 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.

ABA Employment Summary for 2013 Graduates[32]
Employment Status Percentage
Employed – Bar Passage Required
Employed – J.D. Advantage
Employed – Professional Position
Employed – Non-Professional Position
Employed – Undeterminable
Pursuing Graduate Degree Full Time
Unemployed – Start Date Deferred
Unemployed – Not Seeking
Unemployed – Seeking
Employment Status Unknown
Total of 578 Graduates


The total cost of attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses) at Harvard Law for the 2014–2015 academic year is $81,900.[33]

Notable people[edit]


Barack Obama

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 and current 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. Seven sitting U.S. Senators are alumni of HLS: Ted Cruz, Mike Crapo, Tim Kaine, Jack Reed, Chuck Schumer, Tom Cotton, and Mark Warner.

Other legal and political leaders who attended HLS include current President of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Ma Ying-jeou, and former Vice President Annette Lu; current Chief Judge of the High Court of Hong Kong Andrew Cheung Kui-nung; former Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines, Renato Corona; Chief Justice of Singapore Sundaresh Menon; former President of the World Bank Group, Robert Zoellick; former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay; and the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson.

Dr. Lobsang Sangay 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

Fourteen of the school's graduates have served on the Supreme Court of the United States of America, more than any other law school. Five of the current nine members of the court graduated from HLS: Chief Justice John Roberts, and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, who also served as the Dean of Harvard Law School from 2003 to 2009. Ruth Bader Ginsburg attended Harvard Law School for one year but transferred to and graduated from Columbia Law School. Past Supreme Court justices from Harvard Law School include David Souter, Harry Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, Lewis Powell (LLM), and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., among others.

Attorneys General Loretta Lynch, Alberto Gonzales, and Janet Reno, among others, and noted federal judges Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Michael Boudin of the First Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge 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 SC graduated from Harvard with an LL.M.[34]

Many HLS alumni are leaders and innovators in the business world. Its graduates include the current Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein; former Chief executive officer of Reddit, Ellen Pao; current Chairman of the Board and majority owner of National Amusements (and billionaire) Sumner Redstone; current President and CEO of TIAA-CREF, Roger W. Ferguson, Jr.; current CEO and Chairman of Toys "R" Us, Gerald L. Storch; and former CEO of Delta Air Lines, Gerald Grinstein, among many others.

Legal academics who graduated from Harvard Law include William P. Alford, Rachel Barkow, Yochai Benkler, Alexander Bickel, Erwin Chemerinsky, Amy Chua, Sujit Choudhry, Robert C. Clark, 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, and Tim Wu.


Former faculty[edit]

In popular culture[edit]


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).

Scott Turow wrote a memoir of his experience as a first-year law student at Harvard, One L.

Film and television[edit]

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 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Harvard Law School Official ABA Data Archived March 4, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Harvard University | Best Law School | US News". Grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  3. ^ About. Law.harvard.edu. Retrieved on 2010-12-20.
  4. ^ Library Tours - 67th IFLA Council and General Conference. Ifla.org. Retrieved on 2010-12-20.
  5. ^ http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2011/03/08/the-best-law-schools-for-getting-rich/2/
  6. ^ http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/10/19/crimson_tide/?page=full
  7. ^ U.S. News and World Report, Best Law Schools 2015 http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/law-rankings Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  8. ^ a b "Employment Summary for 2013 Graduates" (PDF). 
  9. ^ Brian Leiter's Law School Rankings (2000-2010)
  10. ^ "Faculty Profiles". Retrieved 2014-11-30. 
  11. ^ "Quick Facts: W&M Law School". Marshall-Wythe School of Law. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  12. ^ "The University of Maryland School of Law: Our History and Mission". The University of Maryland School of Law. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 
  13. ^ "Issues Archive | Harvard Law Today". Law.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  14. ^ "LAW SCHOOL HAS FINE PORTRAIT COLLECTION | News | The Harvard Crimson". Thecrimson.com. 1930-01-23. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  15. ^ "Antiquities, Historicals and Graduates of Northampton - Solomon Clark - Google Books". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  16. ^ Bruce A. Kimball, "The Proliferation of Case Method Teaching in American Law Schools: Mr. Langdell's Emblematic 'Abomination,' 1890–1915," History of Education Quarterly (2006) 46#2 pp. 192–240 in JSTOR
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "Interview with Former Dean Robert Berring of U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law". Top-law-schools.com. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  19. ^ [1] Archived February 18, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ a b [2] Archived February 18, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Kahlenberg, Richard D. (1992), Broken Contract: A Memoir of Harvard Law School, New York: Hill and Wang, ISBN 0-8090-3165-5 
  22. ^ "www". Legaled.com. 2003-09-21. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  23. ^ a b Granfield, Robert; Koenig, Thomas (2005), "Learning Collective Eminence: Harvard Law School and the Social Production of Elite Lawyers", Sociological Quarterly 33 (4): 503–20, doi:10.1111/j.1533-8525.1992.tb00140.x 
  24. ^ Glater, Jonathan D. (April 16, 2001). "Harvard Law Tries to Increase Appeal". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Issues Archive | Harvard Law Today". Law.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  26. ^ Glater, Jonathan D. (October 7, 2006). "Harvard Law Decides to Steep Students in 21st-Century Issues". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  27. ^ Mystal, Elie. "HLS Grade Reform: Splitting the Baby Was The Only Call". Above the Law. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  28. ^ "HLS Profile and Facts". Law.harvard.edu. 2015-02-24. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  29. ^ "10 Law Schools Where Accepted Students Usually Enroll". US News. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  30. ^ "The Harvard Law Review — Glimpses of Its History as Seen by an Aficionado - The Harvard Law Review — Glimpses of Its History as Seen by an Aficionado". Harvardlawreview.org. 1987-01-17. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  31. ^ "Brian Leiter Law School Faculty Moves, 1995-2004". Leiterrankings.com. 2011-01-31. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  32. ^ "Employment Summary for 2013 Graduates" (PDF). Law.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  33. ^ "Student Budget". Law.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  34. ^ [3] Archived February 22, 2012 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°22′41″N 71°7′7″W / 42.37806°N 71.11861°W / 42.37806; -71.11861

  1. ^ "Logic and Experience: The Origin of Modern American Legal Education (9780195079357): William P. LaPiana: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2015-03-10.