Harvard Law School
1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
Application Deadline: Feb. 1, 2014
Annual Tuition: $52,350
Class of 2016 Stats:
Acceptance Rate: 15.6%
Total Applicants: 5,510
Students of Color: 40%
Total Full-Time Enrollment*: 1,727
Median LSAT: 173
LSAT Scores (25th-75th percentile): 170-175
Median GPA: 3.88
GPA Scores (25th-75th percentile): 3.77-3.95
Employed at Graduation*: 90.9%
Employed Nine Months Later*: 93.7%
Bar Passage*: 97.5%
“Look to your left, look to your right, because one of you won’t be here by the end of the year,” one Harvard Law School dean allegedly said. For a long time, HLS has both enjoyed and suffered from a reputation for competitiveness, bolstered in pop culture by films like “Legally Blonde” and “The Paper Chase.” Today, though, the school projects a very different image. In a recent admissions blog post, Christopher Liedl, a 1L blogger, answered a prospective student’s question—“What’s been your most memorable HLS experience?”—by writing about a ski trip with 40 of his sectionmates. It was “a great mix of relaxation and activity,” the student wrote, describing activities that ranged from skiing and sledding to making hot chocolate and debating.
As idyllic as Liedl’s trip sounds, applicants seeking a small, cozy school should probably think twice about picking HLS. The Class of 2016 contains 560 students divided into seven sections of about 80 each. Students spend nearly their entire first year taking required classes within these sections. Still, the school does do a few things to help the newbies transition. For example, during their 1L year, students can participate in small, specialized, faculty-led reading groups of 10 to 12 students.
In their 2L and 3L years, the school’s size works in students’ favor: they have plenty of time to take electives in seven well-defined tracks. HLS offers more classes than any other law school. Researching the material shouldn’t be a problem either, as students can simply drop by the largest law library in the world. As for non-law interests? There are more than 100 different student organizations.
That variety extends to the student body. The Class of 2016 includes students from 42 states, 12 foreign countries and 171 different undergraduate institutions—schools from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to Harvard College itself. Students who don’t mind the big pond can enjoy rubbing elbows with classmates who’ve already accomplished quite a bit. In March, Business Insider compiled a list of “the most impressive students at Harvard Law School right now.” It names a tech startup founder, a U.S. Navy flight instructor, a published novelist and an impressive number of activists.
The list of HLS alumni is even more impressive; after all, President Barack Obama is on it. The school’s connections allow students to meet and network with some of the country’s most prominent figures—sometimes on very short notice. Earlier this year, Chief Justice John Roberts held a surprise 40-minute Q&A session in a 1L class.
Though the majority of the Supreme Court Justices have attended HLS, most alumni don’t go into public service. In the Class of 2012, 328 graduates took jobs at law firms, with 261 of them flocking to Big Law. Still, a full 131 graduates took judicial clerkships, nearly all of them federal. Whichever path graduates choose, their prospects aren’t too shabby. According to the latest employment statistics, the median public service starting salary for HLS graduates is $57,408, and the median private sector starting salary is $160,000—a sum even Harvard Business School students might envy.
*Derived from school-reported U.S. News data
How Harvard Compares Vs. Peer Law Schools
|2013 TTS Rank||2||3||5||1||11||12|
|Employed At Grad||90.7%||90.9%||93.2%||93.2%||90.6%||93.1%|
Source: Schools reporting to U.S. News
Academics & Programs: Harvard Law School—perhaps you’ve heard of it?—is like the land of Oz for aspiring lawyers, where “anything you want exists.” Indeed, the school has plenty of funding for student scholarships, interests, and activities, and the opportunities for “public service, research and publication, faculty mentor relationships, editorial, moot court, or legal aid experience, and international study and service options are endless.” The “you name it, it’s on the menu” mentality is definitely present for most students, and humility can (understandably) be a bit short in supply. “Harvard is Harvard. This is…simply a reinforcing circle of virtue, i.e., you get brilliant professors, amazing students, interesting courses, great opportunities, attracting brilliant professors and amazing students, etc.”
The “abundance of resources” available here lends itself to excellent support for public interest law, including a formidable public interest advising group, who “do a lot to build the community.” “Though there’s a lot of pressure to take a firm job, the counselors at [the public interest office] do a heck of a job fighting back. They’ll chase you down in the hall and tell you it’s time to start applying for fellowships, clerkships, and jobs,” says a student. “When employers start cutting their recruiting classes, the last place they cut is HLS,” says another. Everyone agrees that the economy has taken its toll, though—the ice skating rink closed—and “While the Harvard name will open doors, students still have to put in work and make sure that they are putting their best foot forward.”<p>Though each HLS class is hefty in size, it actually creates an “atmosphere of conversation and collaboration.” “Because our class is so big, there is always a critical mass for any interest, activity, or cause students want to pursue,” says a 2L. “I was a little concerned entering this school that its size would be intimidating or overwhelming, but in fact I’ve found that its size is one of its greatest strengths,” agrees a 1L.
As expected, the courses offered are top-notch, with “a lot of very random options” to diversify the curriculum, though many students wish there was “more emphasis on practical lawyering skills,” not to mention an alternative to the “arcane and mysterious” registration system. Though in recent years, a sizeable portion of the faculty has “fled to Washington, D.C., to work on Change,” students are “still terribly spoiled to have as many wonderful professors as we do.” According to a student, “O[bama] left us a couple of our best profs,” and plenty of “superstar” professors remain at Harvard, and “everyone is extremely accomplished and an expert in his/her field.” “Not everyone is a natural teacher,” but “Most of them are approachable and have interesting insights into the law (and many other areas).” There are also many research assistant and student writing opportunities offered.
Campus Life/Facilities: The administration is “very flexible and willing to work with students as circumstances arise,” and the school “really strives to please students, even in tough economic times.” Classroom buildings are “often ugly, but all are nicely equipped and in good condition,” research facilities “could not be better,” and the library—the largest law library in the world, by the way—is “huge and lovely, with a staggering quantity of books.” In other words, don’t come to this corner of Boston if you’re looking for the entire package of “sunshine, butterflies and architectural triumphs”—”There are reasons to come here; aesthetic bliss is not one of them.”
is most definitely “a lot of underlying stress and tension” at HLS, but “It’s never about beating your classmates.” While Harvard isn’t the same cutthroat school of the Paper Chase era, “There are still quite a few gunners”; however. As you hit your second year, “Everyone has relaxed a bit and gotten comfortable with their law school identities.”
It’s “very easy to find a great group of friends” because people are “generally fun and good-humored (in addition to being extremely smart and accomplished).” There is a Bar Review every week, and “The student government and other organizations host happy hours and other social events.” While the size of the school means that students “wouldn’t say the school as a whole has a strong general sense of community,” it does provide a larger potential pool for friends, and students “are able to find a sense of community by joining various organizations.” Be careful—students often “overwhelm themselves with extracurricular activities.”<p>Students tend to be “quite liberal,” but “One of the biggest surprises at HLS is how acceptable it is to be a conservative,” as students here “tend to be tolerant and accepting of people despite their gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.” “It’s very cooperative—there’s a definite feeling of ‘we’re all in this together,’” says a 1L.
* The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.