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Programs of Study

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Programs of Study: Pathways Through the Harvard Law School Curriculum

Harvard Law School offers more courses and seminars than any other law school in the world. This is a tremendous resource, but the large numbers of courses, across a huge range of topics and approaches, also can be daunting as you plan your own path through the curriculum. The faculty encourages J.D. students to build on the foundation of the first year with both sufficient focus to pursue deep knowledge and with sufficient curiosity to explore a broad array of ideas about and approaches to law. Pursue your own passions, and also think about how to take advantage of opportunities for advanced work, clinical work, fellowships, and courses elsewhere in the university.

To guide you in pursuing deepening knowledge and progression as you move through the three years of law school and to create a tool for better coordination and collaboration between faculty members, the faculty has developed "programs of study." Students do not sign up for any program; nor should any student feel compelled to adhere to one. Instead, the programs of study reflect the best advice from faculty about how to approach particular subjects and potential careers. The seven current programs of study follow here with suggestions about how you can navigate our extensive course offerings with a sense of their relationship to different avenues of study and opportunities to move progressively through more advanced work before graduation. The programs of study also encourage groups of faculty members to think through in collective ways the best ways of offering and combining courses and to plan their own teaching programs. The programs of study can give J.D. and L.L.M. students a picture of how different courses and seminars can relate to the work of practicing lawyers and academics, and how clinical work, summer opportunities, and fellowships also enhance your learning and development.

The seven programs of study are:

  1. Law and Government
  2. Law and Business
  3. International and Comparative Law
  4. Law, Science and Technology
  5. Law and Social Change
  6. Criminal Justice
  7. Law and History

In the future, groups of faculty members and students may devise programs of study in other fields. Programs of study can include:

  1. foundational courses: courses offering context, perspective, skills, and introductory material intended for students with no presumed background in the field;
  2. intermediate courses: courses, including clinical opportunities and courses in other schools and departments, that presume the foundational course background and that offer immersion in either a specific subfield or a particular policy or problem area in order to build knowledge, skill, and approaches;
  3. capstone opportunities, including seminars, research settings, advanced clinics, and opportunities in other schools and departments, in which students can bring to bear in sophisticated ways the knowledge they have acquired in their prior courses; and
  4. information about relevant fellowships and other programs devoted to encouraging scholarship, summer opportunities, pro bono work, and connections with the HLS graduate program.

Beyond any specific program of study, the faculty advises all students to take courses offering exposure to a variety of topics and methodologies. The faculty has long recommended that students consider taking at least one course that offers a particular perspective on the legal system or a distinct way of thinking about law. We continue to recommend such courses, whether in legal history, comparative law, law and economics, and jurisprudence and legal theory.

Last modified: December 19, 2014

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