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HLS Grading Policy

The grading system for J.D. Students is described briefly below.  It is important to highlight that there is no published curve with respect to the distribution of grades and that there are no class rankings. For additional information about grading, please visit the grading section of the Handbook of Academic Policies for 2012-2013.  Also feel free to contact Assistant Dean for Career Services, Mark Weber.

Honors, Pass, Low Pass or Fail Grades

  • All Harvard Law School courses, seminars, clinicals and written work – with the exception of courses offered Credit/Fail (see Credit/ Fail below) – will be graded Honors, Pass, Low Pass, or Fail (“H, P, LP, or F”).

Dean’s Scholar Prizes

  • Dean’s Scholar Prizes may be awarded to J.D. students in recognition of outstanding work in classes with seven or more Harvard Law School J.D. and LL.M. students following the drop/add period.

Credit/Fail Grades

  • All reading groups and independent clinicals, and certain courses with prior approval from the Vice Dean for Academic Programming, will be graded on a Credit/Fail basis.  Faculty may not award Credit/Fail grades without prior consultation with the Vice Dean for Academic Programming.
  • All work done at foreign institutions as part of the Law School’s study abroad programs will be graded on a Credit/Fail basis.
  • Dean’s Scholar Prizes may not be awarded in courses graded on a Credit/Fail basis.

Harvard Law Review

Students are invited to join the Harvard Law Review based on their grades and performance on the Law Review's writing competition. No students are invited on to Law Review without first completing the writing competition. 

Graduation with Honors

1. A student who completes the requirements for the J.D. degree with distinction will receive the degree cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude.

2. Latin honors at graduation will be based on the average of the three annual grade point averages (GPA). GPA will be calculated for each year of study and then averaged across the three years to determine Latin honors.

3. (a) The annual GPA for students who matriculated as of, or after, Fall Term 2008 will be calculated by assigning the following values to grades: Honors: 4; Pass: 3; Low Pass: 2; Fail: 0. Dean’s Scholar Prize awards will carry an additional point. [1]

(b) For all students, in calculating annual GPAs, each grade, including the Dean's Scholar Prize, is weighted in accordance with the number of credits earned in the course.

4. For students who matriculated as of, or after, Fall Term 2008, the summa cum laude will be determined by the requirement of a 4.75 GPA.  The honor is exact and does not involve "rounding off"; ie., a GPA of 4.749 does not result in a degree summa cum laude.  If, in a given year, no student earns a GPA of 4.75 or higher, summa cum laude will be awarded to the student (or students in the case of a tie) with the highest overall GPA.

5. The magna cum laude will be awarded to the next ten percent of the entire class.

6. The cum laude will be awarded to the next 30 percent of the entire class.

7. All students who are tied at the margin of a percentage required for Latin honors will be deemed to have achieved the required percentage for the appropriate Latin honors. Students who graduate in November or March will be granted Latin honors to the extent that students with the same GPAs received Latin honors the previous May.

8. The following are not included in Latin honors calculations for any student:

a) Credit/Fail courses.

b) Cross-registration courses.

c) Courses taken outside of Harvard Law School through a Law School joint, concurrent or coordinated degree program.

d) Grades earned in law school prior to matriculation to Harvard Law School.

e) "Withdrew after Deadline" (WD) notations.

Last modified: August 19, 2014

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