Frequently Asked Questions For International JD Applicants

students in class
  The Harvard Law Program
  1. What is Harvard Law School?
  2. What academic programs does Harvard Law School offer for International Students who have studied law before?
  3. What academic programs does Harvard Law School offer for International Students who have never studied law before?
  4. What use would a J.D. degree be to a non-US citizen?
  Application Requirements and Tests
  1. What is the LSAT?
  2. What is LSAC's Credential Assembly Service?
  3. Do you require the TOEFL?
  4. What about the personal statement?
  5. Where can I find more out about the bar exam?
  Financial Questions
  1. How much does it cost?
  2. How do students pay for HLS?
  3. Loans and Grants; what’s that all about?
  4. That’s all very well, but what if I don’t want to take a law firm job?
  5. What about my summers while at law school?
  6. Who can I contact if I have more questions

The Harvard Law Program 

What is Harvard Law School?
The world's premier center for legal education and research, Harvard Law School provides unparalleled opportunities to study law and related disciplines in an energetic and creative learning environment. A Harvard Law education prepares students for success in a number of careers, including law practice, public service, business, and academia. Through its faculty, students, and alumni, Harvard Law School is able to contribute solutions to the world's most complex legal and social challenges.

Our students come from all over the United States and more than 70 countries around the world. Most are pursuing a J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree, while many others are earning an LL.M (Master of Laws) or the S.J.D. (Doctor of Juridical Science). Outside the classroom, there is a rich variety of student practice organizations, professional interest groups, social groups, and student journals, which allow students to pursue many interests.

Harvard is home to the world's largest academic law library. Its collections, numbering nearly two million volumes including international volumes in the Lewis International Law Center, support the teaching and research activities of the School and serve as a resource for legal scholars throughout the world. Harvard Law School's outstanding faculty and extraordinarily gifted students and alumni, its size and prodigious resources, and its location at the heart of Harvard University all contribute to its leadership role in American and international legal education.

Harvard Law School is one of the 10 schools which form Harvard University.
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What academic programs does Harvard Law School offer for International Students who have studied law before?
The LL.M (Master of Laws) and the S.J.D. (Doctor of Juridical Science) degrees are intended for students who previously have earned an initial law degree. Most of the students enrolled in these programs come to HLS from other nations. The one-year LL.M program provides students who already have excellent legal training and experience—many have served as practicing lawyers, judges, diplomats, community leaders—with broad latitude to design a course of study that will give them an expanded understanding of law and legal theory. The S.J.D. is a still more advanced degree, intended for students who wish to pursue a career in legal education. Graduates of the S.J.D. program are teaching in the world's finest law schools and producing scholarship at the highest levels. For more information on these programs, visit the graduate program website.
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What academic programs does Harvard Law School offer for International Students who have never studied law before?
The J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree is a three-year post-graduate program that first gives students the intellectual foundations for legal study, and then gives them the opportunity to focus their studies on areas of particular interest. The program culminates with a third-year paper that requires students to engage in a rigorous exploration of some aspect of the law or legal system.

In the US, law is a postgraduate course, so eligibility requires a bachelor's degree (or equivalent) by August of the year of intended enrollment at HLS. You must also take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The J.D. degree at HLS requires three years of full-time study, and new students begin their studies at the beginning of September each year.

The J.D. degree is a program in US law, enabling a graduate to become a practicing lawyer in the US, though HLS does offer an extensive curriculum in international law. To practice in the US, one must first pass the bar exam for a particular state (more details below). Many students do this the summer after they graduate, taking the exam around the end of July.
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What use would a J.D. degree be to a non-US citizen?
There are many possible and distinct answers to this question. They all stem from the fact that the Harvard Law J.D. degree program is one of the most internationally renowned and respected courses in the world. In addition, the HLS curriculum has generous offerings in international and comparative law.

With a Harvard Law degree, a person would likely have many opportunities to live and work in the US on a green card. Although some governmental departments have citizenship requirements, many law firms are more than willing to hire non-U.S. citizens.

Outside of the US, many global law firms practice US law and thus require lawyers who have been trained with a J.D. degree. For example, there are more than 30 firms offering positions to US lawyers straight out of law school in London, at salaries which are generally higher than those for British solicitors of the same age. Also, in many countries, having practiced (as a US lawyer) for a number of years, a person would typically have the opportunity to take the local "bar exam" equivalent and become a dual-qualified lawyer.

Also, HLS strongly promotes public service as an integral aspect of lawyers’ training, requiring the completion of at least 40 hours of pro bono work before graduation. HLS students gain practical experience while serving the public through an extensive clinical program, term-time externships, and several student-practice organizations. Summer Public Interest Funding is guaranteed for all students who work in public service during either or both summers between matriculation and graduation (see below). During Summer 2013, over 450 students received SPIF  to work throughout the United States and in many foreign countries. There are many opportunities for graduates entering Public Service, with the support of the Low Income Protection Plan. Many such public service jobs are international in nature (e.g. the UN, developmental banks) and encourage applicants with diverse backgrounds with a J.D.

Approximately 5% of Harvard law graduates will pursue a career in business and industry, and the J.D. degree is highly respected. Many management consultancies, for example, will consider it at least as valuable as a Harvard MBA.
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Application Requirements and Tests 

What is the LSAT?
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is administered by the Law School Admissions Council. It is a half-day standardized test required for admission to all ABA-approved law schools, most Canadian law schools, and many non-ABA-approved law schools. It provides a standard measure of reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools use as one of several factors in assessing applicants. The test is administered four times a year at hundreds of locations around the world. There are test centers in Australia, China, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Ghana, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Lebanon, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan and Thailand. It is also possible to request a non-published test site be established (for a fee) if an applicant lives more than 100 miles from a test center. For complete information on test site locations and establishing a non-published test site, please visit LSAC directly.

The LSAT is only one of the factors used to determine admission. Most admitted applicants at HLS have LSAT scores in the top five percentiles. For the entering class in 2013, 50% of the class scored between 170-175, 25% scored at or above 175 and 25% scored at or below 170. The LSAT, while important, is not determinative. The admissions office tries to assess a number of intangible qualities including energy, ambition, sound judgment and high ideals. Information concerning economic, social or educational obstacles that have been successfully overcome often helps admissions officers to understand an applicant's achievements in a proper perspective.
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What is LSAC's Credential Assembly Service?
We require all applicants, including foreign educated applicants, to register for the LSAC's Credential Assembly Service. (The LSAC's Credential Assembly Service provides a means of centralizing and standardizing undergraduate academic records to simplify the law school admission process.) The LSAC's Credential Assembly Service prepares a report for each law school to which an applicant applies, which includes LSAT scores and an academic summary. An applicant’s LSAC's Credential Assembly Service period will extend for five years from the registration date. Registering for a Law School Admission Test (LSAT) at any time during the LSAC's Credential Assembly Service period, will extend the LSAC's Credential Assembly Service period for five years from the latest LSAT registration.

Harvard Law School requires that foreign transcripts be submitted through the LSAC JD Credential Assembly Service (CAS). If any post secondary work has been completed outside the US (including its territories) or Canada, this service must be used for the evaluation of foreign transcripts. This service is included in the LSAC's Credential Assembly Service subscription fee. A Foreign Credential Evaluation will be completed by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), which will be incorporated into the LSDAS report.
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Do you require the TOEFL?
The JD program at Harvard Law School does not require the TOEFL.
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What about the personal statement?
The Personal Statement is an essay that applicants write as part of the admissions process. See personal statement resource for more details.
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Where can I find more out about the bar exam?
Most people take the bar exam a couple of months after graduating law school, and there are specialized programs to help you prepare for the exam in the state in which you wish to take it. Each of the different states in the US has its own substantive law. As such, law schools (particularly those like Harvard with students from throughout the country) do not specifically focus that much on substantive law of the states; rather they teach students how to "think like a lawyer."

Having said this, even lawyers intending to practice internationally will most likely take the bar exam of one state (New York is probably the most common). It is a good qualification to have and does not require much investment above and beyond three years of law school.

See also the American Bar Association website.
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Financial Questions 

How much does it cost?
Compared to education in many countries, US law school may seem very expensive. At Harvard Law School in 2014-2015, the annual tuition is $54,000. Harvard then suggests a budget of another $26,000 for everything else (travel, books, accommodation, living expenses, health insurance), resulting in a total annual cost of over $81,000. See Student Budgets for more information.
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How do students pay for HLS?
Harvard has created a financial aid program designed to make sure that all students, including all international students, can afford to attend. It is worth browsing through the entire Student Financial Services website to learn more. We'll just cover some of the basics here. Most of the points below are over-simplifications and may not be correct in your circumstances. If you are admitted, please contact Student Financial Services for details.

The most important point for an international student is that Harvard treats international applicants exactly the same as US applicants for the purposes of financial aid. Any loans which the US government would give to a US applicant, Harvard will match through its own loan program. This is incredibly generous and unheard of at many law schools.

Harvard does not offer merit-based scholarships. All  financial aid is based on financial need.

For a given academic year, parent financial information is required from all applicants for HLS Grant assistance who have not reached the age of 29 by September 1. The parental resource assessment may be reduced based on the student's age. For more information, please visit the policy on the Student Financial Services website. Back to Top

Loans and Grants; what’s that all about?
The Financial Aid Program at Harvard Law School is composed of Harvard grant assistance; loans from federal, institutional and private sources; and federal work-study funding that is primarily available to fund our Summer Public Interest Funding program.

Approximately 83% of J.D. students received some form of assistance through Student Financial Services in order to meet their education expenses. All of our institutional grant assistance is need-based and awarded solely on the basis of family financial strength. We offer no merit assistance of any kind and therefore we cannot match merit awards from other schools. Harvard grant and loan funding is made possible by the generous contributions of Law School donors, both in the form of endowed scholarship accounts and annual giving.

Although HLS grant funding can be generous for students with high financial need, the school's annual grant budget covers barely 10% of the entire cost of attendance for the J.D. student population. As a result, it is a scarce resource and many students will not qualify for grant funding. For the majority of students, then, financial assistance comes in the form of loans.

For international students, Harvard meets demonstrated need with Harvard Law School Grant or Loans. The remaining cost, up to the standard student budget, can be financed with a loan from a private source. In past years, both the Harvard University Employees Credit Union and Chase Select offer private supplemental loans to international students at Harvard, and no co-signer is required. 

Combined funding from these two sources can be obtained to cover the full cost of attendance. In other words, regardless of grant eligibility students can still obtain enough funding (in the form of loans, outside resources or part-time employment) to meet their full education expenses.

Note: If you have any questions about the aid process, we have created an email account just for international students. finaidintl@law.harvard.eduBack to Top 

That’s all very well, but what if I don’t want to take a law firm job?
For graduates taking on low-paying, private sector jobs or public interest jobs, Harvard offers the LIPP program (or Low-Income Protection Plan). In essence, HLS helps to pay off the loans of alumni who can’t afford to do so on their own. This applies to international students just as it does for US citizens. See LIPP Details for more information.
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What about my summers while at law school?
Most students work during their 2 summers at law school on law-related jobs. Most people spend their 2nd summer working wherever they hope to work after graduation. There is a vast array of options, including law firms (which pay the equivalent of a first-year associate’s weekly salary—in some cities this can be as much as $3200 a week), government, NGO’s, and anything law related.

For financial aid purposes, Harvard expects students to work at least 8 weeks over the summer and contribute 90% of their income after taxes and a $7,200 summer living allowance.  For a student who does not work a full 8 weeks, we impute the appropriate average weekly contribution above for each required week not worked. For more information, please visit the Student Financial Services webpage on Student Contribution from Summer Income.

However, if you are working in a legal "public interest" job, Harvard does not expect you to earn anything over the summer. Indeed it will provide aid towards living expenses for the summer, through the Summer Public Interest Funding program (SPIF). Many students also receive funding to go abroad from SPIF, as well as from the Human Rights Program and the Chayes Fellowship Program. Back to Top 

Who can I contact if I have more questions?
Please visit the Student Financial Services website or email
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Last modified: August 08, 2014

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