III. Additional Academic Opportunities (J.D. and Graduate Programs)


A. Additional Written Work Opportunities

1. Optional Written Work

In addition to the Written Work Requirement for each degree, all students have the option of doing additional written work for credit. With the agreement of the instructor, a student may do such optional written work for additional credit in conjunction with a Law School seminar or course, or may do it on an independent basis with Law School faculty supervision.  These are excellent opportunities for pursuing topics in depth, for exploring issues beyond the formal curriculum, for developing publishable scholarship, and for tailoring the law school experience to the student’s personal interests.

a) Credits: Optional written work may receive one or more writing credits and is expected to be of the same scope as a paper written to fulfill Option 1 of the J.D. Written Work Requirement that receives the same number of credits (see Section 1.G). The number of credits granted for a particular piece of writing must be arranged in advance between the student and the faculty member who has agreed to supervise the work. 

b) Supervision: Students are encouraged to ask any HLS faculty member or instructor with an HLS teaching appointment to supervise written work. Faculty have indicated availability to supervise written work in particular fields. Faculty on certain types of leave may not be available in a given term.

c) Supervision by Visiting Faculty: Writing credits under the supervision of visiting faculty must be registered for, and ordinarily completed during, the term(s) of the visitor’s appointment. Note that many visitors have Law School appointments for only one term.  Students with questions about visiting faculty supervision of written work outside the faculty member's term of appointment should contact the Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs.

d) Registration for Optional Written Work (see also Sections VII and VIII): J.D. Students must register for Optional Written Work by submitting the required registration form and proposal to the faculty supervisor for approval and then submitting them to the Registrar's Office by October 4, 2013 for fall term and by January 31, 2014 for spring term.  Forms are available in hard copy in the Office of the Registrar and online.  

e) Research Assistant Work for Credit

Law School faculty members and instructors with an HLS teaching appointment have the discretion to give a student academic credit for writing done as a research assistant, subject to the following conditions.

i. In order to qualify for academic credit, the writing must be equivalent to work that would qualify for optional independent written work credit. Research assistant work that does not qualify for academic credit includes cite-checking, research summaries without analysis, and compilations or summaries of data without analysis.

ii. In no case may a student receive academic credit for research assistant work that is also compensated.

iii. To register for Research Assistant Work for Credit, please complete the required registration form and submit it to the Office of the Registrar.

f) J.D. students should consult the Director of Special Academic Programs or the Office of the Registrar with questions about optional written work or Research Assistant Work for Credit. 

g) LL.M. students must consult with the Director of Administration and Student Affairs for the Graduate Program before undertaking optional written work or Research Assistant Work for Credit.

2. Winter Term Writing Program

Participants in the Winter Term Writing Program (WWP) devote the winter term exclusively to the intensive research and/or writing of a paper under the supervision of a Law School faculty member or instructor with an HLS teaching appointment. The WWP itself does not confer credit. Hence, the work done during the winter term must be part of a larger project such as Option 1 of the J.D. Written Work Requirement or for LL.M. students a 50-Page Paper—written independently of a course or seminar—with the credits assigned to the Winter Term. Participation in the program is in lieu of taking a Law School course for the winter term, and to meet the minimum residency requirement, the research/writing done during the term must be comparable at a minimum to completion of a two-credit course. 

a) J.D. Students

J.D. participation in the WWP, with the credits registered into the winter term, can proceed by either of these methods: 

i. Option 1 of the J.D. Written Work Requirement: an independent paper (two or three writing credits) or a paper written in conjunction with a course or seminar (two or three writing credits in addition to classroom credits for the seminar).

ii. J.D. Optional Written Work: a two-credit independent paper or a two-credit paper in conjunction with a course or seminar.  

b) J.D. Students -- Special Considerations

i. Option 2 of the J.D. Written Work Requirement does not qualify for the WWP.

ii. Written work for which J.D. students registered in a previous academic year is not eligible for the WWP in the current year.

iii. Credits for WWP projects are registered into the Winter Term only.

iv. Students participating in the WWP must spend the winter term in Cambridge, working on the relevant paper unless the nature of their research requires them to travel

v. Students should note that taking the WWP instead of a winter course eliminates the winter term as a source of Law School classroom credits. Third-year students considering the WWP in lieu of a winter course should first check their upper-level credits against HLS degree requirements to confirm that they will meet the required 36 Law School classroom credit minimum set forth in Section I.C

c) LL.M. Students: Students who have registered for a single written work project worth at least two credits, such as the LL.M. Long Paper, are eligible to apply for the WWP. LL.M. students who are accepted to the WWP must spend the winter term in Cambridge, working on the relevant paper.

d) Application and Registration Process: The J.D. registration form and the LL.M. application are available online and in hard copy at the Office of the Registrar and in the Graduate Program Office respectively.  See Section VII for more information about registration and Section VIII for submission deadlines for the Winter Term Writing Program.

B. Clinical Legal Education

1. Overview

Clinics offer students the opportunity to use the analytical, negotiation, and problem-solving skills they have learned in the classroom to assist clients and/or to develop policy while receiving academic credit under the supervision of experienced attorneys in a wide variety of settings. Most students enroll for clinical credit at the many Law School “in-house” clinics that are permanently staffed by Law School attorneys, who are experienced in teaching and supervising students. Students can also be placed in approved externship placements where they work for an outside agency or organization. Students interested in a special area of the law not offered through existing clinics may propose a new clinical placement through the Independent Clinical Work Program, which requires pre-approval by the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs, supervision by a licensed attorney, and sponsorship by an HLS faculty member.

Clinical work is a serious commitment that requires the dedication of a significant amount of time including substantial hours during the work week. Students should consult with the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs to find out more about clinical programs or a specific clinic.

2. Requirements for Clinical Credits

a) Any student seeking to receive academic clinical credit for legal practice work or a legal externship must do so pursuant to the Student Practice Rules (See Section III.B.4) in coordination with the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs.

b) Clinical work must be legal work and involve direct legal advocacy or representation, application or interpretation of law, formulation of legal policy, or drafting of legislation or regulations.  Clinical work should not be clerical. 

c) All clinical work must be supervised by a licensed attorney.

d) All clinics must have a classroom component (with the exception of the Independent Clinical Work and the Continuing Clinical Work programs).

e) Work on political campaigns is not eligible for clinical credit, but may count toward the pro bono requirement if it meets certain criteria. See Section III.B.4.

f) Students must have successfully completed their first year of law school to enroll in a clinic.

g) All independent clinicals are capped at two clinical credits and graded Credit/Fail.

h) Per ABA rules, a student may not receive academic credit for clinical work for which he or she also receives compensation.

3. Enrollment and Credits

Table 3: Clinical Credits


TermClinical CreditsHours per WeekHours per Term
Fall or  Spring210120


a) Students may enroll in a given clinic only once, may enroll in only one clinic per term, and may earn a maximum of four clinical credits for their work in that clinic per term. Students may enroll in a maximum of 12 clinical credits in total.  

b) Students seeking to enroll in the same clinic for a subsequent semester of advanced clinical work may do so with the permission of the clinic and the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs through the Continuing Clinical Work Program.

c) Students earn classroom credits for the classroom component of their clinics.

Students with questions about these policies should contact the Assistant Dean for Clinical and Pro Bono Programs.  (LLM students should consult with the Graduate Program Office for additional clinical credit policies.)

4. Opportunities for Student Practice

Purpose: Harvard Law School seeks to ensure that students are given ample opportunities to gain hands-on, practical legal experience during their time at HLS. HLS offers the largest number of in-house clinics and externship programs in the country. In addition, HLS also provides in-house supervision for a broad range of Student Practice Organizations (SPOs).

a) HLS offers several carefully designed options for students to engage in legal practice, all of which train students to be competent, effective and ethical lawyers while providing the supervision necessary for effective pedagogy and compliance with relevant statutes and rules governing the practice of law.

Students can engage in legal work through the School’s clinical and pro bono programs in the following ways:

In addition to the methods stated above, students can:

  • Earn academic credit – to fulfill the independent written work option for the writing requirement – for detailed legal research and policy analysis under the supervision of a faculty member. Independent written work projects take a wide range of forms, from law review articles to drafting proposed statutes to writing policy papers to advising public officials or private entities. Those projects may also include various sorts of public policy analysis, historical research, and empirical work so long as they include the completion of an appropriate written work product. See: http://www.law.harvard.edu/academics/writing/index.html
  • Students may also gain practice experience by volunteering individually on a non-credit basis for outside attorneys, under the supervision of those attorneys, but shall not in any way hold themselves out as doing so as part of an HLS student group or under the HLS name.

b) HLS student organizations that are not approved SPOs shall not under any circumstances engage in the practice of law in any form. Disregard for this policy will subject the student organization to dissolution procedures.

  • Only approved SPOs and clinics (where an in-house attorney supervisor is provided through a clinic or a stand-alone SPO) may seek out or accept projects that constitute legal practice or otherwise practice law using the Harvard name.
  • Students who are not in approved SPOs and clinics shall not form student organizations with the intent of engaging in law practice.
  • Student organizations may present conferences, panels, and other events and bring in speakers.  Members of such organizations may of course talk generally with others about their practice experiences as long as they comply with professional rules governing client confidences.
  • Creating a new SPO or clinic requires an investment of resources to hire supervising attorney(s), provide space, and ensure data security and client confidentiality. Students are encouraged to work within existing clinics and SPOs. Funding to start an SPO or a new clinic comes from the Law School budget and not through the student funding board or the Dean of Students Office. Such requests must be weighed against on-going requests to support existing clinics and SPOs. Please contact the Assistant Dean of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs to find out more about the institutional review process for proposed clinics or SPOs.
  • Even students approved for clinical work or working with an SPO should recognize and work within the limits of their competence; ask for help from a clinical supervisor when necessary; accurately represent their role as a student attorney; and ensure they are supervised appropriately for any clinical task they perform.

c)  Standards of professional behavior for law students.

As future practicing lawyers, law students have standards of professional behavior and responsibilities expected of them. Please be advised that every state, including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has statutes and rules that prohibit the “unauthorized practice of law.” (See, e.g., Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 221 §41; Mass. Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 5.5)

The practice of law is broadly defined and can include providing advice, in addition to direct representation. Just as one must get a license to practice medicine, one must be admitted to the bar in a particular state to be able to practice law. Law students are permitted to do legal work for clients as long as the student is working as an individual supervised by an attorney admitted to practice law in the relevant jurisdiction and that attorney takes responsibility for the legal work. Engaging in the unauthorized practice of law may result in criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment. See Massachusetts Conveyancers Ass’n, Inc. v. Colonial Title & Escrow, Inc., 2001 WL 669280 (Mass.Super. 2001) (whether a particular activity constitutes the practice of law is fact specific); Matter of Shoe Manufacturers Protective Association, 295 Mass. 369, 372 (1936). 

HLS students are required to comply with rules regarding the practice of law and the Law School’s policies regarding engagement in the practice of law while enrolled at the Law School.  These rules ensure proper supervision and compliance with applicable legal requirements. Violation of the rules on the unauthorized practice of law may result in disciplinary proceedings before the Administrative Board and may interfere with eligibility for admission to the bar.

C. Cross-Registration

1. Cross-Registration from Harvard Law School

a) Overview: Cross-registration for Harvard Law School students extends to all Harvard schools with the exception of the Division of Continuing Education (Harvard Extension School). Law School students also may cross-register at M.I.T. and the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Students are responsible for knowing the cross-registration policies and procedures of the Law School and of the school offering the course. Cross-registration must be completed by published deadlines at the beginning of the semester in which the course is offered and by the dates posted in the Law School Cross-Registration Calendar. A cross-registration petition may not be filed later in the year and operate retroactively. Students interested in cross-registering should submit petitions through the University cross-registration system.  Individual school courses and cross-registration policies and dates are available on this site.

b) Requirements: A student must be a currently registered, full-time student of Harvard Law School in order to cross-register. Any J.D. student, after the fall term of the first year, may cross-register for courses according to these terms:  

i. In the spring term, first-year J.D. students may petition the Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs to cross-register for a course offered by one of the other Harvard schools. However, the course, if approved, will not be counted for degree credit and the student must also complete the required spring HLS upper-level elective course of a minimum of two and a maximum of four classroom credits. Petitions should include the student’s reasons for wanting to cross-register.

 ii. Second- and third-year J.D. students need to carry at least eight Harvard Law School credits of classroom, clinical, or written work, of which no fewer than four are classroom and/or clinical credits per semester in order to cross-register.  Students are required when cross-registering to  meet the Law School fall and spring semester residency minimum of 10 credits, including the cross-registration credits as converted to HLS credits.

iii. LL.M students must seek approval from the Director of Administration and Student Affairs for the Graduate Program before cross-registering.

iv. Only those S.J.D. students who are in the first year of the S.J.D. program and who are eligible to take courses for credit are able to cross-register.  Where both conditions have been met, S.J.D. students should also consult with their faculty supervisors before starting the cross-registration process.

c) Credits: Harvard Law School allows up to 12 credits of cross-registration toward the J.D. degree and up to six credits of cross-registration toward the LL.M. degree.  Law School students may enroll in up to six credits of cross-registration per semester. The number of credits for a course will be assigned by the Law School Registrar’s Office. Law School credits for cross-registration are generally based on lecture hours (e.g., a course meeting three lecture hours per week for a full semester will receive three credits). Studio courses for J.D. students are generally limited to two credits. LL.M. students do not receive degree credit for language courses.

d) Course Details, Grades: The content of a cross-registered course may not duplicate or overlap course work taken previously or contemporaneously. The meeting time of the cross-registered course may not overlap with or abut the meeting time of courses on the student’s Law School schedule, and sufficient travel time between schools must be allowed.

Grades awarded by the school offering the cross-registered course are the grades of record for the Law School transcript. Credits earned in cross-registered courses generally count toward HLS degree requirements; however,  the grades do not count in Latin honors calculations.

Most schools do not allow graduate or cross-registered students to take courses pass/fail. Students may not negotiate pass/fail grading separately with faculty, and any offer of pass/fail grading from the course instructor will be verified by the Law School Registrar’s Office. Any questions regarding the grading policies of a school should be directed to the respective Registrar’s Office.

e) Academic Work, Examinations: All Harvard schools operate on the same academic calendar.  However schools continue to offer individualized course and exam schedules that affect daily class times, add/drop deadlines, exams, and credits. All academic work for a cross-registered course must be completed in the term in which the course is taken. Students should review the course and exam schedule of each school into which they plan to cross-register. Students are responsible for taking the examination(s) in a cross-registered course when scheduled by the school offering the course. Requests to defer examinations in any course, including cross-registered courses, will not be granted except as specified in the Law School's Deferred Examination Policy (see Section IV.B). In addition, the examination policies and procedures of the school offering the course must be observed.

Note: Degree candidates should plan carefully to complete all academic work and exams in cross-registered courses on schedule to avoid delay in receipt of final grades that may jeopardize clearance for Harvard Law School graduation.

f) Cross-Registration Deadlines: Harvard Law School students should follow the deadlines listed on the Law School Cross-Registration Calendar.

More detailed information about cross-registration for Law School students is available on the Cross Registration webpage or from the Office of the Registrar.

2. Cross-Registration into Harvard Law School

Students cross-registering into Harvard Law School from other schools should consult with their home school Registrar’s Office first. Cross-registration into the Law School is open to all Harvard University students with the exception of students from the Division of Continuing Education (Harvard Extension School) and to graduate students of M.I.T. and the Fletcher School at Tufts University. For the duration of the cross-registration, a student must be registered at his or her home school and remain in good standing at both the home school and at the Law School.  Students interested in cross-registering into the Law School should submit petitions through the University cross-registration system

Cross-registrants into the Law School are allowed to take a maximum of six credits at the Law School in an academic year, audits included. Most Law School courses expect students to have a basic understanding of legal vocabulary and the legal system. Students must get permission from the instructor to cross-register and should discuss their qualifications for a course/seminar in detail and in advance with the instructor.   Even with permission, cross-registrants are not guaranteed enrollment in a class until the HLS Registrar’s Office has given its approval, which will be in part dependent on available seats.

Cross-registration must be completed at the beginning of the semester in which the course is offered and by the dates posted in the Law School Cross-Registration Calendar. A petition may not be filed later in the year and operate retroactively. There is no cross-registration into the first-year basic courses in civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, legislation and regulation, property, torts, and international or comparative law, or into the first-year Problem Solving Workshop or First-Year Legal Research and Writing. All cross-registration placements are determined by the Law School Registrar’s Office. Students may not make arrangements outside the Registrar’s Office with a Harvard Law School instructor to cross-register for or audit a course or regarding grades or credit for academic work.

All academic work must be completed in the term in which cross-registration is taken and by Law School deadlines. All examinations must be taken as specified in the Harvard Law School examination schedule. No adjustments will be made, and Harvard Law School does not give make-up examinations. Papers are not accepted in lieu of exams unless the instructor offers the option in advance to the entire class. All Law School courses and written work will be graded Honors, Pass, Low Pass, or Fail ("H, P, LP, or F") (or Credit/Fail in approved courses) for all students, including cross-registrants. Dean’s Scholar Prizes may be awarded in recognition of outstanding work in classes with seven or more Harvard Law School J.D. and LL.M. students following the add/drop period. Except in courses so designated, Credit/Fail grading is not an option and may not be arranged separately with the instructor.

D. Auditing a Harvard Law School Course

Any student interested in auditing a Harvard Law School course must submit an audit request form to the Office of the Registrar. The form requires the signature of the instructor of the course. The form will be held in the Registrar’s office until the end of the add/drop period. If it is determined that space is available in the course (i.e., there is no waitlist or the waitlist has been cleared and cross-registrants have been admitted) the student will be notified that he/she may attend the course. Potential auditors may sit in the course until an official decision is made. If multiple students request to audit the same course and there is not space to seat them all, the audit requests will be processed on a first come/first served basis. The audited course will not appear on the transcript.

E. Joint, Coordinated, and Concurrent Degree Opportunities for J.D. Students

1. Joint Degree Programs 

The Law School offers the following formal Joint Degree Programs with other Harvard Schools:

a) J.D./M.B.A. with the Harvard Business School

b) J.D./M.P.H. with the Harvard School of Public Health

c) J.D./M.P.P. and J.D./M.P.A. in International Development with the Harvard Kennedy School

d) J.D./M.U.P. with the Harvard Graduate School of Design

The Law School also offers a Joint Degree Program with Cambridge University, U.K. leading to a Harvard J.D. and Cambridge LL.M.  For more information about this program and other international opportunities see Section III.F

2. Rules and Policies

Law students enrolled in these joint degree programs are subject to all relevant rules and policies established by the Law School and by the other degree-granting school. Summaries of such rules and policies, including academic or residency requirements are available online and from the Office of the Registrar. Students should direct questions about the School’s joint programs to the Director of Special Academic Programs. Questions relating to admissions and other policies of the second degree-granting school should be addressed directly to the relevant administrator or faculty member at that school.

3. Coordinated J.D./Ph.D. Program

The Law School, in conjunction with the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard (GSAS), offers a coordinated degree program leading to the J.D. and the Ph.D. degrees. Law students enrolled in this program are subject to the relevant rules and policies established by the Law School and by GSAS. Such rules and policies are available online and from the Office of the Registrar. Students should direct questions about the School’s joint programs to the Director of Special Academic Programs. Questions relating to admissions and other policies of GSAS should be addressed directly to the relevant GSAS administrator or faculty member.

4. Concurrent Degrees

a) Student may propose concurrent degrees with any Harvard school with which the Law School does not offer a joint degree program.  Students proposing concurrent degrees with such Harvard schools, the Fletcher School at Tufts University, or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology may cross-register into courses at the other school and count those credits--pursuant to the Law School's cross-registration policy (Section III.C)--toward the Law School's J.D. requirements. 

b) Students may also propose concurrent degrees with other institutions, and may take leave from the Law School to pursue studies at the other school.  However, credits earned at the other school may not count toward the J.D. requirements.  Students may not be simultaneously enrolled in the Law School and another degree-granting institution as part of a concurrent degree program except through cross-registration from HLS to other Harvard Schools, Tufts, or MIT.

c) All students must comply with the Harvard Law School academic requirements and residency requirements as defined above at I.  

Further information about joint, coordinated, and concurrent degree opportunities at the Law School is available from the Director of Special Academic Programs.

F. J.D. Studies at Other Schools

1. Study Abroad for J.D. Students

Harvard Law School offers three types of opportunities for J.D. students to earn credit for course work at a foreign law school:

a) A semester abroad at one of the institutions with which Harvard Law School has signed formal exchange agreements. These agreements provide a designated number of places for HLS J.D. students. The list of participating schools currently includes law programs at: University of Sydney (Australia); Fundação Getulio Vargas (Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil); University of Chile (Santiago, Chile); Fudan University (Shanghai, China); Sciences Po Law School (Paris, France); University of Tokyo (Japan); University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa); University of Geneva (Switzerland), and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Geneva, Switzerland).

b) An independent semester abroad at an institution selected by the student and approved by the School's Study Abroad Committee.

c) A joint J.D./LL.M. program in which students who are not enrolled in another joint degree program are able to earn both a Harvard J.D. and an LL.M. from Cambridge University in England in three-and-one-half years.

d) For further details and information about eligibility, application deadlines, and program requirements about these study abroad programs, contact  Sara Zucker, Director of International Legal Studies Programs.

2. Berkeley Exchange Program for J.D. Students

A limited number of J.D. students are permitted to participate in an exchange program at University of California, Berkeley-Boalt Hall School of Law during their third year for credit toward the Harvard J.D. degree. Applications are due on the date specified in the Deadlines for Applying to Special Programs in Section X.  Interested students should consult the Dean of Students.

3. Program for Third-Year Visits

In a limited number of cases, J.D. students in their third year may be permitted to spend a semester or a year at another approved law school on the basis of significant academic need or serious personal hardship. “Serious personal hardship” is generally limited to unforeseen emergencies relating to personal or family circumstances. Living apart from a spouse or significant other does not, in and of itself, constitute a circumstance of this kind. Applications must be submitted by the date specified in the Deadlines for Applying to Special Programs in Section X. Interested students should consult the Dean of Students.      

Last modified: September 19, 2014

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