XI. Leaves and Withdrawals

A leave of absence is a period of non-enrollment at Harvard Law School. Students on leave are not considered to be working toward their Law School degree.

A. Involuntary Leave of Absence

A student may be placed on involuntary leave of absence for the following reasons:

1. Medical condition 

See Section XI.G.

2. Alleged criminal behavior

The student has been arrested on allegations of serious criminal behavior or has been charged with such behavior by law enforcement authorities.

3. Risk to the community

The student has been charged with a violation of a disciplinary rule of the Law School, and his or her presence on campus poses a significant risk to the safety of others or to the educational environment of the community.

4. Indebtedness*

The student’s term bill is unpaid.

5. Failure to provide medical documentation of required immunizations*
6. Unfulfilled academic requirements*

The student has not met an academic requirement and has not taken steps to meet the requirement.

7. Failure to register*

The student has not registered as required at the beginning of each term.

*A student may be placed on involuntary leave for reasons 4, 5, 6, and 7 only if he or she has disregarded the Law School’s repeated efforts to obtain compliance with the requirement in question.

Before placing a student on involuntary leave, the Dean of Students consults with other officers of the University, as appropriate. Before placing a student on involuntary leave for medical reasons, the Dean of Students consults with an appropriate person at Harvard University Health Services.

The decision to place a student on involuntary leave is made by the Dean of Students in consultation with the chair of the Administrative Board or such other person as the Dean of the Law School designates.

A student is notified in writing that he or she has been placed on involuntary leave. The student may petition the Administrative Board for reconsideration of the decision to place him or her on involuntary leave.

A student who prefers to take a voluntary leave of absence rather than to be placed on involuntary leave is ordinarily allowed to do so. An involuntary leave of absence is not a disciplinary sanction; however, an incident that gives rise to an involuntary leave of absence may subsequently be the basis for disciplinary action. Transcripts and other external reports do not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary leaves of absence.

A student who has been placed on involuntary leave of absence is subject to the same rules regarding financial aid and financial obligations that apply to a student who has taken a voluntary leave of absence. The student may not participate in student activities. If so instructed by the Dean of Students, the student must remain away from the University campus.

A student who has been placed on involuntary leave of absence may petition the Dean of Students to return to the Law School. He or she must demonstrate to the Dean of Students and the chairperson of the Administrative Board that the circumstances that led to the leave have been satisfactorily addressed. If a student has been required to withdraw while on leave of absence, the conditions for return after a required withdrawal must have been satisfied. Any disciplinary matter must have been resolved. If the leave was for medical reasons, the Dean of Students must consult with the Harvard University Health Services and obtain a professional opinion about the student’s readiness to return before the student is permitted to return. Other evidence of the student’s readiness to return may include a substantial period of employment and a letter of recommendation from the employer or employment supervisor.

The decision whether to terminate an involuntary leave of absence and allow a student to return is made by the Dean of Students, in consultation with the chairperson of the Administrative Board or such other person as the Dean of the Law School designates.

In extraordinary circumstances a student may be involuntarily withdrawn from the Law School.

B. Requesting a Leave

1.To request a voluntary leave of absence other than a voluntary medical leave of absence, J.D. students must complete the Leave of Absence Request form available in hard copy at the Dean of Students Office, the Student Financial Services Office and the Office of the Registrar

2. To request a voluntary medical leave of absence, J.D. and LL.M. students must contact the Dean of Students in order to discuss the requested leave. Further information about voluntary medical leaves is available in Section XI.G.

3. To request a leave to attend another school as part of a Law School joint, coordinated, or concurrent degree program, students should complete the  Leave of Absence Request form.Further information about leaves taken as part of a joint, coordinated, or concurrent degree program is available in Section XI.H.

C. Length of Leave

1. A voluntary leave of absence may be taken for a semester or up to three consecutive semesters, counting Winter Term as a semester.

2. Students are expected to return to the Law School for the semester they have indicated when requesting a leave of absence. As of that date, a student on leave will be considered to have returned to the Law School and will be billed accordingly unless he or she has made a request to the Office of the Registrar or the Administrative Board to extend the leave period. See below for rules specific to medical leaves.

D. Extending Leave

1. Any student wishing to extend a voluntary leave from one semester to one year must file a request with the Office of the Registrar by October 15 if seeking extended leave for the spring semester, or March 15 if seeking extended leave for the fall semester.

2. Students wishing to extend a voluntary leave beyond one year must file a request for additional leave with the Administrative Board by October 15 if seeking extended leave beginning the following spring semester or March 15 if seeking extended leave beginning the following fall semester. Requests for additional leave should include a brief summary of the student’s activities during the leave of absence, why additional leave is required, how completion of the JD degree still fits the student’s goals and the student’s commitment to return by the applicable semester to complete the J.D. degree without additional voluntary leave time.

3. Requests for leave beyond two years—either sequential or intermittent—must be submitted to the Administrative Board and should contain the information required in Section XI.D.2. Please note that students who do not petition the Administrative Board for an extension of leave beyond two years will be considered to have withdrawn from the Law School.  Students with withdrawn status for four years or fewer may petition the Administrative Board for readmission. Students with withdrawn status for more than four years must reapply for admission to the Law School as a first-year student through the Admissions Office.

E. Returning from Leave

1. Students are expected to return from leave on or about the date indicated on their leave of absence request form, or in the case of a medical leave, on the date specified by the Administrative Board. If a student does not intend to return from leave, s/he should notify the Registrar’s Office as soon as possible. Students wishing to extend a leave must request additional leave as specified in Section XI.D

2. The general conditions for return from voluntary leave are good standing, visa clearance from the Harvard International Office, financial clearance from Student Financial Services, and receipt by the Registrar’s Office of written confirmation of return.

3. Students are expected to return to full-time registered status after the approved period of leave. Please contact the Dean of Students Office for information about exceptions to this policy.

4. Students who do not return from leave and do not apply for an extension of leave will be considered to have withdrawn from the Law School. 

F. Special Considerations

1. Students must complete the degree requirements for the J.D. within seven years (and for certain state bars, including New York, within five years) of matriculating  at the Law School.  A leave of absence will not extend the maximum matriculation period for completing degree requirements.

2. While on leave, students may not get Law School credits for cross-registration into Law School classes from another school, whether at Harvard or elsewhere.  Some exceptions may be made with the approval of the Administrative Board for joint and coordinated degree students.

3. Students considering a leave should consult the rules regarding admission to the bar for the jurisdiction in which they plan to practice to be sure that the leave does not affect their eligibility to take the bar exam.

4. International Students: International students must speak with the Harvard International Office about the immigration-related ramifications of taking a leave of absence before the leave of absence will be approved. International students who take leaves of absence must be aware of how this might affect visa status and practical training eligibility. International students must contact the Student Financial Services Office for further clarification.

G. Rules Specific to Medical Leave

1. Voluntary Medical Leave

a) J.D. and LL.M. students may apply for a voluntary medical leave of absence if an illness, physical or mental, has disrupted their coursework or if a medical or mental health diagnosis requires a leave.   In order to request medical leave, students should contact the Dean of Students to discuss the requested leave. When requesting medical leave, students must provide a letter from a treating physician supporting the request.

b)  Students on voluntary medical leave may be eligible for a tuition refund for the semester during which they take leave. Students on voluntary medical leave may have access to the library system and to financial aid, to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

2. Involuntary Medical Leave

A student may be placed on involuntary medical leave of absence if:

a)  the student poses a direct threat to the health or safety of the student or others, or has seriously disrupted others in the student’s residential community or academic environment; and

b) either the student’s threatening or disruptive behavior is determined to be the result of a medical condition or the student has refused to cooperate with efforts by the University Health Services to determine the cause of the behavior.

c) the HLS Dean of Students determines that an illness, physical or mental, has disrupted their coursework for more than two weeks.

3. Health Insurance:  For  information about health insurance coverage while on medical leave, go to the Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) website. See also  Appendix D for more information about HUHS.

4. Returning from Medical Leave: Students must petition the Administrative Board in writing in order to return from medical leave. The petition should be sent directly to the Dean of Students. In the petition, the student must describe his or her activities during the medical leave and the steps taken to resolve the health issue. If medically able, the student must demonstrate work experience of at least six months during the leave. The petition to return from leave must also contain a letter from the treating physician/psychiatrist and a letter from the student’s employer. The petition should be submitted at least two months in advance of the date on which the student plans to return. The Administrative Board will require a student to receive medical clearance from University Health Services confirming the student’s ability to return to law studies. Certain conditions as set by the Dean of Students Office and the Administrative Board may be required for approval to return. Students will be allowed to participate in course preference selection while waiting on approval to return.  If students are not given permission to return, the courses will be dropped from their schedules. Once the Administrative Board has approved the petition, the student may start to make arrangements for his or her return.

H. Joint, Coordinated, and Concurrent Degree Students

1. Requesting a leave:  Students in joint degree programs must request a leave of absence from the Law School for the year or semester in which they are fully enrolled in the non-HLS school. In order to request a leave, joint degree, coordinated JD/PhD, and concurrent degree students should complete the Leave of Absence Request form available in hard copy at the Dean of Students Office, the Student Financial Services Office and the Office of the Registrar.

2. Coordinated JD/PhD Program: Students participating in the coordinated JD/PhD, in addition to completing the  Leave of Absence Request form, should contact Julie Barton, Director of Special Academic Programs.

3. Administrative matters: While on leave, joint and coordinated degree students, and those concurrent degree students pursuing their second degree through another Harvard school, have access to their Law School mailboxes, email accounts, housing, library services including Westlaw and Lexis and other University services, and their Harvard IDs remain active.

Concurrent degree students doing their second degree at a non-Harvard school have access to their email accounts, HLS mailboxes, and limited library services, but do not have access to Harvard housing, active Harvard IDs and other University services.

I. Financial Aid Implications of Taking a Leave

1. While on leave, students are not considered to be working toward their degree and thus are not eligible to receive financial assistance, except as noted in XII.G.4.

2. Students who take a leave during the academic year are charged tuition for the period of enrollment, plus full insurance and health fees for the term in which the leave occurs.

3. Once the e-bill has been adjusted, Student Financial Services will prorate any aid package based on enrollment information received from the Registrar’s Office, in accordance with both federal and institutional regulations. For example: a student taking a leave in November will be charged tuition through the end of November, plus full Blue Cross/Blue Shield and University Health Services fees for the fall term, and the living expense budget will be adjusted to 3/9ths of the full budget based on a nine-month academic year beginning in September. Tuition is charged until the Registrar receives the leave of absence request form. Students who provide written notice of withdrawal by the dates listed below will be charged as follows: 

Table8: Tuition Charges Related to Leaves and Withdrawals
DateTuition
September 301/9 total annual charges
October 312/9 total annual charges
November 303/9 total annual charges
December 314/9 total annual charges
January 315/9 total annual charges
February 286/9 total annual charges
March 317/9 total annual charges
April 308/9 total annual charges
after April 30Full Tuition

Students who take a leave during the academic year may be required to repay a portion of the financial aid award since cash advances/refunds are disbursed at the beginning of each term in anticipation that students will be enrolled for the entire term. Students receive written notice of any outstanding balance that results from a leave of absence and are responsible for payment in full prior to re-enrolling at the Law School.

4. Students on leave will forfeit the in-school loan deferment and may be expected to begin repayment immediately upon taking a leave or withdrawing or after the grace period has expired. Students who have taken a leave of absence during their degree studies may be required to begin loan repayment immediately after graduation as the one-time grace period may have been depleted.

5. Students are required to have an exit interview regarding their loan status with Student Financial Services as soon as they determine that they will take a leave. At the exit interview an SFS representative will discuss the student's anticipated award adjustment, bill adjustment and other financial implications of their leave. Additionally, students will be required to complete exit disclosure forms, receive lender information, and be apprised of future financial aid application deadlines.

6.Students taking medical leave will be subject to the same guidelines stated above; tuition adjustments are determined by the Dean of Students Office.  

See the Student Financial Services website for more information about how taking a leave of absence affects financial aid.

J. Other Administrative Matters

1.  Health insurance: For  information about health insurance coverage while on medical leave, go to the Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) website. See also Appendix D for more information about HUHS.

2. Computer Accounts: Student email accounts will remain active during the time for which the leave has been confirmed. With the except of joint, coordinated, and concurrent degree students, student access to Westlaw and Lexis will be cancelled until such time as student returns from leave.

3. Access to Harvard Resources

Depending on the type of leave, students may not have access to:

  • HLS mail boxes
  • HLS student organizations
  • Active Harvard University I.D. cards
  • Library and library services, including Westlaw and Lexis
  • Financial aid
  • Harvard housing/Dormitories
  • Teaching fellowships
  • Information Technology Services
  • Other Harvard University services
Last modified: April 14, 2014

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