What does it take to get into Harvard Law School? Does having a really high GPA and a really good LSAT score cut it? What advice can you give to me, someone who is looking into college but still have several years to go before graduation?
A poster named Demosthenes will say that grades and LSAT scores alone matter. Demosthenes’ view is based on Internet “scattergrams” showing admissions rates for candidates with various GPAs and LSAT scores. Demosthenes’ view is incorrect.
I graduated from HLS. It’s been nearly 20 years, but I still very involved with the school, including with recent alumni and current students on campus. To get in, you need:
Required: Strong grades and LSAT scores, ideally at or above the HLS medians. (Mine were at the HLS medians and I got in, but plenty of people with a GPA and LSAT score at the HLS median do not, indicating that other factors are considered.)
Required (unless you have a perfect or near-perfect GPA and LSAT score): A passion in life that you have lived out and will tie with your J.D. degree. For example, if you love animal rights, you should be able to show that you’ve lived out that passion and will use your J.D. degree to promote animal rights.
Optional but strongly desired: Post-college work experience, ideally not in a law firm. (Dean Minow makes it clear that the school wants students with work experience, and admitted students statistics bear this out.)
Helpful: A degree from Harvard College or another highly-ranked school. (You’ll get a slight GPA boost that way.)
DO NOT focus on HLS. Just do your best, apply to law schools and see where you get in. You may well end up going to Yale, but if you focus on a particular school, there’s a chance that you’ll eventually discover that a different one is better for you, and turning down your long-time “dream” school will be painful, so don’t pick a “dream” law school.
@HappyAlumnus If you don’t mind me asking, what did your extra curriculars and internship look like? Also, what is it like after graduating from such a law school? Did you get to work for a major law firm afterwards? Thanks.
I had very few extracurriculars and internships in college. I just studied and studied in college. I had other life experiences outside of extracurriculars/internships that got HLS’s attention, I’d guess; I certainly wrote about them in my application.
At HLS, I did a lot more and had some very interesting jobs and very interesting extracurriculars, usually involving trips somewhere abroad. Very enjoyable.
Yes, I worked in large law firms for a while after graduating. Basically everyone from a school like HLS (or similar schools) who wants a large law firm job gets one. You can’t pick the exact employer and automatically get the job, but you can get the type of job you want–such as “doing X work in city Y with a law firm in the AmLaw 50”, for example.
@Popcorn11201: HappyAlumnus is correct that you shouldn’t focus on HLS. That’s not because a different school would be a better fit, it’s because law school is a professional school and you should attend one based on its cost/likelihood of generating employment. But that’s a question for long down the line.
As someone entering undergrad, there are a few things to keep in mind as you go through. You should try to keep your GPA as high as possible. Law schools care about GPAs and not majors or class difficulty, so taking fluff is just fine.
Your major should be something you enjoy. I always recommend people at least minor in something that provides job skills. Law school doesn’t work out for the vast majority of people. 95% of people don’t score high enough on the LSAT to make it worthwhile. Of those who do, plenty don’t make it into big firms (even from HLS). That could happen to anyone, including you, so you need to make sure you’ll have backups ready to go.
You should intern in a law office. DA/PD/Legal Aid/Big Firm, it doesn’t matter that much. The point is to take a look at what law is really like rather than what they show you on TV. See what lawyers actually spend their days doing and then decide if that interests you.
Everyone from HLS who wants a big-firm job gets one, unless the person has something seriously, seriously wrong with him or her (i.e., getting expelled from HLS, getting fired from a summer associate job, etc.). Some of my classmates and I guessed who ranked last in our class, and even those people who we suspected were last ended up in big firms. One is counsel at one of the top-10 most profitable firms in the US so everyone ends up just fine, pretty much.
Thanks for taking the time out to answer my question. @HappyAlumnus You’re answers are really insightful, especially since they are coming from someone who has been there and experienced everything.
@Popcorn11201, you’re most welcome. I loved my time at HLS and would definitely recommend it, although there are plenty of law schools out there that are fantastic.
To the point about jobs, I figured that the job market would be harder now than when I was coming through. It probably is, and perhaps people don’t get as many big firm offers now compared to when I was at HLS. To counteract that, however, the school now has an “early interview” season- apparently an interview period around the time that classes start in the fall, in addition to the fall and spring interview seasons. So it may take more effort now to get multiple large firm job offers, but students there still seem to be going strong.
@Popcorn11201: You can take a look at Harvard’s job placement statistics [url=<a href=“http://www.lstscorereports.com/schools/harvard/%5Dhere%5B/url”>http://www.lstscorereports.com/schools/harvard/]here[/url]. As you can see, Harvard does very well. But not everyone gets a job.
@Popcorn11201, you can listen to the HLS alumnus who is still involved with the school and has friends from HLS who work for the school, or you can listen to someone else.
Every single person from HLS who wants a big firm job gets one unless something is seriously, seriously wrong with the person.
Out of a class of about 550 people, about 25-30 are in “school-funded” jobs. That includes people who go straight to teaching positions at HLS and the university overall or at one of the many high-profile institutes around campus, such as the Berkman Center for internet law.
Even when I was coming through, at least some people stayed at HLS after graduation and worked for the school. One of my friends was offered a teaching + professor assistant position. He turned it down and went to an AmLaw 10 firm. One of my other more recent alumni friends actually quit a big law firm and now is doing a fellowship at HLS. So those jobs aren’t for losers; they’re generally pretty desirable, and those who take them have other options.
@HappyAlumnus: You seem to be under the impression that repeating something over and over makes it true. Not everyone at HLS who wants one gets a job. Not everyone gets a BigLaw job. Writing those people off as having something “seriously, seriously wrong” doesn’t change that.
School-funded jobs are almost always the same: a year-long internship with a PI organization during which the school provides a stipend. Harvard’s are [no different](http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/legal_education_and_admissions_to_the_bar/council_reports_and_resolutions/March2015CouncilMaterials/2015_harvard_yale_letter_re_schoolfund_positions.authcheckdam.pdf). They started during the recession when they counted as full employment for the ABA and USNWR. The ABA reclassified those into their own category (USNWR reduced the credit given), at which point law schools promptly halved (though did not eliminate) them. [url=<a href=“http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legalwhiteboard/2016/05/changes-in-reporting-and-classifying-of-law-school-funded-positions-result-in-decline-in-number-of-g.html%5DHarvard%5B/url”>http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legalwhiteboard/2016/05/changes-in-reporting-and-classifying-of-law-school-funded-positions-result-in-decline-in-number-of-g.html]Harvard[/url], to its credit, only dropped by about 20%.
I’ve seen no evidence that HLS hires its graduates straight out of law school into teaching positions.
Since the only source that you use for your posts is Internet “scattergrams” and similar materials, rather than first-hand or other real-world experience, it’s no surprise that you haven’t seen any evidence that HLS hires its own graduates into teaching positions.
First, look at the Harvard faculty. (Their bios are available on the Internet so you should have access to that information.) Where did a large portion of them go to law school? HLS. They are generally hired after they’ve been out of school for at least a few years, and often after they’ve taught at other law schools, but some start out at HLS.
One of my law school friends is a professor there now and he’s been at HLS ever since graduation. Like many of the people who stay at HLS as soon as they graduate, I believe that he started out teaching clinicals and non-traditional law classes but now he is a full-time, tenured professor; other classmates of mine were given offers to stay on campus and assist professors and teach classes both at HLS and Harvard College (which at the time had a strong “history of law” class for undergrads, and which one of them would have helped teach).
Other HLS alumni who stay at HLS have terminal degrees in other fields and are eligible to teach that way. There is at least one current HBS professor who was a classmate of mine and who stayed at HLS after graduation with that background. I had several classmates who helped teach classes at Harvard College during our law school days, due to prior degrees in those fields, and they were also given opportunities to stay and teach, often in some program that involved both HLS and Harvard College.
Second, do you really think that someone who gets into a school like Harvard and graduates cannot find any job whatsoever upon graduation? Perhaps some people have jobs rescinded shortly before graduation due to their firms going under, or some people may decide not to go with the job that they had lined up, but those situations are few and far between and are fixable; it’s certainly not that the person can’t get a job.
Plenty of people go to HLS with the intent of ending up in academia, and staying at HLS after graduation, even in a “school-funded” job, is one way to build that kind of career.
Of course, since that information isn’t easily compacted into an Internet “scattergram”, you wouldn’t know it.
And where did you go to law school?
Since discussion is no longer becoming productive closing