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How to Get Into Harvard Law

January 18, 2023


Reviewed by:

David Merson

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 01/18/23

Harvard Law School is one of the nation’s top schools for future lawyers. If you’re wondering how to get into Harvard Law School, read on for tips, tricks, and more. 

Harvard Law is tied with Columbia Law as the fourth-best law school in the country, according to U.S. News World and Report. If Harvard Law is one of your frontrunners, our guide will explore programs offered, Harvard Law requirements, essays, stats, and more.

Programs Offered

Harvard has three main pathways for law students: the traditional J.D., LL.M., and S.J.D. programs. 

  • J.D. Program: Harvard Law’s standard program for prospective lawyers. This program emphasizes interdisciplinary study and collaboration. 
  • LL.M. Program: One of two graduate law programs, the LL.M. pathway is a one-year program for intellectual and curious candidates from varied legal backgrounds and systems. 
  • S.J.D. Program: The Doctor of Juridical Science is Harvard's most advanced law degree. The S.J.D. program is best for students who want to "pursue sustained independent study, research and writing." 

Harvard Law also offers special programs to law students (joint degrees) who want to explore other interest areas as they pursue law or take advantage of opportunities to study abroad or at different U.S. schools. Joint programs include: 

  • JD/MBA with Harvard Business School
  • JD/MPP or MPA-ID with Harvard Kennedy School
  • JD/MPH with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • JD/MUP with the Graduate School of Design
  • JD/PhD with the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Some universities where students can cross-register for courses are MIT and Tufts. Harvard Law offers numerous study abroad options for students, one of which is the JD/LLM with the Cambridge University Faculty of Law in the U.K.

Harvard Law School Requirements

All Harvard Law School requirements must be met for your application to be considered complete. All Harvard applicants must submit applications through the LSAC portal. These are the Harvard Law requirements you must satisfy:

Harvard law application requirements

Harvard Law GPA

Although no GPA cutoffs are listed on Harvard Law's website, students have the best chance of admission with higher GPAs. The GPA percentiles of incoming Harvard Law students are: 

  • 25th percentile GPA: 3.82 
  • 50th percentile GPA: 3.92 
  • 75th percentile GPA: 3.98 

These GPA percentiles suggest most Harvard Law students achieve a GPA of 3.82 to 3.98. To give yourself the best chance of admission, you should strive for an undergraduate GPA as close to 4.0 as possible. 

Harvard Law LSAT: What You Need 

Like GPA, there are no Harvard Law LSAT cutoffs listed anywhere. However, Harvard Law students typically achieve competitive LSAT scores: 

  • 25th percentile LSAT: 170 
  • 50th percentile LSAT: 174 
  • 75th percentile LSAT: 176 

Harvard Law hopefuls should aim for an LSAT score of at least 174 to be competitive.

Harvard Law GRE

Harvard Law School is one of the few top law schools that release GRE score data in its class profile. The following numbers reflect the 25th, median, and 75th percentile scores in order for each GRE section: 

  • GRE Verbal: 165, 167, 168 
  • GRE Quantitative: 161, 165, 167 
  • GRE Writing: 5, 5.5, 5.5 

Whether you submit LSAT scores, GRE scores, or both, stellar scores can help boost your chances of admission.

Harvard Law Essays (Prompts, Tips & Examples) 

Submitting well-written essays is key to getting into Harvard Law. We’ll explore the Harvard Law School personal statement and optional essay in more detail so your application can get the attention it deserves. 

Harvard Law Personal Statement

The Harvard Law School personal statement is your opportunity to add insight into your character and show the admissions committee why you’re the perfect candidate. Although there isn’t really a prompt for your personal statement, Harvard Law provides the following directive: 

“The personal statement is intended as an opportunity to give the Admissions Committee a better sense of who you are as a person and as a potential student and graduate of Harvard Law School.” 

The prompt is intentionally broad. Harvard Law states that past applicants have used this element to: 

  • Provide context on how their experiences and traits will make them “valuable contributors to the Harvard and legal communities”
  • Dive deeper into their interests or intellectual background 
  • Clarify or expand on information presented elsewhere in their application 

Harvard Law says that because each applicant can have varied personalities, strengths, and experiences, you are the best judge of your personal statement's content. 

Harvard Law School Personal Statement Tips 

Navigating a broad personal statement can be challenging. However, these Harvard Law personal statement tips can help you formulate the best narrative and elevate your writing. 

Follow Formatting Instructions 

Tweaking the format is the wrong way to show your creativity. Harvard Law School asks applicants to follow a basic format for the personal statement: 

  • 11-point font or slightly larger (do not use a smaller font size or one that is too large) 
  • Two pages long: the admissions committee expects you to use the whole two pages, so anything less won’t suffice 
  • 1-inch margins 
  • Double-spaced 

We also recommend sticking to a “basic” font such as Times New Roman; even if you’re a calligraphy enthusiast, save the flourishes for another day. 

Brainstorm Narratives/Experiences 

You may not know precisely what you want to write about off the top of your head. That's okay! Expect to spend a good chunk of time brainstorming and reflecting on your experiences. 

Some applicants may want to describe the main events in their journey to law school, whereas others might want to provide a vignette of a particularly transformative event. 

Harvard Law states, “As long as we are learning about you and your experiences, we truly have no preference about what approach you take.”

Remember, You Are the Focus

The primary purpose of the personal statement is to capture who you are in a way that's easy for the admissions committee to follow. If you're going to introduce another person to your statement, do so carefully. 

For example, Nefyn Meissner, Associate Director at Harvard Law, said, “Should you talk about your grandmother? Only if doing so helps make the case for us to admit you. Otherwise, we might end up wanting to admit your grandmother.” 

Take care not to make your family, friends, colleagues, or clients the focus of your writing. 

Ensure Your Personal Statement Introduces New Information 

Your personal statement should not be a rehash or extended version of your resume. Beyond that, remember the admissions committee already has your transcripts, test scores, and recommendation letters: you don’t need to restate anything found in these documents. 

The best personal statements add another layer to your application and teach the reader something new and crucial to your character. 

Consider Your Personal Statement an Aptitude Test

A career as a lawyer requires effective communication and writing abilities. While the content of your personal statement is essential, the admissions committee wants to see that you pay attention to details like grammar, spelling, and flow. 

No one writes a perfect personal statement the first time. Even world-renowned authors know the value of editing and fine-tuning writing. Ensure your writing has no minor errors and shows your promise as a concise, logical writer. 

Other Tips For a Stellar Harvard Law Personal Statement

Other tips to help you ace the Harvard Law personal statement include: 

  • Let your personal statement show “who you are, where you’ve been, and where you want to go.” 
  • Don't add famous quotes: it won't add enough pizzazz and takes the focus off of you. 
  • According to Meissner, Harvard Law already assumes you want to attend if you’re applying; there’s no need to mention that you want to attend Harvard Law. 
  • Start writing as early as you can. Two-page personal statements can take more time to perfect than you think.

Harvard Law Personal Statement Example

Harvard Law graduate Cameron Clark submitted this Harvard Law School personal statement example. We've provided an excerpt of his original statement and commentary on what made it great and what could have been done differently. 

“At the intersection of 21st and Speedway, I lay on the open road. My leg grazed the shoulder of a young woman lying on the ground next to me. Next to her, a man on his stomach slowed his breathing to appear as still as possible. A wide circle of onlookers formed around the dozens of us on the street. We were silent and motionless, but the black-and-white signs affirmed our existence through their decree: BLACK LIVES MATTER. 

On a rainy day, this past December, my fellow protestors and I momentarily transformed a bustling intersection on the University of Texas Austin campus into a space of disruption. As I participated in a die-in, I thought of my initial reluctance to join the protest, fearing retaliation from the agitators who I was certain would arrive… But soon, my mind turned to my role in a movement much bigger than any individual. I thought of my family, my friends, black people, all people of color, and white people. I thought about those who have fallen to the ground, never to stand up again. 

'We shall overcome. We, the citizens of the United States. Ours, in the end, is a story of optimism. A story of achievement that is unique upon this earth.'

President Obama involved the iconic protest song movement in his keynote speech at the 2014 Civil Rights Summit. Attending the Summit…was a highlight of my undergraduate career. Leaders and former presidents spoke about the triumphs of the last half-century, but I was especially eager to hear President Obama’s reflections on the importance of the Civil Rights legislation and litigation throughout our country’s history…

“We Shall Overcome” has been sung to me throughout my life by my mother, my pastor, politicians, educators, and friends. For so long, these words kept me docile, waiting patiently for that “someday” prophesied in the song. My ancestors, buckled into the cargo holds of their slave ships, imagined that “someday” for their children. Emancipated slaves, freed from their chains but not from the bondage of poverty and illiteracy, prayed for the gifts of that “someday” to bless their offspring. Dr. King, Mrs. Parks, Mr. X, and countless others worked to realize that call, dreaming that the foretold “someday” was in reach. But there was more work to do. 

I no longer consider "We Shall Overcome" to be a lullaby. The hymn now serves as a battle cry. I will no longer wait idly for "someday." I am ready to use the blessings I have been afforded to secure rights and liberties for marginalized groups. Attorneys and legal scholars have paved the way for some of the greatest civil rights victories for women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and (people living with disabilities). At Harvard Law School, I will prepare to join their ranks by studying with the nation's leading legal scholars. For the past months, I have followed Harvard Law School’s student response to the events in Ferguson and New York City. I am eager to join a law school community that shares my passion for using the law to achieve real progress for victims of discrimination…I believe Harvard Law School will thoroughly train me to support and empower communities in need. 

Our act of civil disobedience that December day ended when the Tower’s bells rang out in two bars, hearkening half-past noon. As we stood up and gathered our belongings, we broke our silence to remind everyone of a most basic truth: Black lives matter."

Why This Personal Statement Worked

The opening scene of this personal statement is detailed, impactful, and compels the reader to continue and discover what's happening. Although Clark's essay includes very little about his achievements, the writing shows his sincerity, passion, and capacity to impact positive change in the world. 

Clark expertly relates his mission to Harvard Law and describes who he hopes to become after completing his law education. The ending of his personal statement brings the narrative full circle by returning to the events of the first paragraph; this is an excellent way to wrap up your writing and ensure the reader is left satisfied. 

While this personal statement is somewhat more emotional than some may strive to write, we feel the subject nature matches the tonality. However, you should carefully craft your personal statement and decide whether you need to pull back a little at any point. However, his writer’s voice is unique and compelling. 

While Clark intentionally added Obama's quote, we would suggest never adding one in your writing: if you need to reference someone else's words to propel your narrative, we suggest writing in your own words. 

We feel that Clark’s description of the Civil Rights Summit could have had a little more content on his experience and how he felt at the event; because he removes the focus from himself previously (during President Obama’s quote), it’s imperative to move it right back and make yourself the focal point. 

Harvard Law Optional Statement 

Harvard Law’s optional statement is just that: optional. If you choose to write one, you must follow this prompt

“The Admissions Committee makes every effort to understand your achievements in the context of your background and to build a diverse student body. If applicable, you may choose to submit an optional additional statement to elaborate on how you could contribute to the Harvard Law School community.”

Harvard Law Optional Essay Tips 

Check out these tips if you're considering writing the Harvard Law optional statement. 

Follow Instructions 

Just like your personal statement, ensure you follow these instructions: 

  • Write in a font that is easily readable (no less than 11-point) 
  • Double-spaced 
  • One page long 

While Harvard Law will read optional statements longer than one page long, use your best judgment and keep your writing concise. 

Determine If You Should Write One 

If you’ve written about your background and how you’ll contribute to the Harvard Law community at length in your application, you probably don’t need to write this essay. 

Harvard Law states that an optional essay “should only be submitted when all the other components of your application are not sufficient to provide a full picture of you as an applicant and potential member of the HLS community.” 

Remember, writing an optional essay when it isn’t needed can actually hinder your application. Again, use your best judgment! 

Understand What Harvard Law Wants to See 

Harvard Law states that your optional statement should provide “a fuller understanding of how your individual path informs and is informed by your decision to pursue a legal education.” 

Don’t make your essay an add-on to your personal statement: reflect on your identity, background, and beliefs and how your unique experiences and perspectives will add diversity to the class.

Harvard Law Stats (Admissions Statistics)

Harvard Law admissions statistics can tell you more about class diversity. Harvard Law class profile data shows the following highlights: 

  • 56% students of color
  • 54% women
  • 17% LGBTQ+
  • 12% STEM majors
  • 11% international students
  • 11% hold advanced degrees
  • 82% of students have been out of college for at least one year 
  • 63% have been out of college for two years or more 
  • 19% have been out of college for four or more years

The incoming class represents 171 undergraduate institutions, 45 languages, and 18 countries. 

Harvard Law School Acceptance Rate 

Image outlining the Harvard Law Acceptance Rate

In a recent admissions cycle, Harvard Law received 9,993 applications and accepted 685 students. Of accepted students, 560 enrolled. Harvard Law School’s acceptance rate is 7%. 

How Hard Is It to Get Into Harvard Law? 

Harvard Law School is very selective, so you can safely assume it's hard to get into Harvard Law. U.S. News says the average law school acceptance rate is 44%. 

Compared to Harvard Law’s 7% acceptance rate, we can see that admission is undoubtedly competitive.

Harvard Law School Application Deadline & Process

The Harvard Law School application process requires you to create an LSAC account. You must submit all application documents through LSAC and register for the CAS to submit your test scores and transcripts to Harvard. 

Although specific dates haven’t yet been released for the 2022/2023 cycle, these are key timeframes you should be aware of, including the Harvard Law School application deadline.

Harvard law application deadlines

How to Get Into Harvard Law FAQs 

For any other questions about getting into Harvard Law School, check out these FAQs! 

1. What GPA Do I Need for Harvard Law?

While there is no minimum GPA required to apply to Harvard Law, you should aim for the median GPA of 3.92 or higher for a more competitive application.  

2. How difficult Is it to Get Into Harvard Law?

Harvard Law is a T-14 law school, and admission is competitive. Approximately 1 in 14 applicants are accepted: you'll need a stellar application to stand out. 

3. How Can I Get Admission to Harvard University for Law?

To gain admission to Harvard, you should have impressive stats and a polished application. Harvard Law seeks students with strong intellectual capabilities and the skills and qualities needed to become great lawyers. Ensure you emphasize your qualities in your personal statement!

4. Does Harvard Law Look at All Four Years?

Since Harvard Law receives all your transcripts, you can assume that admissions committee members will evaluate your entire undergraduate performance. If you have gaps in your undergraduate education, you should include addenda in your application. 

5. What Do You Need to Get Into Harvard Law? 

You must complete an LSAC application, register for the CAS, submit test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a resume. 

6. Should I Submit LSAT or GRE Scores to Harvard Law? 

If you've taken the LSAT, your scores from the test must be reported. If you haven't taken the LSAT, you can submit GRE scores or both. Harvard Law doesn't have a preference for either test.

Get Into Harvard Law With Juris 

Getting into Harvard Law School can be challenging; your application requires time and effort. However, you don’t have to craft your law school applications alone. 

Our expert team at Juris Education can help with any part of your application to ensure your law school apps are edited to perfection, in line with what admissions committees expect, and submitted on time. 

Although getting into Harvard is difficult, we strive to make your law school journey easier. Good luck!

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