Harvard Law School admits approximately 10 to 12 applicants to S.J.D. candidacy each year. Students who have not received an LL.M. degree from Harvard or another leading U.S. law school are virtually never admitted to S.J.D. candidacy. Students who have received an LL.M. degree from another leading U.S. law school are only rarely admitted directly to S.J.D. candidacy. Applicants interested in the S.J.D. program ordinarily must first apply to and successfully complete the Harvard Law School LL.M. program. Successful completion of the Harvard Law School LL.M. program does not, however, guarantee admission into the S.J.D. program.
Admission to the S.J.D. program is highly competitive. In order to be admitted, an applicant must have obtained their previous degree or degrees in law with distinction. The successful applicant will have written the 50-page LL.M. Paper and attained a distinguished academic record in their Harvard Law School LL.M. studies. In reviewing each application for admission, the Committee on Graduate Studies also will consider the applicant’s purposes in seeking to pursue advanced studies, legal scholarship to date (including the LL.M. paper), experience in academic or other law-related activities, recommendations, and dissertation proposal. The applicant must satisfy the Committee on Graduate Studies that they are capable of pursuing advanced studies, of completing substantial research in a subject relating to law, and of making, in their dissertation, a significant contribution to legal scholarship.