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Writing Competition

Membership in the Harvard Law Review is limited to second- and third-year law students who are selected after an annual writing competition. The Review strongly encourages all students to participate in the writing competition. Harvard Law School students who are interested in joining the Review must write the competition at the end of their first year, even if they plan to take time off during law school or are pursuing a joint degree and plan to spend time at another graduate school.

Fifty second-year students are invited to join the Review each year. Twenty editors are selected based solely on their competition scores. Seven editors, one from each 1L section, shall be selected based on an equally weighted combination of competition scores and 1L grades. Three editors shall be selected based on an equally weighted combination of competition scores and 1L grades, without regard to section. Twenty editors shall be selected through a holistic but anonymous review that takes into account all available information. The Review remains strongly committed to a diverse and inclusive membership.


The competition consists of two parts:

  1. Subcite. The subcite portion of the competition, worth 40% of the competition score, requires students to perform a technical and substantive edit of an excerpt from an unpublished article.
  2. Case comment. The case comment portion of the competition, worth 60% of the competition score, requires students to describe and analyze a recent case.

The entire competition consists of a closed universe of materials provided to all competition-takers; no outside research of any kind is allowed, and no use of any reference materials is permitted.

For more information about the competition, the following resources are available:

Volume 137 Timeline

The 2022 Writing Competition will take place from Sunday, May 15 to Saturday, May 21. The competition registration form will open in April 2022.

The Law Review expects to invite editors to join Volume 137 over the course of several days during the second half of July. Orientation for new editors is scheduled for the week of July 25th. Editors are expected to be fully available during this time. In August, editors will have Law Review assignments, but these assignments can be completed simultaneously with other commitments (internships, events, etc).

Holistic Consideration

Applicants who wish to make aspects of their identity available through the Law Review‘s holistic consideration process will have the opportunity to indicate their racial or ethnic identity, disability status, gender identity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Applicants also have the option of submitting an expository statement of no more than 200 words that identifies and describes aspects of their background not fully captured by the categories provided on the form. Statements will be considered by the Selection Committee only after grading of the competition has been completed. Statements will remain anonymous and will not be evaluated for quality of writing or editing, nor will they be assigned a numerical score. Applicants are welcome to draft their expository statements before the competition week begins, and the prompt for the 200-word statement is as follows: “You are strongly encouraged to use the space below to submit a typed expository statement of no more than 200 words. This statement may identify and describe aspects of your identity not fully captured by the categories on the previous page, including, but not limited to, racial or ethnic identity, socioeconomic background, disability (physical, intellectual, cognitive/neurological, psychiatric, sensory, developmental, or other), gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, country of origin or international status, religious identity or expression, undergraduate institution(s), age, academic or career trajectory prior to law school, military status, cultural background, or parental/caretaker status. Additionally or alternatively, you may use this statement to identify and describe areas of academic or scholarly interest, career goals, or any other element of your identity that you would bring to your work on the Law Review.

Statements will be considered only after grading of the subcite and case comment sections of the competition has been completed. Statements will not be evaluated for quality of writing or editing, nor will they be assigned a numerical score. No applicant will be penalized in any way for not submitting an optional statement, and all optional statements are completely confidential.”

Deferral & Leave

Harvard Law Review will invite students to join Vol. 137 in mid-July. Students invited to join Vol. 137 who are taking a full-year leave of absence from HLS will be allowed to defer their membership in Law Review for the year. They may then join the Law Review as members of Vol. 138 in fall 2023 and serve as editors for two years. Editors typically serve for two full academic years to ensure ample time for training, acclimation to their roles on the Review, and opportunities to make collective decisions about our work.

Students invited to join Vol. 137 who are taking a fall-semester leave of absence from HLS are encouraged to still join as editors with Vol. 137. If joining with Vol. 137, editors will be expected to complete Law Review work during the fall, even though they are on leave from HLS. They will then serve as editors for two years. Alternatively, students taking a one-semester leave may wait to join until fall of the following year (fall 2023); in that case, they will have no Law Review obligations during the 2022-2023 academic year and will participate as Law Review editors for a single year. ***

Transfer Students

Prospective transfer students may take the competition at the same time as Harvard Law School 1Ls. Prospective transfer students are selected on the same anonymous grading basis as Harvard 1Ls and are eligible for 40 of the spots on the Review (in other words, all spots besides the 10 allotted to Harvard 1Ls for whom first-year grades play a role). Prospective transfer students may submit an anonymized, unofficial transcript when their 1L grades are released if they would like their grades to be considered in the Law Review’s holistic review process. The Review’s membership decisions do not affect the admissions decisions of Harvard Law School.

Prospective 1L transfer students should email [email protected] for information about registering for the competition.

Recognizing that the competition schedule poses unique challenges to prospective transfer applicants, the Review also allows transfer students to take the competition at the end of their 2L year. However, no student may attempt the competition more than once, and this option is only available to transfer students who did not previously take the competition. Like prospective transfer students, rising third-year students may submit their grades, but they will not be eligible for the 10 slots that incorporate first-year grades.

SJD Students

SJD students at Harvard Law School may serve as editors of the Law Review. To join, SJDs take the same writing competition as JD students and are eligible for 40 of the editorial positions (all spots besides those allotted to JD 1Ls for whom first-year grades play a role). SJDs should take the competition only if they are certain they have at least two years remaining in their program of study. Additionally, as with all candidates, SJDs are permitted to participate in the writing competition only once.

Disabilities & Accomodations

The Harvard Law Review is firmly committed to providing accommodations for students with disabilities and handles requests on a case-by-case basis. The Law Review is an independent entity and thus has its own accommodations system separate from Harvard Law School’s Dean of Students Office.

Accommodations requests can be submitted between Monday, March 14 and Friday, April 15th and will be processed on a rolling basis. Students are strongly encouraged to submit their accommodation requests as soon as possible even if they are not yet certain they will take the competition. Please see our answers to FAQ on accommodations to learn more about what documentation is needed.

The Law Review strives to keep information regarding disabilities and accommodations as confidential as possible. Nothing about your accommodations application or your receipt of accommodations will be part of the Competition entry that is considered in the selection process. All Competition grading is doubly anonymized. Jennifer Heath, a non-student HLR staff member manages the logistics related to our accommodations process, and accommodations recommendations to the Law Review are made by our testing consultant, Dr. Loring Brinckerhoff.