Writing Competition

The Harvard Law Review is composed of second- and third-year law students who are selected via a six-day writing competition at the end of each academic year. The Review strongly encourages all students to participate in the writing competition, which consists of two parts:

  • Subcite: this portion, worth 50% of the competition score, requires students to perform a technical and substantive edit of an excerpt from an unpublished article
  • Case Comment: this portion, also worth 50%, requires students to describe and analyze a recent case

The competition uses a closed universe of materials provided to all competition-takers; no additional outside research of any kind is allowed or required. The use of any form of Artificial Intelligence during the competition is also strictly prohibited.

Based on the competition, fifty-four second-year students are invited to join the Review each year, including:

  • Twenty selected based solely on competition scores
  • Seven (one from each 1L section) selected based on an equally weighted combination of competition scores and first-year grades
  • Three (from any section) selected based on an equally weighted combination of competition scores and first-year grades
  • Twenty-four selected through an anonymous holistic review (see below for details)

The Review is committed to a diverse and inclusive membership and 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.

Timeline & Resources

The 2024 Competition will take place from Sunday, May 12 to Saturday, May 18.
Writing competition tips and Q&A sessions will be held in early and mid-April.

Registration will open in April 2024. We expect to invite editors to join Volume 139 over the course of several days in late July. Orientation for new editors is scheduled for the week of July 22nd and will take place remotely. Volume 139 will resume a past practice of an in-person Orientation for half a day near the start of the Fall 2024 Semester. 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, travel, etc.).

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

  • The 2024 Application and Information Packet. The application information packet is designed to provide some specific guidance about approaching the case comment and subcite portions of the competition. Please note that the sample competition submissions included in the packet are merely representative and are by no means definitive examples.
  • Tips Session and Q&A. Video of our April 1, 2024 writing competition tips session and our April 11, 2024 subcite Q & A session is available on our YouTube channel. The. This questions and answers document summarizes the Q&A portion of the April 13, 2023 session.
  • Factsheet: This document responds to common questions and concerns we have heard.
  • Sample Schedules: This includes a variety of writing competition schedules used by current editors.
  • FAQ on Accommodations. See below for more information on disabilities and accommodations.

Competition & Membership Policies

Holistic Consideration

Applicants will have the opportunity to convey aspects of their identity which have led to the development of character qualities or unique abilities that can contribute to the Law Review, including but not limited to their racial or ethnic identity, disability status, gender identity, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. Applicants can do so by submitting an additional expository statement.  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 which have impacted your development of certain character qualities or unique abilities that can serve as an asset to the Law Review and are 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. 139 in mid-July. Students invited to join Vol. 138 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. 140 in fall 2025 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. 139 who are taking a fall-semester leave of absence from HLS are encouraged to still join as editors with Vol. 139. If joining with Vol. 139, 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 2025); in that case, they will have no Law Review obligations during the 2024-2025 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 44 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.

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. Up to four spots are available for such students. 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.

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

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 44 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 & Accommodations

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 11th and Friday, April 12th 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.