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Founded 1817 | ABA Accredited 1923

Established in 1817, Harvard Law School is among the oldest law schools in the country with its origins dating back to Isaac Royall, Jr. who in his Last Will and Testament gave land to Harvard University to establish the school’s first professorship in law. Royall’s heirs subsequently inherited and sold the remainder of his estate, and used the proceeds to establish Harvard Law School.

Located in an urban area of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard Law School typically ranks among the top three law schools in the country according to U.S. News and World Report’s annual ranking. In the 1870s, Harvard Law School’s then dean, Christopher Columbus Langdell, introduced the Socratic Method to the law school and founded what is now the typical first-year law school curriculum. Today, Harvard Law School has a broad curriculum consisting of over 400 courses with a wide variety of offerings, including, but not limited to clinical placements, research programs, independent writing projects, and opportunities to study abroad. In addition, the Cambridge area is ripe with opportunities for students to explore the law outside the classroom as it offers law students access to federal, state and local courts and agencies, correctional facilities, private law firms and legal aid organizations.


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Jessica Soban


"We will be expanding the current interviewing process for prospective students by using Skype video conferencing to enable 'face to face..." - Jessica Soban - Assistant Dean and Chief Admissions Officer, Harvard Law

October 10, 2012 \ This is the 27th installment of our 224 part series, Better Know A Dean. Today we posted our interview with Jessica Soban, Assistant Dean and Chief Admissions Officer at Harvard Law School.

Known on the most popular law school discussion boards simply as “JS,” Dean Soban bleeds crimson (literally – Harvard is in her blood!). She attended Harvard University as an undergrad where she majored in Government and then attended Harvard Law School from 2004-2007. After law school, Dean Soban worked at Bain & Company until 2012 when she returned Harvard Law School Admissions Office to begin picking the Class of 2015.

AD Thanks so much for your time, Dean Soban. I know you’re in the middle of your busy season, so I really appreciate you taking the time to sit down and answer these questions for our visitors.
JS Thanks for having me! This is my first "interview" and I’m so excited to have the chance to answer questions that I know are on lots of applicants’ minds.
AD Before we begin, I think it is interesting to point out that it is an election year and that both presidential candidates are Harvard Law alums -- President Obama (’91) was the President of Harvard Law Review and Mitt Romney (’75) received his JD/MBA from Harvard University. Literally hundreds of HLS graduates have ascended to hold leadership positions in state/federal government, the judiciary and business. How does it feel to know that – in all likelihood – you are passing judgment on whether to admit a future leader in this country?
JS It's an honor, and to be honest, a bit daunting. When I first accepted the position, one of my friends pointed out this exact fact -- that I could be selecting someone for HLS who would become a future President. My response was, "Oh my goodness, what if I deny a spot to a future President?!" All I can say is that I will do my best!
AD It must be different to return to HLS as the Dean of Admissions. What has changed the most since you walked the HLS campus as a student? What aspects of HLS remain timeless?
JS I think the thing that hasn't changed is the great spirit of community among the students. Some of my best friends came from HLS and they have been part of the great experiences I've had since graduation as well. If the spirit is the same, what has changed is the physical plant. In January of this year, we opened the new Wasserstein Hall, Caspersen Student Center, Clinical Wing building (WCC) which has given the student body a new physical place for student community and collaboration. Another change is the increase in the number of clinical options offered. A lot of schools are talking about their clinical options these days, but no one can come close to the nearly 30 in-house clinics and hundreds of externships we offer. We offer more clinical opportunities than any law school in the world. Of course, another big change is the grading system. While I was here, we still had the full scale, but I think it’s fantastic that the new system takes some of the external pressure off, and that people are taking advantage of that by getting out of their comfort zones and exploring areas of law that they may not have considered before.
AD Now, just to recap for AdmissionsDean visitors who may not be aware of the hornet's nest you walked into last February -- at the beginning of the 2011-12 admissions cycle, Josh Rubenstein (then Harvard’s Assistant Dean of Admissions) left to return to the private sector and Sandy Williams (then Harvard's Associate Director of Admissions) left to join NYU Law. Their absence created a vacuum in Austin Hall from October through early-February when you officially came on board. How did the admissions office fare until you stepped in and took the helm?
JS It's funny that anyone would think the world stopped for a few months because there wasn't an Assistant Dean! For almost one hundred years, Harvard Law School has been able to enroll an incoming class of 1Ls, so a few months without an Assistant Dean really was not the end of the world. Besides, although Josh was - and I now am - the face of the Harvard Law School Admissions Office, neither of us could ever accomplish what we do without the team of people who work in the JD Admissions Office. Our Director of Admissions has 15 years of admissions experience, 11 of which she's spent at HLS. One of my Assistant Directors has 12 years of admissions experience, and the other is completing her second year in our office after getting a Masters in Higher Education at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. I also would say that our support staff members are some of the best at the Law School. Josh left me a better staff than I could have hoped for: they were recruiting, processing and reading applications the entire year, which allowed me to arrive and get right to work interviewing and admitting students.


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