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Life Beyond the Law

A Historical & Special Collections exhibit exploring student life outside the Harvard Law School classroom.


Watching and playing sports have always been popular pastimes for Harvard Law School students. The scientific data indicating the benefits of exercise for reducing stress and anxiety may not have existed in the early days of Harvard Law, but it is no surprise that students naturally sought athletics as an outlet to reduce stress and combat “pre-exam slump.” Although students have enjoyed many types of sports and sporting competitions over the years, this exhibit focuses on the historic Harvard-Yale rivalry, ice skating, and informal sports gatherings.

Photograph of students playing baseball near Harvard Stadium in 1984

Playing baseball in Allston by Harvard Stadium, 1984; Chromogenic print, 8.9 x 11.1 cm.; Photographs of Harvard Law School Students: Sports, Rest, and Recreation; Box 2, Folder 8

Harvard-Yale Rivalry

The Harvard-Yale football rivalry goes back 139 years. We know that the annual match-up was a noteworthy part of the student experience in the early twentieth century, just as it is today, because of two collections of letters written by Professor Austin Wakeman Scott (LL.B. 1909) and Albert F. Burt (LL.B. 1914). Interestingly, even though both men felt compelled to write home about the game, neither of them chose to attend. Explore the Harvard-Yale rivalry in greater detail here.

Ice Skating

The Scott and Burt collections provide evidence that ice skating has been an athletic pastime of Harvard Law School students for over 100 years. This is not surprising given New England’s weather and the number of skating locations close to campus. Over the years, students have found suitable ice on the Charles River, at the nearby Cambridge Skating Club, and more recently on Jarvis Field. Explore student reflections on ice skating, photographs, and more here.

Pick-Up Games

While the Law School has a number of student-run sports organizations that include an active intramural program (featuring basketball, football, and soccer), the photographs shown here capture more spontaneous gatherings of students.