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Life Beyond the Law

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


Law students, like students of any discipline, must simultaneously focus intensely on their work and be sure to take time to relax and decompress. Observations of student life found in Historical & Special Collections reflect the myriad ways that Harvard Law School students enjoy a little time off.

Diaries and letters from students in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries reveal the activities they enjoyed in their limited free time, including games, music and the arts, and casual social gatherings and parties. In more recent years, students have enjoyed many of the same activities, which can largely be seen through ephemeral material such as flyers and photographs. Across this varied material, one can observe how student life sometimes blurs the lines between the academic and the social. Some events were sponsored by campus groups and were attended by faculty; other activities were entirely outside the auspices of the Law School and intended for students and their friends.

In the end, many students must surely feel as Austin Wakeman Scott (LL.B. 1909) did when he wrote home to his family in October 1906, “I enjoy what little ‘gadding’ I do here but of course don’t let it get in the way of the real thing, i.e. the pursuit of the elusive theory of law.”

Graduate Div. Picnic, September 1977

photograph of September 1977 Graduate Div. PicnicGraduate Div. Picnic, September 1977; Joan Lebold Cohen, photographer; Chromogenic print, 12.6 x 8.9 cm.; Photographs of HLS Students, Box 2, Folder 8