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Roadmap: Comparative constitutional law; administrative law and theory

Hedayat came to HLS with a broad interest in international and comparative law which she honed during her J.D. studies and later as a doctoral candidate. She took courses in constitutional law, Islamic law, human rights, and family law, and helped an HLS professor develop a curriculum on family law in Egypt and the U.S., later co-teaching the course at the American University in Cairo during the HLS winter term. Hedayat also traveled to Namibia for clinical work on transitional justice, spent one summer working for Human Rights Watch in Lebanon, and another summer in the New York and Paris offices of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. After completing her J.D., Hedayat worked at Cleary as a litigator for four years, then returned to Harvard.  After completing her S.J.D. with a dissertation focused on the rise and decline of judicial activism on national identity questions, she became a Climenko Fellow and lecturer on law at HLS, then a research fellow at the law school’s Program in Islamic Law.

As a J.D., I focused on acquiring the foundation needed to become a successful lawyer and legal practitioner and getting exposed to different ways of understanding law. In the doctoral program, my experience has been focused on developing my own scholarship with much more time and space for independent reading and writing.

Hedyat Heikal

J.D. Studies


Hedayat earned a B.S. in electronics engineering from the American University in Cairo, Egypt before coming to HLS. She chose HLS because she felt that the diversity of her experience would be valued and the curriculum would enable her to concentrate on topics of international and comparative law. She took International Law, Introduction to Islamic Law, Israel/Palestine Legal Issues, European Union Law, Human Rights Advocacy, The Regulation of the Household, and Comparative Law: Globalization of Law in Historical Perspective. After cross-registering for courses in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, she worked as a teaching fellow at Harvard College for a course on Modern Arabic Narratives: Self, Society, and Culture.

Student Journal

Hedayat served as submissions editor and a member of the editorial board of the Harvard International Law JournalThis experience gave her a valuable sense of how law journals work, especially the elements necessary for publishable pieces.


After her 1L year, Hedayat took advantage of Summer Public Interest Funding to work for Human Rights Watch in Lebanon (a position she became aware of through her involvement with HLS Advocates for Human Rights, a student practice organization), where she collected testimony on the treatment of refugees, and researched the compliance of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon with international standards of criminal justice. During her second summer, she worked in the New York and Paris offices of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton on mergers and acquisitions in emerging markets, and conducted research for the firm’s international disputes practice group.

Winter Terms

During her 1L year, Hedayat studied Comparative Family Law with Professor Janet Halley in order to develop her skills as a comparativist. The following year, with the support of a travel grant from the Islamic Legal Studies program, Hedayat researched legal pedagogy in Egypt and helped Professor Halley develop and co-teach a course for LL.M. students at the American University in Cairo on the subject of family law in Egypt and the U.S.

During the following Winter Term, Hedayat traveled to Namibia with the International Human Rights Clinic in order to support a project on transitional justice.

Post J.D.

Law Firm and Academia

After completing her J.D., in order to gain practical experience with private and international law, Hedayat worked for nearly four years in New York (and briefly in London) as an associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, focusing on matters related to litigation, arbitration, and enforcement. She gained a deeper understanding of regulation and regulatory governance in a transnational context.

She also served as a Research Scholar in Law and the inaugural Islamic Law and Civilization Research Fellow at Yale Law School, and a visiting professor at American University in Cairo, where she taught courses on comparative constitutional law and human rights.

Graduate Studies

S.J.D. Program

Given her love of research and teaching, four years after completing her J.D., Hedayat enrolled in  HLS’ S.J.D. (Doctor of Juridical Science) program so she could pursue an academic career that would build on her practical experience. Having worked closely with a number of faculty members during her J.D. studies, she had a sense of the impact that law professors could have and, in particular, how dedicated HLS professors are to the S.J.D. program. She developed her own scholarship in several fields integrating Islamic law, comparative law, constitutional law, and administrative law and theory, under the supervision of Professors Noah FeldmanDuncan Kennedy, and Mark Tushnet.

With the guidance of HLS and other Harvard faculty members, Hedayat honed her research objectives and began work on her doctoral dissertation on the place of judges and judicial review in the governance of select Middle Eastern countries. To advance her work, she drew on the expertise of HLS’ specialized research librarians and a number of Harvard centers such as the Islamic Legal Studies Program and the Institute for Global Law and Policy. Her refined focus was partly driven by the events of the Arab Spring, which prompted Hedayat to consider the importance of law to intractable questions of governance and administration in the Middle East. In exploring these issues, she also benefitted from the insights of her fellow students in the S.J.D. program’s diverse intellectual community, and especially appreciated the weekly colloquia at which S.J.D. candidates and HLS faculty members gather to give feedback on students’ scholarly projects at different stages in their development.

After HLS

Climenko Fellow, Lecturer on Law, and Research Fellow

After completing her S.J.D., Hedyat was a Climenko Fellow and lecturer on law at HLS, teaching first-year Legal Research and Writing and leading a reading group entitled “The Death of Constitutional Democracy?”.  After this two-year program for promising legal scholars with a strong interest in teaching, she joined the law school’s Program in Islamic Law as a research fellow.