It’s hard to beat Yale Law School, where the atmosphere is “highly intellectual” and classes are mostly “small” (first-year classes vary in size from fifteen to ninety students). One of the many uniquely cool things about Yale is that “there aren’t very many required courses.” All 1Ls must complete course work in constitutional law, contracts, procedure, and torts. There’s also a small, seminar-style legal research and writing course, and that’s pretty much it. Best of all, there are “no grades.” First semester classes are graded pass/fail. After first semester, there is some semblance of grades but, since Yale doesn’t keep track of class rank, it’s not a big deal.
Academically, “This is the best place in the world.” “It’s easy to learn about whatever you’re interested in, from medieval European law to helping immigrants in the modern-day United States,” says one student. Yale is home to cutting-edge centers and programs galore. Clinical opportunities are vast and available “in your first year,” which is ararity. You can represent family members in juvenile neglect cases, provide legal services for nonprofit organizations, or participate in complicated federal civil rights cases. It’s also “easy” to obtain joint-degrees or simply “cross-register for other classes” at Yale. A particularly unique program allows students to get a joint-degree at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton.
Student report that the administration is “generally friendly.” Word on the faculty is mixed. “I love all my professors,” beams a 2L. “They will help me with anything.” Nearly all agree that “most professors are delighted to help you.” When jobs and clerkships are on the line, it’s not uncommon for professors to personally make calls on behalf of students “to high-profile firms or government officials.” Other students, however, tell us the faculty isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. “Quality teaching is not valued enough,” gripes a critic. “Professors are hired based on their scholarship rather than their ability to teach or their interest in interacting with students.”
Employment prospects are simply awesome. A degree from Yale virtually guarantees “an easy time finding a good job” and a lifetime of financial security. There is “very solid career support” (including “lots of free wine” at recruiting events). But did you know that Yale prolifically produces public interest attorneys? It’s true. Every one of Yale’s graduates could immediately take the big firm route but, each year, hordes of them don’t. Yale “encourages diverse career paths” and “nontraditional routes” (“especially in academia and public interest”) and annually awards dozens of public interest fellowships to current students and newly minted grads. There’s a “great” loan forgiveness program too.
Facilities are phenomenal. Yale boasts wireless Internet access throughout the Law School, wireless common areas, and perhaps the greatest law library in the history of humanity. “The research facilities are spectacular.” Aesthetically, “Everything is beautiful,” especially if you are into “wood paneling, stained glass windows, and hand-carved moldings.” “If you care about architecture and Ivy League ambiance, come to Yale.”
“There are parties,” swears a 1L. However, for many students, the social scene at Yale is simply an extension of academic life. Lectures and cultural events of all kinds are, of course, never-ending. The surrounding city of New Haven is lively in its own way and New York City and Boston are both easily accessible by train. On campus, Yale offers an “encouraging environment” and a “wonderful community.” “Because of the small size of each class and the enormous number of activities, it is incredibly easy to get involved with journals (even the Journal) and any other student group you might want to try.” “Students are very engaged and motivated, but not generally in a way that stresses everyone else out,” explains one student. “The no-grades policy for first semester completely eliminates the competition I expect exists at other schools.” “People ask me what law school is like, and I can honestly say, ‘I work pretty hard, but it’s fun,’” says a satisfied student. “Then those people stare at me oddly, and maybe they’re right that ‘fun’ isn’t exactly the right word. But I’ve found it enriching and enjoyable and the people I’ve met here have been great.”