how would you weigh the prospect of no loans after law school vs. the unique YLS experience?
Having spent the last 4 years trying to pay off undergrad loans, I'm partial to the no loans option but I'd like to get your take as current students.
Also a YLS 1L here. Procrastinating on my brief, so I'm going to take a stab at some of these questions.
Below (wow, looking back at this, it really is *way* below) is a post of mine from the end of the last cycle (as I was deciding on a school). I think this all still applies. If you don't feel like reading, the gist is that Yale's loan repayment program is so amazing that this should hardly be an issue at all. If you make less than 60k, they pay all of your loans for you, no matter what kind of job you do. Above 60k, you only have to put 25% of your income toward loans. So if you make $100k, you pay 10k in loans per year. This was small enough to allow me to ignore the full rides I got elsewhere (Hamilton at Columbia, Furman at NYU, etc.).
To answer a few of the other questions:
Here's a typical weekend for me in terms of social stuff (and I'd like to think I'm about average).
Wednesday: poker with a revolving group of friends (since I only have one class on Thursdays and Fridays, and the reading is not much, and I don't have to worry about getting ahead because this place is relaxed, etc.). It'll be a different group each week, since some will have a brief due one week, or someone will be preparing to turn in a report they're writing for New Haven Legal Assistance or a Venezuelan opposition NGO (I don't mean to gush, but the opportunities here really are amazing, especially for 1Ls, from what I've heard from friends elsewhere.
Thursday: Bar Review. Go out to one of the dozens of fun local bars with much of the school (if I had to estimate, maybe a third of the school goes on a given Thursday? Good chance to see people you haven't seen all week (though they are few, since the school is one building and you see most everyone at one point or another).
Friday: Relax, game night with friends or a small group gathering or a play at Yale Rep or a performance at the symphony hall. (And to answer an earlier question, I know several people who have joined a string quartet, another who is playing in the orchestra for a play at Yale Rep. There was an email to the Wall a few weeks back asking if anyone was in need of a cellist. I think the woman found a gig.)
Saturday: Go to one of several parties always going on at someone's apartment/house.
Sunday: Intramural soccer for me, others are playing softball. Might also play squash with friends - turns out this is social currency on the east coast. Who knew? I just picked up the sport but I've already become a lot closer with several people just by a playing a few games. This highlights how easy it is to meet people, and how happy people are to make new friends here, I think.
My guess is that this level of socialness is slightly higher than elsewhere, if only because the workload first semester here is so much lower without grades. I don't mean to portray this as "YLS kids are more social" or anything. I'm just trying to counter the prevailing notion (which at least some people hold) that YLS is a social abyss (See the tone of the question: "Is there anything social?" As if the answer were going to be "No, we study 9 hours a day and then do our best to avoid human contact for the other 15.")
"Do 1Ls have time to join clubs?"
I've kind of answered this one, but it's a resounding yes. Probably half of the class joins at least one secondary journal in the first semester to get the experience. Probably 25% do one of the public service projects (Lowenstein Human Rights - write reports for NGOs and lawyers in need of assistance from bright law students, maybe do a bit of direct legal help for immigrants and asylum seekers; Liman - I have a friend writing a report for the Brennan Center about inequitable legal fees in Connecticut courts, e.g.; one of the several projects assisting judges on the various international tribunals; Temporary Restraining Order Project - helping battered women (or, I suppose, battered men) get TROs; the list goes on. And this is before we're even allowed to do real clinics, which isn't until second semester.) Others have joined political organizations. Still others have continued their work from previous jobs - I know one person who flew to Chad over the fall break to follow up on some human rights work. So yes, there's plenty of time to do what you want to do, and the opportunities are endless.
I feel like I have to weigh in on the New Haven thing, too. Whoever said she has to look over her shoulder while walking around in the middle of the day is either in the wrong part of the town or unnecessarily jittery. New Haven's downtown is vibrant. Police are ubiquitous. Sure, so are unemployed loiterers, but they're friendly. One of them guards my front door. Or at least I like to think that's what she's doing. But seriously, the only moment when I've felt unsafe has been this one time at 4 AM when I was coming home from the other side of the tracks and a guy came up to me ranting in gibberish. But I smiled said hi and he went on his way. The rest of the time this is pretty much like any other mid-sized city. During the day, you have no reason to feel unsafe, and at night you just try to be smart. And take the Shuttle, which is free and will take you door to door.
Last: Just so you don't think I'm entirely uncritical, I think someone's point earlier about the size being limiting in a way is correct. If all you want to do is international arbitration, YLS might not be giving a class on that this year (prof might be on leave, or chose to teach another class instead, etc.). If you want to do IP, this might not be the best place (though our few profs in the field are really fantastic). But what we lack in number of profs and classes we make up for in outside opportunities. No human rights law class given this year? Do the clinic instead. And go to Jordan over spring break to document conditions in a refugee camp. Get credit for it. Write a paper about it. The point is, this place is what you make of it. If you need structured opportunities, then maybe in some fields this isn't the right place for you. But if you have any imagination and motivation, you'll be fine.
Oh, and gosh guys, whoever told you it was too late - for any school - is either crazy, uninformed, or trying to sabotage you. I applied to Harvard after Thanksgiving, Stanford second week of December, and Yale after Christmas and got into all three. I don't think this is rare.
Mike le magne wrote:
Can those of you who've said that YLS's loan forgiveness is > HLS's specify why you think this is so? I know HLS has this 3L tuition forgiveness, which seems pretty generous. Then again, YLS lets you work in any area whatsoever. I know YLS pays full if you make less than 65k- what is it for HLS? Thanks!
Yale's cutoff below which you make no payments is 60k. Harvard's is 42k. After 60k, Yale makes you pay a quarter of your extra income. After 42k, Harvard asks you for some percentage that I can't remember, but it amounts to paying $500/month if you make 60k. That's not insignificant. If you make, say, 90k, your payments at Yale are $7500/year. At Harvard, assuming you have this much debt, it would be around $18,000/year. Look at it this way: Yale makes you pay 25% on income over 60k. So if you have $1,500/month in payments (not unreasonable by any stretch of the imagination), you could be making up to $132,000/year and Yale would still be helping you out a little. Harvard's help would phase out at 90k.
Second, on the third year free tuition, this doesn't really affect how much you have to pay per month unless you leave a qualifying job (make more than about 90k, depending on your loan burden, or leave public service) after year 5 but before year 10. If you leave before year 5 you have to give back the free tuition, and if you leave after year 10, HLS is paying most of your loans anyway, and whether you got free tuition the third year or not is not going to affect your monthly payments. If the free 45k amounts to about $500/month in loans, all the free tuition means is that you could make about $1250 more per month and still have LIPP cover some of your payments. That was convoluted, and I could be entirely wrong about the whole thing, but I think the free tuition thing comes down, as Dean Koh said last year, to an ad hoc gimmick.
Finally, as you mentioned, Yale's system is income based. You can do ANY job, if I read the thing correctly. This includes academic fellowships that tend to pay around 60k/year. Private sector, business, whatever. Don't underestimate that freedom.
One mark against Yale is that the program treats you as though you are on a 15-year repayment plan for the first five years of participation in the COAP (LRAP), so they're backloading it. (Which of course means the numbers are slightly off, now that I think about it - they'll still pay off some of your loans at the same ridiculously high income, but if you leave the program at year 5, you'd still have 2/3 of your loans left.)