Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

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xnsch

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Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby xnsch » Fri Jan 06, 2017 10:51 pm

So I’m currently in the very un-pitiable position of deciding between my top two choices of Yale and Harvard and I’d be interesting in hearing people’s perspectives on my reasons for being unsure and maybe from people who have had to make this position in the past. I’m doing my research because I don’t want to make a snap decision based simply on the conventional wisdom that Yale is unequivocally better than Harvard and, at the same time, don’t want to give up what would surely be an unprecedented opportunity to go to Yale.

And before others say it: I know there have been other threads on this before. I’ve read them. This is a way for me to get advice specific to my situation and to help me organize/get feedback on my thoughts.

My end career goal is to work in government and policy. As of now, I don’t really know where exactly I want to go straight from law school in the short term (hoping to get a clearer picture during law school) but in the long term I’d like to either be in some advising role or potentially run for office much later. I had thought about doing something like DOJ Honors or a clerkship after school (although the DOJ is probably out given the current administration). The most important thing for me is to go to a school that can help me achieve my long-term career goals and so I'm looking for:
- A good community of people who are also interested in a path to government and an alumni network to utilize (I didn’t really get to network much in undergrad so this is a big one for me)
- Resources and guidance for those wanting to go into government
- I’d like to do a JD/MPP, preferably with HKS. This is based on discussions with friends and mentors that have the jobs that I want in the future and their experiences with HKS

Harvard Pros
- Potential for a joint JD/MPP with HKS and, if not, at least cross-registering at HKS and gaining access to those connections as well
- Along with the above, rather than doing a JD/MPP from Yale, I’d be able to be part of the same community for four years straight and have “access” to the really diverse and strong community at Harvard. Obviously beyond even the law school, almost all of Harvard’s schools are at the top of their field and Boston is an intellectual powerhouse
- Their Law and Government track seems great in that it kind of gives you a structure to work with for a person with my goals

Harvard Cons
- Can’t guarantee getting into the HKS joint degree program (although I could always cross register)
- A significant gap between Harvard and Yale. Obviously Harvard has a magnificent name, but within the legal community it really seems like Yale stands apart from all others in a huge way
- Large class at Harvard. I’ve been told by admissions that things like being a research assistant, participating in reading groups, and sections make it feel a little cozier but it’s still a massive school
- And to add onto that, the competition seems much higher at Harvard as a necessary result of the huge class

Yale Pros
- It’s Yale. From everyone I’ve talked to so far it’s been put to me in no uncertain terms that this should be a no brainer decision and an amazing opportunity to study with some incredibly brilliant people
- Smaller class, more intimate relationships with the best professors in the world, easier to get positions on law review, and thus much easier access to prestigious opportunities like clerkships or government jobs that could help me a lot in my career path
- Less competition. No grades in the first semester sounds amazing and the sense that there is overall less of a cutthroat feel to Yale seems like it could be helpful in lowering my blood pressure
- Can still potentially try to do a JD/MPP with HKS. I’ve talked to some people that did the joint degree with HKS from other law schools and have a good idea of how it works. It’s a bit more stressful, but doable

Yale Cons
- Doing a JD/MPP with HKS will likely be harder and more stressful from Yale given that I’d have to be between two different schools
- I’ll be honest that I’m not super excited by New Haven. As a gay minority, I love big cities because they give me the opportunity to meet friends/partners/etc. easily so I worry about being in a smaller, potentially less diverse place
- Seems less likely to have as strong a name in politics/policy as it does in the legal field, unlike Harvard which has kind of the opposite.

Thoughts?

zeglo

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby zeglo » Fri Jan 06, 2017 11:00 pm

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Last edited by zeglo on Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

xnsch

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby xnsch » Fri Jan 06, 2017 11:10 pm

zeglo wrote:At Yale, there is no government "track" because from my (limited) perspective, you do whatever the heck you want to do.


Really good point. Hadn't thought of it that way!

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby SamuelDanforth » Fri Jan 06, 2017 11:52 pm

You really can't go wrong. But I'll add my two cents:

(1) Look closely at what Harvard's LRAP covers (unless money is no object). If I remember, Harvard's is less strict than Stanford, but not quite as broad as Yale's. If you're interested in running for office / policy positions early in your career, it would be worth making sure Harvard's plan covers those kind of career paths (i.e. what is their definition of "public interest").

(2) I think it's undoubtedly true that HLS has the largest and most varied alumni network in DC. And that's undoubtedly tremendously useful. I do think, however, that it's also true that YLS carries more weight in competitive government legal jobs, and that the YLS faculty + alumni network seem to go out of their way to help students get the jobs in government that they want.

(3) Ask the YLS admissions office to put you in touch with current students / alumni who have done joint HKS degrees. They're generally more than happy to put you in touch with specific people after you've been admitted.

(4) Outlaws is a large and very active group on campus, and they'll be available at admitted students weekend. But if you'd prefer not to wait until then to ask about New Haven / the law school community, they talk with admitted students too!

(5) I can't stress how happy I was that my 1st semester grades were Credit / Credit. I didn't actually give this much weight when making my choice, because I thought I'd put the same effort in either way. But I felt that I really needed to take exams once to know how to study / prepare properly, and having gone through a test run once I'll be prepared for the Spring. Also, it was wonderful to not have grade competition ruin small group bonding.

(6) I've been pleasantly surprised by New Haven, but there is no denying that Cambridge is a better city.

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby RedPurpleBlue » Sat Jan 07, 2017 5:05 am

You're fine either way. This is as silly of a discussion as worrying about if you should attend MIT or Stanford for undergrad. It really doesn't matter. If you're exceptional at one of the schools in question (Harvard/Yale), you will easily have a wonderful career in gov't/policy. Also, law school considerate for political office is bunk. Look up the law degrees of our elected officials. Very few have Harvard or Yale degrees, and many have degrees from schools that would be considered TTTrash. The most important aspects of running a successful campaign are building a reputation in whatever district you want to run in, networking well, fundraising, having a good message, and getting lucky. You don't need to go to HYS to do any of those things. My point isn't stay away from YH. My point is that it really doesn't matter. Go with whatever school you feel better about/makes more financial sense (if that is a concern). Like I said, this is as silly as worrying about going to Stanford vs MIT as an engineer or worrying about going to the #2 USNews school instead of the #1 USNews schools (exactly what you are actually doing now). The senators from my state went to schools not even ranked in the US News top 100 and equally unimpressive graduate schools.

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armc808

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby armc808 » Sat Jan 07, 2017 6:08 am

Go to the one you feel more comfortable at; you will receive a top-notch quality education either way. Good luck!

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bretby

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby bretby » Sat Jan 07, 2017 11:28 am

xnsch wrote:So I’m currently in the very un-pitiable position of deciding between my top two choices of Yale and Harvard and I’d be interesting in hearing people’s perspectives on my reasons for being unsure and maybe from people who have had to make this position in the past. I’m doing my research because I don’t want to make a snap decision based simply on the conventional wisdom that Yale is unequivocally better than Harvard and, at the same time, don’t want to give up what would surely be an unprecedented opportunity to go to Yale.

And before others say it: I know there have been other threads on this before. I’ve read them. This is a way for me to get advice specific to my situation and to help me organize/get feedback on my thoughts.

My end career goal is to work in government and policy. As of now, I don’t really know where exactly I want to go straight from law school in the short term (hoping to get a clearer picture during law school) but in the long term I’d like to either be in some advising role or potentially run for office much later. I had thought about doing something like DOJ Honors or a clerkship after school (although the DOJ is probably out given the current administration). The most important thing for me is to go to a school that can help me achieve my long-term career goals and so I'm looking for:
- A good community of people who are also interested in a path to government and an alumni network to utilize (I didn’t really get to network much in undergrad so this is a big one for me)
- Resources and guidance for those wanting to go into government
- I’d like to do a JD/MPP, preferably with HKS. This is based on discussions with friends and mentors that have the jobs that I want in the future and their experiences with HKS

Harvard Pros
- Potential for a joint JD/MPP with HKS and, if not, at least cross-registering at HKS and gaining access to those connections as well
- Along with the above, rather than doing a JD/MPP from Yale, I’d be able to be part of the same community for four years straight and have “access” to the really diverse and strong community at Harvard. Obviously beyond even the law school, almost all of Harvard’s schools are at the top of their field and Boston is an intellectual powerhouse
- Their Law and Government track seems great in that it kind of gives you a structure to work with for a person with my goals

Harvard Cons
- Can’t guarantee getting into the HKS joint degree program (although I could always cross register)
- A significant gap between Harvard and Yale. Obviously Harvard has a magnificent name, but within the legal community it really seems like Yale stands apart from all others in a huge way
- Large class at Harvard. I’ve been told by admissions that things like being a research assistant, participating in reading groups, and sections make it feel a little cozier but it’s still a massive school
- And to add onto that, the competition seems much higher at Harvard as a necessary result of the huge class

Yale Pros
- It’s Yale. From everyone I’ve talked to so far it’s been put to me in no uncertain terms that this should be a no brainer decision and an amazing opportunity to study with some incredibly brilliant people
- Smaller class, more intimate relationships with the best professors in the world, easier to get positions on law review, and thus much easier access to prestigious opportunities like clerkships or government jobs that could help me a lot in my career path
- Less competition. No grades in the first semester sounds amazing and the sense that there is overall less of a cutthroat feel to Yale seems like it could be helpful in lowering my blood pressure
- Can still potentially try to do a JD/MPP with HKS. I’ve talked to some people that did the joint degree with HKS from other law schools and have a good idea of how it works. It’s a bit more stressful, but doable

Yale Cons
- Doing a JD/MPP with HKS will likely be harder and more stressful from Yale given that I’d have to be between two different schools
- I’ll be honest that I’m not super excited by New Haven. As a gay minority, I love big cities because they give me the opportunity to meet friends/partners/etc. easily so I worry about being in a smaller, potentially less diverse place
- Seems less likely to have as strong a name in politics/policy as it does in the legal field, unlike Harvard which has kind of the opposite.

Thoughts?



I'd go to Harvard. People with extensive experience at both schools have told me that you get a much better legal education at Harvard than at Yale. Given Harvard's class size, the alumni base is larger and probably well-represented in any policy area you choose to move into.

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Jan 07, 2017 11:54 am

bretby wrote:I'd go to Harvard. People with extensive experience at both schools have told me that you get a much better legal education at Harvard than at Yale.

Why do they say this, and how do they define "better legal education"? I have a really hard time thinking that there's any measurable difference in any way that's going to matter once you've graduated.

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby QuentonCassidy » Sat Jan 07, 2017 12:53 pm

I'm a 1L at H, so I figured I would chime in with my two cents. Most of the time, I think the right answer to this question is Yale without a doubt, but I think that you may be in a situation where a little more nuance is helpful. That being said, from my limited point of view, I still lean slightly toward recommending Yale + HKS if you think that would be feasible for you. There is definitely a palpable sense that Yale law (or at least a Yale law student) is better than Harvard law(/student), and the opportunity to complete your respective degrees from the "top" institutions (I assume HKS is a top institution, I have little knowledge on the subject) is a tough thing to pass up.

All that being said, I can respond to some of your pros/cons about Harvard; I don't want you to think that I am advocating all in to come to Harvard, I just don't know as much (especially not firsthand) about Yale.

First, you may get some admissions boost for HKS by being Harvard JD. I know of some people who were originally rejected by HKS and then applied a second time as a Harvard 1L and were accepted. This should be taken with two huge grains of salt: First, it's very possible that you would get a similar admissions boost by applying as a Yale 1L; I simply don't know that. Second, I have no idea how HKS admissions work, but if you got into Yale law then I feel like you are probably the type of person who can get into HKS regardless (just a gut feeling though, I don't know much about it).

I know a couple people IRL who are doing JD/MPP and they love it. Also I know that a poster on this board named "tomwatts" did H's JD/MPP program. He answers questions pretty regularly on the Harvard students thread, so you may want to check out some of his posts and/or pm him.

I believe that the alumni base, especially going into government, favors Harvard. I could be wrong about this, but this seems like an area where Harvard's large class size is a plus. There are more law school alumni, and moreover, there are likely more alumni of Harvard's other schools in D.C./governmental positions than from Yale. Once again, I could be wrong, but this is my intuition. On a similar subject, if your 1L class is anything like mine, then a TON of your Harvard friends will be wanting to go into government. I am a relatively apolitical person and have been really struck by how many people really want to go into government here. Job statistics show that many of these people end up taking a firm job right out, but I would say my classmates' modal response to their career goals is to work at a firm until they pay their debt and then go into government. Chances are that you are going to have a lot of potential networking contacts in your class at Harvard, in addition to those at HKS. This is probably similar for Yale though, and even though they probably don't have as many by number, I would imagine a higher percentage are interested in gov/PI. The point of this was just to say that Harvard is not a bunch of people who are out to be private sector lawyers for life; a majority express interest in gov/PI to me.

I wouldn't put much stock into Harvard's "Law and Government" track. I know I looked at that stuff a lot when I was applying, but it seems totally irrelevant now that I am actually here. I am only a 1L, so I haven't actually constructed a full semester schedule yet and maybe that ends up being helpful to 2/3Ls, but I have never heard anyone mention the "tracks" since I have been here. I think for the most part you will end up taking whatever classes you are interested in/others have recommended to you/with professors you like rather than considering what "track" they are on. I don't think this should make any difference.

On to the cons: I do believe the perception between the H student and Y student is a fairly significant thing. Don't believe the poster above who said some hogwash about H giving a "better legal education." If anything, I would think Y would give a better legal education, but my honest opinion is that neither will really give a better education than the other; I doubt there is a tangible difference in the actual quality of teaching/education between the schools. That being said, there may very well be a tangible difference between the quality (or at least perceived quality) of student between the two. Obviously I have not experienced a case where someone looks down on me for "only" going to Harvard, but going to Yale undoubtedly has a significant boost within the legal profession. The way I think about it is like the difference between getting a bronze medal and gold medal at the olympics. Getting the bronze medal is undoubtedly very impressive and no one (who isn't an ass) will give you grief for only getting bronze, but winning gold is on another level and gives a clear implication that you are the best of the best.

No idea how much the above will matter for a career in government.

I believe the large class size affects people differently, and I can only give you my experience. For me, the large class size was not a negative in any way. I know everyone in my section (and I'm one of the least social people in the section), and have made some very close friends over the first semester. It felt much more like I was in a 1L class of 80 than of 500+. I do know of many people who socialized a lot outside their section, so you by no means are stuck being friends with only those 80 people. That being said, others are probably better-equipped to give advice on this issue because I have never cared about class size and as such don't really understand the considerations that go into a small vs. large class discussion.

Regarding competition. I gotta say that, personally, I have not experienced any competitive vibes within my section. I was pleasantly surprised by how much everyone has truly wanted to get along and help each other. For example, we had a visiting prof for contracts, so no one could find old outlines for his course; a few weeks before the exam one of my section-mates posted a bunch of old outlines he had managed to dig up to our section's facebook page so that everyone would have access to them. This is obviously a complete 180 from the infamous "Paper Chase" environment. Honestly, the weirdest part about the competition to me is how much people seem to not want to come off as "gunners." If anything is off-putting, it is that. People will preemptively say "oh, but I'm not a gunner" after doing the most innocuous things, and it is a little weird. I think the main point is that everyone feels like they are going to do well and no one feels the need to be too competitive with each other, even if they take that to weird lengths at times.
That being said, if it is not competitive at Harvard, it is undoubtedly just as non-competitive and likely more so at Yale. The smaller class size and even more opaque grading likely stifles competition (at least for grades) to an even greater extent. Also, as a poster above mentioned, the no-grades first semester might be something that you would care about.

Personally, I didn't care about having grades first semester, but I was also a lot less stressed than some of my classmates were. So they might give you conflicting advice. One thing I did notice though was that the people who seemed super stressed during exams also seemed super stressed throughout the semester, just for doing the reading for class/being prepared for cold calls. This is a little bit ridiculous, because those things matter so little (read: not at all; you could botch every single cold-call of the semester and still get the top grade in the class), so I tend to think that people are either going to stress/feel pressured or not, and the grading system/class size isn't going to change it that much. That being said, if you think you are someone who will be stressed about grades, then a no-grade first semester will likely be helpful.

Anyway, I hope this was helpful, and hopefully Yale students/more experienced Harvard students can fill in the gaps where I don't have experience. I had to make a similar decision to yours when deciding, but mine was based on family considerations (then-fiancee, now wife lives in Boston), and obviously I chose H. That is very different though, and I'm not sure what I would do in your position. Feel free to pm me if you want to talk more about H or about your decision, and my only other recommendation would be to check out both schools' ASW, although be wary that each school is going to be trying to sell you very hard and it is going to be a very controlled atmosphere. If you come to H's ASW and wanna talk with someone who is not a zombie controlled by the administration (not saying that the official student reps necessarily are, just making a joke), then pm me and I might be able to meet up with you.

Best of luck.

ETA: SamuelDanforth's advice seems spot-on, and zeglo's point about the "track" is much like my point on the issue.

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby xnsch » Sat Jan 07, 2017 1:58 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
bretby wrote:I'd go to Harvard. People with extensive experience at both schools have told me that you get a much better legal education at Harvard than at Yale.

Why do they say this, and how do they define "better legal education"? I have a really hard time thinking that there's any measurable difference in any way that's going to matter once you've graduated.


I'm curious about this, too. What does a better legal education mean? I've heard Harvard is much more black letter law and Yale is more theoretical if that's what they meant

RedPurpleBlue wrote:You're fine either way. This is as silly of a discussion as worrying about if you should attend MIT or Stanford for undergrad. It really doesn't matter. If you're exceptional at one of the schools in question (Harvard/Yale), you will easily have a wonderful career in gov't/policy. Also, law school considerate for political office is bunk. Look up the law degrees of our elected officials. Very few have Harvard or Yale degrees, and many have degrees from schools that would be considered TTTrash. The most important aspects of running a successful campaign are building a reputation in whatever district you want to run in, networking well, fundraising, having a good message, and getting lucky. You don't need to go to HYS to do any of those things. My point isn't stay away from YH. My point is that it really doesn't matter. Go with whatever school you feel better about/makes more financial sense (if that is a concern). Like I said, this is as silly as worrying about going to Stanford vs MIT as an engineer or worrying about going to the #2 USNews school instead of the #1 USNews schools (exactly what you are actually doing now). The senators from my state went to schools not even ranked in the US News top 100 and equally unimpressive graduate schools.


With all due respect, it does matter and I don't think it's a silly discussion. It's a place I'm going to have to spend 3-4 years and be happy, it's probably the last time I'll be going to school and as a person that enjoys school I want to be happy with where I go, and, to be frank, a person with my background getting to where I've gotten is a big deal to me and so no, I don't think it's silly for me to take my time and make an informed decision. Also, I don't care about rankings or I would have paid Yale already; I care about being happy with my decision.

As for my career, I don't view elected office as an explicit end I'm working towards. That's something that either happens or it doesn't based on how my life goes and what communities i end up in later on. Right now I'm trying to decide what legal education is the best for me and what community would help me get into the realm of public policy that I want to work in. Even so, I think the idea that law school may not be right for what I want to do is bunk. I know people in the field that I want to get into and many of them have helped me shape my goals thus far, so I have a pretty good idea of what I need.

SamuelDanforth wrote:You really can't go wrong. But I'll add my two cents:

(1) Look closely at what Harvard's LRAP covers (unless money is no object). If I remember, Harvard's is less strict than Stanford, but not quite as broad as Yale's. If you're interested in running for office / policy positions early in your career, it would be worth making sure Harvard's plan covers those kind of career paths (i.e. what is their definition of "public interest").

(2) I think it's undoubtedly true that HLS has the largest and most varied alumni network in DC. And that's undoubtedly tremendously useful. I do think, however, that it's also true that YLS carries more weight in competitive government legal jobs, and that the YLS faculty + alumni network seem to go out of their way to help students get the jobs in government that they want.

(3) Ask the YLS admissions office to put you in touch with current students / alumni who have done joint HKS degrees. They're generally more than happy to put you in touch with specific people after you've been admitted.

(4) Outlaws is a large and very active group on campus, and they'll be available at admitted students weekend. But if you'd prefer not to wait until then to ask about New Haven / the law school community, they talk with admitted students too!

(5) I can't stress how happy I was that my 1st semester grades were Credit / Credit. I didn't actually give this much weight when making my choice, because I thought I'd put the same effort in either way. But I felt that I really needed to take exams once to know how to study / prepare properly, and having gone through a test run once I'll be prepared for the Spring. Also, it was wonderful to not have grade competition ruin small group bonding.

(6) I've been pleasantly surprised by New Haven, but there is no denying that Cambridge is a better city.


Thanks for the insight, all really good points and I'm definitely going to start reaching out to OutLaws at Yale and also see if I can talk to people who did joint degrees there. Also, really good idea looking into the LRAP programs

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby bretby » Sun Jan 08, 2017 11:52 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
bretby wrote:I'd go to Harvard. People with extensive experience at both schools have told me that you get a much better legal education at Harvard than at Yale.

Why do they say this, and how do they define "better legal education"? I have a really hard time thinking that there's any measurable difference in any way that's going to matter once you've graduated.


They meant that the Harvard curriculum, particularly the first year curriculum, was more rigorous and better prepared students to be lawyers. They also said that the legal education at Yale was "not serious". These are people with extensive experience at both schools, so I take their opinion seriously, though of course others may feel differently.

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jan 08, 2017 12:05 pm

bretby wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:
bretby wrote:I'd go to Harvard. People with extensive experience at both schools have told me that you get a much better legal education at Harvard than at Yale.

Why do they say this, and how do they define "better legal education"? I have a really hard time thinking that there's any measurable difference in any way that's going to matter once you've graduated.


They meant that the Harvard curriculum, particularly the first year curriculum, was more rigorous and better prepared students to be lawyers. They also said that the legal education at Yale was "not serious". These are people with extensive experience at both schools, so I take their opinion seriously, though of course others may feel differently.

Certainly if people feel this way, they feel this way. But I tend to think that if you want rigor that prepares you to be a lawyer, go to a TTT, not any of the T14. Also, the accreditation requirements mean that all first year curricula are basically the same. (Also if they're profs then I don't think their opinions are really pertinent here, as counter intuitive as that sounds; I think they're operating according to different standard.)

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby Nebby » Sun Jan 08, 2017 12:11 pm

Both will give you largely the same opportunities, because a successful career in public service is based upon your own work ethic and self-awareness. I think the only difference between the two is the alumni base of HLS is much larger, and therefore networking opportunities are more vast. Both HLS and YLS have equal representation in government (in fact, HLS tends to get more likeminded people similar to yourself, which means there will be more people at HLS that want to do the same thing as you and that can be beneficial for personal and professional reasons).

With regard to the joint degree, a legal education automatically qualifies you for public policy positions because public policy is just how to implement ideas into law. An MPP is only useful for research purposes or working at a think tank (I'm an asshole but I think people largely get MPPs because they don't actually understand public policy or because they don't have a job lined up after school)

In my opinion and limited experience, for pure government purposes, a legal education is much more profitable and an MPP completely unnecessary.

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby xnsch » Sun Jan 08, 2017 9:33 pm

Nebby wrote:Both will give you largely the same opportunities, because a successful career in public service is based upon your own work ethic and self-awareness. I think the only difference between the two is the alumni base of HLS is much larger, and therefore networking opportunities are more vast. Both HLS and YLS have equal representation in government (in fact, HLS tends to get more likeminded people similar to yourself, which means there will be more people at HLS that want to do the same thing as you and that can be beneficial for personal and professional reasons).

With regard to the joint degree, a legal education automatically qualifies you for public policy positions because public policy is just how to implement ideas into law. An MPP is only useful for research purposes or working at a think tank (I'm an asshole but I think people largely get MPPs because they don't actually understand public policy or because they don't have a job lined up after school)

In my opinion and limited experience, for pure government purposes, a legal education is much more profitable and an MPP completely unnecessary.


Absolutely any career is predominantly the product of work ethic and what I do with what I have. Of course that doesn't mean that I can't try to put myself in a situation that would be beneficial. So for instance, one worry I have with Harvard is whether it's a more difficult experience because of competition/the need to stand out among a much larger class whereas at Yale it's easier to do things like get on law review and not have to try so hard to put yourself above others.

What do you mean when you say that HLS and YLS have equal representation in government yet HLS tends to get more people interested in public service? How does that work?

For sure an MPP isn't required for the career that I want. The JD is what will certainly get me in the door. The reason I want to do the MPP program is idiosyncratic to me. I want to be able to take masters level courses in economics, IR, etc. because I enjoy them and think that the degree might help me develop some skills that would be useful in my career. I've also talked to a lot of people who did just a JD, both JD and MPP, and just MPPs and so I see my reasoning as pretty sound.

xnsch

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby xnsch » Sun Jan 08, 2017 9:40 pm

QuentonCassidy wrote:I'm a 1L at H, so I figured I would chime in with my two cents.


First of all thank you so much for chiming in and providing so much detail!

QuentonCassidy wrote:I believe the large class size affects people differently, and I can only give you my experience. For me, the large class size was not a negative in any way. I know everyone in my section (and I'm one of the least social people in the section), and have made some very close friends over the first semester. It felt much more like I was in a 1L class of 80 than of 500+. I do know of many people who socialized a lot outside their section, so you by no means are stuck being friends with only those 80 people. That being said, others are probably better-equipped to give advice on this issue because I have never cared about class size and as such don't really understand the considerations that go into a small vs. large class discussion.

Regarding competition. I gotta say that, personally, I have not experienced any competitive vibes within my section. I was pleasantly surprised by how much everyone has truly wanted to get along and help each other. For example, we had a visiting prof for contracts, so no one could find old outlines for his course; a few weeks before the exam one of my section-mates posted a bunch of old outlines he had managed to dig up to our section's facebook page so that everyone would have access to them. This is obviously a complete 180 from the infamous "Paper Chase" environment. Honestly, the weirdest part about the competition to me is how much people seem to not want to come off as "gunners." If anything is off-putting, it is that. People will preemptively say "oh, but I'm not a gunner" after doing the most innocuous things, and it is a little weird. I think the main point is that everyone feels like they are going to do well and no one feels the need to be too competitive with each other, even if they take that to weird lengths at times.
That being said, if it is not competitive at Harvard, it is undoubtedly just as non-competitive and likely more so at Yale. The smaller class size and even more opaque grading likely stifles competition (at least for grades) to an even greater extent. Also, as a poster above mentioned, the no-grades first semester might be something that you would care about.


I think for me class size and competition go sort of hand in hand. What I mean is that, I'm not necessarily worried about a competitive atmosphere. In fact I'd probably categorize myself as a pretty competitive person in general. However, what I do worry about is whether it becomes harder to stand out at Harvard--or, I suppose, the feeling of having to stand out at all--because of its large size and also competitive nature. So, for instance, getting on law review seems to be much more difficult at HLS than YLS and becomes a necessary tool to help differentiate yourself (although, then I have to wonder whether it's worth it at YLS if it's so much easier to get onto...). Also, would there be more competition for limited opportunities like government jobs or clerkships? So my main question is sort of: Whether or not YLS has a competitive or collegial atmosphere, is going there the better ticket because the hardest part is getting in? Or is my perception of HLS wrong in that students have to work super hard to differentiate themselves from one another? I don't necessarily find the idea of running after every honors grade I can and having to outcompete people for law review positions etc. a very appealing one despite HLS's strengths in my field.

Hopefully what I wrote above was coherent! I'd love any insight you have on this!

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby zeglo » Sun Jan 08, 2017 10:34 pm

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Last edited by zeglo on Thu Jul 13, 2017 9:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby Nebby » Sun Jan 08, 2017 11:00 pm

xnsch wrote:
Nebby wrote:Both will give you largely the same opportunities, because a successful career in public service is based upon your own work ethic and self-awareness. I think the only difference between the two is the alumni base of HLS is much larger, and therefore networking opportunities are more vast. Both HLS and YLS have equal representation in government (in fact, HLS tends to get more likeminded people similar to yourself, which means there will be more people at HLS that want to do the same thing as you and that can be beneficial for personal and professional reasons).

With regard to the joint degree, a legal education automatically qualifies you for public policy positions because public policy is just how to implement ideas into law. An MPP is only useful for research purposes or working at a think tank (I'm an asshole but I think people largely get MPPs because they don't actually understand public policy or because they don't have a job lined up after school)

In my opinion and limited experience, for pure government purposes, a legal education is much more profitable and an MPP completely unnecessary.


Absolutely any career is predominantly the product of work ethic and what I do with what I have. Of course that doesn't mean that I can't try to put myself in a situation that would be beneficial. So for instance, one worry I have with Harvard is whether it's a more difficult experience because of competition/the need to stand out among a much larger class whereas at Yale it's easier to do things like get on law review and not have to try so hard to put yourself above others.

What do you mean when you say that HLS and YLS have equal representation in government yet HLS tends to get more people interested in public service? How does that work?

For sure an MPP isn't required for the career that I want. The JD is what will certainly get me in the door. The reason I want to do the MPP program is idiosyncratic to me. I want to be able to take masters level courses in economics, IR, etc. because I enjoy them and think that the degree might help me develop some skills that would be useful in my career. I've also talked to a lot of people who did just a JD, both JD and MPP, and just MPPs and so I see my reasoning as pretty sound.

HLS class size is 3 times that if Yale, so equal proportional representation means that HLS still has 3x as many.

Neither HLS size or "competition" will get in the way of what you want to do. Politics has nothing to do with grades and a career in government has nothing to do with you making law review.

You can take a certain number of non-law courses in law school. Save yourself the time and money and do that rather than an MPP.

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby xnsch » Mon Jan 09, 2017 3:20 pm

Nebby wrote: Neither HLS size or "competition" will get in the way of what you want to do. Politics has nothing to do with grades and a career in government has nothing to do with you making law review.


These have all been really great responses so far and I'm actually very happy that it did turn out to be a productive discussion (this being TLS I was expecting at least half of the posts to point out that this has been asked before and that the dilemma is stupid). I think in the future this thread can help others who are thinking about what I'm thinking about right now

I feel as though I should also clarify a little the reason behind my indecision here and other things I'm thinking about. I see the YLS vs HLS debate for me as being primarily a personal and idiosyncratic decision. I have no doubt that both schools would provide an excellent legal education and opportunities. However, I personally feel like I might enjoy the *community* of HLS more given that it's got a reputation for people who want to go into government and policy, the fact that minorities (including gay minorities like myself) seem to have a really strong voice there, and the overall community of Cambridge. At the same time, coming from where I come from, YLS is truly an unprecedented and magnificent opportunity to go to probably the best law school in the world and study with some of the smartest legal minds. Academically, I have no doubt that I have a clear preference for YLS there.

So just to give insight into why I've been trying to tease out the pros and cons of both: I guess you could say I've been primarily searching for a reason *not* to go to YLS. Trying to see if the benefits of HLS in community, in opportunities, etc. (and including my discussion and questions above to QuentonCassidy about "competition" and "difficulty") could somehow together create a compelling case for turning down the extraordinary opportunity of going to YLS.

To be honest, at this point, I don't think I've been able to be persuaded that way but I'm going to continue researching, talking to students from both schools, going to both ASWs to get a feel for it all, and make my decision at the end of all of that. But I just wanted to air this out so that some in the thread who are confused by my reasoning or questions can see where I'm coming from. For instance, yes I do know that politics has nothing to do with grades and law review, however my immediate opportunities after law school DO have to do with those things. I come from a family where I'm the first to ever achieve any level of higher education and from my current life experiences I already know that to make up for my lack of guidance or connections or whatever you want to call it at home, I have to work a little bit harder to achieve the same goals. Whether or not I can get into the best job possible, in my mind, does depend on how much I can do to stand out, and if that's going to be more difficult to do in one place or another then I need to take that into account.

Hopefully that clears things up a bit

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby Blue664 » Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:10 pm

xnsch wrote:For sure an MPP isn't required for the career that I want. The JD is what will certainly get me in the door. The reason I want to do the MPP program is idiosyncratic to me. I want to be able to take masters level courses in economics, IR, etc. because I enjoy them and think that the degree might help me develop some skills that would be useful in my career.


Just on this specific motivation, I want to note that MPPs don't necessarily offer access to "master's level courses in economics." This may not be what you mean, but what from I've seen, MPP economics courses are barely above undergrad level - they are introductory and designed for people who don't necessarily have a background in economics - that's what you get with an interdisciplinary degree - a broad smattering of courses in a number of different fields, and no mastery in any of them. If you have an undergrad background in economics/IR, I think both schools would offer you access to graduate level courses directly in the econ or government departments, no need to go through HKS and pay a boatload of money for another degree where you won't necessarily learn anything - maybe a certificate would suffice, depending on if you're looking for some kind of signaling?

My opinion is based on the fact that I work in the govt sector, have a graduate degree in economics, and work with a lot of people with MPPs/MPAs. Hope this helps!

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby Nebby » Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:26 pm

xnsch wrote: For instance, yes I do know that politics has nothing to do with grades and law review, however my immediate opportunities after law school DO have to do with those things.

What do you want to do immediately after law school? Do you have a 5-year, post-law plan? I'm not asking for specifics, but if you have a general idea of what you'd want to do, then we could probably give you more insights into how either HLS/YLS may or may not benefit that plan.

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby jbagelboy » Tue Jan 10, 2017 8:04 pm

Not to beat a dead horse on this site, but Yale Law really is in a tier of its own, and choosing Harvard over Yale--despite HLS being a great school that produces tons of good lawyers, including many politicians and government attorneys--is surrendering a unique opportunity. I wasn't lucky enough to have this choice, but I know what I would have done in your position and why.

I would not let your desire to get an MPP impact your decision very heavily. There are only a handful of circumstances where adding the MPP to the JD makes sense, and you haven't described a career trajectory that places you into those circumstances. Additionally, I get New Haven being shitty (really, it is--although Cambridge can be depressing too), and the community at YLS can have an insular, gossipy, incestuous and weirdly-middle-school-esque vibe, but as far as your legal career and potential connections go, it stands out in many respects among the other very very good half-dozen or so law schools.

I think the most defining difference between the schools in terms of outcomes boils down to one question: do you see yourself working at a big law firm? A majority of the graduating class at HLS will summer at a large law firm and then go work for a large law firm (some might clerk, but they go to the law firm after). Sure, they go to fancy firms. But you still need to outperform a class of 550 pretty smart kids in order to escape that result. YLS is the only top school where a majority of the students are not going on to work at large law firms. And I think that's a huge deal.

A second less important but still cognizable difference between the schools is that YLS does not assign grades in its first semester, whereas HLS and other schools do. This is why YLS students are always being interviewed first, getting to explore publishing and outside opportunities first, ect. It's easier to get noticed and find the niches you are interested in and locate faculty support (which is pretty crucial for anything outside of going to large firms). Beyond the people I know at both schools, I regularly see resumes from both schools in a large enough volume to bring these observations beyond the realm of the anecdotal.

Where do you stand politically/intellectually and what are you interested in?

I'll end with the same refrain: you'll do great either way. But I don't think that makes these experiences equal in value.

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby xnsch » Tue Jan 10, 2017 11:10 pm

Blue664 wrote:
xnsch wrote:For sure an MPP isn't required for the career that I want. The JD is what will certainly get me in the door. The reason I want to do the MPP program is idiosyncratic to me. I want to be able to take masters level courses in economics, IR, etc. because I enjoy them and think that the degree might help me develop some skills that would be useful in my career.


Just on this specific motivation, I want to note that MPPs don't necessarily offer access to "master's level courses in economics." This may not be what you mean, but what from I've seen, MPP economics courses are barely above undergrad level - they are introductory and designed for people who don't necessarily have a background in economics - that's what you get with an interdisciplinary degree - a broad smattering of courses in a number of different fields, and no mastery in any of them. If you have an undergrad background in economics/IR, I think both schools would offer you access to graduate level courses directly in the econ or government departments, no need to go through HKS and pay a boatload of money for another degree where you won't necessarily learn anything - maybe a certificate would suffice, depending on if you're looking for some kind of signaling?

My opinion is based on the fact that I work in the govt sector, have a graduate degree in economics, and work with a lot of people with MPPs/MPAs. Hope this helps!


Yes I do understand this. I wrote the above quickly and didn't mean to say that I expect an MPP to actually go into graduate level economics. I'm fairly familiar with the type of courses HKS offers (there are ones on economic policy analysis that I would enjoy given that I did less empirical work in undergrad) and so I have a sense of the level of those courses.

Nebby wrote:
xnsch wrote: For instance, yes I do know that politics has nothing to do with grades and law review, however my immediate opportunities after law school DO have to do with those things.

What do you want to do immediately after law school? Do you have a 5-year, post-law plan? I'm not asking for specifics, but if you have a general idea of what you'd want to do, then we could probably give you more insights into how either HLS/YLS may or may not benefit that plan.


I think this is the toughest part. I don't know. I don't have a 5-year post-law school plan that takes me swiftly through a bunch of steps. I've played around with ideas like wanting to maybe initially go for a clerkship or apply for some federal government lawyer job (unlikely now given the change in administration), but I was hoping to develop a better sense of the immediate future in law school. Obviously that makes choosing difficult right now

jbagelboy wrote:Not to beat a dead horse on this site, but Yale Law really is in a tier of its own, and choosing Harvard over Yale--despite HLS being a great school that produces tons of good lawyers, including many politicians and government attorneys--is surrendering a unique opportunity. I wasn't lucky enough to have this choice, but I know what I would have done in your position and why.


Your comment was definitely helpful and kind of gets at my concern over losing a truly unique opportunity and the question above which was: does going to HLS unnecessarily put a burden on me to have to compete with a big class. So, thanks.

Also no, the MPP itself isn't really swaying my decision. I mean, honestly it doesn't matter where I do law school if I want to go for that joint degree because I could just as well do it from Yale. I only mentioned the MPP because, in combination with HLS, had to do with being in a community of people who want to go into government

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby Mr Cooper » Tue Jan 17, 2017 6:11 pm

You could look into doing a JD/MPA at Yale through Princeton's MPA program. Because Princeton doesn't have a LS, they have joint programs with other top law schools, including Yale. Not sure if it applies to joint-program students, but Princeton's MPA program is fully-funded, hence the very low acceptance rate. Would be a steal if that applied to a joint-program as well. http://wws.princeton.edu/graduate-acade ... oint-mpajd

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby cherrygalore » Wed Jan 18, 2017 4:49 pm

Yale.

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Re: Yale vs. Harvard for a career in government

Postby xnsch » Thu Jan 19, 2017 10:51 pm

Mr Cooper wrote:You could look into doing a JD/MPA at Yale through Princeton's MPA program. Because Princeton doesn't have a LS, they have joint programs with other top law schools, including Yale. Not sure if it applies to joint-program students, but Princeton's MPA program is fully-funded, hence the very low acceptance rate. Would be a steal if that applied to a joint-program as well. http://wws.princeton.edu/graduate-acade ... oint-mpajd


I knew about their joint program with Princeton although I'm not sure that they're program specifically is what I'm looking for. I'll have to look into it more

cherrygalore wrote:Yale.


K.



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