Ok, I just did my HLS dump on that thread, so now for YLS. I didn't visit for the ASD on Monday because I couldn't get away from school in time, so I went mid-week (which of course outs me to anyone I met at YLS, including Rabbit!!).
Classes: Not going to lie, I was somewhat disappointed by what I sat in on. I really relish the intrinsic, engaged classroom education, and it was lacking in a major way at Yale. All five classes I sat in on permitted laptops, which means everyone was in email, gchat, internet, facebook, etc., for a lot of the class. You could sort of hear the attention dissipating into the ether. Only one of the five was a traditional cold-call class, which I think has pros and cons. I sat in on one class (which I won't name) VERY related to my law school interests, and it was so bad I would never take it if I went to Yale. I won't lie - this was a huge disappointment, overall. I'm told the 1L classes in the fall are much better, but I guess I just felt like teaching wasn't particularly prized at YLS.
Profs: For the most part, the profs at Yale are all older, white and male. The school gives off a very "old boys network" vibe among its faculty, which coming from Oxford I am extremely wary of. I was told by multiple people that certain profs (Amar is notorious for this) pick favorites, usually boys, and only call on them. I hate this type of environment. Several female students expressed the feeling that you have to be a fairly aggressive female in class in order to participate, but they also noted that this is a general problem with law school as a whole, regardless of where you go. It's also a bit concerning that most people I spoke to named the same 4-5 profs over and over as the ones they like, work with, and value. Not surprisingly, most of them were either female or minority (or both) profs. One friend confirmed that the 2003 report was still valid in some respects: the two black guys in her class last term had been called by each other's names (WTF?! What century do we live in?!). Again, this was pretty disappointing, but I appreciated everyone's candor.
Students: This is where YLS makes up for everything else. I absolutely adored the students. They were friendly, thoughtful, helpful, engaged and down-to-earth. No one had the "I go to Yale" puffed ego and no one tried to sell me on the school because of the name. They were very candid in their assessments, willing to engage with me as I wrestled with arguments for alternatives, and weren't defensive about their school or its weaknesses. Even better, a bunch of the Yale Women have met with Koh and are basically working to get more student participation in the faculty hiring process (and more influence in getting female and minority faculty), which I think speaks both to Yale's interest in its students and its students' interest in helping to shape Yale. Also, the types of projects and work that Yale students do is just pretty incredible. I hate to say it, but I think the stereotype is somewhat true. It is a place for a lot of really smart people who are interested in the law but also excited and engaged in other work and want to use the time and resources at Yale to pursue their interests/passions. I went out with a bunch to a bar for their Thursday drinks and despite not knowing a single person, they were all friendly and excited to talk to me, included me in their group discussions, and were just the coolest people. It felt like one big happy family (and a very diverse one, too, which was really nice to see).
Community: Yale is small, and it shows. I feel like I ran into everyone I know there within 24 hours of arriving, because there’s one dining hall, two main hallways, and one lounge where people hang out/stop by. It really feels like a small high school, but without the cliques and stupidity. Within two days I was regularly recognizing people I had never even met, and I imagine by the time you’ve been there for a year you would get to know people pretty dang well. Because your first year sections are ~16, ~50, ~50, and ~70 people respectively, you get to know your class pretty dang quickly. For me, this is great. I think some people might find this really undesirable, and given that it’s New Haven, I think finding a life outside the law school would be fairly difficult if you wanted that.
Clinics: This seems like the shining star of the Yale education. Everyone raves about them. Almost everyone I talked to was involved in one from second semester of 1L on. Connecticut is the only state in the nation that allows 1Ls to represent clients in court, so the projects are pretty awesome from day 1. One of the people I was staying with was up until 3 a.m. on a Thursday night in order to prepare a brief for a court case she was going to on Friday morning. And again, this is in 1L!
On Yale itself: I got the sense that it’s 3 years to have a fairly self-directed education in the law. As one person said to me, Yale gives you a plot of land and a bunch of timber – you decide what you want to build with it. I don’t think this should appeal to everyone, and I think if I choose Yale I will approach my legal education very differently than if I go anywhere else. But there’s definitely something to be said for how open-ended and free-form the education is.
Also, I’m not going to lie, they made it sound easy to get pretty much whatever you want for your summers or after graduation. You know the NLJ 250 (which ranks the top 250 law firms)? Well, as one of them pointed out, there are more of those firms than there are Yale grads in each class, so there literally aren’t enough to go around. As a result, a 2L I spoke to said his firm interviews were more like conversations than interviews, asking about Yale and what it’s like. These are obviously kind of base reasons for choosing Yale, but knowing that so many doors are open to you means that you can relax and spend your time at Yale pursuing your intrinsic interests.
New Haven: Yeah, it totally sucks. People order groceries online because there’s no good grocery store anywhere in walking distance. They take the shuttle either because it’s too cold or too unsafe, and a lot of areas people did not walk around alone at night, only blocks from the law school. One person was mugged last semester at 3 p.m on a Sunday. Needless to say, quality of life is fairly nonexistent in New Haven, but it’s still pretty ridiculously expensive despite this. If Yale were any other law school, I think it would have a hard time attracting students. This is a serious consideration for me because I really like being outside, soaking up sunshine, cooking, and eating fresh food. I feel like I would be sucking it up to get through Yale.
Financial Aid: I only got a preliminary offer, but assuming it holds, Yale is hella generous. I was surprised. It matched most of my best merit-based offers from other schools. Given its AMAZING COAP repayment program, Yale is very committed to erasing debt load as a reason not to attend. That said, Stanford and Harvard, from what I’m told, offer similar amounts.
Overall: On balance, I left pretty excited, despite its many drawbacks. The students there felt really empowered, engaged and happy to be there. I get the sense that Yale is a bit on the downward crawl (and HLS on the upward), but I think it is inevitable that schools go through cycles. The rumored replacements for Koh are both people the students really adore, so it’s possible Yale could get Kagan’d very shortly. All in all, I wasn’t rushing to put down my deposit, but it’s somewhat striking I spent the last hour of my time in New Haven trying to find a YLS sweatshirt (which I failed to do, damnit!). I’m not 100% (I haven’t visited Stanford yet), but I definitely left excited to come back in April!
Hope this is helpful. Please feel free to ask any other questions… if I can answer them I will.
PS: Big shout-out to Rabbit for meeting up with me! Like all the other Yalies, she was thoughtful, helpful, willing to engage on Yale’s flaws, and a generally awesome person.