Ok, time for my dump. I only got to meet Iago - two of my best friends in life were in Boston for the weekend so my attendance was a little haphazard. If anyone's going to the Berkeley, Stanford or Yale ASWs, we definitely should meet up, but those are smaller anyway so it probably won't be as hard! Here are my rambling musings, and I apologize if this gets a little H vs. Y heavy - I had just come from Yale the day before so I guess this was my thought process for the weekend. Also, right off the bat, I do think there are tons of good reasons for HLS – I’m only sharing my opinion based on my needs/wants/desires from law school.
(so don’t hate on me!)
Friday night my friends and I went out with an acquaintance at HLS and her 1L friends and I could not have been more disappointed. After spending Thursday night out with a bunch of drunk Yalies who didn't know me and could not have been nicer or more engaging, the HLS 1Ls really couldn't give a shit about me. No one seemed interested in talking to me, apart from one guy who actually told my friends that they "don’t matter" since they weren't admitted students, and then would only talk to me. Right off the bat I had a bad impression of HLS, esp. in comparison to my wonderful night out with the Yalies the night before. The contrast was striking (So was the acquaintance’s loud, drunken lament when she heard I got into Yale – she seemed very convinced that automatically doomed my chances of going to HLS).
I thought the exercise on Saturday was kind of lame. Maybe because I've done it like 10 times before (either in ethics/morality type classes or for RA interviews and training exercises), but I just thought it was sort of a bad example of negotiation. I didn't care who died, since they were pieces of paper, and if we actually wanted to get into a discussion about justice and morality, then HLS' negotiation and resolution classes aren't going to be the best forum for that anyway (since unlike a real negotiation, no one had a preconceived stake in a particular outcome, so individual values and notions of morality were the crux of the interesting part of this discussion, not negotiation). It also felt very summer camp. I spent the night with my friends who "don't matter" so I didn't meet up with any HLS people on Sat night.
Sunday, I really liked the mock class and the Inside the Supreme Court class. Mind you, they picked two of their best lecturers, but both classes were extremely engaging. I had a great dinner out with the American Constitution Society, met a couple of great fellow admits (we engaged in like a 2-hour YHS comparison, haha), and a pretty helpful 2L. I actually had a lot of fun at Tommy Doyle's, all things considered. I went out a lot in undergrad though, and I've gone out a lot since, so I think my tolerance for sketchy bars is probably super high (for instance, none of the floors were sticky, so in my book, A+ for classiness!). My one complaint was the number of townies who took over the bar and made it hard to meet the actual Admitted Students. Oh, and I had an amazingly PATHETIC conversation with a current 2L that went something like this:
Her: So, what are you deciding between?
Me: Stanford, Berkeley, NYU, Harvard and Yale
Her: Well, eliminate S, B and N off the bat. That leaves you with H and Y.
Me: Uh...why off the bat? You don't know anything about me, where I'm from, or what I want to do.
Her: Because, for the rest of your life, you can say you went to H or Y. No other schools have that kind of reputation.
Unfortunately, this was all-too-common over the course of the weekend. Another person I met, who I really liked, also said she picked HLS in part because "her family in Israel was much more impressed." SERIOUSLY? What cracks me up is that not a single person at Yale (apart from Dean Koh...) ever said they chose Yale or I should go to Yale because it's Yale, they all gave substantive reasons and acknowledged Yale isn't perfect for everyone (again, except for Koh). It is somewhat ironic that the students at the most prestigious school seem much less concerned with prestige than the students at the second most prestigious, and this was a big, general turn-off to me about HLS.
Monday was the class-crash, a talk on academia, and lunch. Not much to say about the first two, but I loved the lunch. I met the directors of both the war crimes clinic and the international human rights clinics (both are high up on my reasons for HLS). They were both extremely helpful and the clinics sound AMAZING, absolutely AMAZING. I stayed late and talked to both for a while one-on-one, and neither was making a hard sell for HLS, which I appreciated. One is a Yale alum and, well, he had nothing but great things to say about Yale. I'm torn about the clinics - the work they do is amazing and right up my alley, but with HLS's 1L required courses, inability to do clinics as a 1L, and the random lotteries that the Int'l Human Rights clinic uses to admit students, it feels like doing engaging clinical work at HLS isn't as easy. Further, I talked to the head of one of the student groups related to the clinics who has participated all three years and she basically said she had to blow off all her 1L classes in order to find time for the clinics (b/c while you can do them as a 1L, you don't get any credit), and I'm not sure I would want to have to do that either. She was 100% sure she wanted to be a human rights practitioner, so clerkships and academia (and the requisite grades required for such things) didn’t matter at all to her. I don’t want to have to make such a choice, especially in 1L.
Overall, I think the “HLS is the NYC of law schools” seemed about right…but me personally, I don’t like NYC very much! It was striking to me that there were more people at our ASW than in an entire class at Chicago, Stanford or Yale, and about as many as at Berkeley. As much as I’m sure it gets claustrophobic at times, I think I would prefer the small school model. I don’t think it’s surprisingly the students at Yale were much more friendly and helpful than at Harvard – if I go there, they will actually become my friends and classmates next year, so they have a vested interest. At Harvard, I might never meet them again. I agree a bit with what one poster earlier said – if you have no idea what you want to do, Harvard will give you a very fine legal education, and I’m convinced on paper that education is better than at Yale.
I also think the “old boy network” pervades Yale in a much more toxic way than Harvard, unfortunately, so I think for someone who is concerned about that it’s something to think about. Also, the larger faculty probably makes it easier to be sure you work with someone who works on your issues. However, I talked to a 2L at Yale who wanted to work with Jack Goldsmith and somewhat-reluctantly chose YLS despite this. He ended up doing a research assistantship with Goldsmith while at Yale anyway, which I think just speaks to the general resourcefulness of Yalies, haha!
Overall, apart from the clinics I discussed earlier and the generally stronger commitment to formal classroom instruction, nothing else was so appealing to me that I would want to pull the trigger at HLS, and I, at least, was turned off by a number of people I met. I’ve still got three more ASWs to go, but I didn’t leave Boston yesterday thinking I would be really sorry if I didn’t come back.
Anyway, I'm really sorry I didn’t get to meet more of you, and I would love to hear your thoughts as well!