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The Yale Law School
Note: This profile is eventually going to be replaced by the TLS wiki profile for Yale Law School.
Published October 2006, last updated August 2013.
We thank the many TLS students attending Yale Law School who were interviewed and granted us an insider’s perspective on YLS.
Since U.S. News began ranking schools, Yale Law School has always held the No. 1 position, and for good reason: It is unanimously considered one of the preeminent centers of legal studies in the world, and while its closest rivals also offer formidable prestige and their own array of career opportunities, Yale Law has remained a distinctive institution in many ways. It has graduated both Bill and Hillary Clinton, President Ford, and Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor. Famed for its abolition of standard grades in the 1960s and the lowest ratio of students to faculty in the country (currently 7.9:1), Yale Law has also earned equal notoriety for its supposed "scholarly" bent and its legendary admissions process.
Yale is one of the smallest law schools in the top tier, and it can afford to be picky about whom to admit because of its exceedingly high yield rate—nearly four in five admits will ultimately choose to attend, many after spending a weekend on campus in April. Out of around 3,000 applications each year, Yale admits fewer than 250 students to fill approximately 200 seats in each incoming class; the admission rate hovers around 6-7% each year. Current students emphasize that “while Yale is clearly an amazing place and we’re lucky to be here alongside amazing minds with lists of impressive accomplishments, applicants should know that there are normal, fun people here, too!”
The 12-point process
Although applicants often describe being granted admission to YLS something akin to “magic” or “sheer luck,” Yale Law has been remarkably transparent about how it conducts its selection process. Transparency, however, goes only so far in quelling the anxiety of applicants; the process itself is admittedly full of subjective determinations and is a bit of a black box.
Yale’s process differs significantly from that of many other top schools, particularly in its commitment to have most admission decisions made by the faculty and its overt use of holistic numerical scoring. All applicants are first reviewed by Dean of Admissions, Asha Rangappa. From the full pool of applications, about 50-80 “presumptive admits” are given Dean Rangappa’s stamp of approval and are sent on for final review by the Faculty Admissions Committee chair (essentially a "free ride" to admission). The rest of the hopefuls are divided into two groups, with some 800-1,000 applications selected for faculty review (and the others set aside as likely rejections).
Applications selected for faculty review are read by three randomly chosen faculty members, who score each application on a scale from 2 to 4. Each of the three readers is “blind” to the assessment scores assigned by his or her peers, and faculty members are not given any specific instructions as to how to weigh specific aspects of an application—they are given free reign to consider whatever factors they think will build an interesting class of students. Each of the first two faculty readers receives approximately 50 applications, and it has been reported that faculty are given instructions to assign a 4 to the top quarter, 3 to the second quarter, and 2 to the bottom half. A cumulative score of 12 is guaranteed admission, and most who score an 11 are admitted as well. A number of current students report having had an awkward moment or two when a professor has matched their application to a “real” name and face that roams the hallways!
Because of the unique nature of Yale’s application review process, most applications are “under review” for longer than they might be at other schools. Even “presumptive admits” may hear back in 6-8 weeks at the earliest; some applications may not result in a final answer for many months. Yale is notorious for releasing many admissions decisions in mid-late April. However, it should be noted that applying earlier in the cycle does not provide any boost to an applicant’s chances of being admitted; while the school does give offers of admission on a rolling basis, it does not fill the class until after having read all applications submitted by February 15.
LSAT and GPA
The 25th to 75th percentile ranges for admission to the class of 2015 were 3.84-3.98 (GPA) and 170-176 (LSAT). But Yale has the luxury of admitting compelling candidates even when their “numbers” aren’t quite up to those lofty standards; in recent incoming classes, applicants with GPAs around 3.6 and LSAT scores in the 150-159 range have also been admitted. In the school’s quest to treat each applicant as an individual, the admissions process does “not use a formula or index to weigh various factors, nor [does it] have a GPA or LSAT score cutoff.”
Yale has no official policy on how it interprets multiple LSAT scores, other than to say, “We do not average scores nor do we look at only your high score.” In the faculty review process, professors are free to evaluate the scores however they see fit depending on the circumstances. A number of current students report being admitted after taking the LSAT more than once, often with a significant improvement on later test dates.
Across the board, the Yale admissions office reports that reviewers “strongly prefer letters from at least two faculty members who know your academic work directly…[l]etters from employers are also acceptable, particularly for applicants who have been out of school for several years.”
The school requires two letters of recommendation (and one’s file will be considered complete and sent for review once two are received), but many applicants choose to submit three letters. When choosing how many letters to submit, applicants should keep in mind that the admissions committee is “most interested in letters from people who can realistically assess your academic potential.” Such emphasis is reasonable, given that professors reviewing applications may give more weight to the words of other professors, individuals who can speak to an applicant’s critical thinking skills, potential to contribute to class discussion, and overall benefit to the academic environment of the school.
Yale does not place a limit on the length of an applicant’s personal statement. Most applicants simply submit the same personal statement that they’ve used for other schools (something between two and three pages is typical). The admissions office emphasizes that a good personal statement “provides a coherent narrative of what has brought you to this point” and a great personal statement “goes a step further by relating the things they have chosen to mention to something that is larger than themselves.”
The 250-word essay
Other than the use of faculty to review applications, perhaps the most unique aspect of Yale’s application process is the requirement of an additional 250-word essay. The assignment is often daunting to prospective applicants, who aren’t sure what to write about or what kind of approach to take. The admissions office counsels: “The 250-word essay can be about any topic: current events, something you studied in school, or a personal anecdote. Your choice of topic tells us something about you. We also look at your writing and editing skills and analytical abilities.”
Successful applicants to YLS report using a variety of tactics with their “250s.” Some used a narrative style, while others wrote something more academic in nature. Some made it into a creative writing exercise, while still others took a chance to comment on a social or political trend. It is generally not recommended to use the 250 to write about “why I want to go to law school” or “why I want to go to Yale Law School.” The admissions office provides a longer list of things NOT to do, for those still waffling about what to write.
The new “extra” questions
Yale has begun to ask applicants to answer two new questions about whether they took an LSAT preparation class, and whether they had help (and of what kind) in preparing their application. The law school’s stated purpose in asking the questions is to ensure that all applicants are judged in context and given “due, and fair, consideration.”
The application fee is $75. Yale does not grant merit-based fee waivers. LSAC need-based fee waivers will not be honored either, unlike at most other ABA-approved law schools. Applicants may submit a need-based request to have the fee waived by contacting the admissions office directly.
Yale usually accepts 10-15 transfer students each year from a pool of around 200 applicants. Applicants come from a broad range of law schools, though the students accepted tend to come from Tier 1 (top 50) schools and predominantly from the top 20.
Transfer applications are accepted from May 1 to July 1, and all students are notified of decisions during the third week in July. Transfer students are welcome to participate in FIP (the Fall Interview Program for 2L summer jobs) and to try out for the Yale Law Journal (or to simply sign up to join any of the secondary journals). To help them become integrated into the YLS community, they also participate in orientation events alongside the 1L class and are assigned special “Dean’s Advisers” who were themselves transfer students.
Class of 2015
Students at Yale benefit from having unparalleled access to many of the legal academy’s best minds. With an average class size under 20 and institutional requirements that students complete two substantial faculty-supervised writing assignments during their time at YLS, students can’t help but build relationships with professors.
During the first semester, all 1L students are assigned to a “small group”—a group of about 16 students with whom they take all of their classes; one of their classes is with only those 16 students. Many students build lasting relationships with their small group professor, who also serves as their legal writing instructor and often provides professional references during a student’s summer job search.
While many of Yale’s professors are foremost in their field and may therefore get a reputation as overly academic and aloof, students generally find them to be accessible and genuinely interested in teaching. It’s common for professors to host class dinners at their homes, and students often serve as research assistants on professors’ scholastic pursuits.
Student-to-faculty ratio: 7.9 to 1
Curriculum and academics
The curriculum of Yale Law is one of the most discussed subjects among prospective applicants to the top law schools. Yale abolished grades in the 1960s after student unrest, and while there are no strict GPAs or letter grades, there is (contrary to popular belief) a system of evaluation in place. The first term of classes is taken pass/fail; afterward, class performance is evaluated on a scale of honors/pass/low pass/fails. Unlike at Stanford and Harvard, where even after a move to “Yale-like” grading schemes, professors are limited as to the number of “top” grades that can be awarded, no curve exists at Yale. Students report that “nobody fails, nobody gets a low pass, and it’s basically arbitrary whether you’ll get a ‘pass’ or ‘honors’ in any given class.” Most students, it is reported, graduate with a healthy mix of “H”s and “P”s on their transcript.
The result: no class rankings and far less pressure than most other top law schools, but also a fairly unconventional transcript that more than one employer has found difficult to gauge. Keeping with the spirit of the school's grading system (or lack thereof), admission to the Yale Law Journal (the flagship review) is considered far easier than attaining comparable positions at other top schools.
Yale also has a highly flexible curriculum: Only the first semester of classes is set in stone, versus the first year for most law schools. After the first semester, students simply have to take criminal law and a course tangentially related to “ethics” in order to graduate; 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls mix and take classes together. Second-semester 1Ls can also, thanks to a unique law in Connecticut, participate in legal clinics and appear in state court.
Former Dean Guido Calabresi used to begin his welcome address to each new class with the greeting, “My friends, you are off the treadmill now.” The school’s small class—full of arguably the best and brightest law students in the country—is made up of a diverse set of individuals with a wide variety of career goals. Yale encourages students to design their own personalized law school experience and to stop worrying about being the best because each individual is supported in the pursuit of their own endeavors. Former Dean Harold Koh emphasized to current students: “All of you can succeed here, and all of you should succeed here.”
A school-sponsored website hosts student-compiled electronic outlines for most classes. It is common for students to share class notes with one another (Bill Clinton is reported to have asked for—and received—notes “for everything" from a classmate when he skipped two months of class to work in politics one semester) and study together. Many courses also offer a “paper option,” removing any element of direct comparison of students’ exam performance when they can choose to write on whatever topic is pleasing to them.
Some critics have suggested that lack of competition for grades simply moves competition into other, more subtle, environments: jockeying to be a professor’s favorite student in hopes of getting a plum research assistantship or a stellar letter of recommendation, or direct competition for prestigious clerkships or the most sought-after law firm jobs. However, most students—basically anyone not dead-set on becoming a legal academic or a Supreme Court clerk—laugh at the thought of competition guiding their actions. The small class size and diversity of career aspirations generally means that Yale Law School graduates are a hot commodity; even those at the unidentifiable “bottom of the class” have tremendous opportunities presented to them.
The Lillian Goldman Law Library contains around 800,000 volumes and spans six levels within the heart of the Yale Law School complex. It provides the law school community with ready access to one of the world's finest collections of printed legal materials as well as a host of electronic resources.
The Law Library has special extensive collections in foreign and international law, government documents, and rare books. The knowledgeable staff of librarians is available on-site and online (via instant messenger and email) to answer student questions and assist with research queries; they also teach a number of courses in legal research each semester.
The library is a popular gathering place for students. All second- and third-year students are assigned carrels within the library; first-year students are free to sit in any unoccupied space. A number of comfortable leather chairs and an expansive DVD collection (featuring lots of pop-culture favorites) make the library an inviting place to visit even when studying isn’t one’s primary goal, though at times the challenges of consistent temperature regulation cause students to complain that the library is either “freezing” or “a sauna.” You can even check out a cute little dog as stress relief.
The law school has its own information technology staff, which is largely responsive to student needs. Loaner laptop computers are available in case a student’s computer malfunctions, and staff is always on-site to answer student questions. Most students use laptop computers to take notes and reference electronic readings during class; some faculty, however, discourage or ban laptop use in class. Such decisions are left up to each professor.
The entire building is covered by multiple wireless networks, and VPN technology allows students to access the school’s library resources even while off-campus. While students are encouraged to purchase a laptop for their personal use, a cluster of computers is also available for student use in the library; the school provides support for both PC and Apple laptops. An unscientific survey of current students indicates that the Apple-to-PC ratio is about 1 : 2.
Quality of life
The extremely small size of Yale Law brings with it the expected advantages and disadvantages of a school whose entire student body could be conceivably fit into a single dormitory in another campus. Students are said to know virtually every other member of the Yale Law community by the end of their first year, but the larger university population also provides extended social opportunities. The law school community is extremely tight-knit, and party announcements are routinely sent to the entire student body via “the Wall,” the all-student listserv. The school also sponsors regular happy hours, and a large crowd usually gathers for the weekly Bar Review at one of New Haven’s nightlife establishments.
Although having New Haven as a college town is popularly considered a drawback for prospective Yale students, the school makes an effort to provide escort and shuttle services, and the town provides relatively inexpensive housing. (University-owned dorms are an option, but chosen by only 1% of the student body; within five years, the law school will again have law student-specific house available, following the occupation of the Swing Space building.) Students generally give the law school campus high marks for its aesthetic beauty, particularly the Sterling Law Building and its cathedral-like architecture.
Yale Law School makes up one city block in the middle of the larger Yale University campus in downtown New Haven, Connecticut. The Sterling Law Building was built in a Collegiate Gothic style; it recently underwent a dramatic $110 million renovation. The buildings in the law school complex are embellished inside and out with woodcarvings, stained glass, and stone sculpture.
New Haven is a city of about 125,000 residents, and the greater New Haven area is home to more than 600,000 people. The downtown area is anchored by the New Haven Green, a large open public gathering place that is home to a farmer’s market, various festivals, and the annual holiday tree.
Despite popular (and outdated) digs on New Haven as crime-infested and “not a nice place to spend three years,” downtown New Haven—where most YLS students live—has been the successful target of a dramatic urban revitalization campaign and is now home to a variety of upscale restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and boutiques. Most law students report that they “really love New Haven,” or at least that “the city is way better than I would have thought!” For those who demand the hustle and bustle of New York City, New Haven may pale in comparison, but for most students, the wide offering of cultural and outdoor activities available within walking distance is more than fulfilling, and most students do not bring a car with them to New Haven. Yale students have easy access to Boston, New York, and the rest of the Eastern seaboard via bus and train.
Justice Stewart famously said, “I know it when I see it” (in discussing his litmus test for obscenity), and many Yale Law students and graduates find it hard to describe just what’s so special about their school other than to say, “Come visit and you’ll understand.” One can easily cite the accomplishments of an incoming class, but it is hard to distill the warmth and humility of those impressive students into words. A current student remarked, “I don’t know how the faculty manages each year to select 200 academically promising students for admission and also to make sure that those 200 people are nice … but it happens.”
Despite their reputation for being academic and stodgy, students are tend to be friendly and interesting. They don’t take themselves too seriously, either: The annual “Law Revue” comedy show and Harvard–Yale athletic competitions are crowd favorites. Groups regularly gather to play basketball and watch TV.
Many students form close bonds with the others in their “small group” or those that live in their apartment building. Others find their best friends through student groups or clinics or from taking the same classes. While some students bemoan the “lack of dating options,” in part because many students come to YLS already married or in committed relationships and in part because “the school is so small, everyone knows your business,” it’s quite common for YLS students to end up married to one another—like Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Although for many years YLS offered student housing in the law school complex, that is no longer the case. Law students who want to live in Yale-owned housing have the option to live in a variety of general graduate student housing complexes, but only 1-2% of students each year choose that option. Most students choose to live in privately owned housing in one of three nearby neighborhoods: Downtown/The Towers, Dwight/Edgewood, or East Rock.
The majority of 1L students choose to live downtown, many of them in a collection of large apartment buildings (Crown Court, Crown Tower, Madison Tower, University Tower) collectively referred to as “The Towers.” A number of other large apartment buildings—including The Taft, The Liberty, The Cambridge/Oxford—are also nearby and popular with law students. It’s often said that living in the downtown buildings makes it easier to be social, especially during 1L year, because most of the popular options for going out are nearby, and many classmates live in the same collection of buildings. The walk to YLS from downtown, which is south of the law school, is about 5-10 minutes. Although most undergraduates live on campus, this area is also somewhat popular with the younger crowd.
Other students choose to live to the southwest of YLS in a neighborhood made up of small and midsize apartment buildings and houses (in some cases divided into apartments). Spread across streets named Howe, Park, Edgewood, Dwight, and Lynwood, this neighborhood is sometimes referred to as Dwight/Edgewood. The neighborhood also has some restaurants and bars scattered throughout. These options are generally more popular with 2L and 3L students, and they are sometimes less expensive than living downtown. The walk to school is generally around 10 minutes.
Students looking for a more traditional residential neighborhood—or more space for their money—tend to live in East Rock, a neighborhood to the north and east of the university. Most residences are older Victorian homes that have been subdivided into apartments. East Rock is a popular choice for many graduate students and their young families. A variety of restaurants and small shops can be found on the southeast side of the neighborhood. East Rock is an expansive neighborhood stretching from Yale north to East Rock Park; students may have anywhere from a 10- to 30-minute walk to school, so some make use of the various law school and university shuttle services to get to and from school.
Yale Law School places graduates into a wide variety of prestigious jobs upon graduation, and its name alone opens doors in countless fields. While the school is famed for its ability to place students into judicial clerkships (between 30% and 40% each year), a significant number of alumni go on to practice in biglaw firms following graduation. There is a significant representation of Yale alumni not only at top-tier corporate firms in New York but also at famed litigation and boutique firms in D.C. and California. Aided by the school’s generous financial support and prestigious fellowships, a high number of graduates also select nonprofit, government, and other public interest positions.
Impact of the recession
Even Yale has not been immune to the impact of the economic recession on the legal profession, but current Yale students have certainly been protected more than students at nearly any other school. Class of 2012 students report more competition for plum federal clerkships and more than a handful of biglaw deferrals, but nobody seems concerned about the long-term value of their degree, and YLS has taken steps to ensure than its graduates will all have desirable jobs and be able to fulfill their student loan obligations. More than two dozen YLS-funded public interest fellowships provide a funding opportunity for students who have a longstanding commitment to public interest.
In 2008, Yale decided to move its on-campus recruiting (called the Fall Interview Program, or FIP) from late September to mid-August so as not to be dependent on firms’ practice of “saving spots” for YLS students later in the hiring process. While only about 75-80% of the class chose to participate in FIP, those students were in high demand by the law firms, consulting companies, and other organizations that visited campus. But it was clear that even at Yale, firms were giving out fewer callback invitations and even fewer offers than in years past.
Each fall, more than 150 name-brand firms from every major legal market actively recruit the approximately 200 graduates of each class. A hefty number of Yale students actively select out of the biglaw recruiting process, so in many cases firms are excited to secure a commitment from Yale students. On the other hand, it’s often said to be common knowledge that many Yalies don’t plan to build a career at a large firm; during leaner economic times, then, firms may “push back” a bit when Yale students with backgrounds and careers seemingly more public-interest-oriented express interest in working at a large firm. But those who want the big-firm experience generally get the opportunity.
Each year, between 30% and 40% of Yale’s graduating class choose to pursue a judicial clerkship upon graduation—the highest percentage of any law school in the country. Most of those clerkships tend to be at the federal district court or court of appeals level, but some students choose to accept clerkships in state supreme courts or other chambers.
Yale also places a tremendous number of students in U.S. Supreme Court clerkships: 83 from 2000 to 2010, more than twice the rate of placement at Harvard. Success in clerkship placement can be attributed to a combination of factors, including close faculty-student relationships that provide students with outstanding letters of recommendation and professors who are “willing to go to bat” for clerkship candidates, the academic and research-intensive reputation of the school, and a tradition of past success by YLS graduates and clerks in particular.
Yale Law School has had a strong reputation for being an unusually academic-oriented school: A disproportionate number of its graduates (as many as 10-15% of each graduating class) eventually go on to further scholarly pursuits, and it is generally seen as an incubator for future legal professors and world-changers. Professor Brian Leiter has found that Yale places, per capita, three times as many graduates in top law teaching jobs as Harvard, its nearest competitor.
The school is the undisputed leader in producing legal academics, with the educational background and assessment systems giving graduates a major leg-up in the highly competitive teaching market; however, even for Yale grads, direct entry into the world of legal academia is quite rare—most aspiring academics first serve as clerks, complete academic fellowships, or earn a Ph.D. before becoming a professor.
Nearly all YLS students secure employment before graduation, and it’s common for classmates to spread across the U.S. and around the world. The most popular geographic destinations in recent years include New York City; Washington, D.C.; and California.
For further employment statistics, go to Law School Transparency.
Tuition and expenses
Annual tuition at YLS is $52,400 (as of the 2013-2014 school year), with administrative and activity fees an additional $2,250. Because Yale is a private university, the cost does not change for in-state residents. Beyond tuition, students spend approximately $20,080 on room and board, health insurance, books, travel, and other miscellaneous expenses. The total estimated budget for a single student is $74,790 per year.
Financial aid at Yale is based entirely on need and not on merit. Roughly 80% of students receive some combination of loan and grant assistance. More than half of all students receive grant aid, and cross-admits to Stanford and Harvard (the only other two “need-based-only” schools) report that Yale’s financial aid offers were quite competitive, with Harvard’s sometimes said to be slightly less generous and Stanford’s sometimes only slightly more generous. On the whole, students praise Yale’s financial aid office and its staff for being “extremely willing to make accommodations under special circumstances and to work with individual students to understand their situation.”
Upon graduation, Yale students benefit from one of the country’s most generous loan repayment programs, the Career Options Assistance Program (COAP). COAP will pay a graduate’s entire student loan debt for any given year if the graduate is working full-time in a position that pays less than $50,000. At income levels above $50,000, graduates are expected to contribute a percentage of that additional income. In short, graduates can generally receive some loan-repayment support in jobs paying up to $100,000 (with some modifications for participants who are married or have children).
According to the school, "The amount that a participant is expected to contribute to educational loan repayment depends on the participant's annual income, and is calculated as follows:"
COAP is distinct from other low-income loan repayment programs in that it does not require that a job be technically “law-related.” One could choose to be a full-time circus performer and still receive support. The program will also cover up to $30,000 of qualified (need-based) educational loans from a student’s undergraduate degree.
Here's what the school has to say about COAP eligibility: "Eligibility is based upon the graduate’s income and debt level, not the type of employment. Examples of employment areas from which we expect to draw participants include, but are not limited to, (1) local, state, and federal government, (2) private not-for-profit public interest law practice, (3) low wage private law practice, (4) non-legal, not-for-profit organizations serving the public interest, and (5) academic jobs. The political or ideological orientation of the graduate, employer or work is not a factor in determining eligibility. Self-employed alumni may be eligible for COAP on a case-by-case basis."
Curriculum and specialties
Centers and programs
The China Law Center The China Law Center carries out research and teaching, promotes academic exchanges with China, and undertakes a variety of cooperative projects on important issues in Chinese law and policy reform.
Cultural Cognition Project The Cultural Cognition Project consists of a group of scholars from Yale and other universities interested in studying how cultural values shape the public's risk perceptions and related policy beliefs.
Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women’s Rights The Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women's Rights is a Yale University program administered by Yale Law School. The program includes the Global Constitutionalism Seminar.
Information Society Project The Information Society Project at Yale Law School is an intellectual center addressing the implications of the Internet and new information technologies for law and society, guided by the values of democracy, human development, and social justice.
Knight Law and Media Program Yale Law School has long offered rigorous legal training to future media lawyers and journalists through degree programs and extracurricular activities.
The Arthur Liman Public Interest Program The Arthur Liman Program supports the work of law students, law school graduates, and students from six universities, all of whom work to respond to problems of inequality and to improve access to justice for those without resources.
Middle East Legal Studies Seminar The Middle East Legal Studies Seminar brings together leading practitioners, judges, and legal academics from across the Middle East to meet yearly with YLS faculty and students.
John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics and Public Policy The John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics and Public Policy facilitates the scholarly work of the Yale law and economics faculty and supports student interest and research in the field.
The Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund The Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund provides an opportunity for students and faculty to undertake innovative projects, research, conferences, publications, and programs that foster intellectual vitality, creativity, and analytical rigor at the law school.
Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights The Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights coordinates human rights activities for students and scholars at Yale and conducts the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, where students gain practical experience in human rights work.
Yale Center for Law and Philosophy The Yale Center for Law and Philosophy, a joint venture with the Yale University Philosophy Department, encourages advanced work, including research degrees, at the interface of philosophy and law.
Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy The Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy, a joint venture with the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, develops and advances environmental policy on local, regional, national, and global levels.
Yale Law School Center for Global Legal Challenges The Yale Law School Center for Global Legal Challenges is an independent Center that promotes the understanding of international law, national security law, and foreign affairs law.
Yale Law School Center for the Study of Corporate Law The Yale Law School Center for the Study of Corporate Law enhances the intellectual life of the law school in the business law area by increasing exposure to and engagement with contemporary business law issues.
Yale Law School Latin American Legal Studies Yale Law School Projects in South America include SELA (Seminario en Latinoamérica de Teoría Constitucional y Política) and a Summer in South America Linkage Program of student exchanges with universities in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.
Public interest program
Public interest opportunities abound for Yalies, beginning in their first semester and continuing throughout their time at YLS and after graduation. First-year students can get involved right away with the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) Project, the Lowenstein Human Rights Project, and other student-organized outreach programs. In the second semester of their first year, students can begin participating in a variety of clinics (focusing on diverse areas of law, including but not limited to capital punishment, complex federal litigation, domestic violence, immigration, legislative advocacy, prison legal services, and worker and immigrant rights) and can appear in court or otherwise practice with attorney supervision. More than 80% of students participate in a clinic at some point, and more than half of those stay involved for more than one semester. “My clinic is my home at YLS” is a common sentiment among public-interest-oriented students.
In 2008, the school announced four initiatives to support public interest: enhancements to COAP (described above), installation of a full-time public interest career adviser, the doubling (to 24) the number of YLS-funded public interest fellowships given each year, and increased funding for summer public interest positions. Students report that professors and administrators alike encourage them to consider a career in public service (the school provides an unlimited number of grants of up to $6,000 of living expenses for students who choose a summer job with a public interest organization; more than 75% of 1L students do so) and that “there is a very healthy community of people committed to public interest careers.”
Business and corporate law
While Yale is often acknowledged as a leader in producing academics and public servants, it is sometimes forgotten that, according to the school, “Yale Law School has a long and illustrious tradition in business law. Starting in the nineteenth century with Simeon Baldwin, who was the leading railroad lawyer of his day, continuing with Arthur Corbin, the leading contract scholar at the outset of the 20th century, and through the legal realists of the 1920s through 1940s, Yale Law School’s business law faculty was key to its emergence as one of the centers of teaching and scholarship in law.”
Generally, most of the scholarship and academic pursuits related to business and corporate law are organized under the umbrella of the Center for the Study of Corporate Law, which was created in 1999. The Center seeks to provide students and faculty with greater exposure to and engagement with contemporary business law issues. To that end, the Center hosts a variety of named lectures, roundtables, panels, symposiums, and conferences on various topics. It also sponsors interactive colloquiums and workshops that allow for presentation of ongoing research and discussion of pressing topics.
Students with an interest in business and corporate law have access to a tremendous faculty at the law school and across the university; course offerings are plentiful and diverse. YLS students can also choose to pursue a joint J.D.–M.B.A. degree with the Yale School of Management; the degree can be completed either in the traditional four years or through a new accelerated three-year program. A J.D.–Ph.D. in finance is also available for those who seek to teach business law. The Yale Journal on Regulation (JREG) is a student law journal focusing largely on business and corporate law issues.
Widely trumpeted by former Dean Harold Koh, Yale has one of the country’s strongest international and comparative law programs. An impressive faculty and a collection of visiting international law experts teach a variety of courses each semester on international law and comparative law. Students are given opportunities to get hands-on experience through a variety of clinics (Civil Liberties and National Security after September 11—colloquially, the 9/11 Clinic; Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic; Immigration Clinic; etc.) and other special curricular offerings (students can spend semesters abroad performing research for academic credit; they can earn Graduate Certificates of Concentration in various international and area studies). The law school also has research centers with a particular international law focus, such as the China Law Center, the Comparative Administrative Law Initiative, and the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights.
Students with an interest in international law can also participate in two student-run journals (the Yale Journal of International Law and the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal) or a variety of student groups with an international focus (for example, the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, the Lowenstein Human Rights Project, and Universities United for Essential Medicines). They are also encouraged to spend their summers performing public interest work overseas or to apply for international fellowships upon graduation; financial support is provided in both cases.
Some students choose to combine their law studies with a program at another professional or graduate school. Yale Law School offers joint degrees in cooperation with a number of other schools and departments of Yale University. Joint degrees are intended for those who wish to acquire the specialized skills of a body of knowledge related to law. As of the fall term of 2011, around 37 students were enrolled in joint degree programs. Joint degrees are most common with the Yale Graduate School and the School of Management, but students have also arranged joint programs with other schools like Forestry and Environmental Studies, Divinity, and Medicine. On a case-by-case basis, one can arrange a joint degree with another university. In addition to the traditional joint degrees described here, Yale now offers a three-year Accelerated Integrated J.D.–M.B.A. program. Pursuing two degrees simultaneously shortens the period of study. In a joint degree, the Law School grants up to 12 units of credit for appropriate work in another degree program toward the 83 credits required for the J.D. This is the equivalent of one term's credit, so joint degree students are generally required to be in residence at the Law School for only five terms. The other program may grant credit for work at the Law School, decreasing the length of that degree as well. Therefore, joint degree students reduce the time needed to complete their two degrees by one year versus pursuing the degrees consecutively.
As The New York Times once noted, “When it comes to choosing law schools, students favor Yale for the same reason nondrinkers favor screwdrivers: it’s the most palatable way to swallow something you don’t really want.” While many law students past and present speak of their time in law school as something to “get through” on their way to a career, Yale Law students and graduates alike profess a deep love for the “special community” at YLS and report “there’s nowhere else I’d rather be; if given the choice all over again, I’d pick YLS in a heartbeat.” Its small size and storied history make Yale Law School a good choice for applicants that are looking to truly enjoy three years of legal study while becoming fully immersed in a rich and stimulating academic environment.
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2013 Above the Law ranking: 1
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