How can I make the most out of my YLS degree? Forum

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How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Feb 20, 2021 6:20 pm

I am a 1L at Yale Law right now.

I have heard many horror stories about the challenges of working in the legal profession -- especially in Big Law. The hours are long. Firm culture can be toxic. There is no real work life balance. The work can be boring, raise difficult moral quandaries, and high stress. This can lead to anxiety and depression.

My question is this: given the fact that I am a URM at the #1 law school in the country, a lot of doors are currently open to me. What kind of jobs should I be exploring if I want to find a career path with a reasonable work life balance, interesting and stimulating work, and just have a high quality of life in general?

I would like a starting salary of at least $120k with a lot of room for upward mobility!
Last edited by Anonymous User on Sat Feb 20, 2021 11:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

aegor

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by aegor » Sat Feb 20, 2021 8:08 pm

What is your salary expectation/minimum?

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glitched

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by glitched » Sat Feb 20, 2021 8:28 pm

I heard being a Supreme Court justice is a pretty good gig. Pretty much impossible to get fired and you got tons of interns to write for you.

TheProsecutor

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by TheProsecutor » Sat Feb 20, 2021 8:41 pm

academia.

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by boredlawstudent » Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:11 pm

aegor wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 8:08 pm
What is your salary expectation/minimum?
I would preferably like my starting salary to be at least $125,000, with plenty of room for upward trajectory. Would that severely limit my options?

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:29 pm

Cravath

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by nixy » Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:36 pm

What do you consider reasonable work/life balance, and what kind of work do you find interesting?

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by Iowahawk » Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:59 pm

State or federal government, top regional firms, and PI orgs are the most likely to combine decent hours with interesting work, but some can still have very bad hours depending on your specific gig. Academia’s another possibility, with some serious downsides—it’s very competitive and requires near-obsessive gunnery pursuit, you can only mildly control where you live, and it often requires frequent random-ish moves early in your career, which is especially hard with a spouse/kids—but as a URM at Yale you have a far, far better shot than most if you’re interested. But it really depends on what’s interesting to you, you’re in a very enviable position. Assuming you’re after a normal person’s standard of work-life balance, your intuition that biglaw generally won’t offer that is correct.

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by jotarokujo » Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:03 pm

would recommend in-house or government. i recommend against academia unless you find that you love doing legal academic writing and do not want to practice law, even in lower hour environments. it's an incredibly long path that involves moving multiple times to unexpected places over a minimum of 8 years.

not sure about the hours at pure PI orgs, probably varies a lot so make sure to avoid the ones that require high hours

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:13 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:29 pm
Cravath
Definitely no.

2013

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by 2013 » Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:14 pm

Circuit Court Clerkship, SCOTUS clerkship, biglaw for 2 years, academia.

A lot of professors at top schools seem to have this trajectory.

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:13 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:29 pm
Cravath
Definitely no.
What about Wachtell lipton rosen and cats?

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:29 pm
Cravath
LMAOOOO

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Feb 21, 2021 11:02 am

From a recent YLS grad who started biglaw in the fall and is miserable - avoid biglaw. Do it for a summer and take the money, but don't make it a goal. If you "love the law" like some YLSers do, shoot for fed govt attorney/academia/PI (tho you likely won't make $120k+ in PI). If you don't—and tbh even if you do—most lawyer jobs just aren't that good or fulfilling. If you have non-legal interests, pursue those instead. Take courses outside the law school, do research in them, volunteer, etc. Then aim for some policy/research/NGO/fed govt job related to those interests. A lot of those pay $120k+, have good benefits, and have some salary growth potential. I'm applying to those kinds of jobs now and think/hope (as unfortunate as the attendant elitism is) that my YLS degree is helping.

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Feb 21, 2021 11:09 am

I don't think academia is a good path for someone whose only goal is "I want the easiest law job that pays at least X," but if you consider yourself intellectually curious about the law and can see yourself churning out a lot of law review articles for the next forty years, then that is a realistic goal for a YLS alum. You would want to try to get a note published as a student, clerk at least twice and try to get at least one article published while clerking, and probably end up spending at least a year in biglaw before transitioning into academia, possibly by way of some fellowship first and then by moving to any place in the country that will take you.

If that sounds good to you, then go for it, but if it's just a "Yeah, OK, I could see that," you are probably going to be outworked by people who have been dead set on becoming professors since they got their Fall 1L grades.

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by jsnow212 » Sun Feb 21, 2021 11:19 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 11:02 am
From a recent YLS grad who started biglaw in the fall and is miserable - avoid biglaw. Do it for a summer and take the money, but don't make it a goal. If you "love the law" like some YLSers do, shoot for fed govt attorney/academia/PI (tho you likely won't make $120k+ in PI). If you don't—and tbh even if you do—most lawyer jobs just aren't that good or fulfilling. If you have non-legal interests, pursue those instead. Take courses outside the law school, do research in them, volunteer, etc. Then aim for some policy/research/NGO/fed govt job related to those interests. A lot of those pay $120k+, have good benefits, and have some salary growth potential. I'm applying to those kinds of jobs now and think/hope (as unfortunate as the attendant elitism is) that my YLS degree is helping.
Going full nihilist 6-months into a demanding/tedious job, that they knew was demanding/tedious ex-ante, is exactly what I'd expect a KJD Yale Law Grad to do. :lol:

Jokes aside, OP, it all depends on your interests. Lots of people do biglaw for a few years on the corporate side and then go in-house, making 100k+ salaries with a good lifestyle.

Some go straight into public interest work.

Some do the clerkship circuit and eventually find themselves back in biglaw doing litigation work.

Some mix in time at biglaw litigation and then transition to a federal gov. job.

Some do academia, which also has stepping stones of its own.

The best way to get a sense of what you want to do is probably to go to all those spammy speaker-talks/panels/etc. YLS undoubtedly offers and to just reach out to 3Ls or alums to chat about their paths. Don't think any would be bothered if you are genuine in trying to learn about what route they took and why.

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by Elston Gunn » Sun Feb 21, 2021 12:26 pm

I went to YLS and am several years out, so hopefully have some insight.

I agree with the post a little above that academia is a terrible idea unless you have a passion for it. Yes, tenured law professor is a good gig, but it requires an incredibly intense amount of striving to achieve and is not remotely worth it if you aren’t actually excited about it.

Yalies have a lot of options if they’re proactive and have a clear idea of what they want, but that requires a deep examination of your own interests and connections, so hard to provide general advice. The best widely available long-term landing spots for making six figures, having a satisfying job, and not being overworked are the federal government and in-house counsel. I would not suggest starting in-house right out of law school, but clerking and then going straight to the federal government is viable. (Though you will not start at $120k.)

Here’s a related alternative: I’m biased, because I’m going to describe my path, but I think the best advantage YLS has for people with your goals is access to top DC Biglaw and, in particular, regulatory practices at those firms.

I would suggest finding a substantive area of law that is heavily regulated and you’re interested in - eg, privacy, telecom, financial reg, healthcare, FDA. Maybe try to work at the relevant agency 1L summer, ideally in the DC office. Then try to get into a DC firm with a broad regulatory practice for your 2L summer (Wilmer, Covington, Hogan, Sidley etc). If it sounds appealing to you, shoot for a clerkship, though it’s not necessary for this path. Then go back to the firm and go into the group that appeals to you. The work will be more interesting and less demanding than most Biglaw. Do that and save for as long as feels reasonable to you, then leave for the government or in-house, for which you’ll have a great resume.

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by Iowahawk » Sun Feb 21, 2021 2:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 11:02 am
From a recent YLS grad who started biglaw in the fall and is miserable - avoid biglaw. Do it for a summer and take the money, but don't make it a goal. If you "love the law" like some YLSers do, shoot for fed govt attorney/academia/PI (tho you likely won't make $120k+ in PI). If you don't—and tbh even if you do—most lawyer jobs just aren't that good or fulfilling. If you have non-legal interests, pursue those instead. Take courses outside the law school, do research in them, volunteer, etc. Then aim for some policy/research/NGO/fed govt job related to those interests. A lot of those pay $120k+, have good benefits, and have some salary growth potential. I'm applying to those kinds of jobs now and think/hope (as unfortunate as the attendant elitism is) that my YLS degree is helping.
Writing off the whole private sector after six months and trying to quit law is so beautifully YLS.

One option that hadn’t been discussed on here is going to a firm in your (non-major-market) hometown if you like it. Good firms often have interesting reasonably complex work, partnership prospects typically are much better than biglaw, the money’s no worse than most things here and can be very good, and 1800-1900 hours is pretty common. My old friends who practice in Des Moines, Omaha, etc. are generally satisfied with their careers and have pretty good (for law) work-life balance.

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by PT818 » Tue Feb 23, 2021 11:28 pm

Obviously depends on your interests, but I'd consider joining a Big Law trusts and estates group. Big Law pay, but much better hours and the work for juniors is very substantive. Making partner is hard, but you can coast billing 1750 hours/year until you're a senior associate making $500,000/year. Because the practice area requires so much specialized knowledge, law firms tend to keep good associates as counsel (if not partner) indefinitely, rather than forcing them out.

It's a niche area of law, and there aren't very many openings, but with your resume you can make it happen. PM me if you're interested.

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by Sackboy » Wed Feb 24, 2021 12:30 am

PT818 wrote:
Tue Feb 23, 2021 11:28 pm
Obviously depends on your interests, but I'd consider joining a Big Law trusts and estates group. Big Law pay, but much better hours and the work for juniors is very substantive. Making partner is hard, but you can coast billing 1750 hours/year until you're a senior associate making $500,000/year. Because the practice area requires so much specialized knowledge, law firms tend to keep good associates as counsel (if not partner) indefinitely, rather than forcing them out.

It's a niche area of law, and there aren't very many openings, but with your resume you can make it happen. PM me if you're interested.
Making partner in biglaw T&E is easy. Making equity partner in biglaw T&E is just short of an act of God, except at McDermott and then it's just typical equity partner hard. Still, generally endorse that it's substantive and generally interesting work.

Also, endorse the idea that academia is terrible if you're not actually interested in it. It's a chill job in the sense that you get to pick what hours you work, but you're still doing the work. If you don't do well outside of rigid schedules, it'd also be a nightmare.

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by Lacepiece23 » Wed Feb 24, 2021 2:08 am

If you’re lit focused and want to be in court, I’ll throw an unconventional suggestion. Maybe consider elite PI. A firm like Kline & Specter in Philly hires from Penn with some local schools being in the mix. Those from local schools must have elite mock trial experience.

The salary trumps biglaw if you make partner. Like really trumps it. If you don’t like it, you could always move to something else with your YLS degree.

Your success, however, would depend on your real skills as a lawyer rather than what a piece of paper says.

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by Jchance » Wed Feb 24, 2021 3:07 am

Lacepiece23 wrote:
Wed Feb 24, 2021 2:08 am
Your success, however, would depend on your real skills as a lawyer rather than what a piece of paper says.
IMHO this is terrible advice. Wouldn't this just be a waste of his/her YLS paper?

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Feb 24, 2021 7:25 am

Jchance wrote:
Wed Feb 24, 2021 3:07 am
Lacepiece23 wrote:
Wed Feb 24, 2021 2:08 am
Your success, however, would depend on your real skills as a lawyer rather than what a piece of paper says.
IMHO this is terrible advice. Wouldn't this just be a waste of his/her YLS paper?
It’s riskier advice. Yale would still add a certain cache in that world. It’s harder to get a firm like that than biglaw. They once in a blue moon take a new hire and you’d probably need Yale to get in or something special to get in right away.

The other option is the typical Susman or whatever, but you’d have much better work/life balance at an elite PI. And you’d make more money.

In Philly, the PI attorneys are rockstars and make way more money than everyone else. Everyone in biglaw is pretty jealous.

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by jsnow212 » Wed Feb 24, 2021 9:32 am

Jchance wrote:
Wed Feb 24, 2021 3:07 am
Lacepiece23 wrote:
Wed Feb 24, 2021 2:08 am
Your success, however, would depend on your real skills as a lawyer rather than what a piece of paper says.
IMHO this is terrible advice. Wouldn't this just be a waste of his/her YLS paper?
Like the previous poster said, YLS might help get a foot in the door here on what looks like a great work-finance-life career.

Regardless, many (most?) things that YLS grads end up doing is a "waste of their paper." Everything is easier to get coming out of YLS. However, the path that probably leverages YLS credentials the most is academia, with nothing really that close in second. (Yes, the clerking path ---> Elite Lit benefits from YLS name, but people all throughout the T6 do that with varying levels of success in a way that does not compare to the YLS academia pipeline). OP already stated interests that suggest academia is not for them, so I think solid-paying, "elite," and hard-to-get PI is a good path to look into as well.

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Re: How can I make the most out of my YLS degree?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Feb 24, 2021 11:21 am

jsnow212 wrote:
Wed Feb 24, 2021 9:32 am
Jchance wrote:
Wed Feb 24, 2021 3:07 am
Lacepiece23 wrote:
Wed Feb 24, 2021 2:08 am
Your success, however, would depend on your real skills as a lawyer rather than what a piece of paper says.
IMHO this is terrible advice. Wouldn't this just be a waste of his/her YLS paper?
Like the previous poster said, YLS might help get a foot in the door here on what looks like a great work-finance-life career.

Regardless, many (most?) things that YLS grads end up doing is a "waste of their paper." Everything is easier to get coming out of YLS. However, the path that probably leverages YLS credentials the most is academia, with nothing really that close in second. (Yes, the clerking path ---> Elite Lit benefits from YLS name, but people all throughout the T6 do that with varying levels of success in a way that does not compare to the YLS academia pipeline). OP already stated interests that suggest academia is not for them, so I think solid-paying, "elite," and hard-to-get PI is a good path to look into as well.
I will add this. I’m a URM T14 grad with a clerkship. At the time I applied to K&S, I had a trial win as a biglaw associate. I was pretty good on paper for them with pretty unique credentials.

And K&S actually does pride itself on diversity. Percentage wise, they are much more diverse than biglaw.

I didn’t get the job. Others with worse credentials and gotten the job and others with better credentials have gotten the job. It may have been due to timing. But if I had a YLS degree, it might have happened for me regardless. They would have made room.

Everyone there is happy. They do work hard, but the work is better. Depositions, trials, and case management make up your day.

Then, there’s the possibility of being a millionaire. Not just I have a million dollars, but I make millions per year.

Lastly, even if it ends up not being for you, unlike others, you can get out and still do something cool. If you go that path and don’t have that type of degree, the exit options are much riskier.

You could still probably get some great government job. Biglaw would probably be out for someone that is not YLS.

I think it’s a better option than the Susmans and Kellogg’s of the world. But you have to love real litigation and real lawyering. Paper pushers won’t survive.

Seriously? What are you waiting for?

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