On Camaraderie at YLS

December 17, 2007

L.C., 1L

December has always been busy time of year. The holiday season is in full swing as is Sunday night football. While normally I would be avoiding the cold curled up on the couch watching football and online shopping for holiday gifts, law school has other plans for me this year. December at the Yale Law School for a 1L is about finding a summer job, picking classes for spring semester (no requirements is both a blessing and a curse), participating in whichever activities you signed up for (despite being advised to focus on school work), and handing in brief assignments. Even for the type As (of whom there are many) this can be exhausting. Everyone has a full plate, but what has continued to amaze me is the time people here take to support each other along the way.

Law school is often depicted as being super-competitive, cutthroat, and stressful. People tell stories of pages being cut out of books in the library so that fellow classmates are unable to complete assignments or people sharing outlines containing errors to get an upper hand. While I was fully aware of the exaggerated depiction of competition at top tier law schools, before coming Yale I didn’t expect the level of openness and camaraderie that I would experience.

Students in classes were discussing arguments for their brief assignments and sharing the names of pertinent cases. The second and third years have held panels to help answer questions about clinics, classes, and professors to take (or avoid). Students are carving out time to sit down over coffee to share stories about their summer job experiences and answer any questions. If you miss a class, people are more than willing to share their notes and catch you up to speed.

Don’t get me wrong. Law school is time consuming and can be stressful. You often see the same people camped out in the library late into the night and sneaking in quick naps in the student lounge. For the overachievers who whizzed through undergrad (many here did), law school is still work and takes commitment. What makes Yale great is that you don’t have to worry about competition weighing you down as well. The first semester is pass / fail and it really allows students not only to take full advantage of this unique environment by relieving the pressure to be number one, but it allows you to learn from your peers in an open collegial atmosphere. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen class room discussion spill out into the halls long after a class has ended.

For a girl with a “go it alone” personality in an environment that is traditionally deemed “every man for himself” (or every woman for you lefties), this has been a great experience in learning how much easier life can be when you are surrounded by people who want to help you succeed (especially when you let them). Did I need people to tell me which classes to take? I could have read the online evaluations. Would I have been incapable of figuring out which cases to use for my brief without the help of my fellow classmates? I had the same research training that they did. Do I now have a little extra time to sneak in a Sunday night game and do a little online perusing for my dad’s birthday gift? (I didn’t say I actually had time to make it to the mall.) You bet. It’s amazing what you can get done when you aren’t wasting time looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re still comfortably head of the pack.