The Challenge of Options

December 17, 2008

N.M., 1L

I wanted to start this entry with some sort of warning: despite all the wonderful things you’ve heard about Yale Law School, this whole experience isn’t all plain sailing. I wanted to find some burden you ought to bear in mind because, when I was trying to make the decisions you’re facing, the Yale write-ups all seemed a little too good to be true. If you're supposed to tell YLS your shortcomings, reciprocity seems reasonable.

Some of the real delights of Yale you probably already know: Yale’s unbeaten ranking record, its unmatched class sizes, the stress-free grading policy and unusually liberal 1L curriculum. Other lesser known treats are easy to find after some simple research. For example, you’ll be taught by Judge Guido Calabresi, Dean Harold Koh, Former Solicitor General Drew Days and Bill Eskridge (who, curiously, wrote the book on Procedure most other law schools use, but doesn’t have us read it). Another distinction at Yale is that you’ll be able to clinic and actually practice law starting your second semester. As you can see, you can study whatever you want.

And then there are the things that sound a little sentimental: lecturers who’ll know you by name within days (and one freaky one from the very first lecture), classmates who readily share ideas, 2L advisors who email to see how you’re getting along.

So, where’s the cloud for all the silver lining? There's too much choice. Suddenly, after a quiet and sheltered first semester, we’re in the deep end. I found this to be extremely interesting considering that other peer law schools say that Yale is too small to have too many things to do.

Next week, we’ve got to choose courses for January. And by courses, YLS really means lectures, seminars, reading groups, journals and clinics. The courses range from topics on economics, or media law, or domestic violence, or privacy, or criminal law, or business organizations. By my count, the preliminary list presents 113 options for 189 1Ls. Not tough enough to decide? In addition to class, YLS students have too many options when selecting jobs. The December 1 watershed for summer job applications is about to arrive, and there, there aren’t any guidelines at all – we can work anywhere! I know 2Ls who’ve worked in The Hague and on the Hill, the United Nations, the WHO, the WTO, the UNHCR, in Kosovo, Lagos, Monrovia and New York. Truthfully, the number of summer jobs is almost guaranteed to exceed 189. And you can do whatever you want.

My point is, there’s an unbelievable amount of opportunity cost around here. And if I knew of a stronger caveat, I would’ve opened with it. Maybe this is a place – maybe it’s a disadvantage. However, one thing is for sure – this is Yale.