Dinner at the Dean’s House

April 7, 2008

L.M., 1L

Midway through my first visit to Yale, I was a little exhausted. I’d had the name/home state/undergrad/major conversation one too many times. I had walked in circles multiple times in the Law School attempting to find the auditorium. At the end of the day, I considered hanging out with my host and catching up on some homework. As you’re probably thinking, and she promptly told me, that was a lame idea. Instead she encouraged me to head off to the evening’s activity: dinner at Dean Koh’s home.

There’s no easy way to describe Dean Koh. By the time his dinner rolls around, you’ll probably have been thrown off by his congeniality once or twice. Even though he introduced himself to me as Harold, to this day, I still can’t bring myself to address him so informally. I’m one of a small few – by the end of the weekend several future classmates were gushing over conversations they’d had with “Harold”. I don’t want to give away too many of his promotional secrets, but each will be more surprising than the last. And one of those secrets is the dinner at his home.

I could roll off a list of Koh’s accolades, but you can look those up elsewhere. These aren’t the reasons to attend his dinner – you should go for the unique experience. There’s something about being in a home after the classrooms and courtyards that dot the typical admissions visit. It’s one of the best opportunities to get beyond the formalities with both your future classmates and your future Dean.

When Koh dropped by our table (interrupting a lively argument over whether the BCS was superior to brackets in selecting a champion), he nodded to the corner where he waved to and told us a story about how former Dean Guido Calabresi first met his wife in junior high school. While pointing towards them, he cracked a joke about their marriage prospects and how lucky Dean Calabresi had been. While they were both turning red, I couldn’t believe how comfortable it was to joke around with Koh and my fellow admits about anything.

Had I really met these people that same day? The group circled around the table turned out to be the core of my 1L experience. They include my best friend from small group, two students from my church pew and Sunday brunch crew, a fellow journal member and my current roommate (all different people). While some Texas-Oklahoma rivalries flared up that evening, the real fun was the chance to just be social instead of evaluating the parade of professors, alumni, and students pitching their law school’s best qualities.

So when the end of the law school decision period rolls around, when you have too many factors to weigh, when you’ve met too many people, and when you have a lot of other things you could be doing, go to Koh’s dinner. It will be a refreshing break.