Looking Outside the Law: Cross-Registering for Courses

January 7, 2010

M.L., 2L

Yale Law School is such an amazing place that it’s sometimes easy to forget that the rest of Yale University is pretty special, too. I’ve had the luxury of taking a History course here referred to as “Studies in Grand Strategy” – a yearlong seminar on government strategy and policymaking, with an emphasis on military history. The course is fantastic but work-intensive; from heavy reading assignments to grueling presentations, it requires a great deal of preparation.

Taking a course outside the Law School, however, does give a good sense of balance in several ways. First, the course gives me a chance to meet students from a variety of other schools. I’ve gotten to know students from the International Relations program and the School of Management, as well as faculty in History, International Security Studies, and even Public Health. And, of course, the undergraduates here are pretty talented, too. The diversity there can be great for building friendships and teamwork across disciplines, something that’s both a learning experience and very enjoyable.

Second, it is refreshing to have my brain working on several different types of projects at the same time. I genuinely do enjoy legal analysis: precedent, argument, holdings. But it is also nice to give myself other types of problems to work on: strategy, politics, and understanding the way that modern governance fits into the historical arc of American strategy. The Law School itself offers a great diversity of courses—some more black-letter, some more policy-oriented—and stepping into another school for a taste of “their” world is a logical extension of that.

Finally, the undergraduate calendar works differently than ours! This can be a hassle at some times, but in the end it means that the “busy cycle” for my courses is a little bit more spread out, which for me often proves to be a great relief.

The Law School has been completely supportive of my taking an external class. The process for obtaining credit is very straightforward. I walked over to the Registrar’s office to pick up a form; printed out a syllabus and course description from the Internet; had it signed by the course instructor and one law school faculty member; and dropped it back off at the Registrar. It was a little bit intimidating to ask a law school professor for permission to take an external class, but he was very understanding.

The Law School is, of course, a very powerful place, in the complete sense of the word. But an interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving is always crucial when we arrive in the real world, too. I highly recommend taking a course or two from the University as a whole; it is a valuable learning experience—plus, more importantly, it’s fun.