Not Just another Birthday

November 3, 2008

From S.G., 1L

Even though I am a 1L, orientation feels like it was forever ago. The majority of it is just a blur, where I spent most of the time desperately trying to remember the names of the 180 new faces I met within a matter of 24 or 48 hours. There is, however, one part of orientation that I remember vividly – getting my course schedule.

Of course, everyone knew they would take Torts, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, and Contracts, but no one knew the times, professors, or small group sections. Since YLS does not release the schedules until the second day, let’s just say that there was a little bit of anticipation.

I remember getting to the law school early that day, getting my schedule, and frantically looking through it. Some students were excited to see that their small group professor was a former Solicitor General (Drew Days), others began talking about getting Dean Koh’s Procedure course, but I was so happy to look beside my Torts class (at 8:30 each morning, mind you) and see the name “Calabresi.”

Guido Calabresi is a legend at YLS. He is a Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, a former Dean of YLS, and a Torts professor for 50 years. His Torts class has been a highlight of my time at YLS thus far, and this past Friday is just one example why.

Guido (as he insists on being called) recently turned 76, and in his honor, our Torts class organized a party to take place after class. Guido likes to tell stories to illustrate the cases we read, so one of my classmates designed a t-shirt with a drawing of a torts scenario from a case on the front and one of Guido’s memorable quotes from class on the back. Another friend actually dressed up like Guido, and as a class, we brought in various props and characters that Guido often refers to in discussing various cases.

After class (our only class on the Friday before Fall Break), everyone stayed around for almost an hour to wish Guido a happy birthday, sign the card from the class, or enjoy some cake and coffee with friends. This behavior illustrates the type of community environment Guido has created in our class.

What is so special about Yale is that this story is not unique. Every student at YLS feels a special bond with a class or a professor, even as a 1L. As Dean Koh often says, YLS is a “community of commitment” to excellence, humanity, and especially to each other. Based on my relatively short experience at YLS, I could not agree more.