Outside Looking In

November 14, 2011 - 12 AM

S.H., 2L

There is a unique perspective available to only a handful of other YLS students – the transfer student perspective. I am one of eight 2L transfer students in my class. Having attended another law school for a year, I thought I should share three observations, which highlight why YLS is a truly unique law school experience: (1) Being at Yale Law School is liberating; (2) You are defined by your opinions; (3) You learn and work in a real city, but still live in a Yale bubble. Let me elaborate.

It is no secret that I am at YLS because I worked hard and attained some degree of academic success. Up till this point, I followed the path my parents and society defined as success: attend the best schools and work at the best companies. Once I arrived at Yale Law School, I felt that I could stop trying to achieve others’ idea of success because in their view, YLS = success. As Dean Post said during orientation, “you can all get off the hamster wheel.” Contrary to my misconception, the YLS administration is not secretly hoping that every student becomes a Supreme Court Justice. Anything I do from this point is based on what I define as success and that is a tremendously liberating feeling to have.

If you want to learn how to form opinions and engage in debate, then YLS is just the place for you. At my previous schools, students were predominantly defined by their talents or social interests (such as being athletic, having musical talents, being foodies, etc.). At YLS, students are recognized for their ideological leanings on areas of law. It is not a simple matter of whether you identify yourself as progressive or conservative (or independent). Many of my peers have sub-areas of interest for which they are recognized, such as immigration or education. Since I did not undergo the 1L experience here, I cannot explain how students form such deeply held beliefs in a matter of months, but it has been a truly amazing aspect of YLS.

Lastly, the law school’s location in New Haven creates a singular learning atmosphere. The city is faced with all the problems of an urban area, such as poverty, crime, and educational challenges. However, YLS’s urban location allows it to offer a host of clinics for students to gain practical legal experience. Simultaneously, Yale’s dominant presence in the city allows the school to offer many conveniences, such as the Yale shuttle, and allows students to form a strong community. Your neighbors are most likely to be Yale-affiliated in some way. You are able to learn from real world legal issues while remaining insulated from the real world in your daily law school activities, which is a phenomenon unique to Yale and New Haven.