Practical Training at YLS

February 18, 2013

R.I., 3L

One of the biggest myths about Yale is that it is all theory and no practice. That could not be further from the truth. In fact, one of the reasons I chose Yale was because of the amazing practical opportunities. Now in my last semester, I can say that it has not disappointed.

Yale’s selection of clinics is unmatched and you can start them in your first year. Because of the small size of the school and the enormous range of clinical opportunities, everyone who wants to do a clinic gets to. There are some that are really popular, so you may not get your first choice the first time around, but you’ll definitely get a chance to do one that interests you. Indeed, 80% of Yale students do at least one clinic and many continue for more than one semester.

I’ve been involved in the Veterans Legal Services Clinic for the past two years. During this time, I have gotten to write briefs filed in federal court, interview and counsel clients, and participate in settlement negotiations. Unlike in an internship, where students generally assist lawyers, in clinics at YLS, you act as the lawyer on the case and your professor supervises you. This allows you to be on the front lines of decision making.

This semester, I am taking Trial Practice. The class brings in experienced local attorneys to coach groups of six students through the different aspects of conducting a trial—opening and closing arguments, direct and cross examination, jury selection, and even more advanced skills like questioning an expert witness. It is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to be a trial lawyer.

It’s true that if you want Yale to be a theory-only experience, you can do that. After your first semester, you get to choose your classes, so you can do all “Law and Literature”type courses if you’d like. But if you’re like me and you want to practice and get as much hands on experience as possible, YLS is a great place for that, too.