Practice at Yale Law

March 6, 2007

P.H., 2L

From my initial search looking at law schools, it became abundantly clear that Yale Law has the reputation of producing legal academics. Yale alums are deans and professors at top law schools around the country. However, I also remember finding the utterly false rumor that at Yale Law, you don’t learn how to actually practice law. After two years at the school, and three semesters of clinical work under my belt, I have realized that this could not be farther from the truth. In addition to its excellence in theory, the Yale Law School has perhaps the leading clinical program in the country.

Personally, the clinic program at Yale has influenced my experience more than any other aspect of the law school (sans not having grades, of course).

Currently, I’m a member of Yale’s new Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic (I had to finish up work on my latest case before I could start writing this). In the past two weeks, two classmates and I were on a team that filed a merits brief in Hein v. Freedom From Religion. This appeal will determine whether taxpayers have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the White House Office of Faith Based Initiatives. In addition to Hein, two other students and I filed an amicus brief to certiorari in United States v. Wilk, a case regarding the interpretation of the Federal Death Penalty Act. My experience is certainly not abnormal—all students here have numerous opportunities to work on live cases.

I am also in the Workers and Immigrants Rights Advocacy Clinic. A week ago, a team of four of us filed a lawsuit on behalf of twelve Guatemalan workers alleging that a commercial nursery and its labor contractor had violated numerous federal and state laws including minimum wage, forced labor, and human trafficking laws. The case gained a lot of media attention highlighting it as an example of exploitive labor practices with respect to guest workers.

In the Human Trafficking Litigation Project, we are preparing to represent survivors of human trafficking in civil lawsuits. I have also been working on a case currently before the D.C. Circuit where four former Guantanamo Bay detainees are suing former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the chain of command for human rights abuses.

For me, there is almost too much clinical activity occurring on campus. Yale’s other numerous clinics range from localized hands-on practices—like the Community Lawyering Clinic and the Landlord and Tenant Clinic—to impact litigation clinics—like the Balancing National Security and Civil Liberties Post 9/11 Clinic and the Education Adequacy Clinic.

I have found that my experience demonstrates that at Yale Law you will have a multitude of opportunities to learn the practice of law through hands-on, real-life cases. As I have now come to realize, not only does Yale produce some of the best academics, it also trains the best practitioners.