On Relationships with the Faculty

January 8, 2008

T.E., 2L

Yale is the utopia of law schools: a gorgeous gothic building surrounding a lush green courtyard, world-renowned professors, and an extremely relaxed grading policy -- what more could you want? But in my first couple weeks here, I learned that while all that certainly contributes to making Yale a wonderful experience, what truly distinguishes the law school is the faculty.

I don’t mean that the law school is unique because the professors occasionally appear on CSPAN, or are sometimes cited by the Supreme Court (though those things are pretty great); to me, the single most impressive thing about the faculty is the extent to which they care about the students.

A few examples: A friend of mine was trying to decide between Yale and another law school and was wondering how accessible Yale professors are. A certain professor got wind of her concern and called her in Israel to discuss this with her.

Another friend’s father passed away during the school year. The Law School called to check on him, asked students to take notes for him in each of his classes, and sent a gift basket to his family to express their condolences.

My mother was injured at her workplace when she slipped on some trash and fell down a flight of stairs. When I alerted one of my professors he made some calls and within 24 hours she had a top workers’ compensation attorney.

At Yale, the faculty is a part of every day life, too. They have you over to their houses for dinner, send out emails encouraging you to attend their office hours, and ask how law firm interviews are going. On multiple occasions I’ve been in the elevator with a professor I didn’t know. Every time this has happened, the professor has always introduced him or herself, asked a question or two about me, and encouraged me to drop by his/her office if I ever wanted to chat.

I contrast this with something I experienced last year, when I was a 1L at another top law school (before I came to my senses and transferred to Yale). I went to visit my faculty advisor to discuss my schedule and my future in early October. She was nice and welcoming, but when the appointment was over she said, “Great. I’ll see you next semester.” Not “Email me with any questions.” Not “drop by any time.” Not “Let me know if you need me.” But “See you next semester.” That may not seem like a big deal, but it’s amazing what a difference it makes to feel like you have professors that you can turn to at any time for anything. I mean, having great scholars around is important, but having great, caring people around (who happen to be great scholars as well) is even better.