Supremely Awesome: YLS at the United States Supreme Court

November 24, 2010 - 12 AM

T.B., 1L

During the first week of October, my 1L small group traveled to Washington, D.C. to spend a day at the Supreme Court. Admittedly, my journey to the Supreme Court took longer than anticipated. Who knew that the Supreme Court was not the 'Judiciary' referred to in the 'Judiciary Square' Metro stop? Fortunately, I arrived on time to meet my small group before oral arguments.

Once inside the courtroom, I watched as my classes came to life: the two sessions of oral arguments felt like a performance of my casebooks and coursework. The subject of oral arguments was especially relevant for our small group that day. Our first semester memo assignment, completed the day before our Supreme Court visit, was modeled after one of the cases before the Court. The connection to our memo made our experience at oral arguments especially meaningful, because we recognized the cases cited and heard similar arguments to those we had made in our own memos.

Our Supreme Court visit offered several opportunities to interact with YLS alumni including a lunch with some of our small group professor’s former students currently clerking for Supreme Court Justices. In addition to sharing their experiences as clerks, these recent YLS grads offered advice for making the most of our time in law school. During a guided tour of the Court, our professor shared her own stories from her time as a Supreme Court clerk in the 1970s.

A meeting with a certain YLS alumnus made our visit to the Supreme Court particularly special. That afternoon, we met with Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Sotomayor spent quality time with our small group, answering our questions. Some of us asked questions that had come up during class discussions. How important are oral arguments to the outcome of a case? How does legal scholarship influence the decision-making process? Others asked about Justice Sotomayor’s time at Yale Law School. What advice did she have for us as we are just beginning our experiences here? It felt surreal to be speaking with Justice Sotomayor, but her kindness put us at ease and invited participation.

On the train ride home, our lively discussions epitomized Justice Sotomayor’s advice to us: make time for conversations with classmates and prioritize sharing ideas and learning from each other. Our Supreme Court visit catalyzed and continues to inspire many such conversations.