Thursday, November 9, 2017


Aaron Haviland ’19

My decision to attend law school was a variety of things. I was raised Catholic so I feel guilty about everything all the time, so I like to know what the rules are, what the law is. I studied international relations in England for a graduate degree, and while I was there, I took a course in international law, got interested in those issues.

A number of my friends were returning to the United States to go to law school while I was coming back to the military. And then when I was in the military, one of my key jobs was as a legal officer for a battalion, so I dealt with administrative separations. I worked with the lawyers on base and courts martials. I worked with NCIS investigators, and was the commanding officer's point man in all our legal issues.

And I was really fascinated by the topics that came up there, and that propelled me to go to law school. And then I applied to a bunch of different law schools. Getting into Yale was like a dream come true. It's hard to argue with its reputation as being the number one law school in the country for years on end.

And I think what really clinched it for me was the fact that it is this very small law school, where the students and the professors work closely together. And it's not just a law school that's committed to turning out people for various jobs to fill. Everyone here cares very deeply and passionately about what the law is, and that clinched it for me.

When I first got to the fleets of the operating forces in the Marine Corps, I was assigned to a battalion that was deploying to Afghanistan right away. And this was in late 2012, early 2013, so a lot of the focus was on turning over bases and operations to the Afghan National Security forces. So my particular job was only a small part of that. I took care of the administrative personnel functions, edited a lot of awards for the Marines. But it was something I was very proud to have been a part of.

One thing I definitely took away from the military was, and that I brought to Yale Law School, has been the importance of being patient. So a lot of my classmates want to jump right in and argue the next case and change the world. And I learned that in the military, you don't do that, that oftentimes the work you do is behind the scenes, that it doesn't always feel like it matters.

In fact, a lot of the jobs you do are very menial and can be mind-numbing. But they are incredibly important. And so I think the idea of being patient, building experience, and doing the jobs-- every job that you do-- with earnestness and professionalism, and doing the best you can do. It's something I've learned to value in the military and something I'd like to bring to my job as a lawyer.

So the Yale Law Veterans is a group that we first appear in veterans' lives. If it is student's weekend, we invite them to a dinner. We show them the ropes of Yale Law School. We help them with VA benefit applications. And then we're there as a safety net for them when they first get to Yale Law School and deal with some of the complicated transitions that other law students might not have to face.

The Federal Society, in a lot of ways, it's said is a school within a school, because it is an incredibly supportive network. It's a group of people that are very concerned with the text of the Constitution, the original meaning of the Constitution. So every semester, they have a reading group that focuses on originalism or executive power.

In November, we go to the National Lawyers Convention, the Federal Society in Washington DC, and volunteer. We have guest speakers about once a week. We are a web of support for people who might sometimes feel isolated at Yale Law School because they don't quite fit in with the regular intellectual orthodoxy to law school. And we provide as much support as people want.

I came to Yale Law School having done a Master's in international relations and taking a course in international law. And I thought maybe it would be a straight continuation of that. I've actually found myself drawn largely to constitutional law and the interaction of that with the international law.

So this semester, I'm taking a course with Professor Oona Hathaway. That's in international law and foreign relations seminar, and we're sort of a mini think tank, and she tasks us to various projects that come up. In my case, I've been focusing a lot on presidential and congressional war powers, so the interaction of the Declare War Clause in the Constitution with the War Powers Resolution-- who decides when you send the military overseas? Who has the final say? And so we work in various publications and reports and just whatever topic interests us. 

A student perspective on student organizations and international and constitutional law at Yale Law School, as well as his experiences before law school as a member of the military.