January 14, 2010
Confessions about Corporate Law at YLS
Unlike many of my peers at YLS, I knew relatively early on that I wanted to focus on corporate law and practice at a large law firm immediately following graduation. Given my interests in corporate law and law & economics, I was honestly a little reluctant about matriculating at Yale because I was concerned that it would not be the best place for me to pursue a career in corporate law. I always thought that Yale fostered the intellectual development of future Supreme Court Justices and constitutional law scholars and not the development of future general counsels. It turns out that I was wrong.
Over the past two years, I have found that Yale is a terrific place to study corporate law. Specifically, it offers corporate attorneys several competitive advantages over its peer schools.
The first notable aspect of corporate law at Yale is that you can dive into substantive corporate law courses during 1L year. While most first year law students take a predetermined set of courses in their second semester, Yale offers students the freedom to select all their own courses. I took business organizations, bankruptcy, banking law, and federal income taxation my second semester. Right now, I am taking corporate law courses - such as securities regulation - which build off the courses I took my 1L spring. While my friends at other law schools are just now taking business organizations, I am taking advanced courses in the field.
The second notable aspect of corporate law at Yale is the corporate law curriculum itself. Although most people associate Yale Law School with excellence in constitutional law and law & philosophy, Yale also boasts a top-notch corporate law faculty. This past spring, I took courses from scholars who wrote the leading books and treatises in corporate law. When I participated in the Fall Interview Program, where law firm employers come to campus to recruit 2L students for 2L summer associate positions and post-graduation employment, I received comments such as, "Wow. You took a course from Macey. I cite him all the time in my memos...that must have been a great opportunity." Having the leaders in the field on your transcript provides you instant credibility when applying for jobs and summer positions.
In addition to the outstanding permanent faculty, Yale prides itself on bringing in alumni who have excelled in their careers and currently serve as general counsels of major Fortune 500 corporations. For example, the current General Counsel of Pfizer will be teaching a course on how Pfizer's attorneys managed high-profile products liability litigation during the 2009-2010 January Term (an optional academic period). Moreover, the former General Counsel of Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual and the current General Counsel of Ernst & Young will be teaching a course in the Spring semester about legal responses to the financial crisis. Given the importance of networking and mentoring in the legal profession, it really doesn't get much better than this. As an aspiring general counsel of a major pharmaceutical or biotechnology company, I'm fortunate to be able to learn from Pfizer's top attorney.
Yale also provides students numerous corporate law opportunities outside the classroom. The Center for the Study of Corporate Law is an amazing resource for students interested in corporate law scholarship. The Center, headed by renowned corporate law scholar Roberta Romano, often hosts a variety of workshops and lectures featuring prominent individuals from the corporate world. Moreover, the Olin Center for Law, Economics, and Public Policy provides a select few students with well-paid summer fellowships to pursue independent, empirical research projects that they eventually present to the corporate law faculty. As a former Olin Summer Fellow, I can tell you that the experience was extremely rewarding, as I was able to focus on the intersections between corporate law and pharmaceutical regulation under the guidance of Professor Romano. In addition to the Center for the Study of Corporate Law and the Olin Center, students can become involved in The Yale Journal on Regulation (the business affairs journal), the Yale Law & Business Society, and the 4-year or 3-year joint JD/MBA program with the Yale School of Management.
Finally, pursuing a corporate law education at Yale is a wise choice because of a simple economics concept--supply and demand. Yalies are a hot commodity at firms not only because they are high achievers and intelligent, but also because so few of them pursue corporate work. This means that corporate types at Yale benefit from reduced competition for plum firm jobs and other highly sought after corporate opportunities. If you are interested in becoming a leader in the corporate world, pursuing your legal education at Yale Law School might just be the wisest executive decision you'll ever make.