As some of the previous blog posts have described, YLS is unique in that it only binds you to a preset class schedule your first semester. While many other schools dictate your courses for an entire year, Yale (for some unknown reason) has decided that by December, everything is illuminated, and we can pick our own classes.
Like almost everything at Yale, what looks at first to be incredibly intimidating - choosing classes in law school - turns out to be relatively painless. I ended up going with three solid (read: black letter law) classes and a clinic. That’s right, 1Ls can do clinics at Yale. They can even get certified to appear in court (read: Legally Blonde), thanks to a special provision in Connecticut.
Clinics are basically field courses: you work on behalf of individuals (living, breathing clients) under the supervision of an attorney. Some clinics are a focused on one kind of case, concentrating on landlord/tenant cases, education issues, or Immigration law, whereas others (like my own) can serve sort of a catch-all function, serving clients’ diverse legal needs. What they all have in common, though, is the most important part: they all serve real people.
That clinic work involves actual human beings who need actual legal help is simultaneously the most satisfying and the most terrifying part of clinic. I knew coming in that clinics at Yale aren’t simulations, but it didn’t register until I met potential clients for the first time. I was suddenly very aware of the responsibility that came with my involvement in the clinic: I was responsible not for a grade, or for a paper, but for a person. Yes, I’m being a little dramatic. Being in a clinic doesn’t mean that a potential client’s future is put in solely your hands; most 1Ls are working in pairs, if not groups, and there’s plenty of attorney and student supervision to help you along. Still though, the impetus to do your homework is just a little more intense when you think it might help someone you meet next week. And the satisfaction you get from actually helping that person you meet next week? Well, that’s a little more intense, too.