The Best Thing About the YLS Curriculum: An Opportunity to Specialize Early
A couple of weeks ago, a friend from undergrad emailed me saying he had just been admitted to Yale. I was ecstatic. He quickly told me that he had also been accepted at another highly ranked school, and wanted some advice on how to choose. He asked me what I liked most about Yale’s curriculum. The answer was easy: an opportunity to specialize early and dive deeply into an area of interest.
At Yale, we have fewer required classes than other schools. After our first semester, we’re free to specialize and have only a few other requirements to complete before graduation. As a result, we have more time for elective classes, research positions with professors, and clinics than students elsewhere. If you already know what you want to do, then you can just go for it.
If you don’t already know what you want to specialize in, then the opportunity to experiment with different classes and extra-curriculars early on can be even more important. At law school, you can make a lot of important professional decisions early in your experience. For example, if you participate in the on-campus interview process, you will choose which firms you want to interview with in the August before your 2L year. Where do you want to work? Do you want to be an IP litigator in Silicon Valley or a bankruptcy lawyer in New York? Well, at Yale you can actually take bankruptcy, intellectual property, and other elective classes in your 1L spring to try to discover some of your substantive interests within the law. That way you can go into recruiting having made an informed choice about which firms you want to interview with and why.
Being part of a program that allows students to specialize early is important for another reason: it allows you to benefit from the specialization of your peers!
Peers who have had the opportunity to specialize are passionate about what they do, knowledgeable, and eager to talk with you about it. They bring speakers to campus in their areas of interest, write papers, and hold discussions. They’re also happy to help when you need to get up to speed on a particular econometric technique or form of international arbitration. So, specialization doesn’t lead to a fragmented intellectual community at Yale. In fact, it leads to the opposite: a community of individuals who have had the opportunity to explore a topic or functional area of the law deeply and are eager to share that experience with others.