Admittedly, before I began law school, I was decidedly not looking forward to the 1L line-up, so to speak. I had heard all the typical law school rumors about first year as a law student: boredom, stress, tears, and sometimes a dash of terror. Well, after a month in New Haven, it has become clear to me that these fears are far from the reality at Yale Law. Despite the fact that I had no discretion in choosing classes I have found my classes intellectually stimulating, challenging, and usually just plain fun.
Like most law schools, our schedule is set for us in the first term: Constitutional Law, Torts, Contracts, and Civil Procedure. This might seem rigid, but during second semester, nearly all courses are fair game! The discretion to choose your courses is really an academic treat—the chance to get involved with clinics, seminars, and advanced courses galore.
Returning back to my current first year schedule, my professor line-up for this semester is more outstanding than I could have hoped for: Henry Hansmann for Contracts, Owen Fiss for Procedure, Akhil Amar for Con Law, and Robert Ellickson for Torts (all huge names in their respective fields). All are fabulous in different ways, each with his own teaching style and application of the infamous Socratic method (which I’ve realized is not as scary as pop culture would lead one to believe). Just like many of my other preconceived apprehensions about academic life as a law student, the boogieman stories about law school professors do not hold true at YLS.
My profs are warm, funny, and genuinely enthused to get to know me. It seems as if by design each professor employs a slightly different teaching method in order to draw out a slightly different legal skill set. Amar for example, has the great ability to tease intricate interpretations of constitutional texts out of the class. His style pushes me to think and read more carefully than I ever had in my life, or ever thought myself capable of. It’s quite a rush! Ellickson tends to channel our legal thinking through the use of hypothetical examples. Hansmann and Fiss, on the other hand, both hold class in a seminar, informal style. This gives the class a wide berth and allows students to pick up strands of a case or a legal principle and run with it. Most importantly, in my view, all my professors have been willing to meet with me outside of class in order to get to know my academic, professional, and personal goals. That in a nutshell is a sneak peak of academic life first semester, first year of law school at Yale.