The first time I walked into a courtroom, my stomach was doing cartwheels.
Now, a year later, I can spend 10 minutes waiting for a judge while chitchatting with a marshal and an Assistant Attorney General about the last episode of Ace of Cakes without batting an eyelash. I’ve done direct examinations, introduced evidence, cross examined nationally-renowned medical experts, and delivered closing statements. I feel infinitely more prepared to practice law out there in the “real world.” All thanks the incredible clinical opportunities that Yale offers.
It’s pretty amazing to me how far I’ve managed to come in just a year. I enrolled in my clinic, Advocacy for Children and Youth, during my 1L Spring Term. I had just finished dealing with YLS’ core requirements; I had no grasp of family law or courtroom etiquette, no clue about evidence procedures or how to address a judge. I found it both surprising and sort of scary that YLS (unlike most law schools in the country, which only allow second semester 2Ls and 3Ls to participate in clinics) would allow an inexperienced 1L like myself to have her own clients and handle cases in court. I am now extremely grateful that they did.
For the first few months a student is enrolled in a clinic, clinical supervisors provide extensive teaching and support to guide a student through the relevant areas of law and to make sure they understand the basics of their role. The rest is almost always “learn as you go.” After a while it stops being scary and becomes extremely rewarding. Classes and papers are all well and good, but most people who participate in a clinic will agree that it is the defining experience of their law school careers. Doing real work for real people, and hopefully changing their lives for the better, is what most of us are here to do in the first place; having the opportunity to do it as a 1L while working with some of the most talented clinical faculty in the country, is an invaluable opportunity – I highly recommend it.