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The Small Group Experience

From K.S., 1L

Wednesday mornings are arguably the toughest time of my week because Tuesdays are trivia nights.  Trivia night takes place at Anna Liffey’s, an Irish Bar, located near the law school.  Trivia night – we coined the term last December – became a tradition last semester with members of my small group, as we came to the bar weekly to answer questions about Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz’s relationship, identify 80s rock bands, and answer other outrageous questions about popular culture.  Now, I look forward to Tuesdays as a time when I can see my best friends from first semester, rehash memories, and relax, away from the Law School.   

Few outside the Law School understand how the small group system works, but almost ironically, for those involved with YLS, it is arguably the most important part of the Law School.  Yale forms small groups at the beginning of your first semester at school.  The school uses an incalculable matrix – which only the mathematicians in the graduate school could have produced – and turns our 180-person class into 11 diverse groups.  These groups take every class together for first semester – enrolling in three lecture classes and one seminar.

Members of your small group become friends, your support network, and to an extent, help form your initial identity at the Law School.  As we all enter the Law School without knowing most of our classmates, the small group is the perfect introduction into the social life at the Law School, as well as an immediate connection with 14-15 other people.  Of course, the small group is not your only network at the Law School – trust me, we go to school in basically one building, you will know your entire class – however, it is a preset group of people that will learn to care about and support you during school and for the rest of your life.  

Personally, I could not have been more pleased with my small group.  I think I knew I had found the right group when we started an email exchange in Contracts class that ended with 87 messages in my mailbox.  More importantly, my (and others I’m sure) small group’s diverse beliefs, customs, and political affiliations created wonderful, intense debates both inside and outside the classroom.  A typical example came during Super Bowl Sunday.  Members of our small group got together, ordered wings and numerous pizzas, and watched the game.  As the Colts were pounding the Bears, we made aimless jokes, analyzed play-calls and sipped our beers.  After however, we began discussing marketing schemes, and somehow ended the night arguing how Hillary Clinton could ‘market’ herself to America.