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November 24, 2008
As a first year student at YLS –otherwise known as a 1L (this is a term you will get to know and love very quickly)—there are a couple things that dominate your life. Mostly, these include reading, attempting to avoid carpal tunnel while note-taking, keeping up with your reading, gchatting, some more reading, lunch, reading, finding that great spot in the library (to read, obviously), bar review (Thursday nights out on the town with the law school) and more reading.
And then, of course, there is class. The classes at Yale are, in a word, unique. There is just no better way to describe them. Classes vary by size, subject, time, and especially by professor. For instance, I have one professor this semester who loves nothing better than to start a class-wide debate. He just loves throwing out controversial topics and letting people respond to them in whatever manner they choose. Then, he helps students refine their arguments and respond to counter-arguments. It’s great. My favorite day so far was when he managed to get the entire class engaged in a debate on the role of the state in childcare. That’s not something I ever expected to have a passionate debate about, but let me tell you, it was really interesting and kind of fun. (Then again, I might just be a nerd).
Not all classes are conducted in this debate-like style though. Some professors prefer to lecture on different cases and concepts. Some just like to start student discussions and see where they go. And some professors are highly organized and scheduled. It really just depends on who you get. However, there is one thing that most classes have in common: cold calling.
If you’ve talked to other law students (or seen the movie Legally Blond), you probably know what cold calling is. It’s when a professor calls out your name and asks you a question about whatever topic he pleases. Then, you answer. Pretty straightforward actually, but lots of people are terrified of it, because they don’t want to seem like they don’t know the answer in front of the rest of the class. But, let me be the first to tell you: it’s really not that bad.
My second day in class I got cold called in two different classes. Talk about a shock. But I managed to stumble and stutter my way through answering the questions and afterwards one of my professors even told me I did very well. The professors don’t have unreasonably high expectations and they help you along when you need it. Also, if it happens that you don’t actually know the answer you can simply say, “I don’t know.” They don’t judge you for that and neither will your classmates. Plus, cold calling happens to everyone, and everyone tries to help each other out when they get called on. So even if you didn’t know the answer to the question, it’s nice to know that other people will help you out.
And I’ve got to say that that’s probably one of the best things about YLS so far. No matter what class I’m in, how the professor run it, or how much reading I’ve got to do, I can pretty much always count on my classmates to help me out. It might sound corny—no, it definitely sounds corny—but it’s actually true.