March 2009 - Posts
Whether you are finishing up your SAW, studying for the Property final exam, or just looking for a good place to read that novel, Yale campus and New Haven have tons of places to grab a seat and get down to work.
The Law School building is an easy place to study. As law students know, if you are looking for quiet, well-lit, not-to-mention stunning place to spread out your casebooks, the main reading room of the Lillian Goldman Law Library is the perfect place to get started. You will also quickly see that the Law Library's other floors are full of little nooks and crannies where you can find a comfy chair to hide away in. To fit in a quick chapter between classes, the Law School's student lounge, alumni reading room, and dining hall are all easy places to stop. In fact, you may never need to leave the building except, of course, for study breaks.
But maybe you want to get out... Other study-friendly rooms can be found across the street from the Law School on the first floor of the Sterling Memorial Library, the main library of Yale University. The main reference reading room here is another quiet, well-lit room with rows of long tables where you can plug in your laptop and spread out your books. There is also the classic dark wood and green leather of the newspaper reading room, where you can spend your study breaks catching up on current events from your choice of U.S. and world newspapers. If you prefer total silence for concentration try the reading room upstairs in the Music Library. There you can sit under a domed ceiling at a long table or pick a nice chair in the corner of a room so quiet you could hear a pin drop. The L&B (Linonia and Brothers) reading room, with walls lined with popular fiction, offers cozy chairs overlooking a courtyard. This room is a bit on the dark side, so you may find that you get more sleeping than reading done here!
For a much more casual library scene, walk across the way to the newly remodeled Bass Library, where the entryway is crammed with tables of chatting students and a café offering treats. Step inside the library itself for a leather chair and a slightly quieter venue.
If you prefer to leave the library to do your reading, the town of New Haven, with its abundance of students, is full of coffee shops, comfy chairs, and free wi-fi. The Publick Cup (http://www.thepublickcup.com/) just down the block from the Law School offers free wi-fi and is a favorite spot for students in between class. Walk down Wall Street the other direction and you will also find wi-fi at the new, modern, Blue State Coffee (http://www.bluestatecoffee.com/) originally of Providence, RI. This is a coffee shop with a cause, which donates 5% of proceeds to charities voted on by patrons. Willoughby's (http://www.willoughbyscoffee.com/locations.php) on the corner of Grove and Church streets has been a New Haven institution since 1985. This popular coffee shop also has a newly-opened, sleek location on York Street in the new School of Architecture Building.
When the weather is nice, try Book Trader Cafe (http://booktradercafe.com/) on Chapel Street, where you will find a table to sit outside and a great sandwich. You can pick up a used book too. If your reading is light, you can always grab a bench or throw a blanket down in the Law School courtyard, or one of the many grassy areas on the Yale campus.
That should get you started with places to work - now you just have to find your favorite and get to it!
I am a traveler by nature. Back when I was accepted to YLS, I found out in a phone call home from the border between China and Laos. -By the way, for those of you waiting to hear back from law schools, I highly recommend a similar course of action. Doing something else I loved kept everything in perspective!- Even when I was settled in New Haven as a law student, I was never one to stop finding new places to see.
I thought New Haven was a great place to study, but I also enjoyed all the ways to get out of town. I found a way to make a few trips outside of the country as a law student. I also had never lived near New York City before attending YLS, so this one hour and forty minute train ride brought a wealth of new streets and neighborhoods to explore. But for the average Saturday, when accomplishing my class reading was the task at hand, I found the small towns around New Haven to be a perfect change of scene.
A drive up or down the coast of Connecticut will land you in any number of quaint towns, each with its own unique character. I will return to some other favorites in a later blog post, but for now, I'll tell you about the town where I spent the most time during law school - Branford.
This small shoreline town, with a population of about 30,000 people, built around a small green, may not sound like much of a stop, but here you can find a quaint escape. Downtown Branford, about a 15 minute drive from New Haven, offers cute coffee shops and little boutique stores to stop in, some great restaurant finds and a town fair on the green in the summer http://www.branfordfestival.com). If you are like me, and need to keep seeing new sights, Branford is an easy first stop. (After this, you can branch out to Madison, Westport, Mystic or the Rhode Island beaches.)
For a typical Saturday afternoon in Branford during my law school days, my first stop was the coffee shop Common Grounds (http://www.commongrounds.com). Common Grounds may not be very different from many of the coffee shops around New Haven as a place to study, but I loved it because it was someplace new! You can also get a good cup of coffee and some fun desserts. During the warmer months, I spent a number of Saturdays studying at one of the outdoor tables behind the shop.
If I wanted to splurge on a nice lunch after all of those hours of studying/sun-bathing, I would walk down to the street to Foe Bistro (http://www.foebistro.com/Foe/Home.html) browsing in a few boutiques along the way. All I can say about Foe is that people in Connecticut really like their food, for even small little towns like this one have gems. This is one of the things I liked about living in New Haven, because as you may have noticed, in addition to travelling and art, I also love food. Have you ever tried a pulled BBQ duck sandwich? A bowl of soup, like sweet potato-ginger bisque, coupled with a simple baby arugula salad also makes for a perfect lunch. If you are feeling like a caloric splurge, try the bistro's macaroni and cheese.
I would be remiss in this blog visit to Branford if I did not mention the town's true hidden treasure. In a small room beside the green, you will find one of the best French restaurants outside of NYC. Le Petit Cafe (www.lepetitcafe.net) is certainly not for the average Saturday afternoon study break, but you might as well take a peek at the menu while you are in town, and make a reservation to come back for dinner with someone you want to treat. Le Petit Cafe is warm and homey, you are almost assured to meet the owner and spend two hours over dinner from an outstanding menu that changes weekly. The dinner is prix fixe and there are only 2 seatings on the weekends. Make reservations. Next stop, Westport...
I have been admitted to Yale, as well as to a few other schools. I'm very excited about my Yale acceptance, but one of the things I keep hearing is that Yale is very "theoretical" and that I won't be able to get a lot of practical experience there. Is there any truth to this statement?
Ah, yes. The old "Yale is too theoretical" schtick. I remember when I was deciding between schools and found myself in the company of a Yale student and a Harvard student arguing over which was better. The Harvard student said, "Come to Harvard, you'll learn what the law actually is." And the Yale student replied, "But at Yale, you will learn what it ought to be." Then they started exchanging Heidegger jokes, which I found creepy and weird so I left.
My initial reaction is to say that this stereotype is hogwash, in that if you are looking at a handful of schools in the same tier which are all attracting the same general caliber of students, the level of theoretical discussion at those schools will presumably be very similar. That is, I seriously doubt that while the Yalies are contemplating life and the law over lattes, students at its peer schools are busy memorizing the Rule Against Perpetuities (which, by the way, there is no point in learning because you'll get it wrong on the bar anyway).
But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Yale is a place filled only with theory heads. So you run screaming to some other law school, only to find out that 10% of law faculty in the United States are all Yale Law School graduates and that many of the people teaching you are still theory heads. You then further discover that the current deans -- the ones actually driving the legal academy boat -- at the following law schools are all YLS grads: Boston University, Brooklyn, University of Chicago, UCLA, CUNY- Queens, Drake University, Florida International University, Gonzaga University, Hofstra University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, University of Hawai’i, University of Illinois, Inter American University of Puerto Rico, University of Iowa, Lewis & Clark, University of Miami, University of Minnesota, University of Michigan, UNLV, University of New Mexico, University of Northern Kentucky, Northeastern, Northwestern, NYU, University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers, University of South Carolina, Southern Methodist University, University of Tulsa, University of Utah, University of Virginia, and the University of Vermont.
It's kind of like the TV series V, where people think they are surrounded by ordinary humans, only to discover that most of them are actually giant man-eating lizards from outer space, disguised as humans. In other words, we will hunt you down and teach you anyway no matter where you go, so why not just come here and take advantage of the free booze and buffalo wings on Fridays?
That's not to say there aren't legitimate points of comparison. Is there more discussion in class, overall, at Yale than at some of its peer schools? I think so -- with an average class size of under 20 students, it's natural that the dynamic of many classes will tend more towards a collaborative conversation, rather than an extended Socratic dialogue with one or two students (though you'll find that, too, in the larger classes). Are discussions more focused on policy rather than doctrine? Possibly, depending on the class. In most classes at Yale, you have the option to write a paper, rather than take an exam. A lot of students utilize this option, not only to fulfill their writing requirements, but because it gives them an opportunity to work closely with a professor and explore a subject in depth -- and possibly even publish their work in a journal. So class discussions are a way for students (and professors) to flesh out the ideas that they are working on outside of class. Do Yale students really sit around a campfire and sing about unicorns while braiding flowers in each other's hair? Occasionally. The point is that it's important to look at the real differences underlying the broad-brush stereotypes -- smaller classes, lots of interaction with faculty, celebration of mystical animals -- in making your choice between schools.
As far as the whole "practice" thing, I'm not sure where that comes from, since there are arguably more opportunities to get hands-on experience here than almost anywhere else. We've outlined Yale's numerous clinics in a previous post. The clinics, which range from direct client services to appellate advocacy, are open to students beginning in their first year; about 80% of Yale students do a clinic before they graduate, and about 40% do more than one. Further, under CT law, first-year students can actually appear and present cases in court, under the supervision of a practicing attorney. Put it this way: you know that scene in Legally Blonde where Elle cross-examines a witness and wins her first court case? The only place where that could have actually happened is at Yale. In fact, Legally Blonde was originally set to take place at Yale Law School, until some boob denied the movie filming rights here. (I can only guess that this is the same person who thought it would be a fabulous idea to have Yale featured in the worst Indiana Jones movie ever made...the free booze on Fridays helps you to forget these more minor differences.)
We Yalies are certainly complicit in perpetuating the "Aw-shucks, the law? What's that?" stereotype that seems to surround the institution. And I can't guarantee that there's not a Yale Law grad out there somewhere who believes that a tort is a rich cake with a creamy, delicious frosting. But if you come visit, talk to the students and professors, and see the range of opportunities we have to offer, you can make an informed decision about whether Yale has the right theory/practice balance for you. I just hope you like s'mores!