This week we are going to conclude our P.S. Boot Camp series, since it's almost the end of October and many of you have already sent out your applications (I begin reading next week!). Keep in mind that, unlike most schools, Yale's admissions process is designed so that your chances of admission stay the same regardless of when you apply, so if you're not yet ready to hit "submit," keep your finger off the trigger until you have included everything you want me and the other readers of your file to see when we read it.
You know, my Boot Camp series got a lot of buzz recently, including from some law professors in the blogosphere who felt that I was somehow maligning the legal profession (and zombies, with whom they apparently identified strongly) by suggesting that law practice might be less than what it's cracked up to be on TV, or in headline-making cases. I don't have anything against lawyers (I am one, after all), or the practice of law, but it seems to me that as a gatekeeper of sorts it's only responsible of me to throw a few warning shots out to potential applicants who might be marching down the road to significant debt and existential ennui without a lot of forethought and reflection.
In fact, this time of year always reminds me of my first few days at the FBI Academy. When you first arrive at the Academy, you're pumped: you're seventeen weeks away from getting your badge and creds, kicking down doors, and profiling serial killers who make bodysuits out of women's skin. Because we all know that's what FBI Agents do.
Well, on the second day at the Academy, right after getting fitted for a bulletproof vest, you get filed into a room with a movie screen and a tall man with a crew cut who doesn't smile. He tells you it's time for a "reality check." Lights go down, and on the screen is the view from a dashboard camera on a cop car that's driving down a road, pulling over an old pickup truck. Cop gets out, goes to the diver's side window, gets the license, and walks back towards the cop car to check it. Except that in the background, you see the guy who got pulled over get out of the truck, reach into the back, and get out a double-barrelled shotgun. As the cop turns around, the guys from the truck unloads a few rounds. At this point, everything goes off screen -- you hear the cop trying to call for backup, and the truck guy walking towards the cop car, and then, in sound only, unload again. Lights go on, and everyone just sits there, palefaced in stone silence.
Usually after Reality Check, a few people drop out of the Academy.
I've often wondered, as I read applications with descriptions from Law & Order, cites to Brown v. Board of Education, and analogies to Legally Blonde, what a law school reality check would look like. And I found it, right here:
Look -- I want all of you to apply to law school (and to Yale), but I also want you to think about what you're getting into. These are tough times out there, and while law school might be a great place to hide out for three years, those three years will end. (And, for the record, I'll say that those three years, if spent at Yale, can be amazing -- I'll take exception to the characterization of law students in the video when it comes to Yale, as you can see from our class profile and what they have to say in their own words about being here.) If you're inclined to take some time to think about where you want to go, this is the time to explore your options: practicing law can be fun, rewarding, and potentially lucrative, but only if your heart is totally in it. And to bring this all back around to the Personal Statement, if what you're writing starts to sound too much like what the woman said in the above video, you might want to watch it again and revise.
If you're still willing to take the plunge, consider yourself warned and good luck. And now, speaking of Ambien and scotch, it's time to get home to the kids.
As the plane started to shake violently on my way back from a recruiting trip to California, one of the many thoughts that crossed my mind was of the recent meditation class I took at the law school and how if I knew how to breathe meditatively I might be able to calm myself down. My fear of turbulence is a result of having specialized in aviation litigation for four years before taking this job and learning of the worst-case scenarios (none of which involved a commercial flight being affected by turbulence, but I am not rational when experiencing turbulence).
So, in the middle of the night somewhere over the United States, I was thinking of the meditation class. This semester, the Office of Student Affairs is offering a yoga and meditation series at the law school. I attended a meditation class out of curiosity, though I will admit somewhat reluctantly, as I am not a meditation/yoga person. Every so often I hear from friends about how beneficial both can be, but I just can't sit still and prefer aerobic exercise, which is probably why I would especially benefit from learning both.
The instructor took her time explaining the breathing techniques and the history of different forms of meditation. Of course, when I tried to breathe through my chest as she did, my ribs did not expand like hers--they didn't even budge really. Nonetheless, even if I was doing it incorrectly, the breathing was still relaxing and calming.
Some of you are probably wondering at this point why the law school is offering such a series. And the answer is not because the students are running around stressed out of their minds wanting to rip their hair out. Nope, far from it. Rather, it is because meditation and yoga are so beneficial to one's well-being (and because they wanted to help me overcome turbulence anxiety). In fact, a friend was telling me recently about his medical research into pinpointing the mechanism by which the body can control physiological responses, which would help explain how certain people (like those who practice meditation) can so effectively control their body's reactions in certain situations. In short, I need to become a yoga and meditation junkie so that in the event a plane I am traveling on falls from the sky, I won't bat an eye.
All joking aside, kudos to the Student Affairs Office for putting this together. For those of you interested in yoga and meditation, in addition to being able to take these classes during the fall semester here at the law school, there are also several yoga classes offered at the Payne Whitney Gym as well as several yoga studios in downtown New Haven, including Fresh Yoga, Bikram Yoga, and Breathing Room.
While walking through the law library recently (I admit I
was there for the extensive DVD collection) I discovered display cases filled with
the type of books one does not expect to encounter in a typical law library. From a distance, I expected the cases filled
with brightly colored material to house illuminated manuscripts, given their
proximity to the Rare Book Room. However,
instead of a copy of Gratian's Decretum
or a Gothic Crusader Bible, I discovered books about a very different kind of
crusader: caped crusaders.
The Rare Book Room of YLS's Lillian Goldman Law Library is
currently hosting an exhibit entitled "Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books." The exhibit covers 80 years worth of
portrayals of the law in comic books. In
addition to comic books, the exhibit includes documents relating to various
comic book-related copyright issues and attempts to censor comic books in the
The Rare Book Room, home to
the world's most comprehensive collection of Blackstone and a fascinating array
of legal manuscripts dating back almost 1,000 years, also houses some contemporary
items. It received some attention earlier
this year for an exhibit of Supreme
The current exhibit has some great comic book covers on display, a
few of which can be found on the Rare
Books Blog. In addition to comic
book superheroes like Superman and Batman (who seem to spend a great deal of
time in court), some less well-known comics book series are on display like Mr. District Attorney and Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre. I wonder if Wolff & Byrd represent law
The connection between YLS and the comic book world may
extend beyond this exhibit. It was recently brought to our attention that Batman
may be a Yale Law School alumnus. A
graduate of YLS's little-known and short-lived Gotham campus, where the Riddler
was a distinguished professor, Batman's diploma hangs on the wall of his study
in Detective Comics #439. We're not sure how many degrees YLS - Gotham awarded
during its existence, but we're guessing more than Princeton Law School.
"Superheroes in Court!
Lawyers, Law and Comic Books" is open to the public and runs through December