(203) Admissions Blog

The Only Game in Town

Brace yourselves -- I'm about to write a blog post that's not about food. 

After using the winter as an excuse to eat with reckless abandon (more weight = more insulation = more warmth, right?), my husband and I decided that the start of spring meant that we needed to find more activities that didn't revolve around food and (preferably) involved being outside.  We've had our eye for quite some time on The Only Game in Town, a "family fun center" just a short drive away in North Haven, CT. 

 

It's got arcade games, batting cages, a climbing wall, a driving range, three kinds of mini-golf, and go-karts.  We had to wait a few months to check the place out because it's closed during the winter from November until March. 

If you're into arcade games, there may be better places to go, although The Only Game in Town certainly had all the basics covered -- there was a foosball table, air hockey, skeeball, bankshot basketball, racing games, fighting games, shooting games, skill cranes, Dance Dance Revolution, Deal or No Deal, and of course those fun little games you can play for tickets that you can then redeem for prizes that probably cost the arcade a fraction of a cent to buy but you just HAVE to have that 600-ticket Nerf Slingshot so you keep playing ticket games until before you know it you've spent about $40 worth of quarters on the Buzzy Buzzy Bee game.  Not that I know what that's like...<eyeing Nerf Slingshot appreciatively>

 

But we were there primarily for two things: mini-golf and go-karts.  The Only Game in Town has a 9-hole dinosaur-themed mini-golf course that's perfect for kids as well as an 18-hole course, both of which are outdoors.

 

Because it was such a nice day, we opted this time for the 18-hole outdoor course, but we plan to come back for the indoor glow-in-the-dark/blacklight "Thriller" mini-golf course.  We checked out the blacklight course before deciding, and I have to admit, I watch a lot of horror movies but I wasn't ready to be greeted by this:

 

Though frightening and creepy, the course is actually quite amazing from an artistic perspective:

   

I'm not exactly sure how you're supposed to be able to see what you're doing, but I suppose that's half the challenge (the other half would be figuring out how to focus on the game while a giant evil clown-head is staring at you).

We'll be back to give it a try, but for this visit, we headed outside into the sunshine.  I should note that my husband and I take mini-golf extremely seriously.  There is typically a lot of trash-talking in the hours preceding a mini-golf game -- sometimes even days before, if we make plans early enough.     

 

But he and I both know that I'm the better mini-golfer.  See how my (vibrant and exciting) purple ball is closer to the hole than his (boring and standard) white ball?  I'm happy to report that I was able to back up my trash-talking with a win (admittedly only by two strokes), and I even scored a hole-in-one on the 17th hole:

 

There it is -- in all its glory!

We ended our trip to The Only Game in Town by taking their go-karts for a test drive.  I was a little reluctant to spend $10 on five minutes of go-kart racing, but my husband convinced me that it would be worth it.  I ended up having a blast, plus I think the guys running the go-karts actually let us drive around for more than five minutes -- thanks, guys!

All in all, not a bad way to spend a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.  Who knew you could have so much fun without eating?

Eat Like a Local

Ever since I watched the Hartford episode of Man v. Food a number of years ago, I longed for the day when I would get a chance to try Ted's steamed cheeseburgers and Woody's signature foot-long hot dog, the Deputy Dog.  I'm happy to say I can now cross both of those off my food bucket list.

Steamed cheeseburgers?  Yuuuuuup.  These burgers are quite different from White Castle's "steam grilled" sliders, which are first grilled on a flat top and then steamed on top of a bed of onions.  Ted's burgers are completely steamed from start to finish -- no other cooking method is used.  And oh yeah, the cheese is steamed too.  Crazy, right?   

Apparently, the steamed cheeseburger is a regional speciality of central Connecticut, and there are only a literal handful of restaurants that make and sell them.  Ted's in Meriden, CT (about 25 minutes north of New Haven) is arguably the most well known.  Ted's uses small, rectangular, metal trays to hold individual beef patties as well as blocks of white chedar cheese.  The patty and cheese trays are placed in little stainless-steel cabinets where they are steamed until the meat is juicy and the cheese is completely melted and gooey.  Ted's expert burger constructionists (i.e., the 19-year-olds they hire as cooks) quickly lift the patties out of the trays and onto awaiting bottom buns, then hold the cheese trays over the burgers and give them a scrape, allowing the cheddar to flow like a river and completely cover and envelope each patty. 

You really have to see the whole process in action to appreciate how unique it is, so watch this clip of Man v. Food, starting at 6:27.  Go ahead, I'll wait.

...

...

Pretty cool, huh?  Kinda makes you wonder if it's totally gross or totally awesome.  Either way, the hubby and I were determined to experience this local delicacy now that we were once again living in Connecticut. 

The drive up was beautiful -- it was a perfect New England fall day, and there was still some amazing foliage to be seen.

We parked across the street from Ted's, snapped a few pictures like excited tourists, and headed inside.  As you can see from the Man v. Food clip, Ted's is a small place -- there's mostly counter seating with a few booths along the other wall.

 

And look!  There they are -- the steam cabinets!  (You can actually buy your own steamed cheeseburger chest online for the mere asking price of $329.  Or put one on your holiday wish list...)

We ordered a steamed cheeseburger (sans toppings, just bread, meat, and cheese, so we could really taste the flavors of the cheeseburger) and a side of home fries.  While Hubby waited for the food, I promptly positioned myself in front of the cooking area to watch our young chef in action.  He actually moved with such lightning speed that it was nearly impossible to snap a usable photo of him assembling a burger.  The best I could do is this shot of him about to pour the molten cheese glob over the burger:

Our food came out super fast and piping hot.  I have to say that the home fries were disappointing.  Nicely cooked with a decent sear and some crispy edges, but woefully underseasoned (or unseasoned -- I really couldn't taste any salt) and a bit on the greasy side.  Blech.

The burger was much tastier.  Super juicy-drippy, as advertised, with an absolutely velvety layer of cheddar cheese that added great flavor to the beef.  The cheese is definitely what makes the whole burger, and thank goodness there's lots of it. 

 

My only gripe about the burger is that the patty, while nice and thick, is way too small for the gigantic Vienna roll that Ted's uses, so the meat is just not evenly distributed across the bun.  Luckily, there is more than enough cheese to cover the extra bread.  Cheese to the rescue!

So was it the best burger I've ever had?  I can't say yes, but was it worth $5.25 and a 25-minute drive to try an interesting variant of a burger that can only be found in central Connecticut?  Absolutely.  And for what it's worth, Food and Wine named Ted's steamed cheeseburger one of the "Best Burgers in the U.S."  Hubby said he definitely wants to go back to try some of Ted's specialty steamed cheeseburgers -- like "The Southwestern," a steamed cheeseburger with chipotle ranch dressing, fried onion strings, sauteed mushrooms, and bacon -- and I'll be happy to accompany him, perhaps with a Martin's potato roll in my purse for my own burger.  (The can't kick me out for that, can they?)

Stop #2 on our afternoon of culinary exploration was another Connecticut institution - Woody's, up in Hartford. 

As a Chicagoan, I have a special place in my heart for hot dogs (Portillo's, I miss you!), so I was looking forward to our trip to Woody's even more than our trip to Ted's.  As you can see in the Man v. Food clip (from 1:20 to 4:12), Woody's is famous for serving foot-long, all beef hot dogs with creative topping combinations -- like the Deputy Dog, topped with tender BBQ pulled pork and cheddar cheese.

 

A large dry-erase board positioned near the entrance stands ready to introduce you to the rest of "Woody's Posse."  The Dog Father, with peppers, mozzarella, and marinara sauce.  The Philly Dog, with grilled onions, peppers, and cheese.  And so on and so forth.

The interior of Woody's is what you want out of a casual hot dog joint - colorful, kitchy, and fun.  There's lots of sports paraphernalia (particularly for the Hartford Whalers, the Red Sox, and the Miami Dolphins), Superman-themed knick-knacks, and a million other little tchotchkes all over the place.

 

There's more than hot dogs on the menu, but why else would you come here?  My better half and I already knew we were getting a Deputy Dog, and for our second encased meat masterpiece, we opted for the Mac Daddy dog, topped with mac and cheese and bacon ($5 each, *cash only).  And just for good measure, we asked Woody (real name: Gary Wood) to throw in a side of seasoned curly fries.  I felt eight years old again.

 

The hot dogs totally lived up to the hype.  Both were amazing, but my favorite was actually the Mac Daddy (messy though it was).  The toppings worked so harmoniously with the hot dog, and the thin slices of bacon had reached that perfect point of chewy-crispiness.  Unlike the home fries at Ted's, the curly fries at Woody's were not a disappointment.  Delicious.  Just exactly what you want out of curly fries.

I have to say, I'm generally a fan of steamed buns with hot dogs (the Chicago way!), but the buttered and toasted buns at Woody's won me over.  They added great texture, held up to the weight of their contents, and tasted like buttered Texas toast.

If you're looking to experience a bit more of Connecticut than what New Haven and its immediate surroundings have to offer, I'd highly recommend trying some of these local specialties (and maybe running a few extra miles the next day).  And while you're in the Hartford area, you might as well hit up Modern Pastry Shop for some of the greatest cannoli on the planet.  Not that that's what we did....<look of shame>

Hey, it's all in the name of research for the 203 Blog, right?  What can I say, I'm just that dedicated....

Show Me the Money, Part I

One of the wonderful things about going to a small law school like Yale is that the alumni network is well-connected and has strong emotional ties to the School and each other.  It also means that when a distinguished graduate, like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton '73, comes back for her Law School reunion to accept the YLS Award of Merit for her public service, pretty much everyone returning for reunions, as well as most current students, can fit into Woolsey Hall to see her accept the award and hear her speak.

The reception afterwards was also a relatively small affair, which is how it came to pass that I had the opportunity to have the great honor of meeting President Bill Clinton '73, in an event that shall be henceforth be known (on this blog and in my life) as The Moment When Time Stood Still.  In an awkward and unexpected twist after introducing myself, the President generously suggested that I have "the hardest job in the world."  This was probably my cue to humbly and graciously beg to differ, considering that it was coming from, you know, the former Leader of the Free World.  Unfortunately, my brain was preoccupied with formulating conversationally-relevant sentences that contained basic subject-verb agreement, so instead I smiled like a crazy person and nodded vigorously as though this were perfectly obvious. 

*cringe*

Anyhoo, during TMWTSS, we discussed -- or rather, the President discussed, while I hung, transfixed, on every word -- student loans.  He mentioned that when he was in law school, the government had an income-based repayment program that allowed graduates to pay only .6% of discretionary income towards their loans  (I hope I am remembering this correctly...as noted, there was a little brain freeze going on but I am pretty sure about this detail).  I was super interested in this, since I've been thinking a lot about the current federal Income-Based Repayment (IBR) program, which allows students to pay 15% of their discretionary income towards their loans (and only 10% if they are on the Pay as Your Earn program).  When combined with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, students can pay relatively little towards their loans while they are in low-paying jobs, and ultimately have their loans forgiven by the government at the end of 10 years.  Sounds like a good deal, right?

Actually, it is a good deal, which is why some law schools have gotten on board to create their own loan repayment assistance programs (LRAP) that harmonize with the program.  Unfortunately, there's been kind of a pall cast around these programs -- I would say even an attempt to turn it into a scandal -- because of the incentives created by the way the federal program is structured.  Specifically, LRAP programs that harmonize with the federal IBR plan typically offer loan repayment support equal to the minimum IBR payment.  In order to cover the cost of the LRAP payments, however, schools could theoretically increase the tuition charged to students.  And since students know that their loan payments will be covered by the school, they theoretically could simply borrow more to cover the tuition.  Basically, since there is no downward pressure -- schools have no cap on the amount they can charge and students have no cap on the amount they can borrow -- one potential outcome is that  both the student and the school can pass on the cost of an upwardly-sprialing debt load to the government, which forgives the balance 10 years later.

If this seems confusing, several commentaries, like this one, explain the problem (the response to this commentary can be found here).  One solution, according to the New America Foundation, is to cap the amount of federal public service loan forgiveness to $30,000, which would still leave students who participated in the PSLF program with a significant amount of debt to continue to repay, even after the 10 year mark.  I was struck by the following statement by the NAF: "Graduate students shouldn’t qualify for more de facto grant aid than low-income undergraduate students."  ???  Uh, yes they should.  And here's why: Law schools graduates who go into the kind of public service jobs that qualify for the PSLF program (like government and non-profit work) are typically forgoing lucrative salaries -- unlike undergraduates, who usually don't have the same debt burden and the option to take a six-figure salary right out of school -- in order to provide specialized skills and knowledge that benefits, well, the public.  The public includes the taxpayers who will ultimately be "paying" the debt.  That seems to me to be a fair exchange.  If loan forgiveness were capped at a fraction of debt even after a graduate works for 10 years in public service, there would be little incentive for the most talented graduates with the most options to pursue careers in the sectors in which good lawyers are needed the most.  Considering that the few schools that offer LRAP to begin with are mostly top-tier schools, and the PSLF is significantly underused, it seems to me that the potential for rampant abuse is pretty low and the benefits to students and society are pretty high in comparison.  I personally think that law schools should be getting credit for creating these programs (more on this in Part II), instead of being shamed for them.

In fact, I'm not really sure what's so controversial about a law school piggybacking on the government program -- it actually makes a lot of sense.  We at YLS considered ways of harmonizing our COAP program with the federal one, but ultimately decided against it, at least in the sense that our payments under COAP are in no way linked to what is owed under IBR (but we still encourage our grads to get PSLF "credit" for their public service work if they qualify for it).  Linking our support to IBR payments would, frankly, be more economical from an insitutional point of view, since our current program is based on a formula that is much more generous than what would be owed under IBR.  However, we had a few reservations about the federal PSLF program itself, as detailed by our Director of Financial Aid, Jill Stone, in a recent post on the YLS Financial Aid Blog.  Mainly, it seemed a little premature to hitch ourselves to the proverbial federal wagon.

Specifically, the federal program has a few kinks it's still trying to work out.  For starters, as Jill notes in her blog post, it's a little worrisome (though perhaps not entirely surprising) that it took five years for the federal government to actually create a system to track whether PSLF participants were fulfilling the conditions it had laid out to qualify for forgiveness under the PSLF program.  Second, the conditions themselves (such as the kinds of jobs and loans that qualify, and how and when IBR payments have to be made) are a bit tricky and, ultimately, more restrictive than our income-based COAP program, which doesn't base eligibility on the type of job people have.  Most importantly (and most troubling, from my point of view) is that because IBR payments can be less than the interest on the loan, it is possible -- and likely, in the case of students working in low-income jobs -- that their loans will be negatively amortized, meaning that the unpaid interest gets tacked on to the principal, allowing the total debt owed to get bigger, instead of smaller, as time goes on.  Obviously, this isn't a problem if, after 10 years, the feds actually forgive the loan.  But if for whatever reason they don't, a graduate could be left holding the bag owing more than they did when they graduated.  For some reason this seems to me to be -- in the world of theoretical possibilities -- a more likely scenario than schools diabolically raising tuition through the roof simply to help a fairly small sliver of public interest-minded students finance their loans.  (I mean, seriously?)

Now, it may be shocking to you that I would doubt the federal government's willingness to honor its promises, particularly when it comes to paying off debts.  I mean, it would be really, really bad for the feds to just leave a bunch of people who've relied on them out in the cold, and it's hard to imagine a scenario where they would be willing to do that.  It's our government, after all.  But I'm just saying.  I'm not trying to scare anyone away from the PSLF program or anything, but it's probably worth your while -- whether your law school is helping with monthly payments or not -- to read the fine print on the PSLF very carefully and find out what contingencies are available in the event that you either leave PSLF early or the feds bail out on you (some schools, for example, offer a lump sum payment if you leave the program within a certain number of years, which would effectively leave you in the same position as if you had been paying on a regular 10-year amortization schedule).

In the meantime, if you're really not in it for the money, the PSLF program offers a way for you to make law school a good choice for you, even if the private sector job market is shrinking.  And if a law school is willing to pitch in on top of PSLF, even better.  There is, believe it or not, still a need for good lawyers -- lawyers, say, who provide legal assistance to those who can't afford it.  Or who work in important legal issues, like human rights or immigration, or health care,  Or who come up with novel and creative arguments why technicalities like "the Constitution" and "the 22nd Amendment" ought not prevent an eminently-qualified person from running for President.  Though I suppose on the last point we should be grateful that such technicalities wouldn't prevent such a person from serving in the White House as the spouse of another, eminently-qualified person.  Who could run with yet another, eminently-qualified person.  And the fact that they all went to YLS would just be a coincidence. 

I'm just saying.

Are You Going to Durham Fair?

Cattle, sheep, large pumpkins, and swine....

Last weekend, this city girl stepped out of her comfort zone and into the world of livestock, agriculture, and, oh yes, deep-fried candy bars (or in my case, Oreos - but more on that later!).  The 94th Annual Durham Fair, Connecticut's largest agricultural exhibition, took place from September 26 to 29 in Durham, CT.  I've never been to an agricultural fair and somehow, even after living in New Haven for four years during law school and my clerkship, I had never heard of the Durham Fair until this year.  Lured by the promise that I would be able to pet a llama, see prize-winning goats, AND gorge on corn dogs and funnel cake, I decided - hubby in tow - to brave the crowds and experience one of Connecticut's oldest traditions.

The Durham Fair is so much more than what I expected.  At the entrance we were greeted by a large rock-climbing wall and the "Power Jump," a bungee harness/trampoline attraction.  We stopped for a few minutes at the Motorized Event Area to watch people race on lawn mowers before continuing on to the area for rabbits, sheep, goats, poultry, and llamas.  Along the way, my husband found himself tempted by the stands selling kettle corn, buffalo wings, and giant turkey legs.

 

This woman was kind enough to show us how it's done:

There happened to be a sheep-judging going on, so we watched with fascination as local farmers trotted out their sheep, positioned them in particular stances (just like contestants in the Westminster Dog Show), and waited while the judge examined their sheep.  I still can't figure out what features make a prize-winning sheep - to me, they all just looked like...sheep.  But it was cool to see the competitors take such pride in their animals.

Then, it was onto the rabbits, poultry, and llamas.  I'm a proud bunny owner, so no surprise that this was my favorite part of the fair.  I mean, who wouldn't want to be surrounded by these adorable faces?

    

What I perhaps enjoyed the most about the exhibit was watching grown men wait in line just to pet a bunny rabbit:


I'm telling you, bunnies are heartbreakers.  I have to admit, the llamas were pretty awesome too, and they let you get pretty up close and personal with them....

(And for the record, I did get to pet one - mission accomplished!)  The Durham Fair was also filled with a lot of "largests" for me - the largest swine, the largest cattle, and the largest pumpkin I had ever seen.

   

This pumpkin weighed an astonishing 1,766.5 lbs.  As of the date of the fair, it was the heaviest in the world for 2013 and the 11th heaviest ever recorded.  The man who grew it told me that giant pumpkins take 80 gallons of water per day!  It's really quite a science.

There's more than livestock and produce on exhibit at the Durham Fair.  We saw blue-ribbon-winning pies, flowers, needlework, and other crafts.  My husband (an engineering/science enthusiast) was particularly interested in the old farming equipment and blacksmithing demonstration at the Farm Museum.  For those who aren't into the exhibits and competitions, or anything remotely related to agriculture, the Fair boasts all of the typical amusement park attractions - a Ferris wheel, carousel, roller coaster, giant fun slide, and tons of other rides, in addition to a variety of carnival games (with obligatory large stuffed animal prizes).

 

And then, of course, there's food.

   

Everything you'd expect to find at a fair, and more: curly fries, pizza, BBQ, candy apples, lemonade, and - on the more unusual side - Thai entrees and Connecticut's famous steamed cheeseburgers.  Despite the pact I made with my husband last week to eat healthier, I decided to indulge in some deep-fried Oreos.  I mean, how often am I in a place where I can get deep-fried Oreos, right?  I'd heard a lot about deep-fried candy bars, Twinkies, and other confections but had never tried any of them.  Well, this was my day.  6 deep-fried Oreos for $5.  Value-wise, I could do a lot worse at the Fair.  They came out golden and pillowy and capped with a generous dusting of powdered sugar.  And they were TO DIE FOR.  Like big Oreo-stuffed beignets.

  

Granted, I'm eating nothing but yogurt and celery this week to try to unclog my arteries, but it was SO worth it. 

YLS students with families are often looking for fun things to do with their kids, and the Durham Fair is one of the most family-friendly events in Connecticut.  In addition to everything I've described, there's a Kid's Place that has a jam-packed schedule of daily activities like hula hoop contests, pie eating contests, spoon relay races, performances of children's songs, and balloon twisting.  Kids can get their faces painted, ride ponies, and feed and pet animals at the Petting Zoo while their parents enjoy a variety of live performances (everything from country music to swing and R&B) at the nearby Center Stage. 

New additions to the Fair this year included an elephant area, wine tasting, and a wine store.  There truly is something to satisfy every interest at the Durham Fair.  It's a great way to see a different side of Connecticut and welcome the start of the autumn season. 

So, are you going to Durham Fair next year?  If you are, keep an eye out for me - I'll be the one drooling over the deep-fried Reese's peanut butter cups.

203 Redux

I've been increasingly getting writer's block when sitting down to write for the blog, and realized recently that it might be because we've been blogging now for FIVE YEARS and have already covered a lot of ground.  Going back and reading some of my old posts, I noticed that I've gotten more ranty (rantier?) as time has passed, which I attribute to the fact that I went from having 0 to 2 children in that same time period.  Anyway, rantiness aside, many of my older posts cover some of the questions we consistently get during our recruiting visits, so I thought it was worth a recap post highlighting some of the more pertinent ones to this time of year.

Of course as you prepare your Yale Law School applications you should review the P.S. Boot Camp series, which highlights some of the the things that are -- and are not -- typically successful in our admissions process.  I also wrote an older post on personal statements generally, as well as one on common pitfalls in writing the 250-word essay.  This post about how to format your application also ought to cover many of your questions.  Finally, I've been told by applicants and admitted students that my posts about diversity and diversity statements were very helpful. 

One of my favorite posts which I don't think gets a lot of traffic, but offers some insight into how different schools evaluate law school applications, is this collaborative effort between Yale and several peer schools to answer some freqeuently asked questions.  The post takes you to appropriate areas of those schools' websites/blogs, so you can get a sense of how to tailor your application to specific schools. 

As my reading load increases and the days start getting shorter (between November and March -- so pretty much most of admissions season), I get inspired to write my Bad Idea Jeans posts, which offer some honest advice, like the importance of proper punctuation and keeping your crazy under control in your application. 

Finally, I would like to especially draw your attention to the posts about character and fitness, like this one and this one.  (DO NOT LIE IN YOUR APPLICATION. Thx.)

I hope (notice I did not say "hopefully"!) that this will give you some entertaining, if not informative, reading to keep you occupied until you decide to submit your Yale Law School application.  Good luck -- we're as anxious to start filling the Class of 2017 as you are!

Posted: Sep 05 2013, 02:51 PM by asha | with 27 comment(s)
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It's a FroyoWorld After All

A few years ago, when I was living in Chicago, I started noticing frozen yogurt shops popping up all over the city.  From Pinkberry to Red Mango, Berrymoon, Yogen Fruz, Forever Yogurt, Yoberri, and Berry Chill, froyo was everywhere.  Froyo was the new cupcake. 

Seeing it as just a fad that had migrated over from the West Coast, I was a bit reluctant to jump on the bandwagon, and my first experience with so-called California tart frozen yogurt left me unimpressed.  But the taste grew on me, and within a year or so, I was a full-fledged froyo fan.  I welcomed with open arms the new Red Mango that showed up practically down the street from my house in the summer of 2012.  And when I decided to move back to New Haven, I remember the despair I felt as I wondered where I would go to get my frozen yogurt fix.

You can imagine my excitement when I arrived in New Haven and discovered a FroyoWorld just blocks away from the Law School, next to the Yale Center for British Art.  On a hot and humid July day (like today), there isn't much that beats the sanctuary of an air-conditioned, WiFi-equipped frozen yogurt lounge.

It may be a small space, but the inside of FroyoWorld is bright, modern, and fun.  If you're planning on staying, hang out at one of the tables in the back or grab a seat at the side counter on one of their funky, clear, acrylic bar stools.

   

What I love about FroyoWorld is that it's self-serve, so you can get exactly as much yogurt as you want and load it up with however much of whatever toppings you like, all for 49 cents per ounce.  And boy, are there a lot of toppings.  Everything you'd expect (diced fruit, crushed candy bars, nuts, sprinkles, various cereals, whipped cream, and sauces in squeeze bottles) and a few things you might not (tropical juice poppers, cheesecake cubes, neon sour gummy worms, and -- my favorite -- mochi balls).

 

The frozen yogurt flavors range from original and strawberry tart to coconut and chocolate banana, and for those who can't decide between flavors and don't enjoy the commingling of, say, passion fruit tart and cookies n' creme frozen yogurt, FroyoWorld supplies nifty cup dividers to keep your flavors and toppings separate.

If you're unsure about what to get (or even if you're not!), you can always ask an employee for samples.  In my opinion, you can never go wrong with their original tart and cake batter flavors.  The original tart is light, clean, and refreshing with just the right amount of yogurty tang.  For a creamier and sweeter option that's a great base for some of the more decadent chocolatey toppings, the cake batter satisfies.  Personally, I love pairing the original tart with graham cracker dust, fresh strawberries, and mochi balls (for a great chewy texture). 

See?

 

And here's the typical end result:

FroyoWorld isn't the only option for frozen yogurt in New Haven.  A new froyo shop called Polar Delight is being built just two blocks down from FroyoWorld, on Chapel Street (no word yet on when they will open):

And there's also Flavors, the frozen yogurt joint that is literally across the street from the Law School:

Despite its great proximity to the Sterling Law Building, I wouldn't recommend going to Flavors -- especially if you don't mind walking a few extra blocks to FroyoWorld.  First of all, at 55 cents an ounce, Flavors' froyo is more expensive than FroyoWorld's.  Second, the two flavors that I've tried at Flavors -- the eurotart and birthday cake (basically the equivalent of original tart and cake batter) -- were inferior in taste and texture.  Both were noticeably icier, and the birthday cake was cloyingly sweet and tasted very artificial.  Third, Flavors seems to have fewer toppings than FroyoWorld (though, to their credit, they did have mochi, the most important topping of all!).  And fourth, Flavors is cash only, while FroyoWorld accepts credit cards.

How Polar Delight fares against FroyoWorld in the battle for New Haven froyo supremacy remains to be seen.  All I can say is that I look forward to participating in the carnage!

Zombies, Superheroes, and the Apocalypse

It's officially the start of summer, and nothing says summer like a gigantic screen, surround sound, a big bucket of popcorn, and an ice-cold soda.  And whether you're interested in seeing zombies, superheroes, and the apocalypse duke it out at the box office, prefer the nostalgia of classic movies, or are looking for a thought-provoking documentary, you can satisfy your summer flick fix at the Criterion Cinema in downtown New Haven.

In a given week, you can count on the Criterion to be showing a combination of mainstream blockbusters, limited-release independent films, classics, and cult favorites.  The purpose of my latest trip to the Criterion was to check out Man of Steel.  As a former collector of Superman comics, I couldn't wait to see the latest big-screen adaptation. 

My other options this particular weekend would have been Brad Pitt's zombie thriller, World War Z (in regular and 3D); Seth Rogen's apocalytic comedy, This Is the End; Sofia Coppola's modern satire, The Bling Ring; Joss Whedon's take on Much Ado About Nothing; Dirty Wars, a documentary about the United States' responses to terrorism; The East, a thriller about a former FBI agent who infiltrates an anarchist collective; Before Midnight, the sequel to Before Sunset and Before Sunrise; Stories We Tell, a documentary by actress Sarah Polley exploring a family secret; and the documentary Ain't in It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm.

 

The Criterion is also known for its "Movies & Mimosas" and "Insomnia Theater" programs.  "Movies & Mimosas," which runs on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 11:30am, features a different classic film every week for a reduced price ($5 as compared to the $11 general admission).  Films screened in June included Sean Connery's Thunderball and You Only Live Twice.  July promises movies like Pollyanna, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Rebel Without a Cause.  "Insomnia Theater" is the Criterion's homage to cult classics, screening $5 movies like Carnival of Souls, Clerks, Jaws, and The Big Lebowski at 11:30pm every Friday and Saturday night.

The Criterion, part of the Bow Tie Cinemas family, is a small theater -- no modern megaplex stadium here -- whose mission is "to return style and elegance to the movie-going experience" and evoke the nostalgia of years past.   

   

True movie buffs might want to enroll (for free) in the Criterion Club, a loyalty rewards program that gives you discounts on tickets (including $6 movies on Tuesdays!) and lets you earn points that are redeemable for free and discounted concessions and tickets. 

And the best part of the Criterion Theater?  The array of seasonings (carmel, apple cinamon, nacho cheddar, cajun, parmesan and garlic, ranch) you can shake on your fresh, hot, real-butter-topped popcorn. 

Now that's the way to kick off summer!

A Flowery (and Floury) Afternoon in Wooster Square

New Haven may be an urban area, but it’s no concrete jungle.  In addition to the Green, a tree-lined park and recreation area located right in the middle of downtown New Haven, the city is home to a number of parks, rivers, mountains, nature trails, and gardens. Opportunities to appreciate nature are not far.

I took advantage of one of these opportunities near the end of April, when I took a leisurely stroll to the Wooster Square neighborhood to admire the cherry blossoms.  I have tried to make this trip – which must be carefully timed to coincide with the all-too-brief period when the cherry trees are in full bloom – every year that I’ve lived in New Haven.  The tradition began during my first year of law school when, around the second week of April, all students received an out-of-the-blue email from Rob Harrison, one of the legal writing instructors at Yale Law School, informing us that Wooster Square was awash in an explosion of cherry blossoms and urging us to take some time to experience their beauty.  Rob’s email contained detailed descriptions of where to go to see the best blossoms.

While it’s difficult to predict exactly when the peak bloom time will be in a given year, generally the cherry trees are at their best in early to mid-April.  If that’s not precise enough for you, you’re in luck because two Wooster Square residents maintain ablog where they provide daily updates on the state of the blossoms.  According to their blog, this year’s peak occurred on April 21, 2013.  I happened to choose April 20 to view the blossoms – not too shabby for someone who was just guessing as to when would be the best time to go!

To enjoy this amazing sight, just walk southeast and then east down Chapel Street until you hit the cherry-tree-lined Wooster Square Park.  Don’t be surprised if you’re not the only one who has decided to make this trek – the cherry blossoms bring plenty of families, picnickers, budding photographers (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun!), and runners to the area.

      

At some point, walk up Academy Street, turn right onto Greene Street, and then left onto Hughes Place.

      

At Hughes Place, you’ll find the most amazing canopy of pink and white blossoms.  Take your time and stroll through the tunnel, look up into a sky of petals, and make sure to snap some pictures to send to your friends and family who aren’t lucky enough to live in New Haven!

  

Sometimes (but sadly, not always) the peak bloom time coincides with the annual Wooster Square Cherry Blossom Festival, a now 40-year-old celebration that draws a crowd of over 6,000 and features concerts, local food vendors and artists, arts and crafts for adults and children, games and face painting, and a pet-friendly area.  This year, the festival and the peak were about a week apart . . . but you can never have enough reasons to visit Wooster Square (um, Pepe’s pizza anyone?), and of course there’s always next year!

You’ll surely have worked up an appetite taking in the breathtaking beauty of the Wooster Square cherry blossoms (or is that just me and my obsession with food?), so make the most of the fact that you’re in New Haven’s Little Italy and grab an afternoon treat atLucibello’s Italian Pastry Shop.

  

From Hughes Place, you’re only a couple of blocks away from Lucibello’s (which also happens to be just a 10-minute walk from the Law School!), where you’ll find an array of delectable handmade Italian cookies and pastries.

  

At Lucibello’s, the display cases are filled with all manner of powdered sugar-dusted, cream- and custard-filled goodies.  Everything from traditional cannoli to eclairs and napoleons to sfogliatelle (flaky, clam-shaped pastries filled with ricotta cheese).

    

In the dessert world, cannoli happen to be a favorite of mine (as will attest the pint of Limited Edition Ben & Jerry’s Cannoli ice cream currently sitting in my freezer), so ordering a cannolo was a no-brainer.  I also chose a bocconotto (sometimes called a “bogonut”) – a small pie-like pastry filled with custard.  Both were placed in – what else? – a white pastry box tied with that iconic red-and-white string.

Lucibello’s is well known for their cannoli.  Mine had a thin and super crispy shell (not the least bit soggy, as is the problem with many cannoli) that was buttery, flaky, and had a hint of cinnamon.

My only complaint was that the shell was a tad overcooked for my taste, but it still had great flavor, particularly when paired with Lucibello’s amazing ricotta filling, which – to borrow a phrase from Emeril – would make the bumper of a car taste good. This was definitely one of the best cannoli fillings I’ve ever had: creamy, smooth, luxurious, and dotted with just the right amount of evenly interspersed chocolate chips.  What I liked most about the filling was that it wasn’t overly sweet – it actually had a slight savoriness to it, so that I could actually tell it was ricotta.  The savoriness was balanced by the smattering of chocolate chips and dusting of powdered sugar.

Next up: the bocconotto.

  

First of all, the portion was gigantic – way too big for me to finish after just having polished off a cannolo.  The bocconotto combines a crumbly and tender shell (slightly lemony in flavor) that’s almost a cross between cake and pie crust with a dense vanilla custard.  If you prefer looser custard fillings that more closely resemble the inside of a Boston Cream donut or a Hostess vanilla pudding pie, then Lucibello’s bocconotti may not be for you.  This particular custard is thick and firm, with more of a paste consistency, making for an extremely satiating dessert.  I was surprised by how refreshing it was to eat this pastry, due most likely to the pleasant coldness of the custard.

And thus concluded my lovely spring afternoon in Wooster Square.  All I can say now is, bring on the summer!

Posted: May 20 2013, 11:56 AM by Sue | with 1 comment(s)
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Can I Get Some Fries with That Shakespeare?

Thursday night is date night.  It’s a tradition that my husband and I started in 2009, shortly after I signed my life away to began working for a big law firm, as a way for us to make sure we spent some quality time together at least once a week.  Now that I’m working in higher education, we admittedly don’t have the same need for a designated date night, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

For our most recent date night, we decided to do something pretty unconventional for us and take in a play at the Yale Repertory Theatre – specifically, a production of Hamlet directed by James Bundy and starring Yale College and School of Drama alum Paul Giamatti.  Neither of us is particularly big on theater (I suspect that for my husband, it has something to do with all of the cringeworthy plays and musicals that his high school students have made him attend over the years…), but we do like to try new things and we’re both fans of Shakespeare, so we were pretty excited about our first Yale Rep experience.

Of course, dinner and a show go together like YLS and “virtual grades,” so we figured, what more appropriate way to whet our appetites for Shakespeare than with a meal at Shake Shack?  The bard and the burger.  A winning recipe for date night, to be sure.

 

And so our evening began with a visit to Louis’ Lunch’s newest competitor, the ever-popular burger-fry-and-shake chain conceived by NYC restaurateur Danny Meyer.  For those of you who may not be familiar with Shake Shack, it’s a restaurant that is known as much for its food as for its commitment to the environment.  Shake Shack prides itself on using beef that is all-natural, hormone- and antibiotic-free, vegetarian fed, humanely raised, and source-verified.  Other ingredients are locally sourced from artisanal producers whenever possible.  Each Shake Shack restaurant is built from recycled and sustainable materials (e.g., the wooden walls of the New Haven Shack are made from the Yale Bowl’s old bleacher seats) and uses LED lighting and energy-efficient kitchen equipment.  To further reduce its footprint, Shake Shack offsets its electric usage through wind power and Renewable Energy Certificates, reuses its cooking oil to produce clean energy, and composts its food.

   

I should note – though this is a bit of a tangent – that one of the most interesting panel discussions I attended at the Law School this year featured Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti.  The panel, which was presented by the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy, Yale Environmental Law Association, and the Yale Sustainable Food Project, was called “Health, Safety and Sustainability in the Modern Food System.”  Like every event at YLS, it was accompanied by free food.  In this case, it was – what else? – burgers and milkshakes from Shake Shack.

On this particular visit to the Shack, my husband and I kept it simple and ordered a hamburger (me), a double ShackBurger (him), and a black and white milkshake (to share).  I won’t go into an in-depth review of our meal, but here’s an interesting attempt to compare Shake Shack to other burger favorites In-N-Out and Five Guys.

Suffice it to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my burger, which was griddle-smashed (but still juicy) and seared to perfection in the signature Shake Shack way.  Just look at that deep brown, all-over crust!

My husband’s burger was also juicy and cooked well, though he felt that with the double cheeseburger, there was just too much meat and that a single probably had the right ratio of beef to bun (proving once again that wives know better!).

The black and white shake, which I thought was going to be a half chocolate/half vanilla shake but tasted more like a vanilla shake with chocolate syrup, was creamy not icy and had just the right thickness.  But a bit pricey at $5, if you ask me.

To cap off the meal, we ordered one of the three “concretes” (frozen custard blended with tasty mix-ins) that Shake Shack specifically customized for its New Haven location.  The Elm City Coffee Break is a heavenly combination of vanilla custard, coffee cake marshmallow sauce, and pecan shortbread.  We did have to do some additional mixing of our own to evenly distribute the sauce and the shortbread, which had mostly collected in a pool in the center of the custard, but it was worth the effort.  The concrete had a great cinnamon flavor and really tasted like what you’d think coffee cake would taste like if it were reincarnated as a frozen custard.  As an added bonus, we had the satisfaction of knowing that 5% of sales from the Elm City Coffee Break concrete go toward Solar Youth, a non-profit that empowers youth through environmental exploration, leadership, and community service.

With Act I of date night already a success, we continued on to Act II, which took place at the University Theatre on York Street.

Given that this is not the first 203 Blog entry on the Yale Repertory Theatre, I won’t say too much about the theatre itself and its illustrious history.  I will say that my husband and I were not the only ones who were interested in catching this particular production of Hamlet, which sold out its entire run from March 15 to April 13.  (And if the traffic on the Wall regarding Hamlet tickets was any indication, almost every YLS student saw the play as well!)

I’ll leave the formal theatrical review to the pros, but for us, Bundy’s Hamlet – a modern adaptation of the 400-year-old play – was intriguing and entertaining.  When Hamlet delivers his famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy, he is wearing blue boxer shorts, a long plaid bathrobe, and argyle socks with house slippers – all part of his plan to put on an “antic disposition.”  He later trades in these dowdy clothes for a tuxedo and red Converse high-top sneakers, as he attends the play intended to reveal his uncle Claudius’s murderous actions.

Although it was a little difficult to buy into a Hamlet who was almost as old as his mother and twice the age of his love interest, Giamatti’s impassioned acting and his creative – and often unexpected –  injection of humor into Hamlet’s character made up for the dissonance.  (When he first sees his best friend, Horatio, Hamlet expresses his exuberance by jumping into Horatio’s arms and wrapping his legs around Horatio’s waist!)

Again, we’re no theater buffs, but we enjoyed ourselves so much that by the end of the evening, my husband and I were wondering whether we might want to make date nights at the Yale Rep more of a regular thing.  Yale University students get a discount on season passes, so think about getting yours for the 2013-14 season!  Shake Shack meal (unfortunately) not included.

Basil Restaurant: A Pan-Asian Paradise

I’ll cut to the chase.  Here’s what I love about the food at Basil Restaurant: it’s fast, it’s cheap, it’s tasty, and it’s diverse.  For the law student on a budget, you really can’t ask for much more.

Basil is a relative newcomer to the well-established Asian food scene in New Haven, but it is, at least in my opinion, a welcome addition.  Let’s be clear – we’re not talking about fine dining here.  If you’re looking for a more upscale or gourmet place to enjoy Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or Malaysian cuisine, you should head to one of the pricier restaurants in the Have (e.g., Kudeta, Miso, and Bentara).  But we’re also not talking about some greasy spoon with food that would only pass as edible when you’ve got $5 in your pocket and a bad case of the 2am munchies.  Basil hits the sweet spot of providing an insanely wide array of perfectly delicious, fresh food at affordable prices in a clean and neat environment.

Let’s start with the menu, which shows why Basil is truly a Pan-Asian paradise with something for everyone.  There are over 180 items on Basil’s menu, which spans the cuisines of China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia.  Entrée categories range from stir-fried noodles and chow fun to yaki udon to Thai-style curries to noodle soups to a variety of specials and dishes served over rice.  Almost everything can be made with your choice of noodle (chow fun, rice noodle, Cantonese noodle, lo mein, udon, wide egg noodle, or glass noodle), rice (white or brown), or protein (tofu, chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp), allowing for seemingly endless combinations.  And most entrees are moderately priced between $4.50 and $7.95, with the average entrée coming in at around $6.50.  Specials like the beef rendang casserole or the ½ roast duck are the priciest items on the menu and will set you back $13.95.

What I love most about Basil is the selection of appetizers – scallion pancake, steamed or pan-fried dumplings, pork shumai, turnip cake, vegetable spring rolls, chicken satay, and (my personal favorite!) roti canai, among others.  Grab a few friends and order a few of these small plates, from $2.95 to $5.50, and you’ve got a great weekend dim sum experience.

And of course, to round out the menu, in addition to staples like Thai iced tea and coffee (also moderately priced at $1.95), Basil offers 23 different kinds of boba tea, from the milky to the fruity, at $2.95 each, with the option to add toppings such as yogurt popping boba, mixed fruit jelly, or coffee jelly for an extra $0.50.

On my most recent visit to Basil, I started off with the roast pork bun appetizer (a pair of buns for $3.25) and, given the name of the restaurant, I thought it only appropriate to order the basil chicken (with brown rice) for my entrée.

The food at Basil always comes out fast and piping hot, and this visit was no exception.  My pork buns came out steaming hot in their little metal steam basket – too hot to handle, actually, and it took some serious willpower to wait for them to cool down enough for me to grab and open them up.  Fortunately, it was worth the wait.  The pork buns were white and plump and pillowy, with a slightly chewy exterior and a super soft and doughy interior.  They were filled with a modest amount of sweet, tender, bbq roast pork – we’re not talking bursting at the seams with filling here, just the right amount to complement the bun (which had a great, almost buttery flavor) but not overshadow it.  My kind of comfort food.

 

As I was savoring the last few bites of my first pork bun, a steaming plate of basil chicken with a mound of brown rice appeared before me.  Thin slices of white meat chicken, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, and onions – all nicely seared and caramelized – came together with sweet, minty Thai basil in a savory sauce.  The ingredients were fresh, the vegetables weren’t cooked to death and still maintained their color and crispness, and the dish wasn’t greasy or drowning in sauce, as is often the case at cheap noodle houses.

 

With my entrée costing just $6.50, my total with tax came to a mere $10.37.  And with Basil’s generous portions and my limited stomach capacity, I even had a decent amount left over for my next meal.  WIN.

Some of the other appetizers I’d recommend at Basil are the roti canai (a must-order!) and the scallion pancake.  Roti canai is a circular Indonesian/Malasian flatbread that is usually made with ghee (clarified butter), brushed with oil and then grilled on a flat top and served with a curry dipping sauce.  Basil’s roti canai – the most affordable appetizer at $2.95 – is hot, flaky, and buttery, and the coconot curry sauce is mildly spicy with delicious, small chunks of potato.  It’s so good, you’ll want to skip the sharing and have one all to yourself.

The scallion pancake ($3.50), served with a soy dipping sauce, is another cheap but very satisfying appetizer.  Basil’s version is super crispy on the outside with layers of chewy goodness on the inside and a delicate onion flavor throughout.

On the entrée side, my husband, a spice fanatic, has enjoyed the curry tofu noodle soup ($5.95) – a deep cauldron of spicy red broth infused with lemongrass and overflowing with chunks of fried tofu, bok choy, broccoli, and your choice of noodles (his preference: glass noodle).

For those with a less adventurous palate, try the shredded pork yaki udon ($6.95) – a heaping skillet of thick udon noodles stir-fried with thin slices of lean pork, cabbage, carrot, and scallions in a light sauce that’s slightly sweet and salty.

So when you and your law school crew are craving Asian but can’t decide on Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or Malaysian, or if you’re just looking for a super quick, hot, and tasty meal between classes, head to Basil just a few blocks from the Law School.  Your wallet (and your palate) will thank you!

Paint the Town Red (or Green, or Blue...)

A few weeks ago, I mentioned (with great trepidation) that Asha and I would be taking a BYOB painting class together.  Well, we did it.  And it was pretty freaking awesome.

Here's the backstory: this past fall, Asha found a Groupon deal for a three-hour BYOB art class at Art Plus Studio (f.k.a. “Art with a Twist”), conveniently located just four and a half blocks from the Law School.  Seeing as how I am (1) a teetotaler and (2) a terrible artist, I couldn't imagine anything more up my alley.  Well, it turned out to be one of the coolest and most fun things I've ever done in New Haven, and I can't wait to go again.

Art Plus Studio is run by an absolutely lovely woman named Bella Zadore (even her name is lovely, isn't it?).  Bella is a professionally trained artist from Brazil who came to the U.S. eleven years ago.  She worked for many years as a free-lance artist specializing in city murals with a particular focus on cartoon art.  Her murals can be found across Connecticut, in cities like New Haven, West Haven, and Hartford.

Just a few months ago, in May 2012, Bella opened Art Plus Studio as a way to share and combine two of her great loves: painting and wine.  The idea developed after Bella began organizing get-togethers with her friends where they would all paint (with the help of step-by-step instructions from Bella) while sharing food and wine. Soon Bella's friends were asking her why she wasn't doing the same for more people.  So Bella got together with daily deal companies Groupon and Living Social and soon found herself with 800 interested customers – among them, two adventurous admissions officers from Yale Law School.

Here's how it works: Art Plus Studio offers evening BYOB painting classes for adults several nights a week.  Classes for kids and families are offered occasionally on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  Each class has a featured painting that participants will try to replicate (with their own personal spin, of course), so check out the monthly calendar and select your class based on which piece of art you'd like to paint and take home.  There's a wide array of subjects to choose from, including monuments, scenes from nature, and famous pieces by the likes of Monet, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, and Dali.  The calendar also includes some fun theme sessions like Girls Night Out (where the featured painting is of something ridiculously girly, like six-inch hot pink stilettos), Couples & BFFs Face-to-Face Picasso-Style Portrait Painting, Paint a Picture of Your Pet, and Unleash Your Warhol (where the featured painting is – what else? – a can of Campbell's tomato soup).

Here's the featured painting from the session that Asha and I attended.  It's aptly called “Tree and Birds”:

Without a daily deal voucher, classes cost $35/person for a 2.5-hour session (longer sessions are available at an additional charge) that includes all necessary supplies: a canvas, an easel, acrylic paint, brushes of various shapes and sizes, aprons, and hair dryers.  Our Groupon included an 11”x14” canvas, with the option to upsize to a 16”x20” for $5 more.  As you can see in the photos at the end of this post, Asha chose the latter while I stuck with the former.

Absolutely no painting experience is required (it's true!) because the instructor will guide you step-by-step through everything you need to do to reproduce the featured artwork – right down to telling you which brush to use for each component of the painting.  All you have to do is show up in some frumpy clothes with your favorite beverage (adult or otherwise) and snacks.  It also helps to set some low standards for yourself – though perhaps the BYOB part is supposed to take care of that . . . .

The painting stations are set up in clusters of four, so you can sit together with your friends.  Asha and I chose to sit next to, rather than across from, each other so we could keep an eye on each other's progress and provide moral support as needed.  We put on our aprons, spread our drinks and snacks out on the table, and we were ready to go.

Step one: Paint the entire canvas blue using the largest brush and a mix of blue and white paint.  Simple, right?  Well, as Asha and I both found out, covering an entire canvas in a single color is not as easy as it sounds.  What a workout!  I found myself wishing I had done a few more pushups and bicep curls the day before.

Step two: Paint three straight bands of equal width across the bottom of the canvas to create the ground.  Check.  This is where being an anal-retentive-risk-averse-perfectionist lawyer really pays off.  Asha and I both received praise for how straight and uniform our lines were.  Shoutout to my Tiger Mom for teaching me well!

Step three: Using (eek!) black paint, draw the tree trunk in the center of the canvas, a little wider at the base and narrower towards the top, and then add individual branches of different sizes radiating from the trunk.  This is where being an anal-retentive-risk-averse-perfectionist lawyer is a liability.  Black paint?  This class just got real.  Both Asha and I were terrified to put our brushes to the canvas, afraid of making a mistake and screwing up our entire paintings with one errant brush stroke. The only thing that compelled me to dive in with the black paint was the fear of falling behind in the class.  (Go figure!)

Step four: Paint three different kinds of flowers – each demonstrated by Rebecca, our instructor – all around the tree branches using whatever colors we liked.  Time for everyone to unleash their creativity.  Or in my case, continue to paint conservatively with total fear of failure.

  

Step five: Connect the flowers to the branches with brush strokes that become narrower closer to the flowers.  This I could handle.

Step six: Paint three birds – again, demonstrated in great detail by Rebecca – standing around the tree.  I'm actually pretty happy with how my birds turned out.  All props go to Rebecca for breaking it down into very manageable steps (i.e., first make a circle, then attach a football-shape to it, then add a smaller football in a different color on top, etc.).

  

Step seven: Add leaves around the tree wherever we thought they'd look good.  I kind of went to town with these, but I felt like my tree needed them.

Step eight: Sign our masterpieces with a Sharpie and then walk around and check out everyone else's interpretation of “Tree and Birds.”  This was the coolest part of the evening – seeing so many different renditions of the same painting.  Here's what Asha and I ultimately created:

We had an absolute blast, and now I have a new piece of art hanging in my office to remind me that spring is on its way.

Art Plus Studio is a great place to spend an evening or a weekend afternoon with your friends, small group, significant other, or (for YLS students with children) family.  Asha and I found the painting class to be incredibly relaxing and therapeutic (once we let go of our unachievable standards), so sign up for a class to de-stress from the YLS exam period or to take a break from the SAW that's been driving you crazy.

And while you're at the studio, make sure to check out the funny way they identify the ladies' and men's restrooms.  I'd post the pictures that I took, but they're not the most blog-appropriate . . . . More incentive for you to try out a class and support a fantastic new local business!

I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends (in the Financial Aid Office)

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past few years (feel free to write your personal statement about the experience if you have), you have probably read at least one of the several hundred articles, op-eds, and blog posts written about the implosion of the legal job market and law school "scam."  In case you have managed to miss the weekly proclamations of lawmagedon in The New York Times, the gist of most of these pieces is that choosing to go to law school is a financial decision akin to using your checking account and credit card to secure that princely inheritance waiting for you at a bank in Nigeria.

Those of us in the Admissions Office do not believe the end is nigh for the prospects of lawyers entering the job market, particularly our graduates; we wouldn't be in this line of work if we did.  However, the realities of the current legal job market have served to underscore the magnitude of the financial impact of attending law school and highlighted the importance of being a savvy financial aid consumer.  After three years and $100,000+ in non-dischargeable debt, you do not want to find yourself in a position where you regret your decision to attend law school.

Key to helping our prospective students, current students, and alumni understand and cope with the financial realities of attending law school is the YLS Financial Aid Office.  When the Office isn't busy handing out piles of free money through our need-based scholarships, summer public interest funding, and loan repayment assistance, their time is spent addressing the distinct needs and questions of these three groups.


Prospective Students

Is this scholarship offer from another school as good as it appears to be?  Should I be afraid to take on all of this debt?  How do I apply for loans?  How much is this $3,000 laptop going to cost me in the end?

With the proliferation of full-tuition merit scholarships and "loan-free" financial aid policies at top undergraduate schools, many prospective YLS students are encountering educational loans for the first time.  Our Financial Aid Office educates prospective students on the general loan process and loan terminology.  The Office also helps prospective students understand their YLS aid offers and gives them guidance and advice on how to compare their YLS offers to offers they may have at other schools.  If a prospective student decides to come to YLS, our Financial Aid Office walks students through the financial aid process step-by-step, helps them understand the different types of loan products available, and advises them on how much money they should be borrowing to meet their needs in the coming academic year.


Current Students

I'm getting bombarded with offers from lenders, what are my best options?  Can you help me budget?  Can I borrow more money?  How do I repay my loans if I decided to clerk?

Given YLS's relatively small size, the Financial Aid Office has the ability to work with current students on a very individualized basis to develop both short-term (living on a budget while in school) and long-term (multiyear loan repayment) plans.  Resources offered to current students include assistance with applying for outside scholarships, advice on budgeting and making the most of loan and scholarship dollars, and help calculating what impact summer employment and other life events may have on their financial aid packages.

This academic year, the Financial Aid Office introduced a popular Financial Literacy Lunch Series.  The Series includes interactive workshops on a variety of financial management topics presented by experts in the field.  Programs targeted at first- and second-year students focus on effective budgeting, strategies to minimize loan borrowing, and the benefits of maintaining good credit.  Workshops for third-year students assist with their transition from YLS with sessions focused on choosing the right federal loan repayment plan specific to their needs, effective participation in our own loan repayment program, COAP, and an overview of "real world" finances (retirement, insurance, investment options).

Third-year students can also take advantage of comprehensive exit counseling sessions offered by the Financial Aid Office.  In these sessions students' entire loan portfolios are reviewed,  their projected loan payments under the various federal repayment plans are compared, and their estimated COAP support is graphed over a ten-year eligibility period.   Third-year students can also take advantage of a complimentary consultation with a financial planner to discuss their broader fiscal strategies beyond their loan repayment. 


Alumni

Can I re-enroll in COAP?  I'm thinking about changing careers; what does this mean for my loans?  How can I save for retirement, have children, and still repay my loans?  Does this new federal repayment program make sense for me?

Our students' access to the resources of the Financial Aid Office doesn't end at their commencement ceremonies.  Because of YLS's commitment to supporting our graduates' career paths through COAP, the Office naturally keeps in close contact with our alumni through COAP's ten-year eligibility period.  Additionally, graduates are encouraged take advantage of the advice and support offered by our Financial Aid Office to discuss the effects of changes in life and financial circumstances on their loans.


Law school still makes sense for a lot people and our students have weathered the legal employment hellscape especially well.  You just need to understand fully the financial responsibility you're taking on and equip yourself with the tools to navigate the financial realities of being a law student and lawyer.  You can survive the lawpocalypse with a little help from your friends in the YLS Financial Aid Office.

Hungry with a Chance of Meatballs

A few months ago, I stumbled upon – and blogged about – Sababa, a recently-opened falafel/shawarma shop in the mix-and-match style of Chipotle.  Well, there’s another new kid on the block that lets you pick and choose how you want your entrée, what you want in it, and how you want to top it.

New Haven Meatball House's website advertises, “Four types of balls, four types of sauces, and three ways to eat them.”  It’s that simple.  Choose your meatball (beef, pork, chicken, or vegetable); choose your sauce (traditional tomato, creamy parmesan, spinach pesto, or mushroom); then decide whether you want your meatballs served over a starch (black garlic mashed potatoes, spaghetti, rigatoni, or mac & cheese), as a slider on a brioche bun, or as a full-size brioche sandwich topped with your choice of melted cheese.

   

Less than four blocks from the Law School, NHMH has only been open since August of last year, but it has already created a buzz among local diners.  I’d heard that it can be hard to get a table at the Meatball House, so I decided to go with the hubby shortly after New Year’s, when “the Have” would probably be a little more deserted.  Our plan worked – we arrived at around 7pm on a Thursday night and were seated right away.

The restaurant, though small, had a warm and inviting décor with glowing sconces and candles and tones of red, orange, and brown (which you can’t see in the photo because I had to use my flash).  It looked to me like there was table seating for about thirty people and bar seating for about sixteen.

  

In addition to the regular menu, the Meatball House offers a number of specials every night, including a special meatball.  On the night that we went, the specials included a bacon cheddar ball ($7), an appetizer of a New York-style pretzel with warm IPA cheese sauce for dipping ($3.50), three different kinds of pizzas ($8.50 each), and a side of mini shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes and melted cheddar cheese ($4).

We decided to order off the regular menu to get a sense of NHMH’s everyday fare and ultimately settled on four beef balls with mushroom sauce over black garlic mashed potatoes ($10), one brioche slider with a chicken ball and creamy parmesan sauce ($3), one brioche slider with a veggie ball and spinach pesto ($3), and a side order of Tuscan kale ($4), which came highly recommended by our server.

The beef balls, a mixture of beef and sweet Italian sausage, came covered in melted parmesan and were moist on the inside (thanks to the addition of ricotta cheese) with a nice outside crust.  The mushroom sauce was earthy but not too creamy or heavy, and I enjoyed the mashed potatoes, which still had small chunks of potato to provide a little texture.  I was, however, disappointed that I couldn’t detect any garlic flavor – just butter – in the black garlic mashed potatoes.  The balls came with a garlic butter crostini which, as my husband noted, added a completely necessary crunchy element and saved the dish from being essentially mush on top of mush on top of mush.  (Note to the Management: We definitely could have gone for another piece of crostini!)  Overall, I think we picked a pretty good combination – the flavors were very harmonious and the dish was hearty and comforting.  It reminded us of classic comfort foods like beef stroganoff or Salisbury steak with gravy and mashed potatoes.

Next up: the sliders.  We started with the vegetable ball slider, served piping hot on a super soft brioche bun with melted cheese and a big dollop of verdant spinach pesto.  If you order the pesto sauce with anything, make sure you like garlic because it totally packs a garlicky punch.  The veggie ball was delicious and had a great nutty flavor and texture thanks to ingredients like lentils and chickpeas.  Sadly, I think the delicate flavor of the ball was overpowered by the strong pine nut and garlic flavors in the pesto – next time, I might choose to pair the veggie ball with something more subtle, like the creamy parmesan or tomato sauce.

The chicken ball slider was surprisingly light – I expected the creamy parmesan sauce to be heavy (like a thick alfredo sauce), but it was just the opposite.  The sauce was velvety and much thinner and looser than I expected; it oozed and flowed freely over the meatball and out of the bun.  I also expected it to be very salty, as parmesan sauces often are, but I was surprised again to find that it was well-balanced and not over-the-top aggressively salty.  The sauce was a great complement to the chicken meatball, which was also light and delicately seasoned.  My palate isn’t the best, but I could taste ground chicken, minced onion, parsley, and parmesan in the crumbly (and not too densely packed) meatball.

Finally, there was the kale – one of the most popular side dishes at NHMH.  Sautéed in sherry wine with lots (and lots and lots and lots) of garlic, toasted pine nuts, and golden raisins, the Tuscan kale came out bright green and perfectly cooked (i.e., tender but not limp and mushy).  My favorite part of the dish was the balance between the slightly bitter greens and the sweet raisins and the overall marriage of salty, sweet, and sour.  Definitely a great side, but maybe one to stay away from if you’re on a date . . . unless you buy into the Rachael Ray philosophy that two garlic eaters “cancel each other out.”  (I don't.)

Although we were too stuffed to order dessert, we loved that the mix-and-match concept of NHMH carries over to the final course in the form of customizable ice cream cookie sandwiches ($4).  Next time – and there most certainly will be a next time – I’ll be sure to try a few other slider combinations (at just $3 each they’re a great value) and save room for a chocolate-chip-cookie-and-espresso-ice-cream sandwich.

Snooki and Deena would approve.

Bad Idea Jeans: C&F Drive-Bys

I find it astonishing that I have to address Character & Fitness issues every year, but despite having written here and here about being completely candid in your application, every year I come across applications that provoke me to shut the door of the admissions office and have a private Donkey Kong moment with my staff (they don't judge).

What's been bugging me lately is the very cavalier attitude some students appear to have toward their character and fitness addenda. I'm talking about stuff like (and this is an actual one), "I was arrested for possession of a controlled substance while crossing the U.S. border in 2010. I went to court and received three months' probation."

And that's it.

I suppose the person writing this expects my reaction to be something like, "Oh, OK. Thanks for letting me know." Typically, though, I stare at a statement like this and wonder if it's worth even asking the applicant for more details or whether I should assume that someone who lacks the judgment to know that phrases like "controlled substance," "at the border," and "arrested" ought to be explained more fully is probably not going to make a very good lawyer.

To give you guys the benefit of the doubt, though, I'll offer up some basic guildelines on how to write a C&F addendum. A C&F Bootcamp, if you will. Here we go:

1. State All the Relevant Facts. Here's a little tip about law school. On your first day, you or one of your classmates will be cold-called by a professor. The first words that are almost guaranteed to come out of his/her mouth are, "Please state the facts of this case." You are then expected to provide a narrative that explains what facts and circumstances gave rise to the particular issue the court happens to be considering in that case. So, if you answer "Yes" to either of our C&F questions, here's a chance for you to practice doing this. Think of it as a story. Who, What, Where, When, How (we'll get to the Why in a second). A few pointers:

*If you were arrested and charged with a crime, you should state specifically what you were charged with. It's helpful if you can indicate whether it was a misdemeanor or a felony.

*Depending on the particular issue in question, you'll need to mention certain details. For example, if you are discussing a drug violation, it's important to note 1) the type of drug involved and 2) the quantity. (I'm a former federal agent. I'm familiar with the amounts that would make it unlikely that you planned to use it all for your personal consumption.) Similarly, depending on the kind of issue you are dealing with, YOU should make a judgment about what facts an admissions committee might consider relevant to your candidacy, even if those facts don't put you in the most awesome light possible. This is about candor, not about making yourself look good. In fact, an honest, forthcoming statement of what happened reflects much more favorably upon you than vaguely-worded statements that just make you look hinky. (And in general, if you don't fill in the blanks, I will, and I will assume the worst scenario possible.)

*Dates are important. Proximity in time is a big factor in evaluating your C&F issue.  I.e., doing something really, really dumb ten years ago is usually more exusable than doing something just sorta dumb ten months or ten weeks before you applied to law school. For this reason, please indicate the month, day, and year when your incident took place, rather than saying "when I was in college" or "a long time ago." If the incident occurred soooo long ago that you don't remember the actual date and have no record of it, you may use the legalese, "on or about [estimate month/year]...." (and then note that you have no record or recollection of the precise date so you don't look like a tool).

2. Describe the Disposition of the Charge. Again, this is like practicing for law school, where you'll have to know the procedural posture of a case. That means you have to be able to describe the journey the case took and where it ended up. If you have a criminal infraction, you'll need to indicate whether you went before a judge and how your charge was ultimately adjudicated.  This includes if you pleaded no contest or if whatever sentence you received has since been expunged: both of these scenarios would still fall under the purview of our question. If it's an academic violation, you must describe any disciplinary proceedings of which you were a part even if you were not ultimately sanctioned. To emphasize that last part, even if your college tells you that there will be "no record" of the disciplinary proceedings/actions against you in your student file after you graduate, our question asks whether you have ever been the subject of disciplinary proceedings.  Therefore, unless you can reverse history by flying backwards around the earth really fast, you MUST answer "Yes" to our question. (Yes, I am looking at you, Yale College. Sorry.)

3. Take Responsibility for Your Actions. Here's where we get to the "Why" of your C&F addendum. What you need to do here is reflect on what happened and demonstrate an understanding of why what you did was wrong. Again, you'll need to use your judgment in terms of how much to say. Accepting responsibility for something like a DUI or plagiarism is probably going to require a longer mea culpa than something like being arrested for public urination (really, what more is there to say on that than it was gross and inappropriate)? A few notes on responsibility:

*You may have had personal circumstances that you feel were relevant to the incident. If so, you can include these so that the admissions committee can consider the "totality of the circumstances" surrounding your C&F issue. You should be careful, though, to make clear that you are offering up this personal context as an explanation, not as an excuse.

*You should explain how you have learned from the incident so that the admissions committee can be confident that you are not going to repeat the behavior again. "Learning from the incident" does not mean writing about how scary jail is, or how terrible you felt telling your parents, or how worried you were about whether you would get into law school. (Focusing on how bad it was for YOU makes you look narcissistic and like you don't really get it.) Rather, it means showing an objective and critical self-awareness of your own behavior, why you made the choices you did, and how you have changed and matured in such a way that, given the same or similar situation in the future, you would not make the same (poor) choices again.

I hope that this guide helps you to write a complete C&F addendum.  If you're worried that your addendum will be too long, don't be.  I love popcorn.  I'm happy to pop a bag and curl up on the couch with my cat to read everything you need to say.  And despite my former profession (or perhaps because of it), I'm actually inclined to be quite forgiving...as long as you tell it to me straight.

The Art of Holiday Shopping

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, and for those who don’t know me, the proof will be in the pudding when Asha and I take a BYOB painting class next month and I post the pictures of my finished product <preemptive cringe>.  But just because a four-year-old would beat me in a drawing contest doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate real artistic skills when I see them.

There was plenty to appreciate when I stopped by the 44th Annual Celebration of American Crafts, an event showcasing and selling “fine, contemporary crafts” by roughly 300 artists from across the country.  Held in a two-story gallery in downtown New Haven, the Celebration is an annual fundraiser in support of Creative Arts Workshop (CAW), a non-profit community art school.  Best of all, the event runs from October 27 to December 24, so it’s perfectly timed to coincide with the holiday shopping period.

   

When I arrived at the gallery, I spent the first fifteen or so minutes just perusing the various displays – which included jewelry, ceramics, colorful blown glass, wood carvings, housewares, clothing, winter accessories, handbags, wallets, toys, and locally made furniture – on my own.

  

  

While there were many conventionally beautiful and well-made pieces (like those pictured above), there were also some wacky standouts – like this necklace made out of a combination of soda tabs, Thai beer bottle caps, and creepy cat buttons:

I’d swear that those cat images came from the ornamental plates in Dolores Umbridge’s office.  Some of the other unconventional/fun items were this intricate duck necklace:

these funky felt coasters:

this set of metal figurines (I guess they’re the perfect gift for the optometrist in everyone’s life?):

these mounted hamster heads (which I was told one shopper bought and placed as a trophy above her cat’s bed):

and my personal favorite, Smokey the Ottoman (I would SO buy this if I had money to burn): 

After walking around the gallery aimlessly, I figured it was about time that I educated myself about these crafts, so I grabbed a few minutes with Susan Smith, Executive Director of CAW.  Susan was kind enough to give me some background on the event as well as a brief guided tour of the exhibition.

The 280 artists represented at this year’s Celebration were either invited or “juried.”  Many were discovered at national craft shows attended by representatives of CAW in search of talent.  CAW also receives submissions from its own instructors and students, who are subject to the same selection process as the juried artists.  Many of the artists are invited back from year to year (the Celebration turns over about a third of its artists), and the focus of the exhibition may change depending on the strengths and trends that CAW sees in the world of craft (not to be confused with the World of Warcraft).  This year, fashion, jewelry, and ceramics were particularly strong and were prominently and abundantly featured in the Celebration.

Susan also informed me that, of all things, felt is becoming very popular now.  That’s right.  Felt.  That stuff you cut up and glued googly eyes and pom poms to in elementary school.  So that explained all of the felt coasters (which I actually came very close to buying), felt jewelry, felt scarves, and felt sweaters that I saw at the Celebration.  Another big trend that was also on display was the recycling of old materials to make crafts – for example, the use of old sweaters to make festive wreaths and adorable stuffed animals:

  

The Celebration of American Crafts ended up being a lot of fun – part art exhibition, part holiday gift shopping adventure.  There is something for everyone (from your favorite cat to your favorite cat lady) and a wide enough price range (from $6 toys to $35 handbags and scarves to $300+ ceramics) to satisfy every budget.

And the best part (in my opinion)?  If you make a purchase at the Celebration, you can take the receipt to Katalina’s, just down the street from the CAW, and get a free sweet treat!  So check out the Celebration of American Crafts to enjoy a free art show, get your holiday shopping done, support a great cause, and refuel with a tasty cupcake.  After all, calories don’t count around the holidays, right?

$24 in 24 Hrs – New Haven

I love food and I love Chicago (my hometown), so I thought it might be fun to do a little tribute to fellow foodie and proud Chicagoan Jeff Mauro, who not only has established himself as the Sandwich King of Food Network, but who also debuted a show this fall called “$24 in 24 Hrs.”

As you can probably gather from its title, “$24 in 24” places Jeff in a different city in America each week and challenges him to find breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack all for just $24. Is it possible to pull this off in the Elm City? I took to the streets of downtown New Haven to find out.

First, the rules:

  1. Three square meals, plus a snack, for no more than $24;
  2. The food must begood, not just cheap; and
  3. Local establishments only – no big, national chains (sorry, Shake Shack).

I started my day at Orangeside Luncheonette (about 6 blocks from the Law School) to try one of their famous square donuts (or “squonuts,” as my husband calls them). Squonuts are the brain child of Orangeside owner Tony Poleshek, who began selling them in January 2011. Since then, they have become his trademark. Tony’s old-fashioned donuts are made fresh every day, by hand, and are shaped to reflect New Haven’s grid-like city plan—in particular, the downtown neighborhood known as the Ninth Square (where many YLS students live). The unique square shape also produces less waste compared to traditional round donuts, which require excess trimmings to be re-rolled and re-cut in a process that produces tougher “second-generation” donuts.

At just $1.50 apiece (tax included!) these fluffy, 4-inch squonuts are a bargain. They come in a variety of flavors that change on a daily basis – everything from old-fashioned cake, classic glazed, and boston cream, to decadent “Turtle” and “Mounds,” to the ever-popular almond butter crunch. For my inaugural visit to Orangeside, I chose one raised (i.e., yeast-based) and one cake-style donut. For the former, a vanilla frosted; for the latter, almond butter crunch. I’m not much of a coffee drinker, so I also ordered a hot chocolate for $1.50, the same price you’d pay for a cup of joe. Total bill for breakfast:$4.50.

I sat down to enjoy my first meal of the day. The hot chocolate was unremarkable – nothing more than a packet of Swiss Miss and some H20 – but that was fine with me because I had come here with a singular mission:cherchez les donuts. And boy were theymagnifique. The base of the vanilla frosted donut was a super soft pillow of dough, light as a feather, airy and tender, and not the least bit oily or greasy. The layer of frosting and sprinkles added a punch of sweetness to the delicately flavored dough. The almond butter crunch donut was a completely different, but equally satisfying, taste experience. It had a denser and more crumbly cake base that was complemented by a caramel drizzle and sprinklings of crunchy brittled almonds. My advice: if you’re not a huge fan of sweets or just want a lighter breakfast, go for the glazed or frosted yeast-based squonuts; the cake-based, candy-bar-inspired varieties should be reserved for those with a serious sweet tooth or who want something a little more substantial. In my case, ordering one of each was the right call.

Next up: Lunch. Every day, YLS students are presented with a variety of cheap but tasty alternatives to the dining hall fare. I debated going with one of the many $5-6 options from the food trucks and carts in the area or from the nearby noodle shops, but rather than go with an old standby, I decided to try something new. And because I’m giving a nod to the Sandwich King this week, a falafel sandwich from Sababa seemed like the perfect choice.

Sababa opened up on Whitney Avenue, a mere 4 blocks from YLS, just 9 months ago. The menu is simple but innovative, and the restaurant concept is reminiscent of Chipotle or Roti – choose your entrée type (pita sandwich or platter), choose your filling (falafel, chicken shawarma, or beef-lamb-and-turkey shawarma), and choose your toppings (from an extensive and very exciting list). The toppings are what really distinguish Sababa from the other casual Middle Eastern eateries in New Haven. There are more than two dozen different house-made options and no limit to the number of toppings you can add (well, I suppose the reality is that at some point you might run out of room in your pita or on your platter, but I refuse to face that reality). Sababa offers everything from the traditional hummus, tahini, and tabouli, to the more interesting Moroccan carrot salad, fried long hot peppers, pickled mango, and even chimmichurri sauce.

For only $4.50, I was able to load my falafel sandwich with Sababa’s classic hummus, fried cauliflower, sweet potato & mushroom salad, chopped Israeli salad, cabbage slaw, tahini, and chimmichurri sauce. I also treated myself to a fountain soda for $1 (free refills!), bringing my total – including tax – to a mere$5.85. The sandwich was not only an amazing value, it was seriously yummy. The pita bread (I chose whole wheat) was soft and fresh, the falafel had a perfectly crisp exterior and was well-seasoned, and the toppings added all different kinds of texture and flavor. The hummus was smooth, creamy, and thick. The slaw was crunchy and provided a bite of acidity to balance the buttery sweet potato salad. And I could easily have eaten a whole bowl of just the fried cauliflower – they were tender and slightly lemony. With the incredible variety of ingredients in my sandwich, no two bites were the same, and even the bites that didn’t have any falafel in them were delicious.

They don’t skimp on anything at Sababa (the 6 napkins I had to use are proof of that), and I left feeling as stuffed as the pita I had just consumed. At the moment, Sababa is only open for lunch on weekdays, but don’t let the limited hours stop you from experiencing what may be the best deal on falafel (or perhaps any sandwich) in the city. Play around with all of the different combinations – according to my-husband-the-math-teacher (thanks, honey!), there are 805,306,368 ways to build your perfect meal. That means that if you ate at Sababa once every weekday, it would take you over 3 million years to try every combination. So get started, time’s a-wasting!

No day of eating is complete without an afternoon snack, and a few hours after my savory smorgasbord at Sababa, I was in the mood for a sweet treat. So I ventured to Katalina’s, an adorable bakery and coffee shop on Whitney Avenue, just half a block from Sababa. Katalina’s has been open since October 2011 and is a dessert lover’s paradise, selling all manner of cupcakes – including several vegan and gluten-free options – cookies, brownies, bars, and other baked goods. Rachael, the incredibly friendly girl behind the counter, informed me that Katalina’s is also the only place in New Haven that carries Stumptown coffee (again, I’m not much of a coffee drinker, so the significance of this tidbit is unfortunately lost on me, but I hope it means something good to some of you!).

I perused the confections behind Katalina’s glass case and was faced with a difficult decision. Rachael’s favorites were the Vanilla Cupcake with Fig Filling and Pear Frosting, the Nutella Cupcake with Fresh Banana Frosting, and the “Yale Bulldog” – a chocolate cupcake with cayenne pepper, raspberry filling, and Nutella frosting. I was tempted by the Boston Cream and “Hostess” cupcakes as well as the Funny Bone – a chocolate cake filled with peanut butter and topped with chocolate ganache and crumbled peanut butter cups. After much deliberation, I settled on a chocolate cupcake with ganache filling and peanut butter frosting, garnished with a wedge of peanut butter cup (basically, a reverse Funny Bone!).

Now, I have to confess that I’m generally not much of a frosting person. Typically, I slice off about half the frosting before attacking any cupcake to get the “right” ratio of frosting to cake. And that’s just what I did this time around. I was worried that Katalina’s frosting wouldn’t pack enough of a peanut butter punch, but there was no shortage of PB flavor here. By itself, the frosting was very sweet, but eaten together with the rich chocolate cake and dark chocolate ganache, it was the perfect balance. I also liked the fact that the frosting was airy and silky, not thick, goopy, or grainy as some frostings are wont to be. All in all, a delightful pick-me-up at a very reasonable$2.65(including tax).

With exactly $11.00 left in my budget, I decided to splurge a little on dinner. Just 3 blocks from the Law School is Rubamba, a tiny restaurant that serves gourmet Latin American cuisine. The dining room, though small (it seats about 20), has lots of personality thanks to a wall of hot sauce bottles. At Rubamba, Chef Ernesto Garcia serves up the flavors of Mexico and South America in the form of burritos, tacos, quesadillas, empanadas, and arepas. The arepas – grilled corncakes that are a staple of Colombian and Venezuelan cuisine – are the most popular menu item at Rubamba. They’re topped with melted mozzarella cheese and your choice of chicken, steak, pulled pork, shrimp, fish, or portabello mushroom, and served with rice and gandules (a Puerto Rican favorite) and sweet plantains (a nod to Caribbean cuisine).

Everything on the menu looked great, but Rubamba is known for its arepas, so I went with the pollo arepa and, because the weather was unusually warm for fall, opted to carry out rather than dine in. When the dish came out, it was colorful and beautifully plated. The arepa itself was thick and nicely seared on both sides, topped with chunks of tender adobo marinated grilled chicken breast and finished with guacamole, pico de gallo, scallions, a drizzle of sour cream, and sprinkling of cilantro. On the side was a heaping pile of rice and gandules (similar to green lentils) and four pieces of plantain. Finding a quiet bench on the New Haven Green, I dug into my meal and enjoyed a perfect bite, combining the sweet corncake, mild and salty melted cheese, spiced chicken, tangy tomatoes and onions, buttery guacamole, and cool sour cream. The dish had great textures as well, from the creamy arepa mixture, the snap of the fresh corn kernels, and the bite of the onions. The rice and gandules complemented the arepa nicely, and the plantains were meaty and perfectly caramelized.

The pollo arepa set me back a total of$10.10($9.50 plus tax), and the dish was actually large enough for me to make two meals out of it. Ah, the advantages of being a small person! (But see Sonya “Black Widow” Thomas.) Next time I’m going to try the pescado (tilapia) arepa – Chef Ernesto’s favorite dish on the menu. You can also get the same fare at a lower price from one of Rubamba’s two food carts, one by the Law School and one by the Med School. And on a hot day, be sure to try one of Rubamba’s specialty iced beverages, like the Horchata, a rice milk drink that is creamy and lightly sweet with a hint of cinnamon.

So how did I do? Let’s review. I grabbed two donuts and a hot chocolate at Orangeside Luncheonette for $4.50. A falafel sandwich and soda at Sababa cost me $5.85. My afternoon snack came in the form of a $2.65 cupcake from Katalina’s. And I went big for dinner and got a pollo arepa from Rubamba for $10.10. That brings my total to$23.10. So there you go – proof positive that you can find a variety of tasty and affordable eats in New Haven and, more importantly, within a 6-block radius of Yale Law School.

That concludes the New Haven Edition of $24 in 24 Hrs. I’m so stuffed from today’s challenge that it’s given me an idea for a follow-up: 24 Lbs. in 24 Hrs. Hey, with Thanksgiving coming up, it just might happen. Tune in next time to see how I do….

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

An American Idol in New Haven

Finally – karaoke (or “noraebang” as we call it in Korean) has come to New Haven in a major way.  I am a huge fan of karaoke, particularly the private, box-style karaoke that is typically offered by Asian establishments.  So you can imagine my excitement when I found out about the Aug. 25 grand opening of Karaoke Heroes, the first dedicated karaoke bar in all of Connecticut, right in downtown New Haven.

While there are other bars and restaurants on or near the Yale campus that occasionally host individual karaoke nights or special events, such as Anna Liffey's or Gryphon’s Pub at GPSCY, there has been no place for those of us with more frequent karaoke kravings to go.  Until now.

Enter Karaoke Heroes, delivering on the promise of all karaoke, all the time.  Started by a Yale alum (MBA ’12) who used to be a bankruptcy attorney at a big law firm, Karaoke Heroes – with its superhero theme – offers both American-style public karaoke and Asian-style private karaoke.  The main area, which includes the bar and a small elevated stage for those who want a larger audience, is decorated with colorful comic book panels specially created for Karaoke Heroes by a Marvel Comics illustrator.  Singers who prefer to embarrass themselves only in front of their friends can, at the rate of $8 per hour per person, reserve one of three swanky, soundproofed, private rooms that can accommodate from 6 to 30 people (perfect for your next small group outing). And everyone can enjoy being served by waitstaff dressed as caped crusaders.

   

The extensive song list at Karaoke Heroes should satisfy almost every musical taste.  It includes more than 5,500 songs and encompasses artists from ACDC to Sinatra, Coldplay to Kanye, and Paris Hilton (did I really just refer to her as an “artist”?) to Color Me Badd (does anyone else remember them?).  What’s more, because Karaoke Heroes is modeled after noraebangs in large cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, the private rooms also offer songs in Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Spanish.  That means that we can all unleash our inner PSY.

Karaoke Heroes is open from 5pm until 1am or later, and there’s no cover to get in.  So you can just drop by after your Torts lecture, a meeting with your clinic client, or your journal sourcecite and unwind with a quick drink and a few songs before heading home.  No surprise that within just a few months of opening, Karaoke Heroes has become a popular nighttime destination for the YLS crowd and has already been the site of many a bar review.

To kick off their grand opening, Karaoke Heroes held a karaoke contest on the New Haven Green, offering a $1000 cash prize to the best performer.  I headed over to soak in the good, the bad, and the ugly (and there were plenty of each) and to see a performance by everyone’s favorite failed American Idol contestant, William Hung, who was also serving as a guest judge.  It was a beautiful day to be out on the Green, and a decent crowd had gathered by the time I arrived, with many spectators sitting in their own lawn chairs or sprawled out on the grass.

  

After about an hour of tryouts, in which contestants gave their best 1-minute performance to pre-qualify for the contest, the competition began.  It still amazes me that contestants in a singing competition invariably choose a song that is impossible for anyone but the original vocalist to sing.  You know what I’m talking about.  Rolling in the Deep by Adele.  I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston.  Anything by Mariah Carey.  Isn’t the point to pick a song that will highlight your vocal skills and range rather than expose every flaw and weakness?  Needless to say, the performances ran the gamut and actually included some truly stellar numbers by some very talented singers.  One woman (who went on to win the contest) delivered the most spot-on rendition of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, complete with gold jacket, white glove, and moonwalking.

  

About halfway through the competition, William Hung took the stage.  Of course the same question was on everyone’s mind – would he perform She Bangs?  Building up the audience’s anticipation, Hung instead belted out his rendition of Barry Manilow’s It’s a Miracle as people got up from their seats to dance in front of the stage.  I have to admit, it really wasn’t a bad performance.  Sure, he’s no Barry Manilow, but he actually hit all of the notes – which I can’t say was true of everyone who sang that day.  Hung then announced that he would be performing another song “that everyone might recognize.”  Cue the Ricky Martin and cheers from the crowd.

  

Hung’s performance and accompanying gestures (dance moves?) were just as we had seen them during his American Idol audition.  The most adorable thing about Hung’s guest appearance was that he brought his mother to the event.  Just before he took to the microphone, she repositioned her lawn chair so that she had a clear view of the center of the stage and then proceeded proudly to videotape both of his performances in their entirety.  With the conclusion of the karaoke contest and the crowning of the champion, Karaoke Heroes was officially opened for business.

So whether you’re the next William Hung or the next Adele, New Haven now has a place for you to work your singing chops six days a week.  And who knows?  The next American Idol could be your law school classmate!  (Or it could be this guy....)

To Market, To Market

As of last week, summer has officially drawn to a close (commence weeping).

When I reminisce about summer, one of the things I appreciate the most is the reappearance of farmers’ markets offering fresh, locally grown produce at affordable prices. I have to admit, I never visited farmers’ markets when I was a law student at Yale, mostly because my diet consisted of (1) sandwiches from the dining hall, (2) frozen dinners, (3) free food from all of the journal/student organization/just-an-excuse-for-free-food meetings at the law school, and (4) food at The Table left over from said meetings. [Law Tip of the Day: If you want to sound like an attorney, just start using phrases like “said ______ ,” “on or about,” and “pursuant to."] But as I’ve spent more time over the last few years learning and practicing the fabulous art of cooking, I’ve gained quite an appreciation for beautiful, fresh produce. Luckily, there are a variety of farmers’ markets within walking distance of the law school, and now that I’m back in New Haven, I certainly intend to make the most of them.

The closest market to the Sterling Law Building is just next door at the Beinecke Plaza, site of the architecturally stunning Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Beineckeis one of the great gems of the university (and probably worthy of its own blog post, so I won’t go into great detail about it here). From mid-June to late-August, Yale Dining hosts the “Uncommon Market” in front of Commons, one of Yale University’s student dining halls. The market is held on Fridays from 12pm to 1:30pm and offers – to the Yale community only – produce grown in and around New England, as well as a variety of baked goods.

I stopped by the market during my lunch hour and was pleased to see a vibrant selection of fresh fruit (think peaches, plums, strawberries, blueberries, and cherries) and vegetables (including baby bok choy, broccoli, eggplant, beets, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet corn, and carnival cauliflower) along with an assortment of breads, pastries, and lemonade. Eager to get my shopping on, I grabbed a basket and quickly filled it with ripe nectarines (3 for $1), a bag of plump cherries ($3.50), crisp green beans ($1.50 for a 1lb bag), and some yellow squash (2 for $1). The best find of the day was a gigantic bunch of fragrant basil that only cost $1 – perfect for a big batch ofhomemade pesto!

  

For an even greater selection of products, check out the CitySeed Farmers’ Market in historic Wooster Square. It’s a producer-only market featuring only locally (i.e., Connecticut) grown and sourced products, many of which are USDA certified organic. I headed down to the market on a Saturday morning, and even with my short legs, it only took about ten minutes to walk there from the New Haven Green. I was greeted by two long rows of tents selling everything from basic fruits and vegetables, to more exotic varieties – like kohlrabi – that I’ve only seen on Chopped, to fantastic cuts of beef, veal, lamb, and goat, to artisan cheeses, to sweet and savory pies, and even natural soaps and dog/cat treats.

At CitySeed, you can find familiar products – like apples, carrots, milk, sourdough bread, maple syrup, and even live lobsters (though by 10am they were sold out) – but you can also find ingredients you may never have used before – like marrow bones, offal, green zebra tomatoes, zucchini blossoms, gooseberries, and purslane. (Perfect for when your small group  decides to hold its own Chopped competition!) If you’re looking for ideas on what to do with your produce, stop by the Fig Cooking School tentfor a cooking demonstration. When I stopped by, they were demonstrating a creamy corn chowder using some of the fresh sweet corn available at the market. If you’re not much of a cook, choose from a variety of prepared foods, including mushroom-spinach-goat-cheese quiche, shepherd’s pie, focaccia pizza bread, and curried red lentil soup, or order a black bean chipotle burger with pesto from the GMonkey food truck. A number of gluten free and vegan options are also available at the market.

The Wooster market runs on Saturdays, beginning at 9am and ending at 1pm, from May to December, so you can still take advantage of it when you return to New Haven from your summer in West Africa or at the Department of Justice or Wachtell. Vendors accept both cash and credit/debit as well as food stamps. CitySeed also holds a smaller market in downtown New Haven (about a ten-minute walk from the law school) on Wednesdays from June to November, and several other markets in the greater New Haven area.

  

So if you happen to find yourself (gasp!) without a free-food law school event to attend in the early summer or late fall, pick up some ingredients at one of the many farmers’ markets right at your fingertips and remember the advice of Julia Child: “You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients.”

Bon Appétit!  

Welcome back!

Greetings from New Haven!  I hope all of you had relaxing and productive summers.  School has started and our new class has settled in, which means it's time to kick off the admissions season.

The school year started in usual fashion with a weeklong orientation for new students.  The orientation schedule was packed with lectures, cookouts, a cocktail reception, and a not-so-surprise visit by the Cupcake Truck.  You can read more about Dean Post's welcome address to YLS's 201st class of students here.

The 203 students of the 1L class hail from 10 countries, 35 states, and 68 undergraduate institutions.  They have lived and worked in 62 countries and read and speak 35 languages.  19% of the Class of 2015 joined us immediately after finishing their undergraduate studies, 42% have been out of college for one or two years, and the remaining 38% have three or more years of post-college experience.  They hold 58 advanced degrees in subjects that range from Applied Microeconomic Analysis to Opera.  Before joining us at YLS, the Class of 2015 pursued a variety of jobs, activities, and careers, including:

  • Microfinance instructor
  • Juggler
  • Published novelist
  • Au pair
  • Analysts for the DIA, FCC, Treasury, Center for Democracy and Technology, New Jersey Department of Education, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker
  • Shakespearian actor
  • Professional jazz saxophonist
  • Neuroscientist
  • Broadway production assistant
  • Professors of English, History, and Philosophy
  • Chemist
  • NYPD auxiliary police officer
  • Dog agility trainer
  • Economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers
  • Professional opera singer
  • Speechwriters for the NRDC and the British Parliament
  • Co-founder of a nationally-recognized nonprofit
  • Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs
  • Advocate for victims of rape
  • Airline ramp agent
  • Special Assistant to UN Ambassador Susan Rice
  • Amateur boxer
  • Advisor to the President of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq
  • Itinerant fruit harvester
  • Student who spent 17 months traveling on a self-planned, self-guided, overland journey through 29 developing nations

Visit the class profile page for more facts about the Class of 2015.

Now that I've introduced you to the new class, I'd like to introduce you to our new Director of Recruitment, Sue Paik.  Sue will be giving us the inside scoop on the best places to go and fun things to do in New Haven and Connecticut.  Be on the lookout for the debut of "Sue in the City" in the next few weeks.

If you're interested in joining our 202th class, check out our recruiting schedule to see if we'll be visiting your area.  In addition to our in-person visits, we'll be hosting several webinars for prospective applicants.  We're finalizing dates and times for these and we'll update the recruiting schedule when we have more details.  I also encourage you to drop by the Law School for a tour, starting in October, if you have the opportunity to visit New Haven.

You can also connect with the Admissions Office via Twitter and Facebook.  For a true insider's perspective on the School, check out our Student Perspectives blog, which will have new posts beginning in October.

Finally, don't forget you can email 203blog@yale.edu with questions or ideas for future posts.  We're excited to begin the admissions season and we welcome you back to (203)! 

Posted: Sep 20 2012, 11:16 AM by craigj | with no comments
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P.S. Boot Camp II: Outsmart, Outwrite, Outlast (a.k.a. The TFA Essay)

OK, so I'm a year late with the promised second round of my P.S. Boot Camp, and frankly, much later into the summer than I had hoped to be in writing this.  But I was gone to San Diego for a much-needed vacation, and San Diego isn't a place where one feels inclined to do work.  In fact, as an aside, I just want to say this: I finally get the California thing. For many years, I've been exasperated with all of you West Coasters who whine and complain about the prospect of coming out East but at least now I see where you're coming from.  I still wouldn't advise anyone to choose a law school based on the weather, but I will step up my New Haven sales pitch a bit.  I'm thinking that "Well, we get earthquakes here, too" isn't quite going to cut it, so suggestions from die-hard East Coasters are welcome.

Anyway, my goal in the first P.S. Boot Camp was to give applicants a heads up on the most common mistakes and cliches I see in law school personal statements.  It was really to help students make it out of the gate, so to speak.  This summer I wanted to concentrate on some things I see in the more competitive applications: I wouldn't call them "mistakes," really -- these are essays that are generally well written and substantive, but fail to exploit their competitive edge, usually because the applicants writing them (understandably) lack knowledge and perspective about the rest of the applicant pool.  So I'm going to give you guys a few insider tips.

In this post I am going to address the TFA Essay, meaning essays written by students who are applying to law school from Teach for America.  The TFA Essay follows a fairly predictable model, to wit: bright, ambitious, public service-minded college graduate decides to do TFA to make a difference in the world.  S/he spends hours and hours preparing the perfect lesson for the first day of school, only to find that the first day doesn't go anything as planned.  Things go downhill from there.  The problems are epitomized, usually, by one very troubled student, [insert name of student here (we'll refer to her as Tanya)], who is bearing the brunt of one or more inner city/rural social ills (surrounded by drugs/violence/gangs, single-parent family, poverty, etc.), is pratically illiterate/cannot do math, and a troublemaker in class, to boot.  After a period of disillusionment and struggling to control the class, TFA applicant tosses original lesson plan out the window, works around the clock to connect with the students in new and original ways, and even makes a breakthrough with Tanya.  The applicant's efforts are rewarded when the class, including Tanya, passes the state testing requirements, advancing three grade levels in reading/math.  The students may or may not stand on their desks and recite "O Captain! My Captain!"  The whole experience, while rewarding, makes the applicant realize that real change can only be effected at the policy level, and so s/he is applying to law school in order to enter the field of education policy.

I want to make clear, before going further, that I heart teachers (who doesn't?).  In fact, I am a total sucker for good teacher stories, particularly ones that have me crying by the end -- favorite tear-jerkers include To Sir With Love (1967), Stand and Deliver (1988), and Lean on Me (1989) -- all of which, incidentally, follow the same TFA Essay narrative arc.  (I realize as I write this that most of you were likely not alive when any of those films were made.)  I confess that many of the TFA Essays I read leave me misty-eyed as well.  This is not only because I feel terrible for Tanya, but because the TFA Essay usually has a lot to commend it.  For one thing, it is, invariably, well written, which is not surprising since most of the students who go on to TFA are obviously academically accomplished.  It is also -- and this is super important -- authentic.  I never feel that the person who's writing the TFA Essay is anything but earnest and sincere, or is trying to pull one over on me.  Which is partly why I get frustrated with these essays...I actually like these applicants.

The problem is that even though I like them, I don't get to know them.  Let's call it an indictment of our failing public school system, but the fact is, everyone applying to law school from Teach for America pretty much has exactly the same experience and wants to go to law school for exactly the same reasons.  What does this mean for you?  Well, to put this into cold perspective, let's assume that about 300 applicants every year, or about 10% of our applicant pool, apply from TFA.  And let's further assume that most of these applicants fall within the most competitive band of our pool in terms of writing, undergrad grades, good LSATs, leadership, and general overall Yaleability.  If we're conservative and assume that at least 60% make the initial cut on these grounds (it's probably higher), the odds are that when you end up in the batch of 50 or so files being read by an individual faculty member whose job it is to rate and rank you, you're in there with an average of 9 other TFA applicants.  Who all have the same essay as you.

This is Hunger Games time, people.  I can coach you, train you, and give you all the insider tips I can, but once you're in the faculty arena, you're on your own.  And if your essay is the same as 20% of the files you're competing with, the good-hearted but slightly overwhelmed and possibly confused faculty member may feel that s/he needs to triage the TFA applicants -- who could appear, to some extent, to be interchangeable in terms of interests and experience -- based on really relevant factors like the fact that you hiked the Appalachian Trail.  Or didn't.  Cue cannonball fire.

Now, you don't want to go insane and write an essay that "stands out" for all the wrong reasons, in violation of the Sandra Lee Rule.   But you also don't want to inadvertently sabotage yourself by not bringing everything you have to the table.  If I were an admissions consultant -- which, if I were less ethically-minded, would help me on the path to early retirement -- I might suggest the following strategies:

1.  Start With Your Conclusion.  Almost all the TFA Essays I read end up wrapping up the description of their experiences with a global statement about their interest in studying education policy, or how much they learned about education policy, or that they want to make education policy, etc. etc.  If your essay does this, take a red pen, slash through everything you have written to that point, and make that the beginning of your essay.  Think about it: as a TFA corps member, you've gotten a firsthand glimpse of how local, state, and national policies play out in practice.  What did you see working?  How do current policymakers overlook realities on the ground?  Was there any course or theory you encountered in school that shaped how you approach these topics?  How are your views on education shaped by your own educational experiences?  Any one of these questions could be the basis for an essay that gives the reader a sense of how you think, and what you think about.  And even if every single TFA applicant took this approach, they would still all be different.

2.  Take It Outside the Classroom.  It's highly likely that, in addition to the experiences you had teaching, you had some personal growth/reflections/self-teaching moments during your time as well.  For example, one recent and memorable TFA essay (from an applicant who was admitted) involved an applicant who was assigned to TFA in a region of the country where he was minority.  The essay described the applicant's process of having to confront and question many of the assumptions he previously held about this region, the interesting ways the applicant found of connecting with the community he was in, and how it shaped his perspective on a variety of personal issues.  Before I get flooded with 300 essays on The Intersection of Personal Identity and Geography During TFA, let me emphasize that it wasn't the particular topic that made this essay compelling.  Rather, it's an example of the Great Personal Statement, in which I was able to see the applicant's ability to reflect on his experiences, think critically about them, and come to some conclusions -- or additional questions -- about his place in the world.  Once again, unique.

3.  Give Yourself a Time Out on TFA.  So at the risk of Wendy Kopp (go Tigers!) and a posse of TFA corp members showing up at my door wielding torches and pitchforks, I'm going to get really radical and suggest that you -- gasp! -- don't write about TFA at all.  Remember that the Yale Law School application has a question (#6) which asks what you've been doing with yourself if you've been out of school for more than three months.  Voila!  You can take this opportunity to mention your experience with TFA, and then have a tabula rasa for your Personal Statement.  What do you write about?  Well, remember before TFA, when you had a life?  Yeah, that.  (NOTE: If you go this route, please do not insert your TFA Essay for Question 6.  Keep it short, mention any pertinent facts about what you were teaching and where you were, just like on a job application.  If you want to get a little more essay-y, you could try to take a nugget from your TFA experience and use it for your 250-word essay.)

So there you have it.  Sorry if this post has you tearing up your personal statement and cursing at your computer screen (me).  I'm just trying to help.  In closing, I'll fast forward to the 90s and leave you with yet another teacher classic (bonus points if you know the name of the movie). 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFK6H_CcuX8

Enjoy.  And may the odds be ever in your favor.

The Straight Dope on COAP

One of the hazards of allowing a thirty-something to blog is that you have to read posts that use phrases like "the straight dope."  As we learned from my last post, however, sometimes the straight dope is exactly what you need to navigate the law school admissions process, and this time I am going to lay it out for you with regard to loan forgiveness programs.

To rewind a little bit, I mentioned in my last post the benefit of law schools adopting policies that are aligned with student interests.  Recently, two Yale Law professors discussed this in an article in Slate, proposing that law schools ought to put "skin in the game" with regard to rising law school education costs.  Loan forgiveness programs are one effort to do exactly that: by placing at least some of the burden of paying back student loans on themselves, law schools with such programs have to take into account the cost, as well as benefit, of raising the price of legal education.  To this end, schools that offer loan forgiveness programs -- and particularly Yale, Harvard, and Stanford, which are the only law schools remaining in the country that operate on a purely need-based financial aid model -- ought to be commended (but usually aren't) for eschewing large, front-end, merit-based scholarships which are usually allocated on the basis of LSAT and GPA in favor of back-end grants allocated based on a student's actual earnings.

Loan forgiveness programs, of course, are not created equal.  And unlike scholarship deadlines, understanding them is not always straightforward, since they involve many factors. In fact, it's very easy for a school to "hard sell" you on their program by cherry picking the one or two examples in which they look better than the others based on very specific situations and circumstances.  But the story of a loan forgiveness program lies in the big picture: since  most students don't know what their exact situation will be in three, five, or ten years, approaching a loan forgiveness program from a veil of ignorance point of view is usually your best bet.

To this end, when I guide students through how to meaningfully compare loan forgiveness programs, I make sure that they look at five critical factors taken together: 1) the amortization schedule used by the school; 2) the expected student contribution schedule; 3) the school's treatment of assets; 4) the length of eligibility; and 5) job coverage.  Only by assessing all of these factors as a whole can you determine whether a particular loan forgiveness program will be a good fit for you.  If any school tries to market its program by focusing almost exclusively on one factor -- like, say, its amortization schedule -- you should notice a strong, fishy smell wafting under your nose.

I say this because in recent years I've had many students coming to me -- usually after attending a peer school's admit program -- with major confusion about how Yale's program actually works, and in particular, about our amortization schedule (which is what I'll focus on in this post -- please see here for the full details on all of the other factors listed above).  Yale uses a 15/5 amortization schedule, which means that for the first five years, we assume you are paying your loans on a 15 year repayment plan.  For the second five years, we assume an accelerated 5 year repayment plan.  At the end of 10 years, your loans would be paid off.

Why is this an issue?  According to Harvard (which uses a straight 10-year amortization schedule):

Loan repayment assistance at some other schools is calculated on a longer repayment term, such as 15 years. By using an extended repayment term your benefits from the LRAP are smaller and you will make slower progress repaying your loans. In effect, it is like receiving assistance on 75% of your eligible loan debt instead of 100% of your eligible loan debt.

In other words, according to Harvard, the mere fact that "some other schools" are using a longer amortization schedule means that you will be getting less assistance from the school.  Let's take a look at the actual numbers with this graph (based on an Yale's average debt of $107,000 at 7.9% interest):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hmmm...if you pay attention to the light blue (Yale) and red (Harvard) bars on the graph, it turns out that in fact, at a certain income (in the graphed example it is $60K), you start getting less money from Harvard than you do from Yale, despite the fact that Harvard uses a more accelerated amortization schedule.  In other words, even if you are, in fact, paying your loans back on a 10-year repayment schedule, there is a fixed income point after which Yale is actually financing a larger percentage of your loan than Harvard, in direct contravention to their claim.

How is this possible?  Well, even though Harvard assumes that you owe more in the first five years, its steeper student contribution curve means that they also expect you to contribute more.  Since the asistance you actually receive is based on the combination of these two factors, not just on the former standing alone, focusing just on the different amortization schedules is a red herring, and frankly, factually misleading. 

(NOTE: For the same reason, the difference in assistance in the first five years between Stanford and Yale  -- the yellow and light blue bars -- gets smaller over time as well, though not as quickly since Stanford's student contribution schedule is higher than Yale's but not quite as high as Harvard's.)

If you pay attention to the dark blue lines, which represent Yale's assistance in the second five years, the plot thickens.  Many students don't understand what advantage a 15/5 amortization schedule can offer a student.  The graph shows this pretty clearly.  By assuming an increase in the amount owed in the second five years, Yale's loan forgiveness plan effectively raises the income ceiling on being eligible for loan assistance.  Say, for instance, you are in your fifth year at a government job, making $85K a year.  At this point, you are already receiving more assistance from Yale than either Harvard or Stanford.  And let's assume that you're expecting a 5-10% salary increase -- which would be typical if you were up for a grade or step increase, which is likely at that stage.  Under Stanford and Harvard's flat amortization schedule, you'd be out of their programs, because you'd be expected to contribute more than you are expected to owe at the new salary.  By contrast, Yale's program allows you to not only take the salary increase (in the graphed example, up to a salary of $105K) and remain eligible for the program, but receive even more assistance than you were previously, as well.

This is important because the five-year mark is usually a critical turning point in many graduates' careers.  Often, at that point, graduates find that they have the experience to command a higher salary (even in a public interest or government job), the need to do so (because of additional family and financial responsibilities), or both.  Even at the lowest salary levels, you'll see that Yale benefits graduates at the five year point by offering dramatically more loan assistance than both Harvard and Stanford.

Stanford and Harvard might point out that if you are in a very low paying job, and if you know you are planning to be in that job for only 2 to 3 years, their program will help you pay down more debt.  As a straight mathematical matter, this could be true -- as I counseled admits at our admit program, if you know you will be in this very limited situation, perhaps these other programs might be better for you.  But be careful.  First, there should be another big "if" added to the above qualifications, which is IF your job qualifies for loan repayment at all.  Unlike Yale, which looks at loan forgiveness elgibility solely on the basis of income (whether you are a prosecutor, a CEO of a nonprofit, or a concert pianist...all of which we have supported on our program), Harvard and Stanford require you to meet specific job parameters in order to be on the graph, so to speak, in the first place.  It is, of course, easy to offer more money if you make that money accessible to only a small sliver of students.

Second, as noted above, Yale's average debt is $107,000.  By contrast, Harvard's average debt, as noted on their website, is $125,000.  (I could not find Stanford's average debt published anywhere.)  Although the tuition among the three schools is similar, the cost of attending can vary, since a significant portion of the student budget -- and what you will be borrowing -- will be based upon your cost of living.  Whatever you have to say about New Haven, it's cheaper than both Cambridge and Palo Alto.  So even if you expect to get an additional $2-3K extra for a few years on the back end, look at your bottom line debt at all the schools and see if it's just making up for the fact that you're paying $15-20K more to go there in the first place.  If so, then the "extra" money is just a wash.  (Keep in mind that starting in the 2012-2013 academic year, subsidized federal loans are no longer available, so everything you borrow on the front end will accrue interest throughout your three years in school increasing your total debt even more.) 

If amortization schedules, graphs, and math have left your eyes glazed over, I'll give you a shortcut to compare which program is the most comprehensive, accessible, and generous.  Simply ask each school to answer the following questions:

1.  How many graduates do you currently support with loan assistance?  Yale: 398

2.  How much money do you spend each year on loan forgiveness?  Yale: $3.6 million

3.  What is your average grant amount per year?  Yale: $9,809

(Hint: Stanford is roughly the same size as Yale and Harvard is about 2.5 times larger.) 

Good luck!

 

Speaking of Law School Scams...

It's that time of the year again when we get inundated with emails from applicants letting us know that they have scholarship deadlines and that they "must" receive a decision from Yale or that they will be required to withdraw their application in order to accept the scholarship.  I addressed this last year in the wake of a new rule promulgated by the Law School Admission Council, which specifically states that law schools may not require applicants to withdraw from schools from which they have not yet received a decision as a condition of accepting a scholarship or any other type of offer.  I thought that this would clean things up in the world of sketchy admissions practices.  Sadly, it looks like to the contrary, even more schools have joined the fray this year.

So let's cut to the chase.  It is highly likely that the law school offering you a scholarship is a member of the Law School Admissions Council, and has agreed to follow its Statement of Good Admissions and Financial Aid Practices, and benefits from other law schools following those same practices.  Therefore, if you are offered a scholarship and have not yet heard from Yale, you do not need to withdraw your application from Yale.  Period.  So, if you would take the money being offered to you if Yale was not an option, please follow these steps:

1.  Accept your scholarship offer by the deadline, and if required, withdraw from any school that has already given you an offer of admission. 

2.  If you subsequently get into Yale, review our financial aid package and decide immediately whether you will accept.  If you choose to accept, contact the law school that offered you the scholarship and explain that you just received an offer from a law school from which you had not heard when you accepted the scholarship, that you are choosing to deposit there, and that you want to withdraw.

3.  If you are criticized, belittled, harassed, threatened, or made to feel bad in any way, ask the admissions/financial aid person with whom you are dealing at that school to give me a call.  I'll take it from there.

The popular guilt-trip law schools use to rationalize their behavior is that allowing students time to hear from all law schools disadvantages other students who won't get a chance to receive the same scholarship if the first awardee turns it down after the deadline.  Yeah -- save the drama for your mama.  I've spoken with faculty who have served on the selection committees for some of these scholarships and who have assured me that these schools have A-lists, B-lists, C-lists, and D-lists of alternative candidates for the scholarships.  And even if they didn't, are these schools really suggesting that out of the 600-1,500 students they accept each year, there isn't a single qualified applicant to whom they can offer the scholarship after April 2?  Really?

Let's take a poll: Readers, how many of you would refuse to consider a scholarship of $150K if it were offered to you on, say, May 1?

*crickets chirping*

That's what I thought.

Before we get bogged down in "the rule" and whether law schools are technically complying with it, let's take a Yale Law School approach to LSAC's Statement of Good Admissions Practices and ask what the purpose of having such a statement is in the first place.  Having read through the Statement pretty carefully, I believe that the purpose of the Statement is to encourage law schools to adopt best practices to ensure that their interests are aligned, to the maximum extent possible, with the interests of the applicants.  This is especially important when talking about money, especially in today's legal market: with students going to law schools, taking on undischargeable debt (and people, even with a "full ride" you'll be taking on debt unless you have significant assets going in), and often graduating without a job or any way to pay it back, it is in applicants' collective interest to be able to consider the full range of law school choices open to them, compare financial aid packages, employment statistics, and loan repayment plans, and make an informed decision of the place that will be best suited to their interests and talents in both the short and long run.  Allowing students to keep active applications from schools that have not yet rendered a decision furthers this goal by giving students a chance to actually evaluate -- and act upon -- all of their options.  In short, the spirit of the Statement is to allow students to have -- as the LSAC puts it -- "an uncoerced choice among various law schools."

By contrast, policies that require students -- either explicitly or implicitly -- to prematurely withdraw from schools that have not yet given them a decision reduces the range of options available to applicants, including those that might be better for them individually.  Such policies actually go one nefarious step further: they can hurt the students' chances at the schools they most want to attend.  The way it works is this: School X tells students that they have to withdraw all of their applications in order to accept a scholarship.  In a panic, and thinking that they can get a decision from another school earlier, students contact School Y to say they have just won a major scholarship that they are planning to accept unless they get favorable news.  Basically, School X has just forced part of its applicant pool to "out" itself to other, probably more competitive, schools as students who have significant scholarship offers and will therefore be more difficult to recruit.  What do you think that does to their chances of admission at School Y?  It's not really a factor at Yale, since we have a decentralized (and very transparent) review process: we take the best applicants we can and let the chips fall where they may (and more than 80% of the time they fall in our favor).  We also offer only need-based financial aid, so we don't negotiate with money.  However, for a school that might be more concerned about its yield, or that offers merit aid and realizes that it will need to match or exceed the scholarship to land that student, outright rejecting the student might be a better option in light of the information the student volunteered up.  Basically, the School Xs of the world are banking on the fact that you'll either do what they say and withdraw your outstanding applications, or that you'll shoot yourself in the foot trying to get a quick answer from their competitors.

I have no doubt that my counterparts at other schools will characterize my above advice as "unethical," suggesting that I am encouraging future law students to break promises.  Whatever.  I personally question the integrity of admission practices that exploit law applicants' fear, anxiety, and vulnerability and incentivize them to self-sabotage in the admissions process.  It seems to me that law schools, as gateways to the profession, ought to be modeling professional responsibilty, honesty, and acting in the interests of their client -- in this case, YOU.  As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing unethical about my advice because there's nothing unethical about acting in accordance with the standards and policies a law school has voluntarily and publicly agreed to adhere to, policies that are in place to protect your interests.  Don't let a law school bully you into believing otherwise.

You could, if you are very brave, stand up to the law school yourself.  You could let the law school offering you the scholarship know that you are accepting the scholarship, but as per the LSAC's Statement, you will not withdraw your outstanding applications.  Then smile sweetly and see what they do.  Either they won't do anything, or they'll pull your scholarship.  At that point, you should give David Segal from the New York Times a call, or maybe David Lat from Above the Law.  Tell them what happened, and forward a copy of LSAC's Statement to them along with your email exchanges with the school (or your secretly recorded phone conversations -- according to The Berkman Center, one-party recordings are legal in New York, but not Illinois, FYI).  And ask them to call me for a quote.  I would looooooooove to see these scholarship shenanigans exposed on the front page of the Times, or in a legal blog.  The Truth is never afraid of the light of day, my friends.  Bring it.

Posted: Mar 29 2012, 10:39 AM by asha | with 10 comment(s)
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Arroz con Frijoles

Since I was a student here, New Haven has really blossomed when it comes to dining.  There were good restaurants here a decade ago, but not of the variety and quantity that exist today.  When I first moved back, I didn't really believe it when I heard that the dining scene in New Haven is quite good.  But now that I have had a chance to explore some new restaurants, I find that what I initially heard and what I now tell prospective students and admits is true -- there are some great restaurants in New Haven.

Recently, when I was missing Miami, I decided to try Zafra, one of the Cuban restaurants in town.  New Haven Restaurant Week, with its incredible deal on lunch and dinner, lured me there ($16.38 for a prix fixe three-course lunch and $29.00 for a three-course dinner).  After seeing their Restaurant Week menu online, I decided to check it out. 

And it did not disappoint.  I started out by having a chicken and chorizo soup.  Because I am not much of a soup eater, I was least excited about this course at the outset.  It proved to be quite delicious, however, and possibly the best of the three courses.  I then moved on to picadillo and arroz con frijoles.  I love black beans and rice with picadillo, which is a stewed ground beef dish, and I certainly crave it now that I can't get it as readily as in Miami.  Zafra's Picadillo and black beans were quite tasty and worth a second visit.  To top it all off, I had the tres leches dessert, a traditional Cuban moist cake made with three kinds of milk -- evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream  (tres leches is not just traditional to Cuba but is also a popular dish in other Latin American countries).  Even though I had barely any room left, I managed to stuff my face with the huge piece that came with the meal.  It was not as good as the tres leches that I have had in some Miami restaurants, but it was still good enough to eat until the last bite.  How can anything soaked with all that cream not be fully consumed?

Zafra is walking distance from the law school, which is why I chose it for lunch.  It opened in the spring of 2011 and is Connecticut's first rum bar.  The mojito drinks sound delicious!!  Too bad I couldn't try them for fear of having a baby with birth defects.  

Zafra is not the only Cuban restaurant in New Haven.  Another choice, also within walking distance of the law school, is Soul de Cuba.  I have not yet tried it, but certainly will next time I crave some arroz con frijoles and tres leches.

Bad Idea Jeans: The Biggest Mistake You Can Make in Your Yale Law School Application

I've been procrastinating about writing on the blog, because the more time that passes since my last post, the more embarrassed I am to come back.  "Fell off the wagon" doesn't really do justice to the THREE posts we've been able to manage this entire season -- as Craig suggested last week, "We fell off, got run over, and have been lying in a ditch since November" is a better metaphor.  But, be that as it may, we're back, and will try to keep it up until the end of this cycle.

Now, though I come up with a lot of blog ideas during the admissions season, I usually refrain from writing them because they more often than not involve things one should or should not do in one's application.  It seems kind of unfair to spring that on an applicant in, say, January, when their application might be out of their hands already.  So I normally tuck the idea away for the following summer or fall (and then forget about it until I see the mistake again the next cycle).

I'm going to make an exception this one time because I've noticed that MANY applicants this year are applying without submitting two academic letters of recommendation.  This may not necessarily be a trend; this year I changed my practice to read the letters of recommendation first, before the rest of the application...as a way of putting off the visual disaster that is the FlexApp for as long as possible (yes, I'm looking at you, LSAC).  So maybe I'm just noticing it more this year.  But trend or not, a failure to submit two academic references is serious Bad Idea Jeans.

I often tell applicants that applying to Yale Law School is a lot like playing blackjack.  The odds are on the house, there's more than a little luck involved, but there are a few basic rules you can follow to increase your chances significantly.  One of those rules is to submit two references from faculty members who have taught you in a class.  Let me put that another way: Your chances of admission to Yale Law School go down drastically if you submit only one or no academic letters of recommendation.  Or let me break it down even further: Your letters of recommendation will make or break your application.

[Commence mass applicant freak-out.]

I realize this goes against what you have been hard-wired to believe, namely, that your admission depends almost exclusively on your LSAT and GPA.  I remember reading on some admissions consulting blog  that your letters of recommendations don't really matter, so you shouldn't spend too much time figuring out who will write them (which could explain why I'm skeptical of admissions consultants).  To be fair, this could be true for some law schools .  I imagine that a school that admits a very large number of people might focus more on numbers, and use the recommendations just to ensure that the student isn't a serial killer or something.  Well, at Yale, we like to ensure that you are not a serial killer and that you are a joy to teach.

The two issues in play here are 1) numbers and 2) process.  In terms of numbers, I send the top 20% of the applicant pool on to the faculty to be reviewed.  That's around 700 applications, all of which are comparable in terms of grades, scores, writing ability, leadership, saving orphans, etc.  These 700 files have to be whittled down by another 75%.  Process-wise, the people doing the whittling down are professors.  They think everyone looks great.  So how do they make distinctions among all these amazing files?  They look at what their colleagues have to say about you.  Do you ever wonder why someone with a 3.95/178 gets rejected but someone with a 3.81/172 gets in?  It's because of comments like these (these are actual or close approximations to verbiage from LORs of students who have been accepted in the past):

"[Applicant] is hands down the single best undergraduate I have ever taught in my 37 years of teaching.  Period."

"[Student A] and [Student B], both of whom I taught, are currently at Yale Law School.  [Applicant] is better than both of them put together."

"At that point in the discussion I almost sat down and let [Applicant] teach the class -- s/he could have done a better job."

"Any admissions officer who doesn't admit [Applicant] is -- and I beg your pardon -- an idiot."

Over the top?  Possibly.  But these are the kind of subjective evaluations you are up against.  Even in the screening stage, if I know that you don't stand a chance of being admitted by the faculty -- because, for example, in spite of your pretty good numbers you have offered little or no corroboration of your academic ability from professors who have taught you -- I may not send you on at all.  It really depends on how good the rest of your application is (though to be honest, it's even more of a red flag if you have a straight-A average and couldn't manage to come up with two faculty references...it makes me wonder whether you are hiding something, like a serious personality defect or crippling social disorder).

If you're reading this post and realized that you didn't submit two academic references, mild to moderate panic would be appropriate.  You should then try to get a second letter.  If your application is already complete, it is possible -- and likely -- that your application has already been reviewed as is, but the second letter can be helpful in the event that I go back to your file for any reason or if you are placed on the wait list.

NOTE:  If you DID submit two academic letters, you do NOT need to submit additional ones at this point.  I'm sure some economist could graph this out for me, but there is an optimal number of LORs for Yale and it's somewhere around 2.4.  This is because of the "meh" factor.  If you submit two references that are stellar, and then one that is just "meh," you immediately bring down the impact of the two great ones.  There are some students who manage to find three professors who knock it out of the park for them, but many fall into the "meh" trap.  Unless you are absolutely certain that your third recommendation is going to be beyond amazing, just sit tight.  And please don't send more than three...that's just overkill.

One final observation.  I've noticed that I get mixed reviews whenever I try to give honest application tips and insider advice.  For example, in a recent discussion on TLS about my post a few years ago stating emphatically that there is no correlation between when you are admitted and whether you are an auto-admit or admitted by faculty, a poster asked, "Does she really expect us to believe that?"

It's funny -- it had never occurred to me that I could use this blog as a vehicle for mass deception about Yale's admissions process.  Though I can see how the image of me sitting at my desk, laughing maniacally about throwing applicants "off the trail" while stroking a very mean and fluffy cat, might fit in with your experience of the law school admissions process generally.  I kind of like the image myself.  Sadly, the reality is that I'm usually slogging through admissions files while eating a stale hummus wrap from the dining hall, taking occasional breaks to check email and compulsively buy Groupons.  Besides, even if I wanted to, it wouldn't be a good idea for me to lie about the admissions process on a blog read by several members of Yale's own faculty.  Especially after I just wrote a post entitled, "Please Don't Lie."  (For what it's worth, about 20% of faculty are done reading before the winter break, so you could be an auto admit OR a faculty admit even if you are admitted in December.)

But, whatever, I'm just the messenger, people. *shrugs*

Please Don't Lie

Yes, I've been away from the blog for a while, and my plans for a fall P.S. Boot Camp II got waylaid in light of recruitment travel, flexapp issues, and life in general.  Usually, when I come back on the blog after the summer I try to write some cleverly-titled post that offers some humor to kick off the admissions season.  And as you know, I do troll through discussion boards to see what you guys are wondering about so I can be responsive.  I was therefore disappointed to find, in my first troll through the online discussions, that some people are discussing whether or not to lie on their Yale Law School applications.  So, although I have written about this before, let me be blunt:

People who lie make me angry.  And you won't like me when I'm angry.

Specifically, some students are discussing whether or not to lie on the question on our application that asks whether or not you have taken a test preparation course.  I explained our rationale for this question (and the one asking about any assistance you received in preparing your application), but it appears that some students believe that by saying they didn't take a course, when in fact they did, they will somehow gain an advantage in our admissions process.

Leaving aside whether or not this is true, let's just cut to the chase.  Lying on an application -- ANY application (job, law school, government forms, etc.) -- is REALLY STUPID.  Once you sign your name to anything which you certify to be true, when you know that it isn't, you have pretty much committed yourself to living under a sword of Damocles for the rest of your life.  That's because, even if the underlying "lie" is very minor, and may not have been material to anything to begin with, the act of deliberately falsifying a document with the intention to mislead the recipient is a huge blemish on your character, and if your lie is ever discovered, you are basically screwed.  Why?  Well, obviously, providing false information is lying.  And giving false information in order to gain an unfair advantage is cheating.  And if you obtain a seat at Yale by lying and cheating...that's stealing.  Your 179 LSAT is not going to be so impressive if we discover that you are a liar, a cheat, and a thief.  And stupid.

You may be wondering how we would ever know.  I'll be honest, unless my spidey senses go up when reading an application, I generally don't go around digging for dirt on people.  But my friends, you would be shocked at the amount of random information that comes flowing into our office about various applicants, from sources other than themselves.  There's more information than you realize about you out there...particularly if you've, you know, been out in public and interacted with people, for example in a law school test preparation class.  Anyway, if and when it's appropriate, we do cross-check information we discover with the information provided on the student's application.  In 98% of the cases, the information checks out.  In the 2% that don't...well, those people get pulled from our pipeline and receive a ding letter.  Pretty simple.

That's, of course, if we're being nice.  Yale, like every other law school, has the option to report any instances of applicant miconduct -- which includes providing inaccurate or miselading information on your application -- to LSAC's Misconduct Committee.  The Misconduct Committee's investigation is limited to only an objective finding of whether the alleged misconduct occurred; in other words, your subjective intent -- whether your error/omission was intentional -- is not a part of the inquiry.  If there is a finding of misconduct, a copy of the investigative report and the Committee's findings are permanently attached to your LSDAS report and sent to every other law school to which you have applied or will apply to.  For the rest of your life.

The information you provide in your application also follows you into law school.  So, for example, a discovery in your third year that you lied on your application can be grounds for disciplinary action in your law school, not certifying you for the bar, and even revoking your admission at that time.  And finally, even if you skate through law school and the bar undetected, when you are sitting for your polygraph to get your Top Secret clearance to become the Special Assistant to the Director of Homeland Security or whatever, and your polygrapher asks, "Have you ever lied on an application?" (this is the one of the more specific follow-ups to the initial "Have you ever lied?" question for the polygraph), you'll ping.

Which only brings home how dumb it is to lie on your application, especially about something like taking a test preparation course.  I mean, lying is bad no matter how you do it, but someone who, say, forges an entire LSDAS report is dumb in a "Holy crap I can't believe he tried to get away with that!" kind of way.  A person who lies about taking a test prep course is dumb in a terrorist who tried to get back his Ryder truck deposit after blowing it up kind of way.  There's stupid, and then there's stupid.

Anyway, it's your choice.  I'll be back with some condensed Personal Statement tips, as well as a new series that will be exploring our employment numbers in details.  And I'll be starting to read apps this week!

UPDATE:  As a follow-up to this post and an example of how anything you put down on paper could be verfied years (and decades) later, here is a current story from the Yale Daily News.

Fall-ing in Love With Connecticut

I love the fall! That was one thing I missed when I moved back to Miami.  The leaves are always green there, which is nice, but doesn't get you into the spirit of the holidays the way a New England fall can.  So now that fall is in full swing, for those of you that want to appreciate the colors and see what Connecticut has to offer, I want to tell you about a part of CT I knew nothing about when I was a student and only discovered after I moved back- the Connecticut River Valley.

It is an easy drive, about 30 miles, from New Haven with several charming towns to explore for a day.  You can start off in Essex by exploring the shops at Essex Village.  The Connecticut River Museum, which highlights the history and biology of New England's largest river, is also in Essex.  Or you can take the Essex Steam Train and River Boat Ride, which takes you for a ride on a 1920's steam train and then onto a boat to cruise up the river.  I have yet to do this or one of the other CT River cruises, but I have heard it is a great way to spot eagles, especially in the winter months. 

What I've done when I have explored the area is simply drive and stop at the various cities.  When leaving Essex for instance, rather than taking Route 9, it is worth driving along some of the smaller roads that boarder the river just to see the river and the fall colors.

The next stop up the river from Essex is Chester, which again has some cute shops to explore.  You can also get a bite to eat or a drink at River Tavern.  I had a wonderful meal there last winter and recommend it. 

From Chester, I would also recommend crossing the river.  One option is to take the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, which runs during the daytime between April 1 and November 30.  The toll is $3 per vehicle.  The other option is to cross the bridge to East Haddam, which will take you right by the Goodspeed Opera House.  The Goodspeed, like the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, sometimes puts on musicals before they appear on Broadway.  Next to the Opera House is the Gelston House, another great place to stop for a bite to eat or a drink. 

Once you pass East Haddam, you can explore the other side of the river as you head back to 95.  One stop along this route is Gillette Castle.  I must confess that I have not yet visited, but I hear it is an interesting place.  The castle looks like a medieval fortress from the outside and has all sorts of oddities inside custom built by the original owner, such as unusual doorknobs and locks and a system of mirrors for surveillance. 

So for those of you that want a study break or an excuse to enjoy the fall, I recommend a drive up 95 to the Connecticut River.

 

Let's Get This Party Started

Greetings from New Haven!  School has started, the new class has settled in, and we're busy with recruiting trips and webinars.  Although it doesn't seem possible to us in the Admissions Office (weren't we just reviewing applications?), the new admissions season has started.

Before we began the search for the Class of 2015 we had the opportunity to welcome the Class of 2014 to the Law School.  The school year opened with a weeklong orientation program designed to introduce new students to the study of law, the legal profession, and life at Yale Law School. Dean Robert Post's convocation address to the Law School's 200th(!) class of students kicked off a week filled with lectures, picnics, the Cupcake Truck, and the annual student organization fair.

The 205 students of the first-year class hail from 8 countries, 38 states, and 74 undergraduate institutions.  They have lived and worked in 71 countries and read and speak 39 languages.  20% of the Class of 2014 joined us immediately after finishing their undergraduate studies, 45% have been out of college for one or two years, and the remaining 35% have three or more years of post-college experience.  They hold 41 advanced degrees in such diverse subjects as Economics, Theology, and Biochemistry.  Before joining us at YLS, the Class of 2014 pursued a variety of jobs, activities, and careers, including:

  • economists at the Council of Economic Advisors and the Federal Reserve Bank of NY;
  • policy advisors to the Canadian Liberal Party, British Conservative Party, and the Liberian Liberty Party;
  • co-author of a book with James Carville;
  • logistics planner to Force Command at NATO;
  • researcher for George W. Bush's presidential memoir;
  • concert violinist and student of Itzhak Perlman;
  • international Sanshou champion; and
  • nationally-ranked Scrabble player.

Visit our class profile page for more facts about the Class of 2014.

If you're interested in joining our 201st class, check out our recruiting schedule to see if we will be visiting your area or hosting a webinar with your school.  Should your travels bring you to New Haven, you are welcome to drop by the Law School for a tour or to sit in on a class.

We know many of you are anxious to begin working on your Yale Law School application.  It took us longer than we expected to adapt our application to LSAC's new flex app format.  Our application will be available later this month and we'll tweet, blog, and post when it's ready.  In the meantime, check out "Ask Asha" for helpful advice and information on personal statements, the 250-word essay, and other aspects of the Yale Law School application process.

Now that (203) has awoken from its summer slumber, we're working on a list of ideas for blog posts for the coming year.  If you have questions about past posts or ideas for future posts, please contact us at 203blog@yale.edu.  We're excited to begin the admissions season and we welcome you to (203)!

Posted: Sep 30 2011, 10:21 PM by craigj | with no comments
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The International Festival of Arts & Ideas: A New Haven Summer Staple

As I have come to learn this past month, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas is a New Haven summer staple.  Although the Festival was new to me, it began 15 years ago and is now established as a significant arts festival.
 
The Festival offers a broad array of events from concerts, plays, dance shows and musicals to art talks, walking tours and food tastings.  But the best part is that 80% of the events are free.  In fact, the opening night kicked off with the Connecticut premiere of cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble—a free event!!  The concert took place on the New Haven Green.   Sadly, I couldn’t make it to hear Yo-Yo Ma play.

But, I did get to participate in some exciting events.  I took the free walking tour “Gardens & Gargoyles: Explore Yale Courtyards” organized by the Yale Visitor Center.  We visited several of the courtyards that are within Yale’s residential colleges.  For those who don’t know, Yale’s residential college system is a distinctive feature of the College.   Before freshman year, all incoming undergraduates are assigned to one of Yale's twelve residential colleges and students remain affiliated with their residential college for all 4 years.

The tour started in the courtyard of Calhoun College, where the guide explained the residential college system and I had a flashback to the sorting hat scene of Harry Potter.  The tour then moved through Old Campus to Branford College, continued to the Sterling Memorial Library and its courtyard, and finished at Yale Law School where we discussed some of the stone sculptures depicting lawyers, judges, and scholars. In addition to learning about residential college traditions, we were also shown the tricks employed by architect James Gamble Rogers to make the buildings he constructed appear aged.  For instance, he splashed acid on stone walls and purposely cracked and then repaired window panes to simulate age. 
       
As part of the Festival, I also attended another free event “Identity, Politics, and Rights in the Art and Practice of Justice” at the Yale Center for British Art—a talk by our own Professor Judith Resnik.  In her presentation, Professor Resnik provided a historical overview of the iconography of justice, discussing how Lady Justice with her scales and sword has become associated with law and courts around the world and how the embodiment of justice has changed as equal rights have expanded.  It was fascinating to see how depictions of Lady Justice developed throughout history and how she is depicted in court buildings around the world. Following the presentation, Professors Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis discussed their book Representing Justice: Invention, Controversy, and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms.

I topped off my festival experience with a food tour of State Street.  The tour started with an appetizer and a glass of wine in the lovely outdoor patio of L’Orcio seen in the picture below.  Having traveled in Italy, I was impressed by the authenticity of their menu.  We then moved on to a main course at a Mexican restaurant called Mezcal.  Here I was curious, as I have yet to find an authentic Mexican restaurant in the area.  After tasting the chicken enchilada with mole sauce that was served to us at Mezcal, however, any doubts I had vanished.  Although I am not a huge fan of mole, I loved their mole sauce and enjoyed a second helping.  The tour ended with a cooking demonstration at Chestnut Fine Foods where we learned how to make gazpacho and French bread.  Like on a cooking show, when the demonstration ended, the oven beeped and out came perfectly golden French bread rolls for us to try.  Fresh from the oven—delicious!

 

 

 

Scholarship Deadlines: Truth is Power

Originally posted April 6, 2011.

In my last post, I referenced some law schools' practice of giving "exploding" scholarship offers, requiring students to accept a major, full-tuition scholarship offer within a matter of days.  Well, as usual, we've been inundated in the past few days with panicked applicants with these offers, who have not yet heard from us and are for some reason under the impression that by accepting such a scholarship, they will need to withdraw their applications from Yale.

Now I am sure it has not been any law school's intention to mislead you, but this is where you can start honing your lawyerly skills by carefully reading what your offer says and doesn't say.  You see, believe it or not, as law applicants you have some rights, of sorts.  Specifically, the Law School Admission Council publishes a Statement of Good Admission and Financial Aid Practices, by which all member schools agree to abide.  If you read the Statement carefully, you will see that item number 6 under "Application Procedures" states the following:

After April 1, except under binding early decision plans, every accepted applicant should be free to accept a new offer from a law school even though a scholarship has been accepted, a deposit has been paid, or a committment [sic] has been made to another school. To provide applicants with an uncoerced choice among various law schools, no excessive nonrefundable deposit should be required solely to maintain a place in the class.  (Emphasis added.)

What that means, 203 readers, is that you may accept a scholarship offer -- even one that requires you to place a deposit, sign a contract, or make some other symbolic gesture of commitment -- and still keep active any applications at schools from which you have not yet received a decision.  Further, if you subsequently receive an offer from one of these other law schools, you may accept that offer, any prior commitments notwithstanding. 

I will add that my understanding of this portion of the Statement is that it extends to offers made off the wait list.  That is, if you are placed on a wait list at a law school, you may remain on that school's wait list even if you have deposited or accepted a scholarship somewhere else -- because a wait list decision is neither an offer nor a rejection, it's effectively a "no decision."  If at any point you are offered a spot off the waitlist, that would be a "new offer" that you are free to accept -- again, notwithstanding any scholarships you might have accepted at another law school. 

Who knew?

I hope that this will help those of you facing some difficult choices as a result of not having heard from us yet.  We are expecting to have all (initial) offers of admission finalized this week, so a few more people will be hearing from us shortly!

UPDATE:  For more on reading the fine print in scholarship offers, check out this New York Times article by David Segal:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/business/law-school-grants.html?pagewanted=1

Romeo and Juliet at Yale Rep

Saturday's performance of Romeo and Juliet by the Yale Repertory Theatre was my introduction to Yale's well-known theatre.  I knew about Yale Rep's reputation while I was a student here, but I never managed to attend a production.  That was a mistake, only realized in retrospect when the offerings of a world-class university are no longer at your disposal.

For those of you that have never heard of Yale Rep, here are some important highlights.  The Rep is a professional theatre that produces both new plays as well as interpretations of the classics.  It was founded in 1966 by Robert Brustein, then dean of the Yale School of Drama.  When it comes to new work, Yale Rep has produced over 100 premiers.  Two have won Pulitzer Prizes, four have been nominated finalists, eight have received Tony Awards after transferring to Broadway and more than 40 have received Tony Award nominations.  Eleven Yale Rep productions have gone on to Broadway and countless others have been produced at theatres across the country.  Yale Rep also received the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre in 1991.  And, of course, not to mention all of the well-known actors who have performed at Yale Rep, such as Meryl Streep.

So there you have it -- how can I have missed this when I was a student?  Although I may have been a fool my first time around, I am happy that many of our law school students are taking advantage of Yale Rep.  One of our students, in fact, won a part in Romeo and Juliet and made her Yale Rep debut as part of the cast -- for those who missed it, here's a link to her blog post about the experience.

This production of Romeo and Juliet was a modern take on Shakespeare's classic.  The parts of Romeo and Juliet were played by a former and current Yale MFA student, and the set was also designed by a third-year student.  Although the fight sequences felt a little staged, and I was not a huge fan of the gorilla costume worn by Romeo, the performances were engaging and a treat.

After Romeo and Juliet finishes its run on April 2, the final production of the 2010-11 season will be the U.S. Premiere of Autumn Sonata by Ingmar Bergman.  The 2011-12 season promises to be every bit as exciting as this one with three world premiers -- check it out.

Yale Law School's Top Vegetarian Chef

I wrote a few years ago in my post, The $42,000 All-You-Can-Eat Buffet, about the abundance of free food at the Law School.  Three years later everything I mentioned in the post, except the price, still holds true.  To help illustrate the importance of free food at YLS, here's a clip from last year's Yale Law Revue, our annual sketch comedy show.  Sustainability (which I also wrote about a few years ago) and free food came together recently in a fun way when the YLS Green Team organized a vegetarian cook-off in support of Meatless Mondays in the Dining Hall.

Members of the Law School community were encouraged to compete for the title of YLS's Top Vegetarian Chef by entering their favorite vegetarian entrée recipes in the cook-off.  A panel of students, faculty, and staff reviewed the submissions.  The top eight recipes then went on to the final round of judging.  In the final round, the contestants had to prepare their dishes for evaluation by our resident panel of foodies.  The entire school was also invited to sample the dishes and vote on their favorites.  Below are some photos of the event.  Please excuse the poor quality; I'm still working on taking decent shots with my iPhone.

In the end, only one person's cuisine could reign supreme.  First-year student Jonathan Siegel wowed the judges with his entry:  roasted butternut squash with harissa vinaigrette.  For his culinary skills and creativity, Jonathan won a $50 gift certificate and will have his dish added to regular rotation in the Dining Hall.  Congratulations to Jonathan, YLS's first Top Vegetarian Chef!

 

Oh, Snap! YLS Grads on the Teaching Market

I am a fan of the University of Michigan's A2Z blog, written by Dean Sarah Zearfoss, whom I've quoted before in my posts (and who co-organized our blog panel last May).  My admiration has only increased with her recent posts deconstructing on Michigan's employment statistics, which has so far had two installments and alludes to a third.  Mainly, I'm impressed with Dean's Z's formidable math skills and her good humor in response to people correcting her on decimal point placement.  Perhaps at some point I'll try to post similar data, but in the meantime, I'll just link to the Yale Daily News (a suitable authority in these parts), which basically says that Yale grads are doing fine on the job market.

I do, however, want to explore our statistics in a specific career field -- academia.  This, of course, is a risky post to write, since one of the reasons some admitted students think that Yale will not be a good fit for them is because they have no interest in teaching.  Despite Yale's dominance in legal academia (more on this below), law teaching is a relatively small percentage of the various career routes taken by YLS alumni.  In fact, the dirty little secret about Yale Law School is that the vast majority of our graduates actually practice law.  Shocking, I know.  And the people who don't practice law or go into academia end up doing cool things like winning a million dollars on Survivor, being named one of People magazine's Sexiest Men Alive, and becoming the Deputy Chief of Consumer and Government Affairs at the FCC.  OK, that was actually the career trajectory of a single grad, but you get the idea.

So law teaching.  Every year I counsel a handful of admits who are absolutely certain that they want to become law professors, but aren't sure whether to come to Yale.  Usually, these students have been awarded a prestigious, full-tuition scholarship -- we'll call it the JoeSchmoe Scholarship -- at another law school.  JoeSchmoe Scholars, I am told, get special perks to help them in preparing for a teaching career: access to seminars, workshops, and conferences; the opportunity to work on legal writing projects; and one-on-one guidance from members of the faculty.  Oh, and they have three days to make a decision or the scholarship "explodes."

It's hard to be rational with people who are making major life choices under duress, but I try.  I usually first point out that the so-called "perks" offered to the JoeSchmoes are resources offered to every student at Yale as a matter of course.  No titles of nobility here: all students get to know faculty very well, starting in their first term; all students write (at least) two piece of substantial legal scholarship with one-on-one faculty guidance; and all students have access to workshops and conferences at the School.  In particular, all students are free to attend the Law Teaching Series, a year-long series of faculty-led sessions which guide students through each step of the process into legal academia, from preparing a research agenda to what a "job talk" is -- these alternate with workshops where students present their own papers to faculty and peers.  The advantage, by the way, of having these opportunities open to all students is that aspiring academics get to engage in a dialogue with a large swath of their colleagues, rather than the same few people over and over again...yielding more refined ideas and better scholarship.

This often elicits some hand wringing, but the JoeSchmoes are usually still hooked on the whole "full tuition" thing.  Fair enough -- no need to take on unecessary loans.  Plus, law professors make pretty substantial salaries, particularly at the top schools.  So if you could land the same law teaching job with no debt, then you would, in the end, be better off.  So the question is: Is there a meaningful difference in the teaching opportunities that would be available to you coming out of Yale, compared to another school? 

Enter Professor Brian Leiter.  Leiter, who is a professor at the Univerity of Chicago, compiles detailed statistics on the leading producers of law professors in the country.  You can view his most recent rankings of the institutions producing the most law professors here, which includes only people who have graduated from law school since 1995 (thereby providing the most current snapshot of legal academic talent).  If you look closely at the tables, you'll notice a few things:

1.  In absolute numbers, Yale is in a league of its own, placing more graduates since 1995 -- by a huge margin -- in both the top 43 law schools and the top 18 law schools than any other law school in the nation.

2.  Accounting for its size (the "per capita" number), Yale is in a different universe when it comes to law teaching placement.  You can look at it like this: Yale graduates in the last decade and a half have been over four times as successful in landing law teaching positions at the top 18 law schools as graduates of Harvard, Stanford, and Chicago; roughly twenty times as successful in landing such jobs as graduates of Columbia, Berkeley, and Virginia; and about forty times as successful in getting these jobs as graduates of NYU, Northwestern, and Michigan.

3.  Almost every school on the list has hired more graduates of Yale than its own.  (For a separate but related topic on this point, see this post.)

I have to admit that I was a bit stunned myself when I saw Leiter's numbers.  The staggering odds favoring YLS grads in academia brought to mind images of the Dream Team at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona...I mean, how is that even fair?  It's not.  But it does explain why, in an attempt to capture more of the market, law schools try to attract the best legal scholarly talent (usually through scholarships) and emulate Yale's pedagogical approach to these select students.  At this point, however, there's still a lot of catching up to do, and -- to answer the pertinent question -- there remains a very meaningful difference in the law teaching opportunities coming out of Yale compared with other schools.

Cocktails at 116 Crown

After a week of more record snow (and shoveling), I decided to reward myself with a fun night out—well, for a 30+ year-old, a night out usually signifies happy hour and dinner so don’t expect anything wild.  Although, stay tuned because Asha and I have plans to go salsa dancing in the coming month.

Last Friday, I decided to check out 116 Crown, a bar that wasn’t around when I was a student.  And I gotta say I was impressed.  The décor and ambiance are modern and trendy with a sophisticated, yet relaxed vibe.  It was definitely a cool place to grab a drink and some appetizers.

I opted for a glass of wine, but that was a mistake—not because the wine selection wasn’t good, but because the mixed drinks looked amazing.  We were sitting at the bar watching the drinks being made and they looked really delicious.  I am going back for some of those.  Check out the cocktail menu online.

We also ordered a plate of cheeses and salami, which was very good.  They have large plates in addition to starters, sandwiches, and pizzas.  Most of what I saw in neighboring tables looked good.  I whiffed a plate of truffle fries that came by and I am going back for some of that too. 

Make sure to check out some of their specials, which I found online.  They offer ½ price wine bottles on Sundays.  And they also offer cocktail classes—I wouldn’t mind learning how to make some of those delicious-looking cocktails (which I am sure also taste delicious based on comments I overheard).

So if all else fails on a winter day, or you don't feel like taking part in any winter activities (and you are of age), head over to 116 Crown for a drink like I did.

Wintertime in New Haven

January at the Law School is guaranteed to bring three things: quiet, applications, and snow.  In fact, it's snowing as I write this post.

I enjoy winter, but I realize it's not everyone's favorite time of year.  For those of you uneasy about spending three years in a place with four seasons, don't despair.  It doesn't snow as much in New Haven as it does in other parts of the Northeast and temperatures are usually warmer along the Long Island Sound than they are further inland.  During my time at the Law School I don't recall any reported cases of hypothermia and at last check all of our students from warmer climes were accounted for. 

Contrary to the opinion of my friends from more temperate locales, life doesn't stop at 40 degrees (I'm looking at you Californians). Most of the fun things to do we discuss in our blog continue in the winter, even the farmer's market!  If you're into winter activities, there's a lot to do in New Haven, Connecticut, and New England.

There are many skiing options in the area.  Connecticut has four ski resorts and some of the best skiing in the country is located a few hours away in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont.   Snowboarders are also welcome at many of the resorts.

On campus, there's the Yale Alpine Skiing Team, the Nordic Skiing Team, and the Snowboarding Club.  These are club sports in which law students are welcome to participate on either a recreational or competitive basis.  During a recent snowstorm the Nordic Ski Team members were seen skiing to class, so you may find this group to be of practical use.

If your interests tend more towards ice than snow, Yale Club Ice Hockey (not to be confused with our women's and #1-ranked men's varsity teams) has recently played in the Metropolitan Collegiate Hockey Conference.  For those looking to wear less protective gear, the Collegiate Figure Skating Club welcomes members of all skill levels for its weekly practices. 

The Eero Saarinen-designed Ingalls Rink, commonly known as the Whale, serves as the home for ice-related activities at Yale.  There's arguably no better place the world for the modern architecture enthusiast to skate.  Depending on weather conditions and how the person plowing the street in front of the Law School was feeling, you may also find good skating right on Wall Street.

If you prefer less formal wintertime outdoor activities, you're sure to find participants for your fort building or Dalek sculpting projects.  For the risk takers, the only thing more daring than eating the dining hall food is partaking in Yale's tradition of sledding on the trays on which it is served.  You might even find yourself caught in the crossfire of an impromptu snowball fight in the Law School courtyard, like the one caught on camera at the top of this page.

I hope this post has given you some ideas on how to spend some of your wintertime in New Haven.  Of course, if you prefer to spend the winter huddled under blankets with your thermostat set on 90 degrees that's fine too.  Just be prepared to venture out every day for class:  Yale hasn't had a snow day since 1978.

 

Apple Trees, Honeybees, and Snow White Turtledoves

I spent the holidays alone, in my office, reading files.  Seriously.  Not J.D. admissions files (I'm all caught up with you guys!), but L.L.M. files, which are an international bunch.  L.L.M. files are...interesting.  Especially the transcripts.  For example, did you know that in Germany, the second-best grade of gut, which I am told colloquially means something between "meh" and "fine whatever," is actually the best grade you can get?  Like, apparently NO ONE gets sehr gut, which is the highest grade available.  I wonder what it must be like to have a grading system where you work your butt off to get the grading equivalent of a 'Nilla Wafer.  Wait, that's kind of like the grading system we have here.  Never mind.

Anyway, as I was perusing the file of an applicant from Burkina Faso, I started thinking about diversity.  Yale of course strives to be diverse in the sense that most people associate with the word -- we encourage highly-qualified applicants from underrepresented minority groups, for example, or self-identified LGBT students, to apply -- because we want an incoming class to encompass a variety of backgrounds, and we want to signal that we are a place that welcomes these groups and provides resources and organizations for them.  But when it comes to building a class, we also use a broader definition of diversity, as I have alluded to in a previous post about diversity statements.

For example, it's important to us as an institution to have a variety of viewpoints represented in order to foster robust and challenging classroom discussion -- to this end, we're very interested in having ideological diversity in each class.  Law students, and by extension law schools, are on the whole liberal-leaning, so it's up to admissions officers like me to make sure we identify and attract those students who might be more right-of-center.  Now, it's harder to surgically target these students, since political affiliations aren't something that LSAC asks you to check on your profile.  A few years ago we tried a desperate, shotgun approach and sent invitations to apply to highly-qualified students from the Red States.  Our volume dropped that year.  Since then, I keep having visions of angry mobs tossing our CRS letters into bonfires, with Handsome Dan being burned alongside Che in effigy.

If that is indeed what happened, let me clear up some confusion.  First, the long lines of miserable people you see stretching down the sidewalk belong to the pharmacy at the only slightly-Communist Yale Health Plan, located a block away, not the totally non-Communist Yale Law School.  Second, in addition to producing well-known conservative lawyers like Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Yale Law School is the founding home of The Federalist Society, now a national conservative and libertarian legal society that boasts over 40,000 members.  Fed Soc, as the organization is known, is extremely active at Yale and hosts numerous events throughout the year, including a recent visit by Karl Rove who led a discussion entitled, "Should Obamacare be Repealed?"  And, while it's true that the only tea parties we currently have at Yale are the staid faculty teas led by our professors, the 2010 U.S. Senate race featured YLS alum (and Federalist Society member) Joe Miller '95 as the Tea Party candidate for the Senate seat in Alaska.  (Fox News, I should add, is available in the student lounge.)

Another group of people from whom we like to see applications is our servicemen and -women.  I personally have a soft spot for service academies, but my attempts to recruit on their campuses were unsuccessful (Navy and Air Force turned me down, West Point never returned my calls or letters).  I didn't push the issue -- I've seen War Games.  But happily, we have nevertheless amassed a critical mass of former veterans and active duty military officers, leading a few years ago to the creation of a new student group, Yale Law Vets.  In addition to delivering a University address on Veteran's Day and presenting JAG recruiting officers with a petition against the (now moot!) Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, students with military backgrounds participate -- along with students who have an interest in veterans' affairs -- in the new Veterans' Legal Services Clinic, which assists local military veterans with obtaining VA benefits and other civil legal needs.  The clinic, one of the few in the country and the first of its kind in New England, most recently filed a lawsuit along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the CT ACLU to compel the military's release of records pertaining to the prevalence of sexual assault in the military. 

I like to think that Yale Law School is a place that shows that we all really can get along.  On that note, and in the spirit of peace, love, and random product placement, I'll close with the Best. Commercial.  Ever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfU17niXOG8

As we say here: Make love, not Law Journal.  Happy New Year, from (203).

New Haven Restaurant Week: Lots and Lots of Tapas

Upon my return from a recruiting trip a few weeks ago, I saw a big sign in Union Station that read: "New Haven Restaurant Week."  I learned that like the restaurant week I was used to in Miami, the one here also offered prix fixe lunch and dinner at participating restaurants at a cheaper price than ordering off the menu.  Each restaurant offers menus that let you choose an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert for $16.38 for lunch and $29.00 for dinner.

Awesome, I thought, this is the perfect way to pig out on good food without breaking the budget.  I desperately needed a break from my eating-like-a-rabbit wedding diet (just as a side note, this was induced by someone who shall remain nameless who told me, while patting my belly for emphasis no less, that I "should go on a diet before my wedding" because I needed to lose belly fat--even though I AM NOT OVERWEIGHT. Can you tell I am still traumatized?).  Anyway, I digress, back to my getting excited about eating A LOT.  Mmmmm.

So, back in front of a computer, I checked out the restaurant week website (which unfortunately is no longer up) and went through all of the menus to pick the ones I liked.  I wanted to choose a restaurant that had a great menu and that I had never been to before.  I decided on Barcelona since one of the prix fixe options let you pick any 4 tapas off the menu--this would give me a chance to sample items off the regular menu.

Because there were four of us having dinner, we got to order 12 tapas.  The experience was worth it only because of the sheer volume of food we got to order since the quality of the food was mediocre and I would not have been happy if I had had to pay regular prices for what we ate.  We ordered a little bit of everything--vegetables, meat, beans--choosing from the tapas and raciones section of the menu. Yet most dishes were just ok.

There were a couple of things that did stand out and were especially good--the Cauliflower Cazuela and the Grilled Lamb Chops racion.  But I can't remember if we had the warm octopus salad, which is sad because it is one of my favorite things (especially "Pulpo a La Gallega," a typical Spanish octopus dish).  In my book, if you can't make good octopus, you shouldn't call yourself a Spanish restaurant, let alone "Barcelona."  But, then again, many traditional Spanish tapas dishes are absent from this menu so I had entered at my own risk.

In the end, the restaurant looked a bit too pretentious and like it was trying too hard, plus it was gimmicky (there is a huge wall-sized mural of a bullfighter--need I say more?).  And the food was the same--trying too hard to be something it wasn't.   But I am looking forward to the next Restaurant Week, which returns in the spring, so stay tuned.  And it will be post-wedding so I will eat even more than I did this last time.

Legal Writing at YLS

Recruiting season has come to an end and we're happy to be back in our offices reading applications and making offers.  During a recap of this year's recruiting visits and webinars we realized we received quite a few questions about our legal writing program, so I'll use this week's blog post to focus on our legal writing instruction at YLS.

The approach to legal writing instruction at YLS is unique. Unlike many other schools, you won't take an introductory legal writing course at YLS - writing is taught in the context of your required first-term classes.  The small group, the format of one of your four required first-term courses, serves as the main venue for writing instruction.  Small group professors and Coker Fellows, 2L and 3L assistants, provide the primary instruction in legal writing.  Rob Harrison, one YLS's legal writing instructors, teaches first-term students the ins and outs of writing legal briefs and memoranda.

First-term students also get instruction and feedback on their writing from sitting judges.  U.S. District Judge Mark Kravitz and Senior Judge John Walker of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit provide writing instruction to first-term students.

"Can you imagine being a first-semester law student and having a sitting Second Circuit Judge evaluate your legal writing skills?" said Dean Robert Post. "It's pretty exciting."

Beyond the small group, Rob and Noah Messing, our other legal writing instructor, teach a popular Advanced Legal Writing course.   Additionally, since most of our students participate in clinical courses, they receive writing instruction from our clinical faculty and student directors in the process of crafting real legal documents.

YLS recently expanded its writing curriculum in recognition of the popularity of Advanced Legal Writing and in response to student feedback for more writing courses.  In Elements of Effective Legal Writing students spend an entire semester focused on crafting of briefs.  Legal Writing for Litigators provides future litigators with training in writing briefs, memos, and other correspondence and offers instruction in the strategic use of court filings.  A new class offered next semester, Drafting and Negotiating Contracts, will go beyond the training offered in the first-term Contracts to help students prepare for careers as transactional lawyers.

I hope this post has provided some insight into YLS's unique approach to legal writing instruction.  You can read more about legal writing at YLS on our website or in the Yale Daily News.  Still have questions?  Email 203blog@yale.edu or post a comment to this entry.

 

Technical Matters

We've concluded our recruiting for the season, and I hope that many of you got to see us in person, either at your school or on one of our webinars.  I think I've covered most of the questions usually asked in our information sessions at some point in this blog (the very early Ask Asha posts covered a lot of ground).  However, one thing that has come up with some frequency in the past couple of years, and which is easier to answer in print than in person, concerns proper formatting on your application.  I'm not sure why, but apparently our application causes a lot of anxiety over technical issues.  I also promised a commenter last spring that I would address this issue this fall, and need to fulfill my promise.  So, here goes:

1.  We do not have a page limit for the required Personal Statement.  Generally, the rule of thumb is two pages, though some people do a little more or less.  You want to make sure you cover everything you want to say, so if you go a little over two pages it's probably fine.  However, keep in mind that your application is really your first "lawyerly" presentation -- you're making a case for yourself, after all -- so you want to show that you are able to convey what you need to say as clearly and concisely as possible. 

2.  Keep your 250-word essay at or below 250 words.  There is (at least) one faculty reader who counts.  That's just an insider tip.

3.  Neither your Personal Statement nor your 250-word essay requires a title.  Labeling them "Personal Statement" and "250-Word Essay" (or by question number) is fine. 

4.  You may answer each question on a separate page, or as a continuous document with appropriate spacing between questions.  Just label each question.

5.  You must answer Question 5a-c (honors, extracurriculars, employment during school), even if you are including a resume.  Please.  We won't complete your application without these answers.  Many of you spend a lot of time (based on the questions we get in the office) wondering whether to answer these in bullet format, or in a little spreadsheet, or some other manner.  Really, it just needs to be readable.  Bullets are fine.  If there is some honor or activity that isn't self-explanatory or on which you feel you need to elaborate further, a short narrative is OK. 

6.  OK, I'm going to get dicey here and, after the overwhelming response to my post on proper punctuation, I have a feeling this might get controversial.  If you do include a resume (which we don't require), it should be one page.  This is standard business practice, unless you're an academic with a lot of publications to your name which might take several pages to list.  Now, this isn't a job application, and I'm sure we admit many people every year who have multiple-page resumes, so it's not an application-killer.  But from a practical perspective, I'll note that it's really a lot easier to read a one-page resume and to see your life highlights at a glance.  If you're concerned that you won't be able to fit everything you want to show on one page -- voila!  We have a question on our application just for you -- Question 5a-c (see above).

7.  We do not require a Diversity Statement, but you may include one if you like.  For my thoughts on things you should consider if you are deciding whether to include a Diversity Statement, see this post.

8.  You may include an addendum if you feel that there is something in your application that requires further explanation.  Examples of issues that might require addenda are: an aberration in your grades in a course or semester; a significant score differential after taking the LSAT twice; or some period of time when you withdrew from school.  There may be others, and you should make the call on whether you need to include an addendum.  Remember that the purpose of an addendum is to clarify an issue that might otherwise be overlooked or misinterpreted, so you just need to flag it, give your clarification/explanation, and be done.  Brief, to-the-point addenda are always more effective than lengthy narratives.

9.  By contrast, if you answered "yes" to either of our Character and Fitness questions, you need to come clean and provide all of the relevant details surrounding the criminal/disciplinary event.  Simply stating "I was arrested for a DUI in 2008" and moving on to the next question is not going to cut it.  Details, please.  Obviously, the more serious the incident, the more explaining you need to do.  But you want to avoid having the Admissions Office contact you for more information because the ensuing exchange, which is then included in your file, suggests that you weren't as forthcoming as you should have been in the first instance.  For more on the C&F part of your application, please see here.

10.   For everything else, just use your best judgment (see the Sandra Lee Rule).  Apart from sloppy writing and typos, we're much more concerned about the substance of your application than in your formatting choices.

Hope this is helpful and reduces your anxiety.  The applications I've read so far look great, so keep them coming!

Posted: Dec 03 2010, 10:23 AM by asha | with 21 comment(s)
Filed under: ,
Bad Idea Jeans: Nobody Does It Like Sandra Lee

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, many of you are putting the finishing touches on your law school applications.  You might also be getting a few cooking tips from some of the great chefs at The Food Network.  We here at 203 are especially big fans of Sandra Lee, host of TFN's Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee.  For those of you who aren't familiar with Aunt Sandy, as we like to call her, you should really check out her show, not least because she offers numerous opportunities to exclaim, out loud, "Oh no she didn't." 

Needless to say, we were THRILLED when we found out after the elections earlier this month that Aunt Sandy is now officially the First Girlfriend of the Great State of New York.  My post-election SHWSL-watching marathon got me thinking about law school applications (and how I could work in a gratuitous blog reference to her show).  This came on the heels of a pretty standard query from an applicant about whether he ought to include one (and maybe two!) academic papers in his application package, so that the admissions committee could get a sense of his academic interests.  While this wasn't a particularly unreasonable question (although the answer was no, and no) it did make me remember some instances when applicants clearly lost their minds in an effort to "stand out" in the admissions process. 

Like the applicant last year who wrote her 250-word essay...in rap.  Or the guy who included a self-addressed rejection letter in his application (with a typo).  Or the applicant who mentioned ten times that she was a "blogger," and practically forced me to check out her blog -- only to find that it contained exactly six posts, the last one being a description of wearing her skimpiest outfit to a bar and asking a random man there to "rate" her.  Oh no she didn't!  Uh, yes she did.

What does this have to do with dear Aunt Sandy?  Well, if you've watched her show, you know that, after preparing a mind-bending cocktail, she ends each episode with an elaborate "tablescape."  A friend (and obvious TFN novice) asked me, "Is a tablescape a painting of a table setting?"  No, dear heart.  That would be somewhat dignifed, and require at least a little talent.  Tablescapes are best experienced in the context of an actual show, but here is a small sampling:

http://foodnetworkhumor.com/2011/09/top-10-tackiest-sandra-lee-tablescapes-of-all-time/

You get the idea.  There are some things -- like color-coordinating your kitchen to your outfit -- that seem like a very good idea...but aren't.  Therefore, you should always double-check your application for sound judgment before you hit send.  Ask yourself, "Is there anything in my application that resembles a Sandra Lee tablescape?"  To wit, does your application include anything that is:

1)  Not required, completely unecessary, and suggestive of an altered mental state?

2)  Liable to frighten small children and/or offend the elderly?

3)  Pretty much guaranteed, in the land of the sane, to put your application in the reject pile?

Remember: you don't need to "stand out" -- you just need to be solid.  If you've double checked your applications and have sent them into the black hole of admissions review, congratulations!  As you wait -- either for your admissions decision or your turkey to cook -- you might want to try out one of Aunt Sandy's "recipes":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7bo-aeznzY

Oh yes...she did.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Fascinating Visit to the Peabody Museum

Although I visited and ate at some of New Haven's greats like Mory's and Pepe's during my law school years, there were still lots of things that I missed the first time around like eating a hamburger at Louis' Lunch or catching a performance at Yale Repertory Theater.  So in an effort to catch what I missed and help those that end up in New Haven enjoy everything that Yale and the city have to offer, I'll be checking out these spots and reporting back to you.

This week I was drawn to the Peabody Museum of Natural History because of an event that was taking place there.  I never made it to this museum as a student and I wish I had, just like I wish I had paid attention to Yale events like the one that took place there last night and that are open to Yale students.  I encourage all of you that come to Yale to sign up for emails about Yale events so you won't miss out on great happenings around campus.

Last night, Tracy Chevalier, the author of Girl With A Pearl Earring, gave a talk about her latest book, Remarkable Creatures.  I loved Girl With A Pearl Earring (the book and not the movie) given my background as an art history major, and had found fascinating Chevalier's ability to both create such an enthralling story around Vermeer's painting and accurately reconstruct the historical period.  So I didn't think twice about attending this event and getting to visit the museum for the first time.

I especially enjoyed the Great Hall of Dinosaurs and the Fossil Fragments exhibit dealing with human origins, which helped to refresh my memory of the timeline of evolution including Home habilis, Homo erectus, Home sapiens and others.  But my favorite display was the one that dealt with the history of fossil hunting.  The room detailed the discoveries of various paleontologists throughout history and Yale's role in the tale.  I loved reading about each of these individuals and where they made their discoveries.  I almost studied archaeology so perhaps that is why I enjoyed the personal tales of discovery so much.

And I anticipate that this is why I will also love Tracy Chevalier's new book.  Her talk was the best book talk I have ever attended, hands down.  She did not just read passages from her book as a way of discussing it, but rather told us about the history behind the book while showing us pertinent slides of Lyme Regis, England where the book takes place as well as slides of the paleontological finds described in the book.  Like her earlier works, the book weaves a tale around a real person--in this case, Mary Anning, who made extraordinary contributions to the field of paleontology (and has even been called the greatest fossilist the world has ever known), yet was largely forgotten due to her status as a woman in the male-dominated society of early nineteenth century England. Although she discovered several important specimens from the Jurassic period, she was not given credit at the time for the discoveries; the name of the male purchaser of the specimen would receive credit instead.

Because of the subject of the book, the Peabody Museum invited Tracy Chevalier to give the presentation and I am so glad as the talk was not only fascinating, but it led me to visit the museum.  And perhaps most important of all for those of you stressing about admittance to Yale Law School, I learned that Tracy Chevalier applied to Yale as an undergrad but got rejected. She has nevertheless gone on to write some of the best books I've read.  So if you don't get into Yale Law School it doesn't necessarily mean that you are not an extraordinary individual capable of accomplishing amazing things.

P.S. Boot Camp: Reality Check, the Finale

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 driver'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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMvARy0lBLE

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. 

Meditation and Yoga at YLS

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

Holy Odd Holdings, Batman! Comic Books Invade YLS

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 1950s.

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 Court bobbleheads.

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 zombies?

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 16.

P.S. Boot Camp: Sir, Step Away from the Law

Hello, 203 readers.  I'm back in town after being on the road for a few information sessions.  If you're interested in having some of your questions answered, check out our recruiting schedule to see whether we will be visiting your college this season (either virtually or in person).  We are sending out invitations to attend our recruiting events through LSAC's CRS service (where we identify you by your undergraduate school) or through your prelaw advisor's listserve, so please make sure you are on one or the other if you want to get an email reminder.

Onwards.  So this week I'm going to talk about yet another common applicant we get: the Law Zombie.  This is a person who really loves THE LAW.  He is passionate about THE LAW, loves debating THE LAW, and can spend hours reading about -- yes, you guessed it -- THE LAW.  And he's not afraid to say so in his application.

I usually don't know what to make of the Law Zombie.  On the one hand, I can't really say that I'm concerned that this student hasn't thought about why he's going to law school, given his very obvious interest in THE LAW.  And there's clearly a certain amount of intelligence, perhaps brilliance, inherent in someone who spends all of his waking hours reading every Supreme Court case in history and listening to oral arguments on NPR.  In fact, when I read this kind of application, I get flashbacks to the toothpick scene in Rain Man, and imagine admitting a legal genius who can recite Supreme Court holdings on command and who occasionally startles innocent bystanders by randomly shouting "SCALIA!" very loudly (before devouring their brains).

However, while the Law Zombie might make a great addition to our faculty, there are a few things I find troubling about him as an applicant.  First, I'm a little wary about someone who glamorizes THE LAW too much, especially before going to law school.  I mean, legal cases are interesting and all, but the real study (and practice) of law isn't just about reading sexy Supreme Court cases and camping out all night to get into an oral argument like it's some kind of rock concert.  Some of it is tedious and mundane, and an applicant who is a little too excited about THE LAW strikes me as potentially unprepared for or naive about what law school -- and being a lawyer -- is really going to be like.

Which brings me to the second point.  It's not enough to just love THE LAW.  That's like saying you love books -- yeah, so what?  Law encompasses many different subjects: torts, contracts, constitutional law, property, law and economics, criminal law, etc.  It also has different aspects: procedural, substantive, jurisdictional, etc.  When someone simply says they are "fascinated," "excited," "passionate," etc. about THE LAW, I have no idea what that means.  What, exactly, are you excited about?  Why are you fascinated by a particular issue?  How is your interest related to anything else that's happened in your life?  It's unlikely that you just spontaneously developed a rabid interest in the subject, so you need to dig a little deeper if you're going to translate your passion into something that makes you compelling as an applicant. 

WARNING: The suggestion to dig a little deeper into the legal issues or questions that interest you should NOT be taken as an invitation to do legal analysis on a subject.  While the concept of tiered scrutiny, for example, might be really interesting and open a lot of intellectual possibilities for you, it's unlikely that without any legal training you will be able to provided a sophisticated scholarly analysis on the subject that will impress the Yale Law professor reading your file.  You don't need to write a legal treatise on the questions or issues that interest you.  Just identify them, and explain why they matter to you in the context of your background or other significant experiences you've had or courses you've taken.

If you think you might be a Law Zombie, here are a few helpful hints:

1.  Tone it down a bit.  Seriously.  I'm not saying you have to remove the "I <3 THE LAW" bumper sticker from your car or anything, but you can safely assume that in applying to law school, your interest in the general subject matter of the profession is understood. 

2.  You have the potential to find some kindred spirits among the faculty reading your file.  But you need to tread carefully, as indicated above -- that is, you should try to get a little more specific, in terms of the questions and issues that pique your curiosity, so that the reader has a sense of how you think.  At the same time, you don't want to come off like a know-it-all (and a bad one, at that) by trying to analyze subjects you might not yet fully understand, or about which you haven't read all the relevant literature.  No one expects you to be a legal expert before you come to law school, so don't go overboard.

3.  Get out more.  It's OK to have other interests.  Maybe you can watch some reality television.  I recommend Project Runway.

I want to say for the record that I don't have anything against Law Zombies per se.  But if you are a Law Zombie and I admit you, I fully expect you to learn all the moves to Thriller.  Classic.

Back in New Haven -- First Stop, Pepe's Pizza

It still feels unreal that I am back in New Haven.  A Miami native, I never thought when I moved back down to Florida after law school that I would be back in New Haven, let alone walking around the law school again.  It has been an unexpected, yet thrilling, surprise to be back again; this time, learning some of the mysteries of the admissions process as Director of Recruitment.  Ok, it isn't much of a mystery anymore if you read the Admissions Blog, but it's still kind of cool to be on the other side of the process.

Being back in New Haven naturally meant heading for some pizza, which is one of the first things I did.  Some of you are probably wondering, "what is all this hype about, it's just pizza after all."  I too was one of the skeptics when I first arrived.  My family is from Argentina, where they make fantastic pizza as a result of Italian immigration at the turn of the twentieth century, and I also spent a summer in Italy while in college (and, did I mention that one of my dad and sister's pastimes is to make homemade pizza in a special brick oven they bought specifically for that purpose?).  So, when I first got here, I was all, "there's no way the pizza in New Haven will be that good." 

But it is!  It is not identical to what you might get in Italy or elsewhere, but it is just as good.  For those of you who are interested in a bit of history, which I learned after I moved to New Haven, the pizza from New Haven is locally called apizza and is a type of Neapolitan pizza.  It originated at Frank Pepe's Pizzeria Napoletana, which was founded in 1925 in Wooster Street (http://www.pepespizzeria.com/history.php).  Apparently, Frank Sinatra used to send his driver from New York to bring back some New Haven pizza, but don't quote me on that, I merely read that on the internet.

I recently went back to Pepe's.  It's been maybe seven or eight years since I was last there and it was even better than I remembered.  My fiancé and I ordered half of a Fresh Tomato Pie, which is available only in the summer, and half with sausage.  Both were delicious.  The crust was perfectly crispy, yet not burnt.  He liked it as much as I did and it was his first time there.  I can't wait to try Pepe's famous clam pizza again and revisit both Sally's Apizza and Modern, after which I will confidently be able to once again participate in debates about which pizza is better. 

For those of you who may still be skeptics or don't think it's that big of a deal, I encourage you to try New Haven apizza for yourself before you pass judgment. 

Welcome 2013 / Fall Housekeeping

Greetings from New Haven!  School has started, the new class has settled in, and we're busily booking recruiting trips, which means it's time to kick off the admissions season.

The school year started with a week-long orientation for new students.  The week was filled with lectures, picnics, a cocktail reception, and a surprise visit by the Cupcake TruckFollow this link to read Dean Post's welcome address to YLS's 199th class of students.

The 205 students of the 1L class hail from 10 countries, 31 states, and 69 undergraduate institutions.  They have lived and worked in 74 countries and read and speak 35 languages.  20% of the Class of 2013 joined us immediately after finishing their undergraduate studies, 38% have been out of college for one or two years, and the remaining 42% have three or more years of post-college experience.  They hold 42 advanced degrees in such diverse subjects as economics, philosophy, journalism, Classics, and applied physics.  Before joining us at YLS, the Class of 2013 pursued a variety of jobs, activities, and careers, including:

·    public charter school co-founder;
·    special assistant to the Philippine government;
·    Marine Corps combat correspondent;
·    speechwriter for former President George W. Bush;
·    aide for House Judiciary Committee;
·    media advisor for Sesame Street;
·    slam poet;
·    park ranger in Vermont; and
·    conducting field research in Tostan villages.

Visit the class profile page for more facts about the Class of 2013.

If you're interested in joining our 200th class, check out our recruiting schedule to see if we're going to be visiting your area or drop by the Law School for a tour (starting in October) if you're in town.

A lot of you are anxious to start working on your YLS application.  We're making some last-minute changes to our application, so it's not quite ready.  We'll tweet, blog, post, etc. when it's ready.  There won't be any major changes to the application form and we're still requiring a personal statement and 250-word essay, so feel free to work on those in the interim.

Our new Director of Recruitment, Carolina Maharbiz, will be taking over "Tracey on the Town."  Carolina will be giving you the inside scoop on the best places to go and things to do in New Haven and Connecticut, so be on the lookout for her new column debuting at the end of the week.

In addition to our Twitter account, the Admissions Office now has a Facebook page.  Be sure to follow us, "like" us, or whatever term for external validation Facebook decides to use next.  Of course, you should also check out our Student Perspectives blog which will have new posts starting in October.  If you're not a regular reader of this blog, you may have missed this summer's "Ask Asha" personal statement boot camp series.  Now that you're putting together your applications, you may want to read/reread it.

Finally, don't forget you can email 203blog@yale.edu with questions or ideas for future posts.  We're excited to begin the admissions season and we welcome you to (203)!

P.S. Boot Camp: Overcoming Obstacles...But Not Really (Part II)

OK, back on the wagon here with writing on the blog (sorry, things get hectic with the start of the school year).  So, where were we?  Oh yes, I think in our last Boot Camp we discussed obstacles versus disappointments, and why it's important to know the difference before deciding to incorporate either into your essay.

This week I'm going to talk about actual obstacles, like major factors outside your control that impacted how you grew up, an illness you have battled (or may still be battling), discrimination or persecution, etc.  These are real.  The question is whether you should mention these obstacles in your personal statement and if so, how.

I think that as a general matter, only you can decide whether to incorporate a very personal or traumatic obstacle into your statement.  If it has had a significant impact on your development as a person, then you may want to.  But please remember that you never need to be defined by these things, and if you would rather choose to omit any mention of obstacles you have encountered and focus on other aspects of your life or things that are important to you, you should do so -- there's nothing about an obstacle that is inherently more compelling than a neutral personal experience, or an intellectual idea, or a professional experience (to name a few other potential essay topics).

What is compelling about an obstacle is how you dealt with it, or how it changed you.  Generally, this is referred to as illustrating that you've "overcome" the obstacle, though that term is both too broad and too narrow in terms of what you need to write about.

The reason that "overcoming" is too broad to describe this type of essay is that it implies that you need to give a play by play of exactly what you did at each step of your life or ordeal to deal with your obstacle.  This isn't necessarily the case -- you can actually write very little, if there is evidence in the other parts of your application that very clearly speak to the "overcoming" part.  For example, I remember an application from a woman who noted in her essay that she came to the U.S. when she was seventeen, speaking no English.  Having lived abroad, I know that's not an easy adjustment.  She didn't belabor that point, though, and went on to discuss the new opportunities she found in the U.S., how she developed an interest in a particular area of law, etc.  Not too much about her obstacle.  She did, however, score a 174 or something insane on her LSATs.  Frankly, her application, with the combination of her coming to America at an older age, accomplishing what she did, and scoring better than the majority of native English speakers made her, for me, an example of someone who had overcome a major obstacle (even though that wasn't her intended point).

A really elaborate play by play can also backfire, sending a mixed message.  My colleague, Dean Zearfoss from the University of Michigan, writing about confusing personal statements, wrote (presumably about an applicant who had tried an OO essay),

I recently wrote this note on a comment sheet: "Tenacious good, or tenacious crazy?"  I.e., is the applicant tenacious in the way of overcoming obstacles, pushing onward in the face of adversity, demonstrating resilience, or tenacious in the way of not perceiving when an endeavor is wholly futile, perhaps repeatedly failing to accurately assess situations?  The personal statement made me think the candidate was one or the other, I couldn't decide which.

Yee-ah.  You don't want to go overboard on the "overcoming" part, especially if you could tell the story through your entire application in a much more subtle way.

The reason "overcoming" is too narrow is that depending on the obstacle, you could overcome it in the sense that you dealt with the situation effectively, but it may not add to your application.  For example, I can recall another application from a student who went to an underperforming school and who did not come from a family that had members who had gone to college.  The essay focused on the educational conditions of the schools he attended, and the lack of mentorship from family members when it came time for college.  Now, the fact that this person went to college at all was certainly a major accomplishment, and I'm sure the applicant intended that coda to be the "overcoming" part.  The problem was that the applicant's performance in college was less than stellar, and while I had a context for understanding why (I was confident it wasn't from lack of motivation or interest, but lack of preparedness), the whole overcoming obstacles aspect did not make the overall application more compelling.  The student would have been better off using the essay to really talk about his academic interests and ideas as a counterpoint to the questions I would have about the transcript, and to perhaps add a short addendum explaining that he had a difficult transition to college based on his educational and familiar background.

If you're thoroughly scared about the OO essay at this point, you shouldn't be: as I said, you, as the experiencer of the obstacle, are the best judge of how much that makes you who you are today, and you should use that as your guide.  As I mentioned in my last post, though, this is a delicate essay to write-- and if it's not well-crafted, the impact it has on the reader may be other than what you intended. 

Summer Fun Book Club: Feeling Unsatisfied? Make a Checklist

For this book club selection, we're going to move into nonfiction territory.  Like my fiction tastes, my proclivities in nonfiction are kind of all over the place: Indian royalty, personal finance, Renaissance history, and childrearing, are all random topics I like to explore.  But I do consistently move towards prescriptive books -- particularly prescriptive memoirs.  Generally, prescriptive books end up making me feel guilty, because I feel like I ought to be doing something that I'm not.  That's why I was thrilled to stumble across Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, because she doesn't actually give you a bunch of steps to follow to achieve happiness (or get organized, or find God, or whatever), but rather a framework with which to think about happiness generally.

Now, I will admit that I didn't know much about this book when I picked it up, and was initially attracted to the bright blue cover with the kid-like lettering on the front (props to her publisher).  But, I was immediately engaged with Ms. Rubin's project, partly because I totally related with her as a person.  Ms. Rubin is a Yale Law School graduate -- just like me.  She sends a family photo/update for Valentine's Day, instead of Christmas...just like me!  She ends up getting frustrated and annoyed with other people's imperfections.  Just. Like. Me.  Just as I was imagining what it would be like to be BFFs with Gretchen (I felt like we should be on a first-name basis), I discovered that Gretchen doesn't like pedicures.  As some of you 203 readers know, one of the things I fantasize about, particularly during admissions season, is getting a nice, relaxing pedicure, preferably while sitting in a massage chair and reading the latest Ok! magazine.  So maybe I and Ms. Rubin (we were back to being professional colleagues) wouldn't hang out all the time after all.

Even so, acknowledging that I enjoyed something that another intelligent, very successful person doesn't only highlighted one of Ms. Rubin's personal Secrets of Adulthood -- and the one I think most relevant to aspiring law students -- namely,"You can choose what you do; you can't choose what you like to do."  In other words, it's pretty easy to go along with the current, but you may want to stop and think about whether the current you're in is where you want to be in the first place.

That's the crux of Ms. Rubin's Happiness Project.  Who are you at your core?  How do you want to change?  What do you like to do?  Where do you want to go?  And, most importantly, Are your day-to-day actions aligned with your answers to all of these questions?  Taking her inspiration from Benjamin Franklin, who tried to achieve "moral perfection" by cultivating a different virtue every month through a resolutions chart, Mr. Rubin attacks a different area of her life every month for a year, from health to sprituality.  With a spreadsheet of resolutions for each area, Ms. Rubin follows the guidance of life gurus including Montaigne, Saint Therese of Lisieux, and Oprah, among others.  Along the way she finds the happiness-boosting impact of such simple things as organizing your closet (and leaving one shelf empty) and more difficult things like not nagging (trust me, a hard habit to break).

Figuring out what makes you happy is a worthwhile endeavor (I'm allowed to use that word because it's on a blog, not a P.S.) before starting law school.  Law school, apart from encouraging conformity, also tends to equate suffering and apathy with intelligence.  To quote Ms. Rubin:

Some people associate happiness with a lack of intellectual rigor, like the man who said to Samuel Johnson, 'You are a philosopher, Dr. Johnson.  I have tried too in my time to be a philosopher; but, I don't know how, cheerfulness was always breaking in.'  Creativity, authenticity, or discernment, some folks argue, is incompatible with the bourgeois complacency of happiness.  But although somber, pessimistic people might seem smarter, research shows that happiness and intelligence are essentially unrelated.

Of course, it's cooler not to be too happy.  There's a goofiness to happiness, a readiness to be pleased.  Zest and enthusiasm take energy, humility, and engagement; taking refuge in irony, exercising destructive criticism, or assuming an air of philosophical ennui is less taxing.

For some reason, law school is filled with this ethos (perhaps because the profession attracts so many philosophers), so it's important to get grounded in your own values and interests before you start.  The brief interview I had with Ms. Rubin elaborates on this further:

203:  Let's start with your career.  You achieved the legal trifecta: Yale Law School, Editor-in-Chief of the Law Journal, and Supreme Court Clerk.  What made you leave a career path that most law students can only dream about?

Rubin:  I was interested in law and had a great experience in my legal jobs, but for me, the pull to become a writer at last became irresistible. While I was clerking for Justice O'Connor, I was working on a book in my free time - though it took me a long time to acknowledge to myself that that's what I was doing (that project became my first book POWER MONEY FAME SEX: A USER'S GUIDE). When I look back at my life, there are many clues that I wanted to be a writer, but I ignored them. At last, though, the impulse became strong enough that I admitted to myself that that is what I really wanted to do. I realized that I would rather fail as a writer than succeed as a lawyer, so I just had to give it a shot.  

203:  I'd ask you if you regret going to law school in the first place, but I know you met your husband there so I am assuming you don't!  But in terms of your overall happiness (like if you were to graph it relative to other major points in your life), how would you rate your experience at Yale Law School?

Rubin:  I loved Yale Law School and had a fantastic experience there. I loved the intellectual challenge, and all the people, and even the feel of the building. I remember thinking, as a third year, that I was so at home in the library that I wouldn't hesitate to walk in wearing my pajamas and blow-dry my hair at my carrel! (though I was never actually tempted to do that). It is really an extraordinary place, and I feel so fortunate that I was a student there. Plus, yes, meeting my husband was a definite high point.

203:  More and more people are applying to law school (our volume was up 12% last year!) and yet it seems like more people are leaving the legal profession in droves.  Based on what you've learned about happiness, do you think there's something inherent in the practice of law that's antithetical to being (and staying) happy?

Rubin:  Well, some people argue that the confrontation inherent in a lot of law practice might lead to more unhappiness, or its constant search for what can go amiss or how people might wrong each other. And of course it can be stressful, with long hours and a lot of pressure. So all those factors are in play. But I would also make this observation: the people I know from law school who WANTED to be lawyers, or teach law, are happy with those jobs. But so many people go to law without any idea about whether they want to be a lawyer. So then why is it surprising if they don't love that career? Law school attracts people who don't know what else to do with themselves - people who are good at school, good at humanities, and who want to be told what to do in order to succeed. That's why I went! But in the end, being a lawyer will only make you happy if you enjoy being a lawyer. Many people do. Other people don't.

203:  Do you have any advice to future or current law students about how they might maximize their happiness amidst the challenges and stresses of law school?

Rubin:  Get enough sleep! This is HUGE! And get at least a little bit of exercise - even a twenty-minute walk - most days. Take time for fun. DON'T GET ANY EXTENSIONS on your papers - that is the highway to hell! And spend time with people, take time to build relationships. My one regret from law school is that I didn't spend more time hanging out in the dining hall, getting to know more people. Once you graduate, you don't have the opportunity for that kind of easy socializing, so make the most of it.

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You can find more happiness tips and tricks suited for the Type A personality at Ms. Rubin's blog.  Stay tuned as we return to more P.S. advice next week!

P.S. Boot Camp: Overcoming Obstacles...But Not Really (Part I)

Sorry I've been away from the blog...we admissions deans take vacations too, and I was in the Great State of Texas for the past week.  Love Texas -- I have to be honest, if you like Mexican food, Connecticut is definitely not where it's at.

Anyway, this week we'll look at the ever-popular Overcoming Obstacles essay.  In Part I of this topic, I am going to focus on what constitutes an "obstacle."  But before I go there, let me just give the profile of the OO essay, which is pretty straightforward: the OO personal statement starts out with a problem that the applicant confronted and then details (ostensibly...more in Part II) the steps the applicant took to get past the problem.  The intended effect of the OO essay is to have the reader say, "Holy cow!  That's amazing!  There are very few people who could have done that!"  This reaction, in turns, provides a compelling reason to admit the applicant if the other parts of the application are extremely strong, or at the very least to overlook parts of the application that may be somewhat weak.

Let me start by saying that I have nothing against the OO essay per se.  I have admitted people who have written very compelling OO essays.  However, this is a very delicate essay to write, and you should think of your sitution very carefully before moving in this direction.  To wit, you should first recognize whether the problem you intend to write about is, in fact, an obstacle.

By way of illustration, one of the personal statements I read last season involved a student who had some very interesting experiences -- including a legal internship at a major nonprofit in New York City.  However, she focused her entire personal statement on her attempt to take an advance math course without taking the prerequisites, and her subsequent failure in the course.  The applicant was upset, because to that point she had always done well in her classes.  After a period of intial anger at her professor, then herself, she took all of the prerequisites for the math class, then the same class she originally failed again, and aced all of them.

Folks, here is the deal.  There is a difference between an obstacle and a disappointment.  Obstacles are major hurdles in your life -- things that many people, if they are fortunate, will not have to deal with.  These are things like serious illness, divorce, abuse, war, poverty, fleeing from persecution,etc.  Remember that I am reading close to 4,000 applications a year, and they include people who have dealt with these and other issues.  Having gone through something like this doesn't automatically give an applicant a leg up in admissions (more on that in Part II of this topic), but it does provide some perspective with which to look at the entire pool of applications.

Disappointments are things you wanted, but you didn't get.  Disappointments are good things: they encourage us to reflect on what's important to us, and give us opportunities for personal growth.  But, because they are based on things you wanted -- and may have expected (which is why you are disappointed when you didn't get it) -- what comes across when you write about them is not your aplomb or resilience in the face of adversity (which is usually unexpected), but self-absorption and immaturity.  Things like failing a class, losing an election for class president, or getting rejected from a dream school, while they were probably a big deal at the time, aren't that important in the grand scheme of things...and your self-awareness and understanding of where you are going in the grand scheme of things is what I want to read about.

Focusing on disappointments can also give a mistaken impression of your priorities.  For example, the student who chose to write about her grades rather than, say, her experiences at her legal internship (which I would think would be more relevant to a law school personal statement), suggested to me that she was extremely concerned about external validation.  This would make her a poor fit at Yale, which has no grades or class rank.  What you choose to write about (and not write about) says a lot about what you think is important, so make sure to choose your topics wisely.

What if, though, your disappointment is something that has affected your application, like in the case of the failed class above?  Well, this would be the perfect opportunity to use an addendum.  If this applicant had simply added a short addendum which said, "In the fall of my freshman year, I attempted to take a very difficult math class, which I failed.  I subsequently took the prerequisites for that class, and retook the same class again, and received A's in all of them.  I hope the Admissions Committee will take this into account when reviewing my transcript," she would have covered all the points she needed to about her grades, while freeing up her personal statement for other, more important topics.  In fact, she probably would have gotten the reaction she originally desired, which is for me to admire her tenacity and perserverence in mastering a subject.  You don't need two pages for that.

There's a mistaken impression generally that you have to have suffered in some way in order to be a compelling applicant.  That's not true.  If you're fortunate to have encountered only minor bumps in the road on your path to greatness, consider yourself lucky and think about how being in that position has affected your choices and values.  You'll have a clearer picture of why you're at the point of applying to law school, and have a better personal statement as a result.

Summer Fun Book Club: Put On Your Tin Foil Hats

As promised, I'm officially kicking off the 203 Summer Fun Book Club.  Never mind the fact that it is already the middle of July: my summer starts about now, as we begin wrapping up our transfer applications (and don't be surprised if "Summer Fun Book Club" continues through December, under the same name).  The idea of the Book Club is to present a selection of books written by lawyers but that aren't about the law (at least in the direct, academic sense), with the hope that you'll avoid tooling out too early on law stuff (if you are an applicant or a 0L) and that you'll get some ideas of a career escape route (if you are already in law school).

I generally don't get to pal around with bestselling novelists -- or even come in contact with them, for that matter -- so I was pleasantly surprised when I got a note last fall from bestselling author Barry Eisler, who had read an article I had written about the use of torture.  Mr. Eisler had kindly sent me a copy of his latest novel, Inside Out, which chronicles assassin Ben Treven's quest to track down 92 missing CIA torture tapes and the rogue agent who took them.

Before I go further, let me make a confession.  Despite (or because of) my past life as a G-woman, I don't gravitate toward spy-thrillers or political "faction" (fiction based on true events) novels.  My fictional tastes tend to flow toward mommy lit, dead Tudor queens, or tales of the Indian diaspora.  Perhaps lightweight for a Yale Law graduate, but it is what it is (my next book selection will illustrate why I no longer feel a need to be apologetic about my literary preferences). 

As a result I'll admit I approached this book with a little trepidation, fearing a Tom Clancy-esq, too-much-going-on-for-me-to-care-about-or-keep-track-of plot.  It was anything but.  Inside Out had a fast-moving but carefully woven plot, with well-developed characters and just the right dose of inside-the-beltway dialogue which provided a policy context for the novel.  As for the steamy sex which Mr. Eisler promises when he discusses the book, I'll just echo the old Prego commercial: it's in there. 

Part of the reason that the novel was so readable and engrossing is that it was believable.  One of things that real-life law enforcement/intelligence training does is ruin you for any kind of fictional portrayal of this life.  For example, here are three things that drive me absolutely nuts with crime/spy shows:

1.  Any TV show that depicts LEOs (law enforcement officers) walking around and sweeping rooms with their finger on the trigger has a bad consultant and is a total fake.  Rule #1 -- as any LEO (and hopefully private gun owner) will tell you -- is keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot.

2.  There are three things that will provide adequate cover (protection from a bullet) in a gunfight: a U.S. mailbox (the blue ones that look like R2D2), the engine block of a car, and a tree trunk.  If you're watching a guy firing away from behind a wooden door or an office desk, just know that he would be totally dead in real life.

3.  People employed to do covert operations with the CIA are CIA officers, not agents.  A source recruited by the CIA officer is called an agent.  By contrast, people employed by the FBI and who carry guns are FBI agents (short for Special Agent).  A source recruited by an FBI Agent is called a source or an asset (and may be described in a criminal complaint as an informant).  Someone at NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox please make a note of this.

Anyway, back to Inside Out being realistic.  From the training and demeanor of the main characters -- one a black ops agent and the other a female FBI agent (woo-hoo!) -- to the interagency squabbling when the report of the 92 missing CIA tapes hits the media, the novel has the mark of someone who knows what he's talking about.  That's because Mr. Eisler does.  After graduating from Cornell Law School in 1989, Mr. Eisler was a covert CIA officer for three years before practicing law in Silicon Valley.  He became a full-time writer after the publication of his first bestselling novel, Rain Fall, in 2003. 

As someone who's followed a somewhat ecclectic career path since law school myself, I was as intrigued by Mr. Eisler's background as with the novel.  So I asked him to answer some questions for 203 readers, which he did:

203:  You've had an amazing career, from law to the CIA to writing.  Let's start with the first one: what made you decide to go to law school, and why did you eventually leave the practice?

Eisler:  The truth is, I went to law school because I didn't know what else I wanted to do.  I lacked direction while I was in college but tested well on things like the LSAT, and my parents, concerned about that lack of direction, encouraged me to apply to law school.  So it was a bit of a "path of least resistance" thing and I can't say my heart was in it.  After law school, I joined the CIA's Directorate of Operations -- no connection with my law degree -- and, while in many ways the experience was interesting, I also found working for a giant bureaucracy not to my taste.  So I left after three years and joined the DC office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, then bounced around between WGM's Silicon Valley office and private practice in Osaka and Tokyo.  Eventually, a technology startup I had brought in to WGM as a client offered me an enticing executive position, so I left the bleachers and took to the field (at least that's how it felt at the time).  All the while, I was working on the manuscript for what become my first novel -- Rain Fall -- and when I sold the rights for it and an unwritten sequel, I left the regular workplace entirely and started writing full time.  I certainly enjoyed the craft of a technology licensing practice, in Silicon Valley, Japan, and in-house with a startup, but for me, writing full time, and being the CEO of my own operation, can't be beat.

203:  You were a covert CIA officer for three years.   What was that like - anything like the movie The Recruit?  (Sorry, I have to ask - if it makes you feel better, people always want to know if the FBI was anything like the X-Files.)

Eisler:  Heh, yes, it was as much like The Recruit as I imagine the Bureau is like the X-Files.  It had its good and bad aspects.  Good would include the training -- seven weeks of paramilitary training, 20 weeks of spy school -- and the opportunity to work alongside some impressive people.  Bad would include the overall mediocrity of the place.  I know that sounds harsh, and for anyone who's curious about more, I'd recommend Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes.  Overall, America would be safer and saner today if we had abolished the CIA decades ago (as Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy all at various times wanted).

203:  Inside Out is based on actual events, specifically the CIA's use of torture and its destruction of the videotapes that documented it.  What about this spoke to you and made you consider making it into a novel?

Eisler:   I'm appalled at America's embrace of torture.  Not just because the practice is illegal -- and we're supposed to be a nation under the rule of law -- not just because it's immoral -- and we're supposed to be better than our enemies.  Also because it's counterproductive.  The two things torture does undeniably well is produce false confessions (hence its popularity with the Inquisition) and create new jihadists and new jihadist sympathizers.  Yet it's been sold to a gullible public as something that "works" and that has saved, rather than cost, American lives.

     I realized the right has effectively cross-promoted torture by reducing the practice to this silly, misleading question:  "Can you say it never works?"  Leave aside for a moment that the question is intended to distract from the actual facts of what was ordered and done during the Bush administration and what continues under the Obama administration, and the actual US laws against torture.  What counts isn't whether a practice can be shown to have worked in some isolated instance (although it's noteworthy that torture apologists have never been able to demonstrate even a single instance where torture led to intelligence that saved American lives); what counts is whether something works in the aggregate.  So yes, of course, torture can theoretically "work," just as burning down a house can "work" to kill a mosquito.  Bravo.

      Anyway, the right has been effective in reducing torture to this misleading talking point and then cross-promoting it through shows like 24 and the novels of people like Vince Flynn and Brad Thor.  I thought it was time for a reality-based novel in response -- something that would depict the true causes and consequences of torture, not a cartoon fantasy.  Hence, Inside Out.

203:  Given your career trajectory, what would be your advice to aspiring law students?  If they're not sure they want to be lawyers, do you think the law degree is still worth it?

Eisler:  It depends on the person.  I think some careers can be grown into, even if you're not sure about it at first.  And God knows, the country needs good lawyers today -- not corporate careerists, but men and women dedicated to the Constitution and to the notion that, as Thomas Paine said, "Insofar as we have a King in America, it is the law that is king."  The Constitution has been under worsening assault pretty much the Manhattan Project (for more, I recommend Gary Wills' Bomb Power) and the Bush and Obama administrations have been especially ferocious.  It's hard to see how the rule of law can survive if we don't have people dedicated to practicing and protecting it.  In which regard:  want to read an account of American heroes?  "The Guantanamo Lawyers."  A true story of what real lawyers can do in the service of justice and the Constitution when they set their minds to it.  The country needs more such patriots, and I hope the book will inspire some of your students today.

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So there you go, readers, from someone who has (literally) been there and done that -- stay tuned for our next selection.  Meanwhile, please keep in mind that if you clicked on any of the links in the above post, your phone calls may be monitored.

P.S. Boot Camp; Make Sure You Have More Than One Trick

OK, this week we're going to talk about another one of my least favorite law school personal statements: the One-Trick Pony Essay.  Simply put, the OTPE usually involves an applicant who is extremely accomplished in or committed to a particular activity or sport, such as debate, chess, or baseball.  This, inherently, is not the problem.  The problem is that they then devote every component of their application to illustrate their single-minded focus on their passion, I am guessing because they want to show qualities like devotion, perserverence, and achievement.  Unfortunately, these good qualities end up being overshadowed by the readers' sense that the appliant is kind of boring and one-dimensional.

To see why the OTPE can take a good thing and turn it into a bad thing, let's use a hypothetical (as in, not real/just an example/don't sue me).  Let's imagine that Michael Phelps (of whom I am a big fan) decides to apply to law school.  I open his file, excited to appropriate his electronic signature into my personal autograph collection, and to learn something about the "real" Michael Phelps.  This first thing I see are his Honors and Awards, which lists every swim meet he has ever won and all of the world swimming records he has broken.  Next, under Extracurricular Activities, he lists swimming as his main activity, with occasional volunteer work for the local high school swim teams.  His thesis in college was about new wetsuit technology and whether it should be banned from international competition.  His personal statement is a description of what it was like to grow up with four hour morning swim practices starting at 4am and four hour practices after school.  His 250-word essays is a descriptive piece about what it's like to take the first lap of the day.  Finally, his recommendations include one from the U.S. Olympic committee and one from his swimming coach, Bob. 

Dude -- the guy was on the front of a friggin' Wheaties box.  I KNOW that he has spent pretty much every waking moment of his life in a swimming pool.  I also know that he is a CRAZY AWESOME swimmer -- I watched every sappy Olympic story about him, including the one that talked about how much he ate every day (I think he consumed like 12,000 calories a day while training).  While all of this is impressive, the problem with this (did I mention fictional?) application is that it a) doesn't really tell me anything new or surprising and b) isn't particularly linked with why he is applying to law school.  Even if his numbers were spectacular, my main thought would be: the Law School doesn't have a swimming pool -- what is this poor guy going to do here?

Now imagine a different kind of application from Michael.  Let's say that he mixes it up a bit, with a brief mention of being a sixteen-time Olympic medalist but also listing his non-athletic activities, such as writing a food column for the local newspaper.  And maybe his personal statement doesn't discuss swimming at all, but talks about, say, a summer job he had once that gave him a window into some of the issues he's interested in exploring in law school.  His recommendations, only from faculty members, talk about his writing and intellectual curiosity.  And, maybe he subtly includes a 250-word essay about what it was like to hear the American anthemn played the first time he won a gold medal, which might make the reader (me) a little misty-eyed.  Admitted.

The point here is that contrary to popular belief, admission to YLS isn't based upon proving superhuman feats and accomplishments.  On the contrary, it's about showing that you are human, in the literal sense of the world.  You want to reveal as many facets as you can about what makes you who you are.  And let me be clear: I don't mean that you should show that you are superficially "well-rounded" by listing a bunch of activities that you aren't really involved in.  You can be completely immersed in one particular idea or activity -- you just don't want that one thing to define you as a person.  Presumably, you do spend some time in your day thinking of or doing other things, and you need to let those come through in your application as well.  Otherwise, you take the risk that the admissions committee will conclude that you will be unable to relate or meaningfully contribute to the class in any area outside your stated interests.

If you are a person who is really focused on one thing, and you're having trouble thinking of other things in your life that matter to you and that you can incorporate into your application, then this is a major red flag that should cause you to consider a couple of things.  First, are you sure you want to go to law school?  I mean, if playing the cello has been your life goal for the past twenty years and it's what you live, breathe and eat each day, then maybe you ought to, I don't know...play the cello for a living.  You may not make much, but I promise you it will be the life you dream about as you sit locked in a basement as a first year associate, going through boxes of documents for fifteen hours a day so you can pay your debts. 

Second, maybe you should get out more.  Remember, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (and you know how that ended).

 

P.S. Boot Camp: Don't Argue

OK, it's time to kick off my promised Personal Statement Boot Camp, which is designed to help you avoid some of the major mistakes I see in law school applications, and hopefully give you some ideas of how to make your P.S. better.  I'm going to start with the theme I most dread reading every year, which I mentioned in one of my panel answers in a previous post: the "I Love to Argue" theme.

I can only guess that there is some book, or some group of misguided counselors, that has the mistaken impression that "I Love to Argue" is 1) an original theme for a personal statement and 2) something that is actually going to help your candidacy.  If so, nothing can be more wrong on both fronts.  I'd say roughly 300-500 people a year write some form of the "I Love to Argue" personal statement, which makes them 1) totally cliche and 2) seemingly clueless about why they are going to law school and/or too lazy to think about it deeply.  (If you want to rat out the sources/people who are telling you to go this route, feel free to do so in the comments.)

In case you're one of the fortunate applicants who isn't familiar with this theme, the "I Love to Argue" personal statement goes something like this: first, the applicant starts off with some anecdote, usually from preschool, which amounts to having a temper tantrum over something really dumb.  The adult in said anecdote (usually, but not always, the mother), instead of giving the applicant a good spank, is totally impressed by the temper tantrum and says, "You are going to be a great lawyer!"  This forms the basis for the applicant's desire to apply to law school sixteen years later.

Sometimes, the applicant manages to redeem him- or herself by immediately leaping from this very bad opening into substantive reasons why s/he is interested in law school.  More often, however, the applicant proceeds to follow up with more anecdotes illustrating how s/he loved to argue with various other people in different stages and ages of life apparently in the hope that, two pages later, I am going to proclaim, "This applicant is going to be a great lawyer!"  That never happens.

Why is this theme so wrong?  Let's first start with your mom.  I'm sure she is a very nice person, but when it comes to law school admissions, please note that she has zero credibility.  Don't mention any assessment she makes about your potential lawyerly ability in your P.S.  Ever.

Moving on...on a conceptual level, the "I Love to Argue" P.S. seems to be based on the mistaken notion that it's actually good, or relevant, that you love to argue.  It's not.  Going on and on about how you love being confrontational and argumentative with each and every person in your life is a major red flag for the reader of your file.  It's a character flaw.  If you love to argue, and even admit that you do so over petty, irrelevant things, you suggest to the reader that you are reactive, a poor listener, unable to relate to different perspectives, and that you are generally an unpleasant person to be around (and to have in a class).  The fact that you think it's an asset suggests that you lack self-awareness and are going to have problems getting along with others.  In other words, you are going to be a social and administrative (if not academic) nightmare.  Not so good.

More importantly, ILTA shows a shallow understanding of what being a lawyer is about.  You see, arguing is not the hallmark of a good lawyer.  It's true that many lawyers are skilled orators, but that doesn't mean that they argue.  In fact, the best way to find yourself with a losing case streak and a dwindling client list is to constantly argue with other lawyers or worse, the judge hearing your case.  Legal communities are insular and well-connected; most lawyers, even those who litigate, have good relationships with the lawyers they oppose in court every day.  This means that they can pick up the phone to resolve an issue, rather than having heated arguments in court.  And if you've ever watched an appellate case, you know that the only people who should be arguing (if you're doing your job right) are the hearing judges, who are going to pick apart your case and ask you pointed and potentially snarky questions.  You politely answer them.

In fact, I'd er-, argue, that one of the most important jobs of a lawyer is not to argue at all.  Take, for instance, the most important lawyer (and oralist) in the country, the Solicitor General of the United States.  The S.G. represents the U.S. government before the Supreme Court in all cases where the United States is a party to the case.  Uniquely, however, the S.G.'s role is more of an advisor to the Court (for example, the S.G. is always allowed to present an argument even when the government is an amicus curiae, rather than a party, to the case) -- hence she is known also as the "Tenth Justice."  To this end, the S.G. has a mandate that most lawyers don't have, which is to "confess error" when the government's position is unjust and to advise the Court to overturn the lower court's decision.  Clearly, this means that the S.G. is required to do more than just blindly crank out a zealous argument in favor of the government's original position; she has to think carefully about the position,its implications on the parties in the case and on policy generally, and sometimes, if warranted, concede that the other side has it right.

Which brings me to the big picture.  Good lawyers don't argue, they construct good arguments.  There's a difference.  So, for you to show me that you'll be a good lawyer, you have to make a good argument for yourself through your personal statement.  This is done not by asserting that you possess certain (unverifiable) skills, but by illustrating through experiences, influences, and ideas that you have the qualities that we want to see in future lawyers from Yale -- critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, substantive interests, the ability to see different points of view, to name a few.  In fact, it doesn't matter if you hate public speaking, or even if you're bad at it.  Making a legal oral argument, like any skill, is one you can learn...and in any event most lawyers never see the inside of a courtroom (or the light of day, for that matter).  By contrast, we can't teach aspects of character, so getting those to shine through in your personal statement is much more important from an admissions perspective.  

So, to sum up: avoid writing about how you love to argue, quoting your mom, or mentioning anything from preschool, and you'll be ahead of 10% of your peers from the get-go.  That's it for this Boot Camp.  More to come!

Summer Fun!

We've been wrapping up the class over the last month or so, and now are pretty much set to coast for the summer.  Usually we sign off for the summer, but this year I thought I'd try to do something different: for those of you getting a head start on your law school applications, I'll be hosting a Personal Statement Boot Camp on this blog, where I will discuss some of the common pitfalls -- and how to avoid them --of law school personal statements.  We'll go back to our regular Ask Asha posts to answer your questions starting in September.

For 203 readers who aren't in the process of applying to law school, I'll also have a summer book club on the blog.  I haven't decided on the theme yet, but I'm considering a selection of books written by former lawyers (and ideally, about something other than the law).  Maybe this will help calm anyone already locked into law school and who now has cold feet about becoming a lawyer...you can always become a writer.

I'm off to Mexico for a week but will be back in action starting the last week of June!

Let's Get the Band Back Together

In addition to performing my regular, admissions dean-y duties, I get approached by a variety of media people throughout the year asking for "help."  Sometimes these are authors writing books on how to get into law school.  Sometimes they are undergraduate school newspapers.  And sometimes it's a British educational company asking for my photo to include in one of their textbooks (true story).  I won't comment on the requests I grant and don't grant, except to say that in general, I try to place at the top of my considerations whether you, the applicant, would benefit from it and ideally, whether there's an alternative way I can get the same information to you with less pressure on me.

I was discussing this issue with a few of my colleagues from Stanford, Michigan, NYU, Chicago, and Columbia earlier this year, after we all received the same FAQs from a national news magazine.  (Yes, we do talk to each other -- in fact, once a year, we all get together at a snazzy beach resort and drink fruity drinks into the wee hours of the morning.  What happens during fruity drinks stays with the fruity drinks, so I'll leave it at that.)  It occurred to us that many of us created blogs for precisely this reason -- to get the information you are looking for to you without any intermediaries.  So we decided to employ the economies of scale created by joining our blogs, and below we bring to you our collective answers to the FAQs we received.  I've only posted two of our questions here; you can find our answers to the others at the Columbia Admissions Blog, the Michigan Admissions Blog, and the Stanford Admissions Blog.  The panelists include Deans Ann Perry (Chicago),  Nkonye Iwerebon (Columbia), Sarah Zearfoss (Michigan), Ken Kleinrock (NYU), and Faye Deal (Stanford).

I encourage you all, by the way, to visit the blogs written by my colleagues during the admissions season.  For one thing, all of them have been doing this for much longer than I have, so their collective wisdom -- as evidenced by the below answers -- will be useful to you.  Also, you can learn something about the "human" side of each of us: for example, that Dean Deal is a fan of Criminal Minds, but not glow-in-the-dark karma string; or that Dean Zearfoss references esoteric literary works-- as opposed to popular teenage vampire movies, as I do; or that Dean Iwerebon has great fashion sense (that's not really on her blog, but I happen to know that).  It helps to know your audience when you're preparing your application, so use the resources available to you.  Enjoy!

What do you look for in the personal statement?

Yale:  This is the law school admissions equivalent of, "How do you know God exists?"  Such a big question, and there's usually no way to answer it with enough specificity to satisfy the person asking it.  But I'll do my best.  What I look for in a personal statement is a sense of how the person thinks.  That is, I am less concerned about someone's substantive interests - though that of course tells me a lot about the applicant and what they would add to and benefit from at Yale - than I am in their ability to analyze those interests and how they relate to their own past experiences and future goals.  That's a very vague and circuitous way of saying that I am looking for someone who can "connect the dots" in their life.  How do your goals and interests relate to the personal turning points in your life?  Your work experiences?  Your academic and intellectual journey?  What questions have you sought answers to, and what questions remain unanswered?  In short, your personal statement should demonstrate an ability to think critically about yourself and your place in the world around you. 

Oh, and "I love to argue" is not a good theme for a personal statement.

Stanford:  I try to get a sense of who you are through your own words.  I've heard from your recommenders and now I want to hear about you from YOU.  You all have stories to tell about growing up in a small town, about a teacher who made a big impression on you, about a life-altering event, about losing a parent, about a trip to a far corner of the world, about a work experience that has led you to this personal statement - lots of options.  Decide which story you're going to tell me so that I can walk away after reading it thinking I know you just a little better.  And, never forget, that good writing is essential.

 NYU:  Agree completely with the suggestions from Dean Rangappa and Dean Deal.  You could approach the personal statement as your opportunity to have "an interview" with admissions officer.   If you had fifteen minutes, what question do you hope would be asked?  What story would you tell?  What do you hope the interviewer would remember about you?  The best statements are heartfelt, sincere, straightforward and above all, beautifully written. 

Columbia:  So much to say on this topic, but let I will limit my comments to the following:  I agree with all of the above and would like to expand on one thing-sincerity.  It is fairly obvious to us when an applicant tries to be someone or something s/he is not, which is not only off-putting, but can also cast a shadow of doubt on other parts of your application.  Be sure that when you talk about future goals, e.g., saving Alaskan whales, it is because you have a demonstrated interest in doing so and not simply because you might have gone on an Alaskan Whale Watching Cruise.  We really want to know you who you are and what motivates you, albeit in two pages or less.  One last quick thing . . . please do not restate your résumé as that would be such a waste of a great opportunity to express yourself in a meaningful way.

Michigan:  This is all completely excellent advice.  I disagree with none of it.  The only thing I would add is that you ought not worry about appearing exceptional in your personal statement; I talk to so many applicants who feel stymied because they have not yet won, say, the Nobel Prize, and worry that without some massive achievement to point to, they will appear wanting.   Not so.  The vast majority of applicants do not have the sort of life stories that generate made-for-TV movies, and that is not the standard we are applying.  Be yourself, and don't worry about who you're not.

Chicago:  The personal statement is the first part of the application that I review.  It is where the applicant has the opportunity to really make an impression with the Admissions Committee.  I don't want to repeat too much of my colleagues comments because I agree with them.  However, I do want to remind applicants that this is a writing sample that you are submitting with your application.  Therefore, it should be some of your best work, meaning that there should be no typos, misspellings, etc.   Also, one of my biggest pet peeves is when I receive a personal statement addressed to another law school.  I know it doesn't really sound like a big deal and mistakes can happen, but remember lawyers need to pay attention to the details, and this type of mistake just sets a wrong tone when I am reading the personal statement and causes me to lack confidence in the applicant. 

 Can you give a brief description of the lifecycle of an application?  What's the timeline applicants should expect?

 Yale:  Oooh.  I get to go first on this one, since Yale is the pariah of releasing decisions.  Our admissions process takes longer than most schools, because we involve our entire faculty in the admissions process.  I've described the admissions process here.  As anyone who's been to law school can attest, it's hard enough to get a professor to turn in grades, let alone a stack of 50 admissions files.  Multiply that by 60 and you have my reasons for wanting to fling myself out a window from about December through April.  Seriously, though, while our process is time-consuming, it does ensure that every application is read very thoroughly, regardless of grades and LSAT scores, by up to 6 readers (which includes me and in tough cases, my entire admissions staff).  So we don't make any decision lightly. 

As a result of our process, your chances of admission are the same regardless of when you apply.  Many applicants will hear within a couple of months of applying, but applicants who go through the full round of faculty review, as well as applicants who apply later in the season, may not hear until late March or early April, when most of our final decisions are made.

Stanford:  My windows don't open otherwise I, too, would want to fling myself out at various points throughout the season.  Learning to speed read may be a better alternative, I suppose.  What else can I say that Dean Rangappa has not already mentioned?  It's a long process here at SLS as well - multiple reviews, faculty reviews - so it does take time.   

There is a way to make this whole process move along in a speedier fashion, but it's a way I am certain most applicants would not appreciate.  Do everything by the numbers - LSAT and GPA - and pay scant attention to all the other pieces.  Bypass the additional review as new materials arrive.  Don't involve faculty.  I'm not saying we have a perfect process by any means, but a thorough and comprehensive review does take time.

NYU:  Top law schools use different admissions models.  All of these processes require careful reading by experienced people.  Our model is more administrative in nature than the ones that Dean Rangappa and Dean Deal reference.  Part of the reason is that we have a very large applicant pool.  While there is a faculty admissions committee that oversees the process and policies, the core of the review process has been delegated by the faculty to admissions professionals.    We review applications in the order that they become complete, but we do not necessarily make final decisions in that order. This means that we are often able to make decisions on the strongest and weakest applications relatively quickly- sometimes within a few weeks of completion.  However, many applications must necessarily be held to compare against the larger applicant pool.  The sooner one applies, the sooner the candidate MIGHT hear from us.  All applications received by our deadline receive a decision by late April.  We urge applicants to submit their materials as early as possible to avoid delays.  Unfortunately, a significant number of applicants wait until the last minute to apply and those usually experience the longest wait to hear from us.

Columbia:  We too have a careful and thorough application review process.  Every single application is read by at least two members of the Selection Committee, all of whom are Admissions Officers.  Generally, applications are reviewed in the order in which they were completed and decisions are often made in the same manner.  Ours is not a mechanical process as each reviewer brings a different approach and perspective to the evaluation. All of this is good because each applicant receives the benefit of varied experiences and viewpoints.  Most candidates who complete their applications by December 31 will be notified by March, while every attempt is made to send out a decision to all applicants by the end of April, including to those that were completed after the deadline. 

Michigan:  Our process is quite similar to that of Columbia and NYU-the review is usually exclusively administrative, and every file is typically read by two admissions officers.  Sometimes, though, we'll want additional reads to get new points of view, either by other admissions officers or by our faculty committee.  And as Dean Deal and Dean Rangappa describe, involving faculty usually makes the process take a lot longer!  Long discussions typically ensue.  But in general, it is our goal to have decisions made by late March or early April, and we've met that goal for many years in a row.   For more detail than you'll likely want regarding our admissions procedures, visit our FAQ.

Chicago:  Our process is similar to Columbia, NYU, and Michigan.  We review applications in the order they are completed.  Even though we have a paperless process and review all of the materials electronically, it still takes time to process each application.  We need to make sure we have all of the application materials before they are reviewed for a decision.  Each file is reviewed by at least two members of the Admissions Committee which is made up of both admissions officers and faculty.  We release decisions on a rolling basis so the sooner your file is complete the better. We also try to get decisions out to all applicants by the end of April, though this gets difficult with our growing applicant pool! 

 

Again, check out more of our answers at Stanford's, Michigan's, and Columbia's admissions blogs!

Posted: May 21 2010, 10:16 AM by asha | with 5 comment(s)
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Bad Idea...Trousers?

You know, I didn't get around to many BIJ posts this year, mainly because it's been a good season.  Applicants were very well-behaved -- even the admitted students who turned down our offers this year (yes, people do turn us down, and it makes me very sad) were extremely humble, gracious, and kind.

So if I'm in such a good mood, why am I in BIJ-land again?  Well, it's that weird time of year where we're waiting for the dust to settle on the incoming class (no wait list activity yet, for those who are wondering), and I thought I'd come clean about the ONE THING in applications that Drives. Me. Crazy.

Take a look at the following sentences:

1.  My favorite part of the 203 Blog is "Bad Idea Jeans."

2.  My favorite part of the 203 Blog is "Bad Idea Jeans".

Don't know what I'm talking about?

Do you see how, in the first example, the period is neatly, soothingly, and ecstasy-producingly tucked within the quotation marks?  And then do you see how, in the second example, the period is about to float off into space, making me want to kill myself? 

That's what I'm talking about.

Perhaps you think I am being too nitpicky.  You might be saying, "Is there some rule that says I have to keep the period inside the quotation marks?  Or are you just doing one of your random Asha things where you are finding reasons to ding people?"

The only random criterion I use to ding people is choice of font.  In this case, however, there is, in fact, a rule.  It's called the American rule.  (I'm kidding about the font thing, BTW, just wanted to make sure you're paying attention.) 

You see, the British decide which punctuation mark goes within the quotes based on the quote itself.  This rule is also known as the "logic" rule, and is consistently applied regardless of whether you are using a period, comma, exclamation point, or any other form of punctuation.  The American, or "convenience" rule, by contrast, always defaults to placing commas and periods inside the quotation marks, regardless of their usage in the original quote.  Other punctuation marks -- exclamation points, question marks, colons, etc. -- follow the British rule.  (If you are thoroughly confused, please see here for more explanation, including the historical underpinnings of this discrepancy.)

Now, you may be tempted to argue that, as future lawyers, you ought to follow the "logical" rule all the time and use the British form without fear of persecution.  But let's dig a little deeper into the so-called "logic" of our cousins across the pond.  Let's say we do decide to follow them down this path of  punctuation consistency.  What's next?  Will we wake up tomorrow and find that our bars all close at 10?  That we eat french fries with mayonnaise?  That we have a shortage of orthodontists?  Where do we draw the line?

Look.  Apart from the whole Noor Diamond thing, which should really be returned to my people, I love the British.  I mean, who couldn't spend an entire day browsing in Boots (now available in Target, but alas without the Boots-y atmosphere)?  We could also learn a thing or two from a country where you won't find a single man wearing pleated pants.  But I'm sorry to say that unless you grew up referring to the last letter of the alphabet as "Zed," you need to support your troops on this one and stick with the American rule.

I'll admit that I did second-guess myself on this a few times, and decided to confirm my instincts with our beloved writing instructor, Rob Harrison (who, incidentally, reviews admissions files).  Here is what he wrote to me:

I concede that the British practice of placing commas and periods outside quotation marks has a lot to recommend it. For one thing, the British practice seems more honest and accurate because it makes clear that the quoted material did not itself end with a comma or a period; those punctuation marks are the work of the writer quoting the material. But, as Brandeis said, sometimes it's more important that things be settled than settled right; and in this country it is settled that commas and periods go inside quotation marks. Therefore, when I see students or lawyers following the British practice, I view the result as an error, not a stylistic preference, much as I would consider "favour" a mis-spelling of "favor" and driving on the left side of the road a criminal offense. When in Rome . . . .

When in Rome, indeed.  Smashing.

In the Waiting Room

Since we've been getting quite a few queries from those of you on our wait list, I thought I'd do a quick post and answer some FAQs.

First, there's been some scuttlebutt about the number of people we have on the wait list.  We keep a fairly small wait list.  Of course, we realize that not everyone to whom we offer a spot on the wait list will actually take it, so many more people will have recieved a wait list letter than remain on our wait list.  Over the next few months, we will periodically review the people on our wait list and release some of them, so the number of people on the wait list dwindles as we go through the summer.

Generally, the bulk of our wait list activity, if we have any at all, will take place around our deposit deadline, which is on May 3.  At that point, if fewer people to whom we have extended an offer of admission have accepted the offer than we projected, we will go to the wait list.  Depending on the number of slots we have to fill, we may take anywhere from a week to a month to fill these slots.  I would say that usually our class is stable by the end of May.

After that, we only go to our wait list if someone who is currently deposited withdraws or decides to defer.  I am loath to grant deferrals as we get into the summer because of the logistical hurdles it entails for the people on our wait list, who have often made significant financial and/or geographical commitments elsewhere (and which in turn means that it takes us longer to fill an opening).  But I treat deferral requests on a case-by-case basis and have on occasion granted some very worthy requests.  So we may take people off the wait list as late as registration day.  As I mentioned before, our wait list does get smaller as we get later into the summer, so while the chance of our going to the wait list after June is slim, the individual chances of your being chosen if we do go to the wait list at that point are somewhat higher.  (Hope that made sense.)

I'll close with a link to a previous post about good wait list etiquette (which will hopefully be entertaining, if not informative) that should answer your remaining questions.  To all of you who applied this year, good luck (and we hope you come here, if we admitted you)!

http://blogs.law.yale.edu/blogs/admissions/archive/2009/04/27/bad-idea-jeans-don-t-be-a-waitlist-stalker.aspx

Posted: Apr 22 2010, 12:10 PM by asha | with 10 comment(s)
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The Rainmaker

Yesterday afternoon the Law School was host to a screening of the movie The Rainmaker, with an introduction by none other than John Grisham.  Following the movie, Grisham answered questions from the audience before joining us for a reception in the Law School's Alumni Reading Room.   I think we were all a little star struck!   After all, how often will you have the chance to ask questions of one of the best-selling novelists of our time?   Who else could speak nonchalantly about the call he received from Francis Ford Coppola asking to make a movie of his book or listening to Danny DeVito read the script?  We learned that Grisham wrote his first novel while still a practicing attorney by waking up to write from 5-7 in the morning.  (And I, for one, felt like a slacker!)   He spoke about stories that have inspired his most famous novels.  He told us of details in The Rainmaker that were based on his experiences as a practicing lawyer.  The students were also drawn into the legal intricacies of the trial depicted and the health care policy issues raised by The Rainmaker, but overall the conversation stayed light.  Grisham's candor and humor made him a great speaker.  And if there were any aspiring novelists in the audience, Grisham said that he would never have written his first book without having gone to law school, so there is still hope!

Spring Break and Saint Paddy’s Day

This past week was a reminder that there can be absolutely beautiful spring days... in March... in New Haven.   Many of the law students were off in Belize scuba diving or home visiting family and friends - it was spring break here at YLS - but the students who stayed in town to finish up those SAWs had a welcome chance to head outside and soak in the 70 degree breeze and sunshine.  

The week began less gloriously with a wee bit of rain for New Haven's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade.  The St. Patrick's Day Parade is a long-standing New Haven tradition.  It was first held back in 1842, making it the 6th oldest parade in the nation.  The marchers number close to 3,000 and include everyone from bagpipe players to string bands, fife and drum squads, step-dancers and even a Star Wars contingent!   The parade makes its way down Chapel Street to the New Haven Green and across town.  Since the 1950s, the parade has been the largest, single-day spectator event in the state of Connecticut.  This year, spectators may have braved the showers under awnings and umbrellas, but at least it was the perfect weather for those warm Irish wool sweaters!  Of course, there was plenty of spirit to be found indoors as well.  Many places in town opened early and offered breakfast specials.  There were also New Haven's ever popular Irish pubs, the Playwright and Anna Liffey's (www.annaliffeys.com), where you can find the city's Irish pride any time of the year.

The parade may have passed in the rain this year, but it was a welcome reminder that spring is here and the week that followed found New Haven's residents digging out their sandals and heading for the grass. Here's to hoping there are many more beautiful spring days around the bend!

Status Checks, Revisited

As some of you start getting antsy awaiting a decision as the end of admissions season approaches, you might have read my first BIJ post from last year, which exhorted you not to call or write to check on your status.  I was admittedly grumpy in my second trimester (perpetual nausea will do that to you), and while most of you appreciated, and even found solace in, my tongue-in-cheek humor, it's probably worthwhile giving a more lucid explanation for why status checks don't jive with our admissions process.

Simply put, we only have two statuses (statii?) for applicants: Under Review and [insert your final decision here].  I've detailed how our admissions process works elsewhere, but suffice it to say that if you haven't heard from us, your file is in the pipeline somewhere, being read by someone (a.k.a. Under Review).  We can't give more detail than that, so a call or email really just results in frustration for all parties involved since we don't have much to tell you.

I can see how the cricket chirping you hear from Yale might create an impression that we have a cavalier, let-them-eat-cake attitude towards our applicants.  It certainly doesn't help that many of you heard within weeks (or days) of becoming complete at other schools.  But consider the math.  Most schools are in a position where they can afford to take all or most of the most qualified students due to their size, which means that they can usually rely on proxies to speed up the admissions process.  By contrast, our extremely small size, and relatively large applicant pool, means that for each person that we admit, we are forced to turn down at least 3 other equally qualified people.  We are loath to turn down anyone without giving their application a careful review, which is why we make sure to read every application, and involve the entire faculty in our process.  Consider the following note I received from a faculty reader (who read for the first time this year):

I finished my files at 2:00 a.m. this morning and then I did a gut check when I got back to the office today.  You and your staff did an exceptional job: whenever I thought “oh, this candidate is obviously an X,” I almost immediately discovered some new nuance to their candidacy that made my task harder.  We are blessed with so many—too many—great candidates.  And the parity among the candidates whose records I reviewed shows that you and your team filtered folks with care and expertise.

Although I am badly in need of a pedicure and martini, rest assured that we are not partying it up here in the Admissions Office.  Our silence is actually an outgrowth of our single-minded focus on processing, reading, and making decisions on your application (which is a secondary reason we discourage status checks, as they divert our attention from these three tasks and makes everyone's wait longer).

You might think of ours as a Rawlsian-inspired admissions process, in that it offers the most advantage to numerically weaker applicants, since we do a holistic review of every application.  The tradeoff is that it takes longer for us to make a decision, which will be most annoying to numerically strong applicants who likely hear much earlier from other schools.  But if I were to ask you from behind a veil of ignorance (say, before you learned your LSAT score) whether you'd prefer a system that uses an LSAT/GPA index or other sorting mechanism to speed up admission or one that takes longer but gives each application an equal review in the order that it became complete, I'm guessing you'd choose the latter.  

For the record, I strongly prefer using SNL skits to make my point to social justice theory.

Anyway, for those of you who still aren't mollified, a few practical points:

1.  If you are facing a looming financial aid or scholarship deadline (and schools ethically shouldn't be giving you these before April 1), you can email us at admissions.law@yale.edu with your name, LSAC number, the scholarship, and the deadline, and we will make a note of it.  While we cannot expedite a review of your application, we can make sure you receive a notification as fast as possible once a decision is made, or at least give you a time frame in which you can expect a decision, so that you can ask for an extension of the deadline, if possible.  (Note that we do verify the scholarship/deadline, so please don't make something up).  We will usually get back to you a couple of days before your deadline, so you don't need to keep emailing if you don't get an immediate response -- we're working on it.

2.  If you submitted your application in the last month or so and still haven't received word that you're complete, you shouldn't worry.  Our volume spikes as we approach the deadline, which creates a bit more of a delay for completion of files.  Also, we don't let incomplete files just dawdle in the Admissions Office.  We will, if necessary, make every effort to proactively contact you to get any missing information before we decide you are a lost cause.  And I don't fill the class until I have read every complete file.  So, chillax.

3.  If you've sent in an update, etc. keep in mind that you may not get a personalized confirmation from the Admissions Office.  We have one person who handles ALL the email traffic coming into the office (her name is Josie, and she is very nice).  As you might imagine, Josie is busy triaging the emails to make sure we're taking care of scholarship people, questions from admits, updates, etc. so it would be impossible for her to respond to every update.  If you received the automated response, that means that Josie received it and will take care of it.  I will refer you to the comments section of my last post on whether an update at this point will make it into your file before it is reviewed by me and the admissions committee.

4.  The bulk of our admissions decisions are made this month, and a smaller portion will be made in early April.  We do make phone calls for admissions offers (though as I mentioned above, we also call if we have questions or need additional materials on your file, so don't assume that a phone call is an offer -- please call us back).  Other decisions are sent via snail mail, though as we get later in the season (or if we are helping you meet a scholarship deadline) we might send you a decision by email.  Basically, please make sure that the phone number, permanent address, and email address on your application are correct, and check your spam filter to make sure you aren't going to miss anything coming from our office.

In short, no news is good news -- for now -- when it comes to YLS.  I am as anxious to get our class finalized as you are (I'd post a photo of my feet, but I think you'll want to trust me on this one).  I hope this quells your anxiety a little bit...just a little more than a month and counting!

 

 --Asha

Posted: Mar 08 2010, 05:16 PM by asha | with 9 comment(s)
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Justice Breyer

There are so many incredible speakers and guest lecturers that pass through the doors of the Law School that I admit I have become slightly jaded to the prominence and import of the visitors.  Should I go to the Arianna Huffington lecture or catch up on my email?  Will I spend the evening at the Albie Sachs talk or checking out a new restaurant?  Occasionally I regret missing a great lecture in favor of some administrative task, but attending every event that happens around here would be a full-time job.  Plus, I'm sure all of you still waiting for an admission decision would be unhappy if I neglected my admissions duties to become a professional lecture attendee.  However, when a sitting member of the Supreme Court of the United States comes to your school to give a lecture, as happened here a few weeks ago, you don't miss it.

The Law School was honored to have Associate Justice Breyer visit on February 15 and 16 for a pair of lectures titled, "Making the Constitution Work:  A Supreme Court Justice's View."  It's uncommon for sitting Justices to give formal lectures, much less two on consecutive days at the same venue, so there was a lot of excitement around the School, and the Yale campus, when they were announced.  As a testament to the significance of the event, the line of people waiting to get into the first lecture ran the length of the School (a city block for those of you unfamiliar with YLS).

The first lecture, "History:  Challenges the Court Has Faced," highlighted key moments in the Court's history that illustrate the importance of public acceptance of the Court's decisions, as well as challenges the Court has faced in achieving such public acceptance.  The second lecture, "Future:  Will the People Follow the Court?" was open only to members of the Law School community.  In it, Justice Breyer shared his thoughts on what the Court must do in the future to make the Constitution work well in practice and to maintain the public trust it has earned.  Both lectures were based on a book on which Justice Breyer is currently working.

"History:  Challenges the Court Has Faced" and "Future:  Will the People Follow the Court?" can be streamed from the Law School's website.  During his time at the Law School, Justice Breyer sat down with Professor Paul Gewirtz for a one-on-one interview.  You can access the interview from the Law School's website or through Yale University's YouTube page.

Cheese.

This is another posting in my quest to let you all in on the hidden gems of New Haven.  If you are a cheese lover, this entry is especially for you.   I am tempted to simply cut and paste the menu from this next restaurant, because it speaks for itself.   But that would be cheating...

So, let's talk about Caseus (or cheese).  This is a stop for people who appreciate food.   The retail store sells over 100 artisan cheeses and products from local small producers.  They also stock imported olives and olive oils, balsamic vinegar, chocolates, teas, and preserves.   This is the best stop in town for hosting a wine and cheese gathering, following a stop into the Wine Thief (www.thewinethief.com) - another New Haven gem, but we'll leave that for a future blog post.

Before I give you the wrong impression, Caseus is not just a shop for picking up cheese and olives to go.  It is also a fantastic restaurant.  The bistro is as busy at lunch time as any place in New Haven.   In the spring and summer this is the perfect place for a seasonal salad, but it is also ideal for a winter lunch.  You can nestle into one of the wooden booths in the back with a warm Onion Soup Gratin or comforting Mac & Cheese. 

For the true cheese lovers out there - yes, you can make a meal at Caseus on cheese alone.  Order the cheese board.  

For everyone else - the menu at Caseus is full of comfort food.  At lunchtime they serve Steak Frites, Organic Half Chicken and the yummy Cheese Burger.  They also serve a selection of sandwiches, from a Pastrami Reuben to, you guessed it, the classic grilled cheese.  And can we talk about the Mac & Cheese?  This not your childhood mac & cheese from Kraft or Annie.  This is made with Raclette, Gouda and Comte, topped with brioche crumbs for texture and balanced with mixed greens.  If you only plan to eat here once, get the Mac & Cheese.   In the evening, Caseus has an expanded dinner menu, which includes a Venison Pot Pie, Carbonara and Short Rib.  You can also order a charcuterie board of pates, dry cured meats and salami.  Both menus are seasonal and centered on available local produce. 

Caseus is located a few blocks from the Law School and is open for lunch every day except Sunday and dinner on Wednesday through Saturday evenings.  Now, go look at the menu, because my descriptions have not done the food justice:  www.caseusnewhaven.com.

P.S.  Rumor has it Caseus will soon be following in the footsteps of the Cupcake Truck with a Cheese Truck.  The truck will stop at locations around New Haven and offer grilled cheese, tomato soup, daily sausages and salads.  To stay updated, keep your eye on www.thecheesetruck.com.

Your Burning Questions Answered

So, rather than do a traditional "Ask Asha" post this round, I thought I would answer some of the questions -- and correct some of the off-base answers --  which have been circulating in the online forums.  Yes, we do read them.  And yes, it's not hard to figure out who some of you are.  Please be on your best cyber behavior.  (And by the way, you guys have way too much time on your hands.)

@ r6_philly:  We do not have GPA/LSAT cutoffs.  I am on application #2011.  I read Every. Single. One.  Regardless of numbers.  As I've mentioned before, a weak number does usually need extremely strong everything else to make it through to the faculty, which is why I have to read through the whole thing, including the recommendations.  Actually, a better topic for discussion might be what would keep someone with really strong numbers from being passed on... which happens with surprising frequency.  It might be because the writing is really, really bad (have I mentioned not writing poetry for your 250?), or there is just something that doesn't fit -- like why does the person have only one academic reference (out of three) if s/he got a 4.0 all through college?  Or maybe the recommendation has a big red flag like, "Sometimes Johhny's comments can border on arrogance, but usually he adds to the discussion."  So, just like lower numbers don't mean you won't get a faculty review, good numbers don't keep you from getting automatically rejected, either. 

@ crackberry:  Numbers do not become irrelevant just because you get passed onto the full faculty review.  It really depends on the faculty members reading your file.  Some faculty are sticklers for the LSAT or your undergrad GPA.  Some are more into your story.  Some care only about what your recommenders say, because they feel that every other part of your application has been doctored.  Some read every LSAT writing sample, and swear by it.  It really depends on the combo of faculty reviewing your application which factors matter most.  That's why our system produces such an interesting class...because the people who get the required scores have some core elements that three very different faculty members agreed on without even having to discuss them.  Unfortunately, neither you nor I will ever know what those elements are.

@ Pausanias:  There is no correlation between when you are admitted and whether you were a presumptive admit or read by faculty (I really don't see why this would make any difference once you are admitted, but anyway).  Both I and the members of the faculty are reading files from early fall into April.  So, it's entirely possible for an application to make it through a round of three faculty readers by December, just as it is possible for me to admit someone directly in the spring (it would be kind of odd, wouldn't it, if a must-have applicant applied on February 15 and I had no choice but to send the person to the faculty gamble?).  In fact, I believe two years ago the very very very last file I read was a presumptive admit.  Again: your chances of admission remain the same regardless of when you apply.

@ notanumber:  Speaking of presumptive admits and numbers, the purpose of admitting someone directly is not to game the system so that we keep our 75th percentile high, or whatever the suggestion was.  Someone who is admitted automatically is just a must-have applicant in every way.  Academic promise is one part of it, but you don't need a perfect score or GPA to demonstrate academic promise.  I can't really define what would make someone so compelling, since the people who fall into this category are so different, but just trust me when I say that we really use the numbers the way they are meant to be used: to predict their academic performance in law school.  Beyond that, we try to put together the most diverse and talented class possible.  How the numbers fall out once we do that is not something we are trying to control, though between my picks and the faculty's we do end up with an upper quartile with very high scores and GPAs.

@ Ben J:  I probably do miss some typos.  However, I catch a fair number of them, and whether they are fatal to your application really depends on the overall strength of your application and the egregiousness of the typo (as in, are you just sloppy, or does it call your literacy into question?).  I saw some scuttlebutt about how applying late might suggest you are not really serious about YLS.  We don't really interpret the date you choose to apply as having any correlation with your interest (in fact, it might suggest that you chose to spend more time applying to us than to anyone else!).  On the other hand, even a typo in the "just sloppy" category might call into question how serious you are about Yale.  Also, a typo will pretty much guarantee that you're out of the running for being a presumptive admit, and so even if I let it pass, you're then thrown in with the sharks for a faculty review (and I can't say how the faculty who read your application will look at it).  Bottom line, please take the time to review your application for mistakes.  I'll do a post this fall about the major mistakes I've seen -- I'll spare you all the list since most of you have already submitted your apps and I see that our Twitter posts are already causing you hypertension.

I hope this is helpful.  Please discuss.

--  Asha

Acronym Overload: ISP, A2K, and A2K4

In my blog posts I frequently make passing references to the numerous centers and programs at YLS.  There are over twenty centers, programs, and workshops that focus on a wide range of subjects, from legal reform in China and legal topics in South America, to corporate and public interest law.  These organizations sponsor conferences, lectures, and panel discussions throughout the school year.  They bring in leaders from the business, government, and nonprofit sectors; prominent legal practitioners; and scholars at the cutting edge of their respective disciplines to educate and engage our students and faculty.  The centers are a natural extension of our curriculum and ensure that learning at YLS is not limited to a traditional classroom setting.

This week I'd like to focus on one of our largest centers, the Information Society Project (ISP).  The ISP is an intellectual hub at YLS and serves as the umbrella organization for many of our co-curricular activities dealing with intellectual property, information technologies, and the Internet and their implications for law and society.  The ISP sponsors several research programs, including programs in intellectual property reform and law and genomics.  In addition to topics more commonly associated with the broadly-defined term "intellectual property," the ISP has research programs focusing on the intersection of law and the media, civil liberties online, digital education, and access to knowledge.

The ISP's research programs sponsor events on an almost weekly basis.  Last week they welcomed their first speaker in the First Amendment Online Colloquium who spoke on search engine law and the First Amendment.   This weekend the ISP's Access to Knowledge (A2K) program will host a major conference at YLS focusing on the intersection between access to knowledge and human rights.

The A2K program focuses on a host of issues affecting access to knowledge worldwide, including patent and copyright policy, media openness, access to information and communication technologies, access to government information, open-access scholarship, spectrum allocation, interoperability standards, and the preservation of traditional knowledge.

Conference speakers and attendees from around the globe will participate in panel discussions on gene patents and right to health, political expression and dissent in a digital world, using technology to expand access to education, copyrights and access for persons with disabilities, and establishing information access and ethics frameworks in Africa.

The A2K4 conference is open to the general public, like many of the events at YLS.  There is still time to register for the program, which begins with a film screening on Thursday evening.  Visit the conference's website to register and to access a complete list of panels, speakers, and conference schedule.

New Haven's "Broadway"

It is the first week of spring semester at the Law School, with all of the excitement and energy that this entails.  The term begins, like each new term, with the anticipation of a new curriculum and the comfort of catching up with old friends.  The beginning of the term is also a great time in the life of a student, before the reading piles up and the paper deadlines draw near, to go see something on the stage.  After all, spring semester or not, it is January and it is cold.  Isn't this the perfect time to spend an evening nestled in a cozy theater seat?

New Haven is quite possibly one of the best U.S. cities outside of New York for theater going.  This week alone you can catch an adaption of Virginia Woolf's Orlando, a brilliantly funny one-man show (The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac), a drama starring Emmy and Tony Award winner, Mandy Patinkin (Compulsion), Wuthering Heights performed as part of the 42nd season of the Yale Cabaret, the musical Chicago, and the world premier of Lil's 90th, a play by Darci Picoult about love and aging. 

Yale School of Drama is world renowned and its students and faculty bring an enormous amount of energy and creativity to the theater scene in New Haven.  Each season, the Yale Repertory Theater (www.yalerep.org), with its close ties to the School of Drama, brings New Haven interpretations of the classics, emerging artists in experimental theater, and actors who have already achieved their fame on the stage.   This week the Rep, located only a few blocks from the Law School, is showing Compulsion in the main theater and The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac on the separate stage at University Theater.   Other plays in the 2009-2010 Season include a production of Henry Ibsen's drama The Master Builder, a politically charged tale of psychological warfare, Battle of Black Dogs, and a physical comedy, The Servant of Two Masters.   The Yale Rep offers student discounts on tickets and play passes, which keep it an affordable way for law students to see excellent theater.

The Yale School of Drama also brings its own productions to New Haven, featuring the work of student playwrights, directors and actors.  From new plays, to productions of Shakespeare and third-year director thesis projects, New Haven audiences have the opportunity to witness the talent of the School of Drama firsthand.  These plays are shown in the Iseman Theater on Chapel Street and many of them are free and open to the public.  To see more information about the School of Drama's 2009-2010 Season, visit their website: www.drama.yale.edu .

Finally, for new and experimental plays, Yale also has the Cabaret (www.yalecabaret.org), a small theater space where students gather to eat dinner and watch engaging, innovative theater.

Beyond Yale, New Haven is also home to the Shubert and Long Wharf Theaters.  The Shubert Theater (www.capa.com/newhaven) in downtown New Haven draws audiences from throughout Southern Connecticut for its productions of shows and musicals from Chicago to Annie.   Long Wharf Theater (www.longwharf.org), now in its 45th season, was started by two Yale alumni as a regional professional theater.  The offerings in its 2009-2010 Season range from the hit musical, The Fantasticks, to a solo show about teaching in America's education system.  This month, the Long Wharf is where you can catch the production of Lil's 90th

New Haven may be cold in January, but in this winter month it also offers compelling theater for those students who love the stage and their classmates who get pulled along!

We Are the World

We here at 203 are thrilled to know that we aren't the only admissions office on campus that likes to have fun and doesn't take ourselves too seriously:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGn3-RW8Ajk

It's technically a plug for Yale College, but it mentions the Law School (albeit in an inaccurate conext) which makes it good enough for our blog.

To the goods:

Dear Asha,

Should I include a diversity statement with my application?  I have written one for other schools but wasn't sure whether it would help or hurt my application to Yale Law School.

Thanks,

P.B.

Dear P.B.,

We get this question a lot.  The short answer is that you are welcome to include any information which you feel will enable the Admissions Committee to make a fully-informed decision on your candidacy.  Which translates into: we don't ask for a diversity statement specifically, but if you would like to include one, it is O.K. to do so.

Explaining some aspect of yourself which you think would make a unique contribution to the Law School is a good thing.  The question is whether you really need to provide a supplemental essay to do it. Keep in mind that unlike many law schools, we already ask for an additional essay (the infamous 250-word essay) in addition to your personal statement.  Since we do not specify a topic for either the shorter essay or the personal statement, you can include information relevant to an aspect of diversity which you feel is important to your application in either (or both) of these pieces of writing. 

Consider the following applicants:

1.  A stay-at-home parent who is applying to law school after being out of school/workforce for seven years.  The applicant explains that he has spent this time raising his three sons in Question 6 ("If you have been out of school for more than six months, describe what you have been doing in the interval."), and then also writes a personal statement about how he spent several years finding and fighting for special needs educational acommodations for one of his children, which led to his interest in law school.

2.  A student who writes a 250-word essay about growing up in a blue-collar family, attending a resource-poor public school, and being the first to attend college.  The student includes an addendum explaining that because she had to finance a large part of college herself, she did not have much time for extracurricular activities and asks the Admissions Committee to take that into account.

3.  A former military veteran who spent the last five years deployed to Iraq.  The applicant includes details on his various duties in Iraq on a resume which he includes in the application, and also provides a letter of reference from one of his commanding officers.

I would submit that all of the above individuals would have their "diversity" (older, non-traditional applicant, socioeconomic background, military experience, respectively) taken into account even though none of them provided a specific diversity statement.  In fact, most likely, an additional diversity statement wouldn't really provide any additional information for any of these applicants -- the applicants have already successfully illustrated what makes them different and how it has shaped or impacted their lives just through the regular components of the application.  So here is where a diversity statement might "hurt" them, in the sense that it would be redundant, and unnecessary.

Now, it's possible that the above applicants could craft their applications entirely differently, and a diversity statement would make sense.  For example, if the military vet did not inlcude a resume (which we do not require), and doesn't know what his officer wrote in the recommendation (because he would wisely waive his right to see the letter), and also used both essay opportunities to discuss personal and academic interests, then it might make sense to include a statement which explains that he has served in the armed forces, has seen combat, and feels that as a result of these experiences he might be able to provide a valuable perspective on x,y, and z issues.  Again, that's just a possibilty, and there are other permutations.

The take home point is that while you can include as much information as you like, you also want to be judicious in the number and amount of additional essays/addenda that you provide.  You don't want your application to be the one that never ends (that's not a good thing for the reader, or for you).  Ideally, you will try to incorporate all the relevant information about yourself into the questions provided on the application.  If you feel that there is something critical that really won't fit anywhere else, certainly include it as a supplement.

Finally, I hope that the examples above make clear that we do have a very broad definition of "diversity" which we do consider in putting together our class.  However, if you do choose to write a diversity essay, please, PLEASE try to be serious about it and make sure it is something that has truly shaped your experiences and perspective.  Do NOT write a diversity statement on how you are "a good listener" or something similar.  Seriously, that's just lame. 

I hope this is helpful, and I look forward to reading your final masterpiece!

--Asha

Posted: Jan 22 2010, 04:30 PM by asha | with 10 comment(s)
Filed under: ,
The Quiet After the Storm

I hope 2010 is off to a good start for all of our readers.  We've been busy reading your applications and admitting some of you (contrary to some rumors, we do, in fact, admit applicants).  January is traditionally a great time to get a lot of work done because, next to summer, it's the quietest time of the year at YLS.  Why is it so quiet?  Because, unlike most schools, our final exams are administered after the winter break.  For two weeks in January, the lectures, conferences, and symposia all stop and our students focus on their exams and papers.

Now, if finals period conjures up painful thoughts for you of all-night study sessions and disheveled, library-bound, pajama-clad classmates, I'm here to tell you that the exam period here is almost certainly unlike anything you experienced as an undergraduate.  To demonstrate, here are five reasons why our finals period is so much better than your finals period:

  1. Take your exams at the beach (think Fiji, not Long Island Sound).  With the advent of the Internet (praise be to Al Gore) and ever-present Internet connections, you can take your exams practically anywhere since almost all of our exams are administered online.  Combine this with the fact that many of our library resources are only a mouse click away and you can relax under a cabana while you rock that antitrust final.  In fact, many of our students depart New Haven for the winter break and don't come back until the spring term begins at the end of January. 


  2. Take your exams when you want.  Are you a procrastinator?  Hate all-night cramming?  Still trying to catch up on all of those shows you Tivoed during the fall term?  If so, you'll love YLS.  Many of our exams are self-scheduled.  You "check out" the exam and then you have a specified period of time to "check in" your finished masterpiece.


  3. Don't take exams at all.  It's possible at YLS not to have exams in a given term.  Many of our classes offer a paper option instead of an exam.  If the thought of finals, even those at the beach, puts you on edge or you just like writing papers, then you can choose your courses accordingly.  The Bulletin usually denotes which courses have this option.


  4. Repeat after me, pass/fail, pass/fail.  Your fall-term, 1L courses are graded on a pass/fail basis.  This system is commonly referred to by students as pass/pass.  In fact, you'd have to work at failing a fall-term, 1L course.  While this doesn't mean that 1Ls don't study, it does mean that a lot of the pressure is removed from the examination process since your grades will look like everyone else's grades.  After your first term, courses are graded on an honors/pass/low pass/fail system.  This system is not based on a curve and the low pass and fail marks aren't given very often.


  5. Massages for students during exam period.  Enough said.

With the exam period almost over (wish the 1Ls good luck on their con law exams on Tuesday) our relaxed and tanned students will slowly begin returning to the Law School and the stream of fascinating visitors, lectures, conferences, and symposia will start up again.  Until then, we'll be busy reading your applications in relative quiet.

 

Follow that Cupcake....

The Cupcake Truck is a quirky and beloved New Haven experience.   The flavors change daily and so does the location of the truck.  In order to stop by the truck for one of their delicious $2 cupcakes, you will first have to visit their blog (http://fooddriven.blogspot.com) to find out where they are parked for the day.  Some days you will get lucky and find that the truck has parked twice.  Other days the truck will not appear at all.  Perhaps it is the unpredictability of getting your hands on one that makes the cupcake taste so good?!  The truck makes stops throughout New Haven, so is certain, eventually, to show up at a spot not far from your apartment or the Law School.   The owners are great and when the truck parks people show up!

Salted caramel is one of the best, and you can't go wrong with a chocolate frosted chocolate cupcake topped with M&M bits!   Check out their website here (http://followthatcupcake.com/menu.html) for pictures that will be impossible to resist.

If you love their cupcakes, you might also order a do-it-yourself party box, which includes a dozen naked cupcakes you can decorate yourself.  The entire truck can also be rented for a party.  I can't say if any law school students have tried this out yet, but it sounds fun! 

For more information about the cupcake truck their website address is:  http://followthatcupcake.com/about.html.

Bad Idea Jeans: Setting Your Pants on Fire

Since I introduced 203's B.I.J. feature last spring, many of you have waited anxiously for the next post, perhaps for no other reason than to discover a new 80's reference you've never heard of as reaffirmation that you're still under 30, so things really can't be all that bad.  I hadn't been inspired for a while, as things have been going well: baby's sleeping through the night, the Yankees won the World Series, and I had a chance to get out and see New Moon in the movie theater (Werewolves. v. Vampires -- feel free to discuss in the comments).  But since it has started getting dark here at 4:30 p.m., my Seasonal Affective Disorder has slowly set in, and I'm ready to impart a new lesson.

I guess it goes without saying that setting your pants on fire is Bad Idea Jeans, not the least because you would no longer have said jeans.  But what I'm referring to here is lying on your application.

Now, there're no shortage of opportunities for you to put untruths, partial-truths, omissions, or exaggerations on your application.  For the most part, we probably won't know.  (I will refer you here, though, to the part of the application you sign which says, "I understand Yale Law School may verify information included in my application."  This means we can, and sometimes do, randomly snoop around to see whether you're actually the person you say you are --  more on that in a future Bad Idea Jeans: Greatest Hits.)  But there is one part of the application in which you are unlikely to get away with lying, and that is the Character and Fitness questions, which vary from law school to law school but appear on our application as follows:

Question 11.  Have you ever been convicted of, or pleaded guilty or no contest to, a felony or misdemeanor, or are there any criminal charges pending against you at the present time?

Question 12.  At any college or university, have you ever been suspended, expelled, or required to withdraw, or been the subject of any other disciplinary action or proceedings for misconduct or deficient scholarship, or are there any charges pending against you?

Simple enough, right? Sadly, we see time and again how these questions cause enormous anxiety, and sometimes ongoing problems, for law school applicants and students.

See, we're not going to be the last people to ask you these kinds of questions.  You could probably breeze into law school using a Clintonesque "it depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is" self-rationalization to avoid disclosing your past.  You could even whistle through another three years, line up a cushy clerkship and job, and start picking out the furniture for your 300-square foot Manhattan studio from Pottery Barn.  But at some point, you will find yourself applying to the bar of some state, only to stop dead in your tracks when you see something like the following (taken from the New York State bar application):

Have you ever, either as an adult or juvenile, been cited, arrested, taken into custody, charged with, indicted, convicted or or tried for, or pleaded guilty to, the commission of any felony or misdemeanor or the violation of any law, except minor parking violations, or been the subject of juvenile delinquency or youthful offender proceedings?  If you answer yes, state the charge or charges, the disposition thereof and the underlying facts.  Although a conviction may have been expunged from the records by an order of the court, it nevertheless should be disclosed in the answer to this question.  Please note that you should have available and be prepared to submit or exhibit copies of police and court records regarding any matter you disclose in reply to this question.

What happens is that when you answer this question, the Character and Fitness Committee from your state comes back to us (or whichever law school you graduated from), and asks the Registar or Dean of Students whether your answers match what you disclosed on your applications.  Now, if you are observant, you'll notice that our questions don't exactly match the bar question.  Guess what?  IT DOESN'T MATTER.  The bar committees will freak out when they see that your law school application disclosures don't match your bar application disclosures, and they're going to want to know more.  They're going to give the new information to your law school, and ask your school (more specifically, the Dean of Admissions) to warrant that you would have still been admitted had s/he known the new information.  They're going to ask you why you didn't disclose the information earlier.  They're going to go through the rest of your application with a fine-toothed comb.  In short, you're going to have to go through a lot of red tape, have a P.O.'d alma mater, and, if what you didn't originally disclose was actually pretty bad, find yourself with a rescinded law degree and/or unable to sit for the bar.

Lest you think I'm being too preachy, I'll confess that I'm no saint, either.  When I applied to the FBI, I had to undergo a polygraph examination.  I remember getting to the FBI office, and seeing a tall, burly, old guy with a crew cut fiddling around with a bunch of wires and hookups on what looked like a medieval torture machine.  I sat down, and he ignored me.  He suddenly turned around and pulled up his chair directly across from me, about ten inches from my face. 

"Character," he said, locking eyes, "is what you do when you think no one is looking."

Crap.  I had just jaywalked across Church Street and blown off the homeless lady selling flowers.  Had they been trailing me?

During the four-hour interrogation that followed, I proceeded to scour my mental rolodex and barf out every moral infraction I could think of.  Like the time I "borrowed" some printer paper from my job to use at home.  Or the time I tried to use a fake Nebraska ID to get into a Georgetown bar (I was rejected).  Or the time I kinda sorta traveled to Cuba, you know...illegally.  I cried; the polygrapher thanked me and told me I spoke very good English.

The point is that we all have skeletons in our closet, and when it comes to law school and practicing law, a bone or two will come flying out sooner or later.  It's in your interest to have it be sooner.  To help you out, here are a few things to consider:

1.  If you need to consult an attorney about whether or not to disclose something, then you probably need to disclose it (despite what your attorney tells you).

2.  If what you've done is enough to keep you out of law school, it's almost certainly going to keep you from practicing law.  You might as well know now, because while getting rejected from law school is bad, graduating from law school with $150K of debt and no way to pay it back is even worse.

3.  Business schools don't ask you these kinds of questions.

One last thing.  I've read close to around 10,000 files at this point, and to be honest, I've seen very few transgressions that would ipso facto disqualify someone from admission to law school.  But here's the deal: a lack of candor, even about an otherwise excusable incident, raises serious questions about your fitness to practice law.  Remember that Martha Stewart didn't get convicted for an actual securities violation (there wasn't one), she was convicted for LYING about it.  So set yourself free: tell the truth.  (And by the way, please don't try to end run the question by omitting an answer on your application and then sending an email to the general admissions address that you "forgot" to mention your DUI, or whatever -- that just makes you look sketchier.)

OK, I'll end with a gratuitous 80's reference (extra credit for readers over 30: Haim v. Feldman -- please discuss): 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsv_NQFbQzo.

Getting out of town... Mystic, CT

The port of Mystic, Connecticut, is a great daytrip from New Haven.  The drive only takes an hour and whenever I go I really feel like I have had an excursion out of town.   Now I have to confess, the first time I drove out to Mystic it was to check out the pizza place - Mystic Pizza having been one of my favorite movies.  And Mystic Pizza (http://www.mysticpizza.com/restaurants.aspx) is certainly worth a stop.  The crust is a little thicker than the famous New Haven pizza, but whatever their special ingredient is it certainly makes a tasty pie.

I soon discovered there is a lot to see and do in Mystic other than just eat pizza.  When you first pull off of Interstate 95, you will see the Olde Mistick Village (http://oldemistickvillage.com/).  It's on the touristy side, but if you like old time shops and candy you should pull in just to go to the village's two country stores.   A little further down the road is the Mystic Seaport Museum of America and the Sea (http://www.mysticseaport.org/).  The Seaport features a 19th century village, a large collection of unique historic ships and a wide range of information on the culture and lives of seamen.  Here you can head to the Seamen's Inne for traditional dishes like Baked New England Cod or Seafood Pie.  Mystic is also home to a famous aquarium (http://www.mysticaquarium.org/), which I have heard is a great place to go if you have kids.   And this is all before you hit downtown Mystic. 

If you are heading into the town in the morning, stop on your way for breakfast at Kitchen Little (http://www.visitconnecticut.com/kitchenlittle).   If the weather is nice you should sit at one of the picnic benches out in back, overlooking the Mystic River.  From there you can continue down the road to Main Street, cross the historic drawbridge and find yourself in the quaint little town of Mystic.  (Watch the time - from May to October the drawbridge opens at 40 minutes passed the hour to let ships into the port and you can get stuck for quite a while!)  The town fans up the road from the water, with lots of little boutiques, art galleries and restaurants to duck into.   There are some great seafood restaurants along the water - or walk up Main Street to try the famous Mystic Pizza.  Be sure to stop into Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream for a scoop of homemade ice cream or sorbet.  Take your ice cream to walk along the small boardwalk by the port.   It is easy to spend an hour or more sitting on one of the wooden benches here just watching the boats coming and going.   

 

Posted: Dec 07 2009, 11:08 AM by Tracey | with no comments
Filed under:
Now or Later

Dear Asha,

I am a senior in college and am planning to work or teach for a year or two after graduation.  If I know I will be taking time off, is it better for me to apply now and defer, or wait until I'm ready to go to law school?  If the former, how easy is it to get a deferral from YLS?

Thanks,

A.S.

 

Dear A.S.,

Your question is a good one, and the answer really depends on how clear your reasons are for attending law school.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each option, but there is a middle ground that might be helpful.

Basically, the advantage to applying while you are still in school is that you're probably in a better position to put together your application.  Obviously, you need to take the LSAT, if you haven't already, and most people probably find it easier to prepare and take the exam while they are still in school, both because they have more time to devote to it and because they are already in an academic mindset.  I do see often that people who wait to take the LSAT until after they graduate find that the demands of their job don't give them enough time to study, and many students who end up working abroad encounter a lot of logistical difficulties in taking the test.

In addition, it's easier to get recommendations from professors who know you well while you are still in school.  Most of the professors from whom you are likely to solicit recommendations have had you as a student within the past year or two, and so your performance in their classes are still fresh in their minds.  Again, I often find that students who wait until they are out of school for a few years sometimes have difficulty getting detailed recommendations from professors, or will submit employer recommendations instead, which, in our faculty-driven admissions process, could hurt them.

Finally, applying while you are still in school and deferring just gives you peace of mind, since you have already "locked in" your plans following whatever it is that you plan to do for one or two years.  It can make for a much more relaxed time period, and you can focus more clearly on whatever path you've chosen to take in that time.

On the other hand, students who wait to apply until they've had some real-world experience tend to have richer personal statements and are better able to clearly articulate their reasons for applying to law school.  Often, the experiences they have had working or teaching clarify a lot of things they are passionate about and interested in, and they just have more reference points -- beyond just coursework, extracurricular activities, or summer internships -- to draw upon.  In other words, students who have been out of school have the opportunity to offer a slightly more mature and nuanced perspective on how the path they have taken thus far corresponds to their future path in law school and beyond (though that will, of course, depend on the self-awareness and writing ability of the individual applicant).

One possible middle ground you can take is to go ahead and take the LSAT while you are still in school, and to also get your recommenders to write letters for you while you are still fresh in their minds.  Your LSAT score will be valid for five years, and if you open an account with LSAC you can also put your recommendations on file for up to five years as well (many schools also provide a service through their career development offices that will hold recommendations on your behalf).  You can then pursue whatever job you would like to take and, in the fall/spring before you're ready to matriculate, you can put together your essays and submit your application.  This sacrifices the "peace of mind" point I made above, since you will have to devote some time and endure some stress during your time off applying to law school and waiting for decisions, but this path can combine the best of both worlds.

If you do decide to apply while you are still in school and defer -- and many people do this -- you should note that we have a "tiered" approach to granting deferrals.  Generally speaking, we are very generous in granting one-year deferrals, provided that they are requested by our deposit deadline.  You do need to make a formal request, and outline why the experience you're considering will enhance both your personal development and your legal education, but unless you're planning on living in your parents' basement for a year playing Guitar Hero, you should be able to meet this threshold.  Once our deposit deadline has passed, however, we do expect a little more structure and focus in deferral requests, since at that point we have more or less finalized our class and would need to fill your spot with someone else from our wait list.  So we would at that point only grant one-year deferrals on a case-specific basis.

For two year deferrals, the bar is a little higher.  We generally expect requests for two-year deferrals to involve a commitment that in some way requires two years to complete.  Examples of this are scholarships like the Rhodes or Marshall, Teach for America fellowships, or the Peace Corps.  Other types of programs and commitments will be considered but we will want to know why you need two years, rather than one.

I should note that if you are already working at the time you apply and are admitted, the need to stay in your current job for one or two years isn't looked on too favorably.  In other words, we expect that if you have already been out of school doing something and have applied to law school, it's because you're ready to go to law school.  If you think that you need more time to complete projects in your current job, get a promotion, etc., then please wait to apply until you're ready to matriculate.

We do not grant three-year deferrals except in extreme cases.  In fact, the only time I have granted a three-year deferral off the bat is for military service.  In rare instances I have granted an extension of a two-year deferral for personal or medical reasons, family hardship, or for academically compelling reasons, like you are just about to finish a dissertation.  And, regardless of the reasons, we do not under any circumstances grant deferrals or extensions beyond three years: at that point, a student's only option is to withfraw from Yale and to reapply, and readmission is not guaranteed.

I hope this answers your question, and that you'll enjoy your time off, regardless of when you apply!

--Asha

Please email questions to 203blog@yale.edu

Posted: Nov 13 2009, 10:59 AM by asha | with 2 comment(s)
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Accelerated Integrated JD-MBA

The Law School and Yale's School of Management (SOM) unveiled a pilot three-year joint degree program last spring for students interested in an integrated law and business curriculum.  At the end of the three year Accelerate Integrated JD-MBA program (AI JD-MBA), students earn both a JD and an MBA.  Yale is the third university in the country to offer a three-year JD-MBA and the first do so without requiring summer classes.  The summer before the first year of the program and subsequent summers during the program are open, so students can pursue internships and other employment opportunities.

"The program will prepare students for the increasingly complex intersection of business and law," said former Dean Harold Koh.  "Students will master analytical and quantitative skills that will be of value for a business law-related practice but also more broadly for careers as entrepreneurs and managers in business and non-profit organizations."

The new program supplements our existing four-year JD-MBA program, one of the most popular joint degree programs at YLS.  As the name implies, the four-year JD-MBA allows students to complete both degrees in four years with no summer coursework.  One of the highlights of this program (and most of our other joint degree programs) is the curricular and scheduling flexibility afforded to participants.  Students in the four-year program are mostly free to choose which semesters they spend at which school, as long as total of five terms are spent at YLS and three are spent at SOM.  Additionally, the four-year JD-MBA is not limited to SOM.  Students have the ability to pursue their MBA at a different university.

In order to compress the rigorous JD-MBA curriculum into three years, participants lose some flexibility when compared to the four-year program.  Students must begin the program at YLS, where they spend their first year.  In the second year, students spend both semesters at SOM, but take one class in the spring at YLS.  The third year is spent at YLS.  When compared to the four-year program, students lose ability to take one term's worth of electives at YLS; two when compared to non-joint degree students.

Students pay regular JD tuition in their first year, a special tuition to SOM in their second year, and a special tuition to YLS in their third year.  Need-based loans taken during the semesters in which students paid tuition to SOM are eligible for SOM's Loan Forgiveness Support.  Need-based loans taken during the semesters in which students paid tuition to the YLS are eligible for COAP.

Applicants interested in the AI JD-MBA must apply to both YLS and SOM.  The applications can either be submitted simultaneously or YLS students can apply to the program during their first year of law school.  Detailed application instructions for simultaneous applicants and YLS 1Ls can be found on our website.

More information about the three-year AI JD-MBA and four-year JD-MBA programs, as well as our other joint degrees, can be found on our joint degree page.  The AI JD-MBA Program has its own site hosted by the Yale Law School Center for the Study of Corporate Law.  In addition to an overview of the program and application instructions, you can view videos of professors and alumni talking about the AI JD-MBA and the benefits of pursuing degrees in law and business.

The International Festival of Arts and Ideas

New Haven can be a wonderful place to spend the summer.   The campus quiets down, but that doesn't mean that the activities stop.  In fact, one of New Haven's most famous events, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas takes place in June.  The Festival's main stage on the New Haven Green features days of free performances that turn out the local community.  Performances are also held at theaters throughout New Haven and the concerts come right up to our doorstep here at the Law School, with the courtyard providing an intimate venue for a night of music.   (Check out the pictures below!)

The International Festival of Arts and Ideas just celebrated its fourteenth year, and has become renowned as one of the world's most significant arts festivals.   The Festival is a global event in New Haven.  Each summer, the Festival showcases hundreds of international artists and speakers from over 75 countries in a broad array of genres.   The Festival brings U.S. premieres to New Haven, operas to the Green, internationally recognized names and dynamic, emerging, local artists to a new audience.  And to top it all, much of the Festival programming is free. 

The 2009 Festival, themed Global Identities/Local Heroes, featured performances by artists such as Jason Moran, the Barabbas Theater Company and the Mark Morris Dance Group.  (Check out the NYT review of the Mark Morris Dance Group performance here: www.nytimes.com/2009/06/27/arts/dance/27dido.html?pagewanted=all).

Mavis Staples and They Might be Giants could be seen in free performances on the New Haven Green, along with performances by local and international artists.  The courtyard concert series brought alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, Tania Libertad, whose singing blends the Afro-Peruvian tradition with many other styles, and the international lyrical sound of Rupa & The April Fishes here to the Law School.

The Festival also brings ideas to New Haven.  From conversations about the Hidden Assault on our Civil Rights and Confronting the Global Economic Crisis, to Food: Pleasure, Policy and Public Health, this year's Festival brought together an inspirational group of people from around the world to think about the challenges facing us on a local and global level.  Attendees also had the opportunity to converse about the arts with novelist Frank McCourt, choreographer Mark Morris, and soul singer Mavis Staples, among many others.

Food enthusiasts were able to tour the kitchens of local restaurants and enjoy specialty dinners from the chefs.   I didn't sign up early enough, but the Flavors from Iberia to Latin America tour, featuring Ibiza, Soul de Cuba and Geronimo sounded fantastic!  If you want to attend one of the dinners next year - be sure to sign up early!

To learn more about the Festival or if you plan to be in the New Haven area next summer, keep a watch on the Festival's website (www.artidea.org) for the plans for June, 2010.  Once the schedule is announced, tickets for the more popular events go quickly - so sign up if you see something you like.  Or you can always stop by the New Haven Green to catch one of the many free performances taking place throughout the Festival.

 

Welcome 2012!

Welcome back to 203!  I hope all of you had relaxing and productive summers.  As Dean Rangappa mentioned last week, the Admissions Office has some new things in store for you this fall including our Twitter feed and e-visits/webinars.  While the e-visits will mostly be targeted at specific undergraduate schools and admitted students, we'll have one or two general webinars.  So if you're curious to see me, and perhaps Dean Rangappa, do our best Max Headroom impressions, follow us on Twitter and you'll be among the first to know when these are scheduled.

In a stunning feat of modernization, the rest of the Law School also joined the 21st century this summer, so you can now follow them on Twitter and become their biggest fan on Facebook.  Finally, after being shamed in the 360-degree mirror by Stacy and Clinton, the YLS website will have a new look this fall.  The $5,000 Visa card is exhausted, so it should be making its debut soon.

Back in the non-digital world, there are a bunch of new things happening too.  The Law School recently welcomed its 198th class of students to New Haven with a multi-day orientation program designed to introduce them to Yale, New Haven, and the study of law.  In addition to lectures on the American legal system, the history of legal education, and introductions to environmental, transnational, and public interest law, the Class of 2012 had opportunities to socialize at a cocktail reception at the Yale Center for British Art, an outdoor performance of Moliere's "The Imaginary Invalid," and the Law School community picnic.

The 214 students of the 1L class hail from 7 countries, 38 states, and 76 undergraduate institutions.  25% of the Class of 2012 joined us immediately after finishing their undergraduate studies, 38% have been out of college for one or two years, and the remaining 37% have three or more years of post-college experience.  They hold 35 advanced degrees in such diverse subjects as economics, philosophy, Egyptology, and computer science.  Before joining us at YLS, the Class of 2012 pursued a variety of jobs, activities, and careers, including:

·    professional equestrian;
·    Cantonese opera singer;
·    U.N. peacekeeper;
·    speechwriter for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice;
·    intern for U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Jordan;
·    FBI lab scientist;
·    Bollywood actress;
·    weed inspector; and
·    cemetery attendant.

Welcoming the Class of 2012 on their first day was the Law School's new Dean, Robert Post.  In his first convocation, Dean Post, told the new class that, "for this one astonishing moment, you are poised at the very edge of what undoubtedly will become one of the great adventures of your life."  He encouraged the assembled group to reflect on what brought them to this singular place from their many diverse paths and to learn and draw strength from this diversity.

In closing, Dean Post told the class:

    We shall educate you so as to empower you to become more truly
yourselves.  We shall educate you to liberate your energy and your passion.  
We shall educate you to endow you with the capacities to make a lasting and
important difference, no matter what your chosen field of endeavor.  And we
shall educate you in this way because we believe in you. We believe in every
one of you sitting now in this auditorium.

    Distilled to its essence, we offer you each the educational gift of trust.
It is a rare and precious gift. Do not waste it. Take advantage of these next
three years. If you are anything like most of the alums that I meet, these will
be among the most wonderful three years of your life-the most exciting,
the most provocative, the mo
st transformative, the most empowering. Use
them well, and good luck.   

You can read the full text of Dean Post's welcome here.

Posted: Sep 22 2009, 11:33 AM by craigj | with no comments
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Let the Games Begin

Summer's over, school has started, and we've got the ball rolling for another admissions season!

This year, we've got a few new things up our sleeve.  First, we're on Twitter, at www.twitter.com/ylsadmissions.  Sign up to receive our tweets or toots or whatever you kids call it these days.

Second, this fall we'll be making e-visits to many schools in addition to our regular in-person visits.  That means that if you are an alum or out of town (or stuck in a boring class), you can still tune in!  If we won't be visiting your school either virtually or in person, you can meet one of our representatives at a law fair or forum in your area.  Check out our recruiting schedule for more details (we're still in the process of scheduling many visits, so keep checking back). 

Keep up on our blog for answers to your questions, events in and around the Law School, and more irreverent advice about how to navigate this nerve-wracking process.  And as always, send your questions to 203blog@yale.edu.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Asha

Posted: Sep 17 2009, 09:43 AM by asha | with 3 comment(s)
Filed under:
Farewell for the Summer

Well, summer is finally here so it's time for us to bid all of our 203 readers adieu until the fall.  We will be back in action around the first week of September, so stay tuned!  In the meantime, you can continue to send any questions you have to 203blog@yale.edu.  Stay cool and don't forget to use sunblock!

Posted: May 22 2009, 10:40 AM by asha | with 2 comment(s)
Filed under:
Changing the Scene

Dear Asha,

I am interested in transferring from my current law school to Yale. Do you have any comments for those of us who are willing to make the jump and apply to transfer to YLS? In particular, what are you looking for in a transfer applicant that you would not look for in a regular applicant (I know law school GPA/class rank is a big part of the process)? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

A.F.

Dear A.F.,

You ask a great question, since our transfer application process is somewhat different than our process for first-year students.

First, as background, we accept transfer applications from May 1 to July 1 of each calendar year, for matriculation in August of the same year as a second-year student.  In order to be eligible for transfer you must have completed the equivalent of one year of law school at an ABA-accredited law school.

Unlike our regular admissions process, our transfer admissions process has one centralized Admissions Committee that reviews all of the applications together.  We release all of our decisions around the third week of July; there are no rolling admissions.  In order to complete a transfer application, you must submit a $75 application fee, the transfer application, a transcript with your grades for your full first year of law school, and two letters of recommendation (and yes, the application still includes the 250-word essay).  Note that since often spring grades do not make it on to your transcript by our application deadline, we will accept an unofficial version of your grades (e.g., computer printout/email) for purposes of review; these will be verified through an official transcript in the event you are offered admission.

You are correct that in reviewing transfer applications, we put a lot of weight on your first term grades and GPA.  Your LSAT and undergraduate GPA are not particularly relevant: this is because these are predictors of your performance in your first year of law school, and in the case of transfers we actually have your first year grades in front of us.  We also place a great deal of weight on your recommendations from your law school professors; more than wanting to know the grade you received in the class (which we can obviously see from your transcript), we are interested in knowing how you performed in class discussions, the quality of your writing, and how you compared with other students in the class and in the professor's experience teaching.  To this end, it is important to try to get to know at least a couple of professors personally during your first year, in order to submit the strongest transfer application possible.

We do not have a fixed number of transfers that we take in any given year.  Rather, we admit the strongest applications we receive each year, space permitting, which has in recent years ranged from 5 to 15 students from institutions such as Georgetown, Harvard, Pepperdine, Stanford, Tulane, and Washington University.  Generally speaking, these students were in the top 5-10% of their first year class.

As with students taken off of our wait list, students who have been accepted for transfer will have a limited window of time in which to make a decision (usually about a week to ten days).  We encourage transfer applicants to visit Yale early if seeing the campus will be critical to the decision whether to accept the offer.  Unfortunately, we do not have classes over the summer and most students and professors are gone, but the building and library are open to visitors.  Self-guided tours are available through the Admissions Office.

Lastly, transfer students who are interested in being on the Yale Law Journal can "try out" (i.e., take a Bluebook exam and complete a writing exercise) in the first few weeks of class.  Only the Yale Law Journal has a competitive process; all of our other journals are open to any interested student, including transfers.

I hope this is helpful, and I look forward to reading your application this summer!

--Asha

Posted: May 04 2009, 11:40 AM by asha | with 1 comment(s)
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Bad Idea Jeans: Don't Be a Waitlist Freakshow

Some of you may remember the new B.I.J. feature I introduced a couple of months ago.  We'll, it's time for a new lesson, as I know many of you are on the wait list (either at Yale or elsewhere, some of this info may still be useful to you).  Before we begin, I'd like you to take a brief quiz.  Please watch the following clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0PUrNwvvBk

Now, choose one response that best describes your reaction:

a)  I would rather be waterboarded than watch that again.

b)  Give the guy a break, everyone does that now and then.

c)  Why call when you can show up in person?

If you answered (a), you can probably skim the rest of this post.  If you answered (b), you should read this post carefully, as you may be at risk for B.I.J.  For anyone who answered (c) and is currently on the Yale wait list, please send an email to 203blog@yale.edu with your name, LSAC number, and "My answer to the quiz is (c)" in the subject line.  It will be extremely helpful to me -- thanks!

So look.  I get it.  This is a very stressful time, and you really want to come to Yale, and you want to let us know that.  But here's the deal: there is a fine line between enthusiasm and...stalker.  At this critical juncture, it is important to keep the OCD in check, at least until you get your foot in the door.  Here are some suggestions to help you do that:

1.  Status Checks.  I think you know my feelings on status checks.  While it may appear at first glance that such a check would be more applicable to a wait list than for general admission, it isn't -- at least not at Yale.  Your status is that you are waitlisted.  We do not rank our wait list, so there's not much more to report to you than that.  When I get an opening, I cull through the people we have on our wait list and select someone who I think will best complete the class as it is comprised at that moment.  And no, that doesn't not mean I try to fill the spot with someone with the exact same "profile" -- that's actually not really possible to do since to get on our wait list you have to be pretty accomplished and interesting and therefore somewhat different than everyone else.  Anyway, despite what the guidebooks tell you, please don't call to ask about your status.  If we get an opening, and we think you'd be a great addition to the class, we'll call you.

2.  LOCIs.  These are actually useful.  Sort of.  When I get an opening in the class, I do want to fill it as soon as possible.  Therefore, it's helpful to have something in the file that says, "Yale is my first choice and I will definitely come if admitted."  Unfortunately, people have been known to lie on this front so I don't place a ton of weight on such letters, but the fact that you made an effort to say something does offer a feather on the scale in your favor.  However, if I open the file to find several letters, odes to Yale, journal entries, head shots, etc. then you are venturing way too far into Mikeyland and really not doing yourself a favor.  One.  LOCI.  Punto.

3.  Letters of Recommendation.  These are generally not as useful and won't make much of a difference in whether you are admitted off the wait list.  I say this because usually the stream of LORs we get from wait list people tend to come from employers, high-ranking politicians, and other people who are probably very nice individuals but who do not carry a whole lot of weight in our admissions process.  As I've mentioned before, the type of recommendations that we really pay attention to are academic references.  To that end, if there is a professor whom you've blown away with your brilliance in the last couple of months (like s/he supervised a senior thesis that just won a departmental award, for instance), by all means have him or her write to us.  But please do not clutter your file with a high volume of low-impact pieces of paper.  Remember, what you choose to add to your file is a reflection of your judgment, and we do not want to admit people with poor judgment.

4.  Supplemental Materials.  Please don't.  If I want to read your thesis, I will ask for it.  (I have done this exactly once in my entire time as Admissions Dean -- to someone who was already admitted.  He had done some mathematical modeling of traffic flow through the Holland Tunnel and, having spent a good portion of my waking hours while living in NYC stuck in that tunnel, I was curious.  But that's it.)  Other things -- work writing samples, video clips, news articles -- honestly, I just don't have the time.  If there is a specific accomplishment about which you'd like us to know, you can send us a short -- short! -- statement indicating what it is, with a link or a polite offer to provide more information by request.  Ideally, you would combine any such updates into your LOCI (see #2) so that you provide a professional, comprehensive, and concise update to your file which reiterates your interest. 

5.  Visits.  In the event that you are offered a spot on the wait list, you need to be prepared to give an answer ASAP (within anywhere from 24-72 hours, depending on how close we are to registration day).  This is not the time that we are going to be able to court you, provide travel subsidies to fly out, connect you with students and professors, etc.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  For one, we are trying to fill the class.  Every extra day/hour/minute you take to make your decision is time that the person who is "on deck" behind you is spending making plans to enroll elsewhere (including placing deposits on an apartment, buying books, etc.).  Just as you want to be able to change your plans as soon as possible, so do the others waiting with you -- please be considerate.  Second, once classes are over next week, our students and professors start leaving (a lot of exams happen remotely).  We just don't have people around to connect you with.

Basically, if seeing Yale in person, sitting in on classes, and talking with students will be critical to your decision to accept an offer from the wait list, the time to do these things is NOW.  The only unknown piece of information (from our end) that should stand in the way of your accepting an offer from the wait list is your financial aid package, which we will try to get to you as soon as practicable after you are admitted.  By keeping your name on the wait list, we assume that you have considered all the other factors and are ready to make a decision on very short notice.

6.  Deferrals.  We don't offer them.  For anything.  Punto.  Again, we are trying to fill a spot for this fall.  Even if you get offered a Rhodes or Marshall or some other amazing opportunity, your only choice is to turn down the other opportunity or withdraw and reapply.  My advice to you, if you do get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will prevent you from enrolling this fall, is to take it -- you can always reapply, and your application will be richer for your experience.  (If you do turn down a Rhodes or Marshall to stay on the wait list, please send an email to 203blog@yale.edu with your name, LSAC number, and "My answer to the quiz is (c)" in the subject line -- thanks!)

Oh, and one more thing.  We really can't send individual confirmations for every piece of mail we receive, email or otherwise.  We're not Amazon -- we're the Yale Admissions Office, with literally two people handling thousands of files.  If you really need confirmation, I would recommend that you use the U.S. Postal system (the most reliable in the world) and get something called "Delivery Confirmation" for about 50 cents.  If the online tracker tells you that it arrived at the Law School, then it will make its way to our office and your file.  I promise.

-- Asha

 

Mythbusters #14

 Dear Asha,

I have been admitted to Yale and am a little torn about where to go.  Yale has a ton of great opportunities, but I keep hearing that you should only go to Yale if you want to become a professor.  I don't think this is the path I want to pursue.  Would I really be out of place at Yale?

C.K.

Dear C.K.,

You ask a great question.  As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, Yale grads are ubiquitous in legal academia.  About 10% of all law faculty are YLS grads, and about 13% of each graduating class has entered academia five years after graduation.  But while it may be tempting to conclude from these stats that Yale is only seeking and producing aspiring academics, the reality is a little more complex.

I can tell you, from the surveys we do each year of admitted students before they matriculate, that the majority of students come to Yale intending to practice law.  If you check out our five-year post-graduation surveys, most students do in fact follow this path: around 60% of our graduates go to work for a firm as their first non-clerkship job, while another chunk of about 30% go into public interest jobs.  About 6% -- probably the students who came in with PhDs or did joint degrees while they were here -- go directly into academia.

So why does this number double for Yale graduates so soon after graduation?  It's hard to say, but one reason is, I think, that a lot of people get burned out practicing.  Let's face it, if you're given the choice (as in the case of working for a law firm) of keeping track of every hour of your time, for 15-18 hours a day, and working on cases that may be of marginal interest to you or, for about the same salary, being in complete control of your life, writing about ideas that completely excite you, and having your summers off with grants for travel and research...um, which one would you choose?

Frankly, I think a lot of lawyers discover that they might prefer to be academics.  The difference is that when Yale graduates make this discovery, they find that they already have a leg up in this very competitive field.  For one thing, they have had a chance, through the course of their legal education, to work closely with professors to produce at least two pieces of substantial legal scholarship -- one is the Substantial Paper, and the other is the Supervised Analytical Writing (SAW).  Both are papers that you work on with one-on-one supervision from a faculty member, either through a class or independent research (the difference between them is just of length).  Many students have even published their papers in a journal by the time they graduate.  Since  a major component of being able to compete on the legal job market is to have published scholarship, Yale graduates are not starting from scratch: either they've checked off this requirement already or have something they have already spent significant time on, that they can build on.

The second advantage Yale students have is that they are not navigating this field alone.  As I mentioned above, all Yale students develop at least one or two close relationships with faculty members, if by nothing else than default.  So when it comes time to brush up that paper to turn it into an article, or apply for a fellowship to spend a year working on a new idea, they have a faculty contact and mentor to help guide them through the process.  The professors at Yale don't get more excited than when a former student of theirs wants to follow their own chosen profession and, since we have a small school with a smaller alumni pool, they aren't inundated with requests from tons of graduates -- so they're happy to respond, give feedback, and write recommendations.  Don't underestimate the value of having professors who will actually remember you personally, 3,5, and 10 years down the road!

Finally, Yale is proud of its record in placing students in academia, and to this end, we make resources available to both current students and graduates.  For current students, we have a Law Teaching Series, which is a series of workshops offered each year that cover everything from how to develop a research agenda to what, exactly, a "job talk" consists of.  The Series can give students who might not have otherwise considered a career in academia a window into how to pursue this path, either directly out of law school or sometime down the road.  For alumni, we have for the past couple of years offered a "Moot Camp," which brings together graduates with scholarly works in progress with current students and faculty to workshop (i.e. grill) the graduate on his or her paper.  Finally, for both current students and alumni, our Career Development Office offers counseling and access to resources for students interested in this field.

I've listed some of the reasons Yale graduates are successful in entering legal academia, even if it's not something they considered when they came in or during the time they were in school.  In fact, even students who do intend to teach usually practice for a little while...after all, you have to be a professor of something.  Going out an practicing in  the real world can help give context and depth to the intellectual ideas you've been playing around with, and can make your later scholarly work more nuanced.  So pretty much everyone at Yale, even those who are interested in academia, have substantive interests that they pursue through journals, extracurriculars, centers and programs, and summer jobs.

The point is that if you don't plan to be a law professor, don't worry, you'll have plenty of company at Yale.  And if you decide later that you do want to become a law professor, well, you'll have plenty of company then, too.  Either way, you can't go wrong!

--Asha

"This American Life"

One of the perks of attending law school at one of the world's premier universities is being able to take advantage of the academic, cultural, and social resources of Yale's other schools and departments.  From taking classes in other departments for credit towards your JD to spending a random Tuesday afternoon browsing at Yale's museums and galleries, the wealth of the University is available to our students.  Given the Law School's central location on campus, it's easy to run across the street for an afternoon lecture at the Hall of Graduate Studies or to sneak away between classes for a lunchtime concert at the School of Music.

Another benefit of the prime real estate and beautiful facilities the Law School occupies is that we frequently host talks and lectures not directly to the law for other University departments, so taking advantage of broader University offerings is sometimes as simple as walking across the hallway after class.  I blogged two years ago about NYT columnist David Pogue's visit to the Law School as the University's Poynter Fellow in Journalism.  Countless University guests have spoken at the Law School since then, but students were especially excited about the recent visit of another renowned journalist.

The Law School had the pleasure of hosting a lecture by Ira Glass, award-winning producer and host of the public radio program "This American Life."  The standing-room-only crowd listened on as Glass played clips from his show, spoke about the state of American journalism, and described his successful approach to developing and presenting a story.

"This American Life" has taken a different approach from the very beginning, said Glass, by "applying the tools of journalism to things so small no one was paying attention."  For example, Glass said, while hundreds of the detainees have been released from Guantánamo, "none of us on our staff had heard any of them interviewed."  His program decided to do a show asking former detainees such normal questions as, "How were you treated?" "How do you feel about America now?" and "What did you do to get thrown into Guantánamo mistakenly?"  Through these firsthand accounts, the show was able to bring attention to the U.S. government's practice of paying bounties to individuals who turned in potential suspects in the war on terror, among other broad subjects.

After his lecture, Glass answered audience questions and offered advice to would-be journalists.  He told them, "It's normal to be bad before you're good."  Good stories "are not about logic, not about argument," but are about "motion."

For that end of the term cramming…

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!

 

Posted: Mar 30 2009, 04:35 PM by Tracey | with 2 comment(s)
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Getting out of town

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...

Mythbusters #23

 Dear Asha,

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?

P.M.

Dear P.M.,

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!

--Asha

 

Sold!

The Law School recently played host to one of its more unique community events when The Initiative for Public Interest Law at Yale held its annual public interest auction.  The public interest auction is one of several fundraisers conducted during the year by The Initiative, which uses the proceeds to fund public interest work around the globe.

The auction relies on goods and services donated by BAR/BRI (a bar prep company), law firms, the New Haven community, and YLS students, faculty, and staff.  Items are first offered in a silent auction.  If you missed the announcements, you'll know the auction has begun when a quarter of the main hallway is lined with tables full of bidding sheets.  Items with bids over $100 are then moved to the live auction, held during our Friday happy hour in the Dining Hall.  There are always a few items which inspire heated bidding wars, so the event is entertaining for participants and spectators alike.

Some of this year's more unique items on the auction block included: 

  • a day sail on Long Island Sound for five people on a 27 foot sailboat;
  • a dinner party for six, cooked by a former professional chef;
  • poker lessons from the winner of the 2008 World Series of Poker;
  • an original three-minute play on a theme of the winner's choosing;
  • lunch with two New York Times legal reporters;
  • a guided sea-kayaking excursion;
  • four box seats to a Yankees game;
  • poker night for five at the home of Professors Chua and Rubenfeld;
  • Italian feast for six at Professor Calabresi's farm;
  • two Scrabble games with Professor Ellickson; and
  • a beer tasting at the home of Professor Meares with award-winning theater writer and director Tina Landau.

The Initiative is a student organization which provides start-up funds to innovative non-profit projects that may have difficulty obtaining money from more traditional sources due to the subject matter or approach taken by the project.  Non-profit projects submit grant proposals to The Initiative, which then chooses projects based on a multi-round selection process.  One-year grants of up to $30,000 are then distributed to the selected projects.  Past grant recipients include projects that aid female asylum seekers who are escaping gender-based violence and torture; develop and bring impact litigation to combat source-of-income discrimination in Maryland's housing market; provide legal services to NYC's growing elderly LGBT population; and develop and implement curricula and advocacy materials on patient confidentiality for use by health care professionals in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Malawi.

 

Posted: Feb 25 2009, 11:33 AM by craigj | with no comments
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The Right Side of Your Brain

You may worry that the right side of your brain will feel neglected in law school as the left side busily tries to process court opinion after court opinion.  For a start, you can always add a class on law and literature, but if your creative side still craves more nourishment, walk over to the Audubon Arts District.

The Audubon Arts District is my favorite corner of New Haven.  Located off of Whitney Avenue, a few blocks from the Law School, Audubon Street is a great place to spend a weekend afternoon.  Whether studying for your torts final in Koffee (www.koffeekoffee.com), a cozy coffee house with a great room full of windows overlooking a small park, or browsing through the sheet music at The Foundry (http://www.foundrymusicco.com/index.shtm), the Audubon Arts District has something to offer everyone.

I really grew to appreciate Audubon Street last year when I took a few art classes at the Creative Arts Workshop (www.creativeartsworkshop.org/), a local gallery and center for arts education. Another class is at the top of my list of New Year's resolutions!

The Creative Arts Workshop offers classes from painting and drawing, to photography and pottery.  It is a casual place to brush up on an art skill from college or delve into something new.  More than 300 courses are offered by the Workshop each year, including evening and weekend courses for those of us who are busy during the day.  Believe it or not, even busy graduate students can spare a few hours out of their week for some creative expression, and there were always a few in class.  I enrolled in a drawing class to brush up, and then moved on to a few painting classes.  I even attempted a portraiture painting class, which was not easy!

If creating art is not up your alley, you might still like to visit the Workshop's two exhibition rooms to view regional and national exhibitions and exhibitions by CAW faculty and students. You can also head down the street to the Arts Council of Greater New Haven (http://www.newhavenarts.org/) for a visit to the Small Space Gallery featuring regional artists.  While you are there, pick up a calendar of arts events in the New Haven area.   To continue your gallery tour, walk a block over to Trumbull Street for a visit to the John Slade Ely House (www.elyhouse.org) and view the exhibitions of contemporary regional artists.

On the other side of the Creative Arts Workshop, you will find the Neighborhood Music School, one of the 10 largest community art schools in the country.  If you were one of those kids who quit playing the piano around the age of 13 and now you find you would love to get back to it, or if you are looking to join a local jazz ensemble or chamber choir, the Neighborhood Music School (http://www.nmsmusicschool.org/index.html) might offer just what you are looking for.  In addition to a wide variety of music and dance classes for children, NMS offers adult classes in everything from beginning piano to jazz improvisation, drama and dance classes.  

Audubon Street is also home to the New Haven ballet studios (www.newhavenballet.org) and the ACES Educational Center for the Arts (www.aces.org), a public arts magnet high school, with its Arts Hall and Little Theater performance spaces.

 

Bad Idea Jeans: Calling for a Status Update

So it's that time of year when I casually troll through some of the discussion boards out there, just to see what you guys are chatting about.  I'm usually amused by some of the "facts" circulating out there -- "Yale has already admitted 80% of its class!!!"  "There hasn't been anyone admitted since Dec. 23!!"  "Yale is only accepting math majors who play intramural softball!!"-- as though LSN is the representative universe of all of our admits (it is not).  Please do not fret.  We have not filled our class (or come close to it) and we are admitting students weekly.   I am hoping that this assurance will stop a decidely unamusing trend that seems to have begun earlier than usual this year: calling the Admissions Office, or me personally, to find out the status of your application.  I feel like it's my duty, at this point, to step in and let you know: DON'T DO IT.  This is an example of what those of us from the previous SNL generation would refer to as Bad Idea Jeans, and I've decided to make B.I.J. a regular column in this blog to help guide applicants through proper admissions etiquette.

Before you read further, please repeat after me: "My application is under active review and Yale will notify me as soon as there is a final decision."  Again.  Good.  Now you can keep going.

Full disclosure: I am 5 months pregnant, which means I am fat, exhausted, and pretty cranky most of the time.  That's reason numero uno for not calling to ask about your status.  But there are other reasons as well.  First, calling about your status tells me that you are either not a regular reader of 203 or don't read the blog very carefully -- for if you had, you would know from previous posts that we send out decisions much later than most schools.  Second, your call tells me that you are unaware of the fact that there are roughly 2,000 other people in your same position, but who are waiting patiently in line to hear from us.  "I've heard from some other schools, and it would really help me in the planning process if I could know where I stand with Yale."  We know.  (P.S. -- telling a pregnant woman that you need predictability is more like a bad idea tuxedo.)  Finally, I generally have a meeting, a food craving, or a bathroom run every 30 minutes or so, so my stretches of uninterrupted time are precious to me.  If you are calling to find out your status, there had better be a VERY good reason.

What might such a reason look like?  Oh, I don't know.  I can see an appropriate phone call going something like this:

Me:                      "Hello, this is Asha."

Caller:                  "Please hold for the President."

Me:                       "Uh, OK."

2 minutes of The Pointer Sisters, in musak.

The President:     "Hello Asha.  This is the President.  I'm calling to find out about the status of [your name]'s application.  I have just offered [your name] a sensitive position in my cabinet, but s/he tells me that s/he cannot commit until there is a final decision from Yale."

At this point, I would have to explain awkwardly to the President that for privacy reasons, I can neither confirm nor deny that such an applicant has applied to Yale, but if that person would like to call me directly, I would be glad to speak with him/her.  You could then very legitimately call me and ask about your status.  My answer would still be (repeat after me), "Your application is under active review and we will notify you as soon as we have a final decision."  But at least I wouldn't be P.O.'d at you.  In fact, I might think you're kinda cool.

So that is my B.I.J. lesson for the day.  Please be patient.  We are working very hard to read your applications thoroughly and we promise to get you an answer as soon as we can.  OK, gotta run -- I'm about to eat this keyboard!

Supporting Public Interest

Two weeks ago we were pleased to welcome back one of our graduates, Sheila Hayre '02, as the Law School's new Public Interest Advisor.  In her new position, Sheila will focus on assisting YLS students and alumni in applying for public interest fellowships.  Additionally, she will provide counseling to students interested in public interest careers.

Sheila joins us from New Haven Legal Assistance (NHLA) where she has practiced since 2004.  At NHLA Sheila's work in family and immigration law focused on the neediest, particularly women who were victims of spousal abuse, and undocumented immigrants. She was among the first legal services attorneys in Connecticut to pursue visa status adjustments for battered spouses, and she has recently filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of victims of trafficking and employer abuse.

The position of Public Interest Advisor is one of the four improvements to public interest support unveiled by Dean Koh last April.  In addition to a dedicated public interest counselor, Dean Koh doubled the number of public interest fellowships available to graduates, announced an increase in funding for summer public interest opportunities, and made major changes to our loan repayment assistance program, COAP (more on this in a future post).

Yale Law School has a history rich in the tradition of public service, from graduates who have worked in the highest levels of government, to other pioneers who established or led public interest organizations.  These changes announced last April serve to further strengthen the Law School's already deep commitment to supporting our current students and graduates as they forge their unique paths in public service.

Burgers and Fries

There are many places in New Haven to find a great burger.  Legend has it that a New Haven staple since 1895, Louis' Lunch, may even be the birthplace of America's first hamburger. (http://www.louislunch.com/)   The legend aside, I do think Louis' has the best burger in town, even if hamburgers had their beginning elsewhere.

Louis' is missing one thing, however, the beloved sidekick of sitting down to a great hamburger - an order of fries.  Normally, I overlook this, because Louis' is a one of a kind place.  But today, I was craving fries, so it was time to venture out to a new burger joint.  For the past year, I have heard good things about the burgers and fries at a relatively new restaurant in town - Prime 16 (www.prime16.com).  I decided to give it a try.

Located on Temple Street, just off of the New Haven green, Prime 16 is a short walk from the Law School.  The restaurant/brewpub is casual and rustic, with a separate bar and dining area.  It is right down the street from the Criterion Cinemas movie theater (www.criterioncinemas.com/criterion-cinemas.html) so would make a great place to go for lunch or dinner before a show.

From a quick survey of the tables around me, I did notice that the restaurant serves salads.  I won't be able to tell you what types of salads are offered, because when the menu was placed in front of me my eyes went straight to the burgers.  So on to the main event... The list of burgers was extensive, including everything from the original burger with your selection of toppings, to lamb and salmon burgers.  Each comes with a choice of fries, sweet potato fries, and some other options... (my eyes glazed over after seeing the fries).

With all of these choices, my friend and I decided to each share half of our burger so we would be able to try more!  I made my own California-style burger with avocado and pepper jack cheese on a wheat bun.  She ordered the lamb burger on the pretzel roll - a surprising offering that I don't think I have ever seen before.  Both burgers were amazing!  The original burger was flavorful and just delicious.  The lamb burger had a hint of mint and was really unlike other burgers I have tried.  The pretzel roll, which I must admit I was skeptical about, turned out to make a fantastic bun and it was the perfect compliment to the Greek-style lamb burger.  I would definitely order it again.

Of course, we also ordered the french fries, which deserved all the praise they have received.   All-in-all it was a thoroughly satisfying lunch. 

A Prime 16 burger will cost you a few more dollars than a burger at Louis', but for a change of pace, Prime 16 is a great place to go for a burger.  If you choose to visit later in the day, the restaurant also has an extensive beer list, good happy hour specials and $5 burgers some late nights. 

It's Not Over Yet

Dear Asha,

I took the LSAT in December, but had to cancel my score.  Can I take the LSAT again and still apply this year, or will I need to wait till next year?

Thanks,

L.M.

Dear L.M.,

You're in luck -- this year, we are accepting February LSAT, so if you can take the test again next month, you can still apply this year.

Please note that our application deadline with respect to the rest of the materials is still February 15, so you will need to submit your application by that date.  Once we receive your LSDAS report with your Februrary LSAT score, transcript, and recommendations, your file will be reviewed.

Note that as per our normal process, we cannot hold an already complete file for you to retake the February LSAT, nor can we re-review a file in light of a new LSAT score.  In other words, if we have an LSDAS report on file with a valid LSAT score, and all of your other application materials are submitted and complete, your file will enter the queue to be reviewed, or may have already been reviewed.  Due to the large number of applications we receive, this is the procedure we must follow in order not to create a backlog in reviewing files. 

However, if your file is not yet complete and you have a previous LSAT score on file that you are unhappy with and are planning to take the February LSAT, what you should do is deactivate your recommendations for Yale -- this prevents your application from becoming complete.  Once your Februrary LSAT score is released and on file, you can reactivate your recommendations, which will cause LSAC to release a new LSDAS report containing your recommendations and your new score, which will be included when we complete your file. 

As I've mentioned in previous posts, due to our unique admissions process your chances of admission are not affected by applying this late in the process.  However, due to our lengthy faculty review process, you will likely hear from us much later than the other schools to which you apply -- probably around mid (and possibly late) April.  Just something to keep in mind if you have scholarship or other offers to which you must respond before then..

Lastly, keep in mind that you should not feel rushed to apply this year if you aren't ready.  I know the economy isn't doing so great, but there's something to be said for taking some time to regroup and apply with the best package you can -- there are tons of interesting things to do in the meantime (especially if you don't mind eating Ramen Noodles a couple of times a day).  But I hope this is helpful, and look forward to reading your application when you do decide to apply!

--Asha

Posted: Jan 20 2009, 10:40 AM by asha | with no comments
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Clinical Opportunities

Happy 2009!  We here at 203 enjoyed our long winter break and now we're back reading files, admitting students, and writing blog posts.  I'm going to start the year by addressing a subject about which I receive a lot of questions when I'm out recruiting:  clinical programs.

For those of you not familiar with clinics, let me explain.  Clinics are courses in which you, as a student, have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience by working on legal casework and representing clients.  Clinics generally fall into two categories:  simulations and live-client clinics.

In a simulation you're essentially "going through the motions."  You either work on made-up cases constructed by clinical faculty or on real cases that have concluded.  You write briefs, file motions, and appear in "court" for clients who never existed or have already received assistance.  At many law schools this is the experience to which you will be limited in your first and second years.

In the other type of clinic, the live-client clinic, you're working with real clients on real, on-going legal cases.  This includes meeting with your clients, filing motions in real courts, and representing clients before actual judges and magistrates.  You are the attorney for your client.

At Yale Law School, all of our 20+ clinics are live-client.  You can start working in a clinic in the spring of your first year, an option relatively unique to YLS.  That means you can begin representing clients in court your 1L year, with lots of guidance from 2Ls, 3Ls, and the clinical faculty, of course.  YLS clinics aren't an extracurricular activity; you receive course credit for them.  While YLS does not have a clinical course requirement, over 80% of our students will take at least one clinic before graduating.

Shortly before the winter break, leaders of the various clinics held a fair in the Dining Hall to talk with students interested in finding out more information about particular clinics.  This was the first formal opportunity for 1Ls to investigate their clinic options for the coming term.

Below you will find a list of the clinical opportunities at YLS this spring.  Further information can be found by clicking on a clinic title or by visiting www.law.yale.edu/clinics.
 

ADVOCACY FOR CHILDREN & YOUTH
The Sol and Lillian Goldman Family, Advocacy for Children and Youth (ACY) clinic represents children and youth in abuse, neglect, and, on occasion, termination of parental rights cases and related matters.

Our abuse and neglect cases may involve allegations of sexual, physical and/or mental abuse as well as allegations of educational, nutritional and/or emotional deprivation. While representing children in these cases, we explore our dual role, as a lawyer and guardian ad litem for the child, and the representational needs of this child in particular. In the course of our work, we have encountered issues of poverty, domestic violence, mental health, drug dependency and HIV.

Case assignments provide students with considerable interaction with clients, their families, and local service providers, opportunities to appear in the Superior Court for Juvenile Matters and in administrative meetings at the Department of Children and Families, and may provide occasions to interact with professionals from various disciplines such as psychiatry, medicine and social work. While representing clients, students will have opportunities to become familiar with the inner workings of the Department of Children and Families and potentially other social service agencies in New Haven.

BALANCING CIVIL LIBERTIES AND NATIONAL SECURITY AFTER SEPTEMBER 11th
The Civil Liberties and National Security Clinic, also known as the National Litigation Project, is a hybrid between clinic and seminar. We meet twice a week, once to work in small groups on a case to which we are assigned, and once as a full group to discuss broader theoretical and strategic issues arising out of those cases and the policies the government has adopted in the wake of September 11. We also try to bring in several speakers to our seminar sessions-for example, a practitioner arguing an important appellate matter and a community activist-whose work involves "war on terror" issues from a different perspective or in a different forum than the Clinic's own work. The Clinic represents parties and amici in cases at the intersection of human rights and national security.  The cases touch upon a range of issues such as prolonged arbitrary detention of citizens and non-citizens, extraordinary rendition and torture, discriminatory immigration enforcement, government secrecy, habeas corpus and fair trial rights at Guantánamo, and other international human rights matters related to national security. For instance, we have filed briefs in Rasul v. Bush, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld,Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Padilla v. Rumsfeld, Padilla v. Hanft, and Boumediene v. Bush. Not only, however, are we involved at the appellate level, but we also represent a number of Guantánamo detainees, both in habeas proceedings and before the military commissions, as well as persons formerly detained in the United States in damages actions. Depending on the case, students enrolled in the Clinic will directly participate in litigation strategy, research novel points of law and procedure, draft briefs or other court documents, handle arguments and court appearances, take discovery, and engage in numerous other forms of creative advocacy on behalf of their clients.

COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT / COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
The Community & Economic Development / Community Development Financial Institutions Clinic (CED-CDFI), the most interdisciplinary law school clinic in the country, provides students with opportunities to get involved in community and economic development in New Haven and the surrounding region. The goal of this clinic is to address the needs of underserved communities through non-litigation, community building projects.  Through the course of the semester, students will work as legal, policy, and strategy advisors, as well as business consultants, to a host of clients.

The clinic offers students a chance to work in regulatory, transactional, business and strategic capacities, learning about the law, business, and operations of community organizations, nonprofits, banks, local government, and small businesses.   Projects may expose students to: formation and governance of for profit and not-for-profit entities  (primarily nonstock corporations and LLCs); strategic planning and decision-making, negotiating and drafting contracts; developing employment and other policies; structuring real estate transactions; assessing the financial feasibility of proposed projects; tax planning for nonprofit and for-profit entities; securing funding from federal, state, local, and private sources; resolving zoning and environmental issues; and negotiating the local politics involved in siting low-income housing and other business and nonprofit activities. Students may gain client contact, memo preparation skills, regulatory agency contact, administrative agency contact, and negotiation skills, as well as banking, finance, and business exposure.

The classroom component of the clinic focuses on issues of poverty alleviation and economic development. Attention is paid to both the particular community development needs of New Haven and to the role of community development finance in a broader context. In spring 2009, class topics will include affordable housing, history of New Haven, mortgage foreclosure crisis, banking law, financial services, social entrepreneurship, microfinance, and urban planning and redevelopment. Through class discussions, we explore larger policy questions of what is community development, what are key barriers to economic development, and the efficacy of various policy interventions in the field. Woven throughout these classes, we will examine the varied roles we play in these community and economic development processes and the ethical implications of our work. The clinic also regularly invites guest speakers, including state and federal officials, city and community leaders, policy experts, and noted academics.

CRIMINAL DEFENSE PROJECT
This clinical offering will allow students the opportunity to participate in the defense of serious felony cases, with training and fieldwork supervision provided by clinical faculty and experienced trial attorneys from the New Haven Judicial District Public Defenders office.  Students will receive skills training which will address topics such as the right to counsel and client interviews, pretrial investigation and discovery, motions practice, crime scene and physical evidence viewing, working with forensic experts, trial/hearing preparation, jury selection, witness examination, framing a defense theory of the case, confronting the prosecution's evidence, presenting the defense's evidence, and presenting closing argument.  Cases will be selected in an attempt to provide students with a broad exposure to defense practice as well as a meaningful opportunity to participate in a litigation event.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CLINIC
The Domestic Violence Clinic offers students the opportunity to combine direct legal representation of survivors of domestic violence with community outreach and education.  Students provide comprehensive legal services to clients in a variety of civil matters including, but not limited to, immigration, family law, public benefits, and housing law cases.  Students conduct outreach at community-based organizations and provide trainings and know your rights presentations to community groups and agencies.  The coursework examines the legal, social, and policy issues involved in domestic violence lawyering.  The clinic focuses on serving immigrant and low-income women.   Students should expect to appear in court.

EDUCATION ADEQUACY PROJECT
The Education Adequacy Project is devoted to representing clients who wish to improve the quality of educational opportunities being provided to children in Connecticut. Currently, the bulk of the project's work stems from a class action lawsuit that was filed against the State of Connecticut in November of 2005. In the lawsuit, parents and children allege that the State is failing to fulfill its state constitutional duty to provide "suitable and substantially equal educational opportunities." As the plaintiffs' primary lawyers, students in the Project are involved in all aspects of the ongoing litigation. As such, the Project provides students with an opportunity to take part in major class action litigation that will shape the future of perhaps the most important domestic human rights issue of our time: the right of a child to receive a suitable educational opportunity regardless of the child's wealth or place of birth. The clinic has arguments in front of the Connecticut Supreme Court on this question in March, 2008.

Students in the Project spend the majority of their time working on the litigation, developing or preparing case strategies, briefs, memos, motions, and evidence. Students also work on advancing and defending the vision outside the courts, through work with state politicians and community leaders. The Education Adequacy Project meets on a weekly basis, reviewing the progress of the litigation and discussing the substantive, strategic, and theoretical issues involved. Students participate in smaller group work sessions and in meetings with both individual and corporate clients. Students spend the bulk of their time on briefs, memos, and other litigation preparation.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION CLINIC
The Yale Environmental Protection Clinic is designed to introduce students to the fields of environmental advocacy and policy-making by exploring a variety of environmental law and policy questions and the tools environmental professionals use to address them. While the Clinic supplements students' hands-on experience with seminars on environmental law and policy, the core of the program is the work students do for their clients: teams of three to four students work with client organizations on "real-world" projects, with the goal of producing a major work product for the client by the end of the semester.

IMMIGRATION LEGAL SERVICES
The Immigration Legal Services Clinic primarily represents clients seeking asylum and withholding of removal in the United States. Our clients come from more than twenty different countries in all regions of the world-including, but not limited to Africa, South Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Most of our clients are refugees, who fear that they will be persecuted on the basis of their race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group if they return to their countries of nationality. We assist our clients with the preparation of their applications for asylum, prepare clients for interviews with asylum officers, and present client cases in an administrative Immigration Court. We also represent clients who are appealing orders for removal and denials of asylum before the Board of Immigration Appeals, and we currently have cases pending in the Second Circuit. Additionally, we assist our clients in dealing with other immigration or legal matters that can arise in conjunction with their immigration proceedings or after a grant of political asylum-for example, helping clients obtain visas to allow their family members to join them in this country.

Students have close contact with their assigned clients. This clinic involves a great deal of client-interaction, sometimes through translators. Students in the Immigration Legal Services Clinic prepare client and witness affidavits to tell their clients' stories, as well as briefs and extensive exhibits containing legal arguments and detailing the political, economic, and social conditions in the countries our clients have fled.  In addition, some students have the opportunity to conduct oral examination and present oral argument before judges in administrative trial proceedings. Students whose cases include appellate work may also have the chance to present oral arguments before the Second Circuit.

LANDLORD TENANT LEGAL SERVICES
Students in the Landlord/Tenant Clinic ("LLT") provide legal assistance and representation to indigent tenants facing eviction.  Their work is based primarily on the Connecticut Summary Process Statute (Conn. Gen. Stat.§ 47a-23 et seq.), which governs eviction actions in the state.

The LLT clinic provides an excellent opportunity to manage litigation and develop lawyering, mediation, and negotiating skills. Participating students investigate their own cases and also write all briefs, memoranda, and correspondence relating to their cases. They will also argue motions, handle mediation sessions, and negotiate settlements directly with opposing counsel. They may also conduct trials for their clients in Connecticut state court or engage in limited legislative advocacy, defending tenants' rights in the Connecticut legislative process.

LEGAL ASSISTANCE
Legal Assistance is a clinical seminar that uses the classroom, direct client counseling and representation, and simulation experiences to provide students a glimpse into the daily workings of a legal aid practice and to provide them with invaluable practical legal skills. Students will work directly with attorneys at New Haven Legal Assistance in the areas of Family Law, Criminal Defense, Benefits, Housing, and Immigration. New Haven Legal Assistance is one of the few legal aid programs in the country which provides criminal defense representation, and a very limited number of students may have the opportunity to do criminal defense work in state court, depending upon the resources available in the criminal unit. The clinic provides substantial opportunities to interact with individual clients.

LEGAL SERVICES FOR IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES
Legal Services for Immigrant Communities fuses traditional civil legal services representation with collaborative, community-based strategies for solving community problems and empowering clients.  Our clinic provides a broad range of legal services to one of the largest immigrant communities in New Haven: the Spanish-speaking Latin American and Caribbean community.  We conduct outreach through Junta for Progressive Action, a nonprofit community organization in Fair Haven.  We offer students the opportunity to represent immigrant clients in a wide range of cases, including (but not limited to) immigration law, employment law, benefits, family law, mortgage foreclosures, landlord-tenant law, and consumer fraud.

LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY
The Legislative Advocacy is designed to give students an opportunity to participate in the state legislative process by advancing - and defending - the policy initiatives of a Connecticut public interest organization that works on behalf of children and, where possible, other LSO clinics.  In the future, the clinic may work on behalf of additional public interest organizations. 

Although the particular policy issues we tackle change from year to year, issues covered in recent years have included public education (particularly No Child Left Behind); criminal & juvenile justice reform; Medicaid and indigent health care issues (including universal healthcare, prenatal care, ERISA & health insurance pooling); legal representation of foster children; and tax reform. The Legislative Advocacy clinic's work includes both affirmative legislative initiatives and defensive efforts to respond to proposed legislation deemed inimical to the interests of its clients. The clinic also serves as a legislative liaison for other LSO clinics, keeping them informed of legislative developments affecting their clients' interests. Issues of ethics and professional responsibility for lawyers working in the legislative arena will be an important focus.

LGBT LITIGATION PROJECT
LGBT Rights are at the cutting edge of civil rights work today. The LGBT Litigation Project has done important work for organizations like the ACLU, Lambda Legal, Amnesty International, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Our research has involved Proposition 8, LGBT youth in school, the rights of transgender prisoners, employment discrimination, and family rights.

LOWENSTEIN INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS CLINIC
The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic has three main goals: to provide students with the opportunity to gain practical experience that reflects the range of activities in which lawyers engage to promote respect for human rights; to help students build the basic knowledge and skills necessary to be effective human rights lawyers and advocates; and to contribute to current efforts to protect human rights through valuable, high-quality assistance to appropriate organizations and individual clients. Through work on projects and classroom discussion, the Clinic encourages students to examine and develop sensitivity to critical issues affecting the promotion of human rights and to integrate the theory and practice of human rights law. Recent work has included human rights litigation in U.S. courts; preparing amicus briefs on international and comparative law for domestic, regional and international tribunals and adjudicative bodies; providing nongovernmental organizations with legal and factual research and strategic advice; and investigating and drafting reports on human rights violations.

NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS CLINIC
This clinical workshop will serve the needs of nonprofit organizations that cannot afford to retain private counsel, nascent and established, that require help in the process of organization and incorporation, in obtaining tax exemption, and solving ongoing legal problems. The class will meet as a group five or six times during the term.  Professional responsibility/legal ethics credit is available to students attending two two-hour Clinic ethics sessions and enrolled in the Clinic for two (or more) units of credit.

PRISON LEGAL SERVICES
For more than three decades, students in Prison Legal Services have provided legal assistance to inmates in state and federal prisons in Connecticut. During the spring term, the clinic will focus primarily on state cases challenging the conditions of confinement.

 Weekly class sessions will focus on the procedural and substantive law issues that occur generally in conditions cases, as well as issues specific to our clients' cases.

Participants in Prison Legal Services develop their analytical, research and writing abilities (as well as professional responsibility) through their client work, which includes interviewing, counseling and drafting of pleadings. Client interviewing provides an opportunity for students to develop an understanding of the breadth and variety of the Connecticut prison system, as well as the opportunity to gain perspective on inmates' daily realities. This clinic will benefit from collaboration with forensics fellows from the Law and Psychiatry program.

PROSECUTION EXTERNSHIP
The Prosecution Externship places students in part-time, school-year internships with local prosecutors' offices - the United States Attorney's Offices in New Haven and Bridgeport, and the New Haven State's Attorney's Office.  There is also a seminar component to the externship; students meet with a federal prosecutor one evening per week, meet with the professionals with whom prosecutors work (FBI agents, judges, parole officers, etc.) and visit local law enforcement facilities.  Through the externship, students play an integral role in the prosecution of criminal cases, and are frequently given the opportunity to appear in court.  

SAN FRANCISCO AFFIRMATIVE LITIGATION PROJECT
The San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project pairs YLS students with the attorneys of the Affirmative Litigation Task Force at the San Francisco City Attorney's Office.  Students break into small groups to work on all stages of an affirmative lawsuit: brainstorming ways to use litigation to improve the lives of California residents, building and researching a case, and the litigation itself. Topics have included litigation against unfair terms in arbitration, payday lenders that offered installment loans with astronomical interest rates, and the state of California for denying Medi-Cal coverage to incarcerated youths in the custody of public institutions and post-release.  Other groups work on such varied issues as pharmaceutical ethics, reproductive rights, human trafficking, predatory lending and credit practices, and the environment.

SUPREME COURT ADVOCACY CLINIC
Now in its third year, the Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic has brought half a dozen merits cases before the Court covering constitutional, criminal, administrative, immigration, and civil rights law and has participated in a number of cases as amici curiae. The clinic combines hands-on clinical work with seminar discussion of Supreme Court decision making and advocacy. It begins with several sessions analyzing the Court as an institution, focusing on the practicalities of how the Court makes its decisions and how lawyers present their cases. Thereafter students work on a variety of actual cases before the Court, preparing petitions for certiorari, merits briefs, and amicus briefs. Students work with Yale faculty and some of the country's most experienced Supreme Court practitioners. Students have the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to watch the clinic's supervising attorneys present oral argument to the Court. 

WORKER & IMMIGRANT RIGHTS ADVOCACY
Students in the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic (WIRAC) represent immigrants, low-wage workers, and their organizations in labor, immigration, criminal justice, civil rights, and other matters.  The clinic docket includes cases at all stages of legal proceedings in Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, U.S. District Court, the Second Circuit, and before Connecticut state agencies and courts.  Its non-litigation work includes the representation of grassroots organizations, labor unions, and other groups in regulatory and legislative reform efforts, media advocacy, strategic planning, and other matters.

A Winter's Run

Happy winter everyone!   Last week, we had our first big snowfall of the year here in New Haven.  While it may seem like a great time to stay inside and hibernate in front of the TV watching old movies, the brisk cold weather also provides a great time to break out your running shoes, hat and gloves and hit the streets for a run. Okay, maybe wait until the plows come through and clear the streets, but when they do, New Haven offers many unique and challenging runs. 

My favorite run begins on Chapel Street near the Yale Repertory Theatre.   Head east along Chapel Street towards the New Haven Green. You'll pass many boutiques and may have to dodge a few holiday shoppers before getting out of the crowds.  This area was transformed into a 1950's college town in this past summer's blockbuster, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - just something to think about as you wiz past Starbucks, which was the scene of the bar where Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf chatted just before the chase scene!  You will pass by the New Haven green on your left. When you hit Orange Street, make a left turn toward East Rock Park.  This is the longest stretch of the run.  You will pass through the tree-lined streets of the East Rock area, and the Victorian homes where many of your classmates may live.  When you finally reach East Rock Park, head left onto Cold Spring Street.  For this quick four mile New Haven loop, you will have reached the half way mark!  

To head back towards downtown, take a left at Whitney Avenue.  The run gets a little easier here when you hit a slight downhill slope.  On your right, watch out for the Yale University Peabody Museum of Natural History.  When you cross Trumbull Street, take a slight right onto Temple.  At Wall Street, make another right. As you pass by the Law School, you may get a few quizzical looks for battling this cold air in running clothes!  When you hit York Street, make a left. You will pass the famous Mory's on the right and the Publick Cup. You may want to stop in for a hot cup of joe or to warm your toes and fingers!  If you want to continue, keep going on York until you hit Chapel!  Your four mile adventure has come to a close.  It was not the most challenging run in New Haven, but hey, it is only 25 degrees outside... 

A Tuesday Afternoon at the Galleries

Almost anytime, but particularly when the weather outside starts to get chilly, I'm happy spending an hour or two tucked away inside an art museum.  Is it that museums just seem warm?  I'm really not sure there's any logic to it.  It's cold here though, and today I took an hour out of the afternoon to visit two of the art museums in New Haven.  

If you want to get lost in a museum, you will need to hop on the train down to New York and visit the MET - an experience I certainly recommend.  But if an hour spent soaking up paintings and sculptures seems like a good study break, there are a couple of galleries to visit within a 5 minute walk of the Law School - not far even on a chilly day - and admission to each is free.

I started off at the Yale University Art Gallery (artgallery.yale.edu), excited to see one of their special exhibitions.  (This is the point where I should offer a disclaimer that I'm not much of an expert on art, though I do love wandering around in museums.)  My first stop was "First Doubt: Optical Confusion in Modern Photography," an exhibit of photographs from the collection of Allan Chasanoff.  The exhibit featured a diverse array of photographers and some arresting images.  The photographs contained visual distortions that aimed to challenge the viewer's understanding of what they were seeing.  A body that appeared at first glance to be a landscape.  A mirrored reflection that on second glance is actually a photograph of two almost identical objects.  It was a thoughtful exhibit and thoroughly interesting. 

I should also mention the permanent collection of the Yale University Art Gallery includes collections of art from Asia and Africa, an early European collection, and a modern and contemporary art collection, containing works by such artists as Picasso, Warhol, Pollock and Cezanne.  The modern and contemporary art collection, my personal favorite, is closed for the month for renovations, so I decided to head across the street to the Yale Center for British Art (ycba.yale.edu). 

I am drawn to the Yale Center for British Art, in large part, for the building itself.  It is a modern building that captures the light with expansive windows, grey stone pillars and light pine walls.  The gallery rooms are lined with internal windows looking down onto the floors below.  It is really a lovely place to wander around.   

The Yale Center for British Art contains the largest and most comprehensive collection of British art outside of the United Kingdom.  On the top floor you can view a collection of British art before 1850, from the traditional portraits of men in white wigs and women in oversized gowns, to some stunning landscapes and beautiful old ships.  The second floor houses British art from 1850- present, including a striking self-portrait of Vanessa Bell.  The Center offers tours and lectures on select days, as well as concerts on Thursday evenings.   I haven't made it to one of their concerts yet, but it sounds to me like a perfect way to spend an hour.

 

Posted: Dec 09 2008, 04:36 PM by Tracey | with no comments
Filed under:
The Early Bird...

 Dear Asha,

I recently received a letter inviting me to apply to YLS (thank you!).  However, I've applied early decision at another school, from which I have not yet heard.  Should I still apply to Yale?

Thanks,

L.B.

Dear L.B.,

For those readers who don't know, most early decision (ED) admission programs are programs in which you apply by an early application deadline -- say, November 15 -- and are guaranteed an admissions answer by an earlier date as well.  In return, you make a commitment to attend that law school in the event you are admitted.  In effect, you are making an advance enrollment commitment by applying ED to that school.  (Students who are not admitted in the ED pool are generally deferred to and re-reviewed in the regular application pool.)

Generally speaking, Yale makes admissions decisions later than most schools, and almost always after the ED decision date at most schools.  Further, we honor ED enrollment commitments made by applicants.  So, when we receive the list of names from our peer schools of people who have been admitted ED (yes, we get this information), we automatically withdraw those applicants from further consideration.  From our point of view, if an applicant has already decided that his or her first choice is another school, has been admitted to that school, and has made a commitment to attend that school, it doesn't make sense to continue to use our resources to evaluate their application.

Every year, when I review the list of people we are withdrawing from consideration, I see applicants who are doing extremely well in our process and, sometimes, applicants who have in fact received the requisite scores to be admitted but who just haven't been notified yet.  I always wonder whether those students would have applied ED to another school if they knew how good of a chance they really had at getting into Yale.  Of course, I'll never know, and neither will they.  Sigh.

So, L.B. to answer your question, the answer is, it depends.  If you really know that your ED school is where you want to go, but still want to put in applications elsewhere in the event that you are deferred to the regular pool at your ED school, go ahead.  Just know that you probably won't hear back from us before your ED school and, if you do get in to that school, we'll immediately withdraw you from further consideration.

If you are now second-guessing your top choice school and want to wait to receive an answer from Yale before commiting to a school, you should contact your ED school to see whether they can defer you to the regular pool now, before they make a decision on your file.  I think that most admissions committees would prefer you to be honest now rather than offer you an ED spot and then have you waffle about your commitment afterwards.

Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the best of luck.  And to all of our 203 readers, Happy Thanksgiving!

--Asha

Please email questions to 203blog@yale.edu.

Posted: Nov 25 2008, 02:40 PM by asha | with 2 comment(s)
Filed under: ,
Spotlight on LAMP

Those of you who have spent time browsing our website are probably familiar, at least passingly, with the many centers and programs at YLS.  By my count, eleven such organizations are currently sponsored by YLS.  Centers and programs serve as intellectual hubs within the School that attract faculty, students, practitioners, and visiting researchers and scholars, interested in a particular area of the law.  They extend the traditional classroom curriculum by sponsoring lectures, speaker series, workshops, and research projects.  Several also sponsor internships and fellowships open to YLS students during the summer and after graduation.

The centers and programs cover broad subject areas such as public interest law (Arthur Liman Program), corporate law (Center for the Study of Corporate Law), and environmental law (Center for Environmental Law and Policy), as well as more narrowly focused areas such as Chinese legal reform (The China Law Center), international human rights (Schell Center for International Human Rights), and the impact of information technologies on law and society (Information Society Project).  A full listing of the centers, programs, and projects at YLS can be found on our website under "intellectual life."

The newest program at YLS is the Law and Media Program (LAMP).  Formed in the last year, LAMP attracts students, scholars, journalists, and policy makers studying and working in the intersection of law, media, and journalism.  It sponsors conferences, lectures, summer internships, a lunchtime speaker series, and it lobbies for law and media-related additions to the curriculum.  In LAMP's inaugural year, we're pleased to have two alumnae return to YLS to work with LAMP and to enrich the intellectual life of the School.  Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Linda Greenhouse joins us as the Knight Distinguished Journalist-in-Residence after spending nearly three decades covering the US Supreme Court for The New York Times and Emily Bazelon, a Senior Editor at Slate, returns as the Truman Capote Fellow in Writing and Law.

YLS has a long history of involvement with the media community, primarily through our Masters of Studies in Law (MSL) program.  The MSL program is a one-year degree program for mid-career journalists interested in a firm grounding in legal studies.  Graduates of the program include Linda Greenhouse, Charlie Savage (The New York Times and another Pulitzer Prize winner), Charles Lane (Washington Post), and Barbara Bradley Hagerty (NPR).  Of course, alumni of the JD program have also made significant contributions to journalism and to law and media policy.  Some of them include Jeff Greenfield (CBS News), Steve Brill (founder of Court TV and The American Lawyer), Joel Hyatt (CEO of Current TV), Floyd Abrams (a partner at Cahill Gordon & Reindel and a leading practitioner of First Amendment law), and Reed Hundt (former FCC Chairman).

The new Law and Media Program gives a formal home and renewed focus to the law, media, and journalism endeavors (sorry, Asha) at YLS.  If you're interested in journalism, media and communication policy, or studying the intersection of law and media, LAMP offers something unique:  the ability to get not only a world-class legal education, but also to gain access to leading journalists like Linda Greenhouse and an alumni network rich with leaders in the field of law and media.

A Saturday Afternoon in October

Fall in New England means crisp air, multi-colored crunchy leaves and apples.  Yes, winter may be just around the corner, but this time of year is really worth the cold weather later.  There is nothing quite like a beautiful, sunny New England fall day.  It is a must in New England to head out of town to see the fall colors or spend a free afternoon at one of the local orchards filling up a bag with apples picked right off the tree.  I try to go at least once every fall.

There are numerous farms, both small and large to choose from, but this year I headed to Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, Connecticut.  (http://www.lymanorchards.com/)  It took about half an hour to reach Lyman's from the Law School and the drive was beautiful.  Did I mention how pretty the fall colors are this year? 

My first piece of advice about Lyman's, particularly if you are a student with a more flexible weekday schedule, is to go on a weekday afternoon.  My friend and I went on one of the nicest Saturdays of the fall, and it seemed like most people living in southern Connecticut had the same idea!  It was crowded, to say the least.  Lines wrapped around every turn, and I think there may have been more children at Lyman's that Saturday than down at Disneyland.

We started at the Apple Barrel, the orchard store and deli.  Undeterred by the long line, we picked up a sandwich at the deli counter and made a picnic of it at one of the outdoor tables.  I ordered the very tasty "Crispin," a grilled chicken sandwich with sliced apples, cheddar cheese, red onions, lettuce and a cider glaze that really makes it.  You also probably won't be able to resist an apple cider donut or piece of freshly baked apple pie.  We tried one of each!  The store is full of other goodies, from apple cider and sauces, to gourmet cheeses and baked goods.  There are, of course, also many varieties of apples.  I recommend the Macoun.

After filling up, we took off down the hill to try the corn maze.  (No, we did not have children with us, but who doesn't love a corn maze?)   A portion of the proceeds from the maze go to the American Cancer Society.  Thus far, Lyman Orchards has donated $203,865.  For the trivia lover, the staff will let you take a trivia card upon entering the maze.  Correct answers tell you which way to turn at markers throughout the maze, so there is less time spent wandering lost in circles.  (Assuming, of course, you know the correct answers.)  Walking back up the hill from the maze the tantalizing sweet and salty smell of kettle corn filled the air.  We resisted the temptation. 

We opted instead for a warm cup of hot cider back at the Apple Barrel before heading to our car.  You may have noticed that we hadn't picked a single apple yet!  Yes, there were orchards to be found with apples of all varieties, a little further down the road.  I came home with a bag full of Macouns, along with applesauce, two apple pies, a loaf of apple spice bread and a couple of donuts - after all I only make it once a year.   It was a great time, but next year I am coming back on a Tuesday!

 

 

Posted: Nov 03 2008, 03:35 PM by Tracey | with no comments
Filed under:
P.S.

Dear Asha,

What do you look for in a personal statement?  Everyone I ask tells me that there's no way to answer that, since it is "personal."  This isn't very helpful advice.  Can you offer any insight?

G.P.

Dear G.P.,

I understand your frustration with the standard mantra about personal statements, but this is an equally frustrating question to answer from our end.  After all, we review thousands of personal statements every year, and each one is so different that finding a common thread in all of them is practically impossible.  Well, except that maybe the word "endeavor" is totally overused and should really be banned from personal statements generally.

In any event, I've given it some thought and I think there are some common themes to successful personal statements which can help you in approaching yours.  Keep in mind that I'm basing my suggestions on what I see working in Yale's admissions process, and other admissions folks from different schools may disagree.  But I think that there's a way to make your personal statement a good one, and a way to make a good personal statement a great one.

A good personal statement provides a coherent narrative of what has brought you to this point (in your life, of applying to law school, or a combination of these two).  What this narrative consists of will depend on the person writing it.  For some, it may focus on their upbringing or cultural background.  For others, it may be an intellectual journey, where certain ideas or courses influenced you.  And for others it may be one or several experiences, personal or professional, that were meaningful.  Whatever the narrative is, the reader gets an idea of the major events, turning points, influences, or experiences that make up who you are.  This personal statement functions essentially like an on-paper interview -- it's kind of like a glorified cover letter, in fact.  We get an idea of who you are, what's gone on in your life, and -- implicitly or explicitly -- why you applied to law school. 

(NOTE: I do see essays every year that don't take this approach and instead focus on an unrelated topic that doesn't necessarily provide the reader with an understanding of why law school might be a logical next step.   I'm not saying that this approach can't be successful.  But I'm addressing general strategies here, and while your experience auditioning for American Idol may very well make for a captivating, knock-it-out-of-the-park personal statement, I'm assuming that most people want the safer, tried-and-true approach.  So on to the great personal statement.)

The applicant with a great personal statement takes the above personal statement, and goes a step further by relating the things they have chosen to mention to something that is larger than themselves.  Now, I don't mean that they go on to pontificate about their own personal philosophy of life.  I also don't mean that they have to choose some global issue or platform -- this isn't the Miss America contest.  What I mean is that the great personal statement makes connections between the experiences or events that the applicant has highlighted and, say, a larger idea or theme that it made the applicant consider or explore further.  Or, for someone who wrote about their upbringing or background, perhaps they now evaluate those experiences from a new and different perspective and can make a connection between those experiences and issues they later became interested in.  Another way to put this is that this type of personal statement takes something that was merely descriptive -- a cover letter -- and makes it into something that is reflective -- an essay.  This allows us to learn not only what you are about and what you've done, but also how you think and what matters to you.   A reflective personal statement demonstrates an ability to think critically and analytically about one's own experiences, which in turn suggests that the person will be a thoughtful and insightful contributor to the classroom and the law school community  -- and that's what we are looking for.

The question I get asked the most by prospective students is, "How can I stand out?"  Usually the applicant is looking for me to provide a list of courses, activities or summer jobs that he or she can check off and be done with it.  But two people with the exact same resumes, GPAs, and test scores can do very differently in the admissions process based solely on how they present themselves.  The one who gives us a window into what really makes them tick will be the one who stands out from the crowd.  And seriously, don't use the word "endeavor."

Asha

Email questions to 203blog@yale.edu.

Posted: Oct 20 2008, 03:52 PM by asha | with 7 comment(s)
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Yale Green?

Going green.  Minimizing environmental impacts.  Reducing carbon footprints.  These are some of the latest catch phrases used by the media when describing sustainability and environmental awareness.  In a world facing global climate change, increasing scarcity of some natural resources, and skyrocketing energy prices, these words seem to be on everybody's minds.  It's nearly impossible to read a newspaper or newsfeed without encountering these phrases on a daily basis.

These catch phrases have certainly been thrown around at the University.  The past few years at the University have seen the creation of the Yale Office of Sustainability, the introduction of a sustainable, locally-grown menu at one of the residential college dining halls, the purchasing of a fleet of biodiesel busses for the campus shuttle system, and numerous other initiatives and programs aimed at making Yale greener.

In his welcome to the students at the beginning of the term, Dean Koh outlined some of the sustainability initiatives underway at the Law School.  Most notably he challenged the Law School community with task of maintaining its current carbon footprint as it moves into its second site across the street from the Sterling Law Building (effectively doubling its physical footprint) and announced the creation of the "Green Team," a group of administrations working with the Yale Environmental Law Association and other students to develop programs and strategies for reducing the Law School's impact on the environment.

One of the first programs to come from the Green Team is the green small group challenge.  Law School staff is teaming up with the 1L small groups to develop and work on innovative green projects over the course of the fall term.  At the end of the term each small group's project will be judged on environmental impact, creativity and innovation, community connectivity, feasibility, and cost-effectiveness.  The winning small group will be invited to share a sustainable meal at Dean Koh's home at the beginning of the spring term.

In addition to the initiatives outlined by Dean Koh, Yale Law School hosted its first carbon neutral commencement last year.  The Class of 2007 celebrated its graduation in a environmentally friendly fashion by offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions of the guests who travelled to New Haven for the celebration.

In the midst of these new initiatives and increased environmental awareness at the University, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that the University has historically been a very "green" place.  The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (FES) was the first school of forestry in the country (it celebrated its 100th birthday a few years ago).  In addition to cutting-edge research in environmental science, FES provides national and international leadership in environmental education, management, and policy.  Law students interested in environmental law take advantage of the rich curricular offerings of FES to supplement their courses at the Law School.  FES and the Law School share a relationship beyond simply being located at the same university.  In addition to cross registration of courses and joint degrees with FES, programs such as the Environmental Protection Clinic at the Law School operate in conjunction with FES.  In fact, their dean, Gus Speth, is a graduate not of FES, but of the Law School!

Whether you're interested in studying environmental law and policy or simply wanting to live a more environmentally friendly existence during your three years of law school, Yale blue is green.

A Newcomer to the Dining Scene…

Thali Too, Vegetarian Cuisine of India

65 Broadway; http://www.thalitoo.com

Thali Too is one of New Haven's newest restaurants.  Open since this summer, it is located only a block from the Law School.  A sister restaurant of Thali (to be found in the Ninth Square area of New Haven, as well as New Canaan and Ridgefield) this vegetarian spot has quickly become a favorite lunch stop for the Law School community.  Its tasty food offerings have caught the attention even of those who are not vegetarians.

Since Thali Too opened its doors this summer I have been drawn to dining outdoors in its large, comfortable patio just behind the Yale bookstore and have often stopped here for a quick lunch bowl off the "rice bar" menu.  Start with a bowl of noodles or rice, add your choice of toppings such as shiitake mushrooms, cauliflower and spinach, or pineapple, paneer, almonds and raisins and finish off with a sauce like chili garlic or hot black bean.  For $7 these offer a filling, affordable and quick Pan-Asian meal.  After sampling a few of the options, the rice bowl topped with cauliflower and spinach cooked in a chili garlic sauce quickly became my favorite for a light yet flavorful lunch.  I have not found all of the rice bar options to be as flavorful or interesting, so apart from being a great location for lunch near the Law School, I was not sure that Thali Too would draw me back once the chill of late fall set in and the patio lost is charm.

That was until Friday night when I tried the regular menu -- which I must admit I had merely glanced at during my summer lunchtime visits, opting for what I assumed would be the lighter options from the rice bar.  It deserved more consideration!

Thankfully, this weekend I was hosting a guest who is a vegetarian, and after some deliberation, Thali Too came to mind.  I don't immediately think of Broadway as a place to head for a dinner out, so I was surprised to find the place was packed!  After passing by an intriguing assortment of spices in the entryway we found ourselves in the modern interior of the restaurant.  The long tables in the main room, where diners sat elbow to elbow with their neighbors, reminded me of some of my favorite spots in New York.  We were seated at a surprisingly comfortable long high booth opposite the door. 

In addition to some of the vegetarian entrees and basmati rice options I am accustomed to seeing on menus at Indian restaurants, Thali Too also offers a "tiffin menu" with all day snacks or light meals and a "chat and other" assortment, described as Bombay and Delhi vendor style snacks.  I love trying new foods, especially casual street style snacks, so picking one option off of the menu proved to be difficult!  Why hadn't I taken a closer look at this menu before?   Nothing on the menu is over $10 and many of the tiffin and chat options are only $5.  This would be a great place to come with a group ready to try an assortment of the snacks and light meals.  

Our group of three ordered family style.  We began with the Veggie Uthapam, a rice and lentil pancake cooked with peas and cilantro and served with an assortment of chutneys.  The texture of the pancake made it perfect for dipping and each sauce offered a wonderfully contrasting taste.  There was a chili dipping sauce that added a kick to each of the other flavors.  All in all it made a perfect treat for sharing before our meal and with the three of us tasting each new set of sauce combinations, the pancake was gone within minutes. 

For our meal we shared the Baigan Bhurtha, a dish of charcoal smoked, smashed eggplant and the Avial, a curry of yam, carrots, eggplant and raw banana.   Both dishes were delicious.   The Baigan Bhurtha, which is one of my usual favorites, had a nice smoky flavor.  The Avial was new to me.  The sauce was delicate and flavorful, not overly sweet as I might have thought.  The vegetables were a perfect complement to the texture of the eggplant dish.  Finally, we added a side of Raita, which brought a lightness to the whole meal.

I suppose it goes without saying that none of us - even the two carnivores - thought twice about the absence of meat options on the menu!   I'm looking forward to returning to sample a variety of new flavor combinations.   I'll have to come up with another excuse soon!

Sticker Shock

Dear Asha,

I'm a senior at a state university (a great school).   I made the decision to attend a state school for financial reasons.   My parents are middle-class and I learned that I was not going to receive any financial aid from the Ivies.  Four years later, I have had a great educational experience and think I made the right choice.   

I am now applying for law school and find myself back in the same quandary.  My parents are still middle-class, so I think it is unlikely I will receive any need-based financial aid at Yale and the idea of taking out 64K a year in loans really scares me.  This brings me to my two questions:  Is Yale worth paying for over a state law school and how do students pay for it?

Sincerely,

M.N.

Dear M.N.,

I'm sure many law students, like you, are cringing at the cost of tution for law school, so the questions you ask are good ones.  Here are my thoughts:

While Yale is a fabulous law school, there are reasons why it may not be the best fit for everyone.  State law schools, in particular, often offer a great value, money-wise, for in-state residents, and many of them are, to boot, ranked along with the "top" private law schools in the country (not that we pay attention to rankings).  Depending on the curriculum, you may also have more courses in that state's particular body of law, and for students who are looking to practice within the state or perhaps go into politics, going to a state school can offer a good professional network. 

With that said, I think that in a lot of other ways, Yale is definitely worth the extra cost.  First, Yale offers several unmatched resources.  For example, we have the leading faculty in just about every area of law, from constitutional to corporate to environmental law.  Our faculty-student ratio is 7-1, so you'll have a tremendous amount of access to these professors, and it's not uncommon for students here to work closely enough with faculty members to coauthor articles or spearhead projects together.  Yale's approach is one that focuses on how to think about the law, rather than memorizing specific rules or statutes that could be obsolete in a few years -- which means that you'll have the tools to pursue careers in policy, public interest, business, journalism, or a number of other non-traditional paths.  Finally, our alumni network is national and international, so you can find mentors and connections no matter where you go.

In addition, if you want to follow a particular career path -- like becoming a law professor -- Yale is hands-down the place to go (and I'd be surprised if the law professors in your state school didn't give you the same advice).  In fact, it can be extremely difficult to get onto this career path if you don't go to Yale or a handful of other schools.  Other types of experiences may be harder to come by at a state school, particularly if it is a large one.  For example, Yale offers a variety of clinics (courses where you do hands-on work on real legal cases) and with few exceptions, any student can begin participating in a clinic starting in their first year of law school.   At most schools, you cannot participate in a clinic until your second year, and sometimes even then it is difficult to get in.  Similarly, roughly half of Yale Law graduates clerk for a judge after graduation, which gives them an amazing experience, an opportunity for mentorship, and a valuable professional credential in their careers.  Clerkship opportunities at other schools may be limited to the top 5-15% of graduates or even, depending on the school, to the top one or two people in the class.  So whether Yale Law School is "worth it" in terms of your professional career really depends on what types of opportunities you want in law school and beyond.  In the legal world, where you go to law school can matter -- it's not that you can't do the same things at or from another school, but it may just be a little harder to accomplish.

The one area where I think no school can compare to Yale -- and to me is worth the cost -- is the actual experience of law school itself.  Unlike the competitve grind that most law schools are reputed to be (and are), Yale is... fun.  Part of it is the lack of class rank and grades, which of course does a lot to bring the stress level down a notch or two.  But most of it is the combination of Yale's small class size and the amazing student body (yes, I'm patting myself on the back here), which is what most students love about going to school here.  Coming to law school at Yale is really like joining a family -- I know this sounds corny but once you drink the Kool Aid, you'll agree.

So, how do you pay for it?  Well, Yale offers need-based aid, so you have to apply for financial aid.  Keep in mind that we use a different formula to calculate need than most undergraduate institutions, so you should apply for financial aid even if you did not qualify for it as an undergraduate.  Each year we have students who are surprised by the amount of aid they are eligible to receive for law school.  Part of your financial aid will include loans, and I understand the psychological burden of taking on debt.  However, the great thing about Yale is that our loan repayment program, COAP, will ensure that you can pursue any career you want by helping to pay your loans if you go into a lower-paying job (more on this in a future post).  And, if you choose to work for a white-shoe firm in New York, well, given where salaries are these days, you should be able to pay off your loans fairly quickly provided you don't get trapped in the "golden handcuffs" (i.e. having the lifestyle of a New York corporate lawyer when you have $100K in debt!). 

In short, I think that debt is a valid consideration when thinking about where to go to law school generally, but given the resources and experiences you'll have at Yale, combined with the financial assistance you can continue to receive when you graduate, I don't think it should be a deciding factor in choosing whether to come here!

Asha

Please email questions to 203blog@yale.edu.

 

The beginning of fall...

I can't believe that I'm once again writing a blog entry about the beginning of the school year.  It seems like only a few short months ago I welcomed the Class of 2010 and now, here I am, writing about the arrival of the Class of 2011.

The school year began in traditional fashion with several days of orientation activities for incoming students.  Included on the schedule were a series of lectures designed to introduce the new class to Yale Law School, the study of law, and to the legal profession.  There were also many opportunities for new students to connect with their classmates:  a cocktail reception at the Yale Center for British Art, a community picnic, theatre in the park, and a hike with Dean Koh in Sleeping Giant State Park.  Of course, many members of the incoming class had already met; well over half of the incoming class attended the Admitted Students Program in April.

Dean Koh delivered his convocation on the first day of orientation.  During his welcome he shared some interesting trivia about the incoming class.  The Class of 2011:

  • is the 197th class to begin its study of law at Yale;
  • speaks over 30 languages;
  • has lived or worked in 77 countries; and
  • counts amongst its members 5 mountain climbers, 4 black belts, 3 radio talk show hosts, 2 competitive sky divers, and a five-time Emmy award winner.

Reminding them of their educational fortunes, Dean Koh encouraged the newly minted law students to explore new areas, broaden their perspectives, ask how they can serve the public interest, and grapple with the question of how to live their lives as lawyers.  In addition to challenging the class to think more globally, Dean Koh announced some new sustainability initiatives at the Law School and the University (more on that in a future entry).

The 1Ls aren't the only group making the adjustment back to lives as full-time students.  The 2Ls and 3Ls are busy shopping for classes, applying to judicial clerkships, and preparing for the School's Fall Interview Program, during which hundreds of employers from the public and private sectors travel to New Haven to interview Yale Law students.  To help students make the best first impression and guide them in the myriad choices available to them, the Career Development Office (CDO) conducts a series of workshops on topics ranging from résumé and cover letter creation to successful networking techniques.  CDO also conducts mock interviews to help prepare students for what they will experience in the coming weeks. The assistance the Law School offers to students isn't limited to workshops and individual counseling.  New this past spring and held again last week, CDO sponsored a program at a nearby clothing retailer entitled "What Not To Wear!" (alas, without Stacy or Clinton).  Students received tips on buying an interview suit and received a discount on their purchases.  The School even helps students buy their suits by offering a suit allowance to the student budget for those students who need it.

With the students back at school the building is once again abuzz with activity.  My inbox is filled on a daily basis with advertisements for events and activities and the YLS events calendar is already filling up.  This fall promises to be an exciting one, so check back here at 203 for the details.

Posted: Sep 15 2008, 12:28 AM by craigj | with no comments
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New Questions

Dear Asha,

I noticed that there are two new questions on the application that ask whether I took an LSAT preparation course or had any assistance in preparing my application.  Will it hurt my chances of being admitted if I took an LSAT prep course?  Is it still okay to have an admissions consultant give me guidance on my application?

Thanks,

T.K.

 

Dear T.K.,

I have a feeling that your questions are on a lot of applicants' minds, so I'm glad you asked!  Let me address the LSAT and application assistance questions separately.

For the LSAT, it's become the norm to take some type of preparation course (this is a change from one or two decades ago, when a relatively smaller portion of the applicant pool took such courses).  Taking a course -- which helps students understand the test, gives guidance and practice on the different kinds of questions, and gives test-takers a psychological confidence boost -- can significantly help one's score.  Of course, applicants who have a lot of self-discipline and organizational skills can self-study with the same (and sometimes better) benefits.  But my guess is that most people aren't always as organized or disciplined, and generally take a course if they can -- for which they won't be penalized.  These courses, however, are pretty pricey, and not all applicants have access to one.  So, if I am looking at an application where a student self-studied, to me it's another piece of data in reviewing the application.  That's not to say that a student who doesn't take a course and gets a lower score will get a "pass," or will have a lower standard applied to him or her, but it does allow me and other file readers to consider the resources that were or were not available to the applicant in preparing for the LSAT and weigh that along with the strengths and weaknesses of the other parts of the application.

With respect to the assistance received in preparing your application, I want to make sure that all applicants are evaluated on a level playing field.  Most students take the time to prepare their application on their own, and will probably reach out to friends and family or the prelaw advisor at their college or university for guidance on essay ideas or proofreading.  That's fine, and we hope and expect that you'll use these resources (though you should still disclose it on your application).  However, some applicants go much further.  For example, some students pay a lot of money for professional consultants -- some of whom are former admissions officials -- to help package their applications, which usually involves significant help on their personal statements.  Others may get a similar level of feedback and editing from people they know.  Now, a student who receives assistance on his or her application won't be automatically penalized or rejected.  But I would like to know if a student received any help and to what extent: after all, I'm interested in evaluating the ideas and writing of the applicant, not those of the people who helped him or her.  Most importantly, I want students who don't get a lot of assistance, or choose not to spend $500 or $5,000 dollars on a professional packaging service, to feel confident that their application -- even if it is not as slick and polished as some others -- will still get due, and fair, consideration

If you are considering getting an admissions consultant, think about why you need one.  There's no blueprint for a law school application, and the most important thing about a personal statement, in my opinion, is authenticity.  The only way to achieve that is to write your personal statement yourself, in your own voice.  Honestly, there's not a lot of feedback about your personal statement that a "professional" consultant can give that someone who knows you well -- a friend, family member, or a trusted professor or college advisor -- couldn't give as well.  Moreover, your PS is not necessarily the most important part of your application.  The other aspects of your application, including your academic record, and your recommendations, tell admissions committees volumes about you, and no consultant can change or package those.  Finally, remember that whatever type of assistance you receive, you must certify that your essays are your *original* work, which means that no one should be redrafting or rewording your essays except for you.  My advice?  Save your money for law school -- you're going to need it.

Asha

Email questions to 203blog@yale.edu.

Posted: Sep 05 2008, 11:55 AM by asha | with 2 comment(s)
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The end of summer...

Hey everyone.  As Asha mentioned in her post, I'm the new Director of Recruitment at the law school.  I'm excited to be back here at the Law School in the admissions office for the new school year! 

Even though I'm sad to see the summer end, I'm happy that it's the first week of September - what can I say, I was always one of those kids who loved the beginning of school!  Maybe it's the crispness in the air, the sight of new faces, or the building coming to life after a quiet summer in New Haven, but it's definitely one of my favorite weeks of the year.

When I was a student at the Law School (back in the early years of this decade) one of the places I loved to visit in New Haven was East Rock Park.  It's just a short drive from the Law School or a great walk from the East Rock neighborhood. (http://www.law.yale.edu/admissions/eastrock.asp)  It was a beautiful day for a stroll, but since I have a lot of ground to cover in the first few weeks of the academic year, I thought I would take a quick drive up there - not before grabbing a sandwich at Atticus, of course.  The park has amazing views of New Haven and the Long Island Sound.  Anyone who thinks New Haven isn't pretty, needs to make this trip!  On a clear day, you can even see across the sound to Long Island.  As my lunch hour ticked away, I enjoyed the view and took in the sights and sounds of a family picnic nearby.  I remember my classmates used to escape the rigors of the Law School on sunny days by hiking to the top of the park to barbecue, toss a Frisbee or just to get away.  This time it was simply a beautiful place to enjoy a quiet, end-of-summer afternoon.

I finished my tomato panino (I do recommend, by the way) and drove back down the hill to the law school, ready to meet the new faces and share with new students why New Haven and Yale are a great place to be in school.

 

Posted: Sep 03 2008, 02:14 PM by Tracey | with no comments
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Weee're Baaack

So I realize the title of this post is a reference to a movie most of you have probably never seen (but is a classic).  But I needed to acknowledge the fact that we did -- let's face it -- fall off the wagon last spring, and for that we apologize to those of you who have tuned in from time to time to see no recent updates.  But, now that the Class of 2011 is on campus and ready to start class, we're looking ahead to the coming admissions season and are back in blogging action.  We have a couple of new things in store this year.  First, our new Director of Recruitment, Tracey Parr, will be taking over as our New Haven guru, and will be reviewing restaurants, special events, and the general NH scene in her column, "Tracey on the Town."  In addition, we'll be opening up our posts for comments to get your feedback.  I'll start answering questions again starting next week, so please send queries to 203blog@yale.edu.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Posted: Aug 25 2008, 01:05 PM by asha
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Elm City Eats: Bentara

76 Orange Street

You can definitely walk here from the Law School, but I have a rule that when it’s below 40 degrees I drive.  So we drove.

www.bentara.com

 

Malaysian cuisine

-Popia (Spring rolls)

-Beef Nasi Goreng (fried rice)

-Mee Hoon Goreng (fried rice noodles)

-Other stuff that I can’t remember

 

I have already determined that my review of this place is sure to be disputed – whichever way it goes.  I have now eaten here three times, in groups of three, six, and eight and nearly every time, half of the group has loved loved loved the food, and half of the group has vociferously detested it.  I am somewhere in the middle.

I like the ambiance.  The tables are spaced well apart, the place is tastefully decorated.  It’s modern Malaysian-centric with natural colors and nice wooden tables.  At dinner time it feels very cozy and intimate.  But loud.  There is no sound-proofing.  At dinner time in particular, you might have to shout at your companions to carry a conversation. 

The first time I went was for dinner and I found both the experience and the food charming.  Perhaps it was the glass of wine with dinner that made it such an enjoyable experience and, coincidentally, explains why I don’t remember what we ordered.  But, I remember liking the food and thinking I’d definitely go there again.  The second and third times were for lunch with large groups.  Lunch is a great time to come with a group of people because the place is practically empty, the service quick, and you can be in and out with a gourmet meal in an hour.

The spring rolls are unanimously great.  They’re vegetarian and come with hot sauce, and you can appreciate the difference between Bentara’s spring rolls versus the egg rolls you’d get at Panda Express.  They’re light and not too oily (despite being deep fried).

The first time I went there for lunch, I ordered Mee Hoon Goreng.  Mental note for any of you who plan on going to Bentara – order your food MILD!  This is one of those places where you can specify the hotness of your food, or so you think.  Mild still has a little kick, and medium practically blew the mouth off of one of my friends.  While the meal tasted good, it made me feel queasy afterward and I was subsequently hesitant to go there again.  Others in my group ordered the Two Soy either with tofu or with chicken.  The Two Soy looked delicious – sweet and salty soy sauces with slivered onions, green beans and green peppers.  But again, this got mixed reviews and was overly salty for some of us.  Others get this all the time and swear by it!

The second time I went there for lunch I ordered Beef Nasi Goreng thinking, hey, it’s fried rice!  You can’t go wrong with rice! In the end, it tasted good (enough) but I think I’ve decided that maybe I just don’t have a palate for Malaysian food …  I love most of the other Asian cuisines – Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and even “Asian Fusion” on occasion, but Bentara has a very distinctive taste and you’ve got to really want that taste in your mouth for the rest of the day.

One of the best attributes of Bentara is that it is super vegetarian and vegan friendly.  Nearly every dish can be ordered with tofu or completely sans any form of protein or meat.  I am personally a big fan of red meat, hence all the beef dishes above, but at least this aspect of their menu seems to suit everyone.  The desserts were likewise a hit – Molten Chocolate Torte and Bentara’s Banana Split.  Both got wolfed down in a second and looked delicious, complete with the whipped cream and ice cream on top.  But … is a Molten Chocolate Torte part of Malaysian cuisine?  Just wondering.  At least the Banana Split was stuffed into spring rolls.

I realize that at this point, the review may not evenly relay both the good and the bad of Bentara.  While my personal opinion is pretty much “eh …it’s okay”, I do know people who rave about the place and even like to have their birthday lunches there.  I have heard Bentara referred to as “one of the best restaurants in New Haven.”  So there.  Check it out for yourself. 

 

The Billion-Minute Mile

Dear Asha,

One of the things that is supposed to be great at YLS is the lack of traditional grades and class rankings.  However, I've heard from students at other schools that getting an "H" [Honors] matters as much at Yale as getting an "A" at another school, and that therefore Yale is just as stressful and competitive as any other law school.  In particular, I've heard that you need all Hs to get a top job.  Is there any truth to this?

S.B.

Dear S.B.,

I did an informal poll of my classmates from YLS and the reasons they chose to go to Yale.  Two words always made the top of the list: No. Grades.  To us, these words symbolized freedom to pursue interests beyond the classroom, learning for the sake of learning, not having success come at the expense of your classmates, and, as legendary YLS Dean Guido Calabresi put it, finally "getting off the treadmill."  How is it that, all of a sudden, Yale has been Swift-Boated for one of its top strengths?

Before I go into the reasons that your sources' information is suspect, I think it would be helpful to understand how and why Yale's current grading structure evolved (courtesy of Guido himself!).

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (i.e., circa the mid 50s), Yale Law School had a grading system which evaluated students' performance as "Excellent," "Good," and "Satisfactory."  Although not grades in the traditional sense, these marks were assigned a value that allowed students to be ranked.  The result was, among a very small group of highly accomplished people, a stratified system which fulfilled the egos of a few people at the top while creating, for the vast majority of the students, an enormous amount of anxiety.  In fact, for many students who were used to being at the top academically, the designation of being at the bottom (or even the middle) -- a designation which in turn affected the course of the rest of their legal career -- was not only depressing, but encouraged them to simply "turn off" for the rest of their time in law school.

In the late 60s the students, being the rebellious baby boomers they were, organized against The Man, which in this case was the grading system.  Specifically, the students felt that the grading and ranking systems created false pressure and were not conducive to a learning envioronment.  Now, there were students who were in favor of the status quo (read: the few egos at the top), but the majority of students advocated the abolition of grades altogether, to be replaced by a system of Credit/Fail.

The question was, if this system were adopted, how would employers on the outside react in their hiring practices?  So they went to the employers themselves -- partners in law firms and judges -- and asked them.  The answers were not very promising.  Some employers said they would simply hire all the Yalies who applied, then fire the ones they felt performed the worst.  Others indicated that they would hire students based on "how presentable" they appeared (wink wink).  Others said that they would use objective criteria like the LSAT, and some said they would come up with their own tests.  This course of action, then, seemed worse than having grades.

The dilemma was thus how to create a system that had enough of a grade "hook" -- something that gave the appearance of relative performance -- but no more than was needed to satisfy the evaulative purposes of future employers.  In other words, the goal was to discourage employers from substituting their own system of evaluation, but to also avoid creating distinctions among students that were not real.  It was here that the current system of Honors/Pass/Low Pass/Fail (and no class rank), was born, and it has lasted longer than any other grading system used at Yale.

Now, to the effect of Yale's system in practice.  So, in your first term, all of your classes are simply Pass/Fail.  As I recall Dean Koh explaining to my Civil Procedure class, "You will take a final exam, and you will pass.  If you don't pass, you will take the exam again.  And you will pass.  In other words, you will pass."  Does everyone still study their butts off?  Yes.  Do the students still stress out the first term?  Yes.  Do they all really pass?  Yes.  Does everyone at that point finally chill out?  Yes.

Beginning in your second term, you are evaulated under the H/P/LP/F system. I spoke with the Registar, keeper of all Yale grades and transcripts since the beginning of time (and hence the most powerful person here), who told me that Fs are almost unheard of, and LPs are "absolutely rare."  This means that almost all grades awarded at Yale are Hs and Ps (there is no curve so the number of each is up to each professor).  The Registrar further informed me that only about 1 or 2 students graduate each year with straight Honors (though one year she saw a spike of about 4 students).  Out of a class of 189 students, that's about 1-2%, max, of the class (to put it into perspective, that would mean about 100 people -- out of roughly 7,000 graduates -- since the system was adopted).  Finally, she advised that it is equally rare for a student to graduate from YLS with all Ps.  In other words, the vast majority of Yale graduates have a trancript littered with Hs, Ps, and CRs (given for first term classes and things like journals, reading groups, etc.).

If the overwhelming majority of Yale Law grads have very similar transcripts, how do we account for the fact that 50% of each graduating class get clerkships, or that 13% of each class get jobs in academia, and that practically everyone gets the law firm job of their choice?  The answer is: the grades just don't seem to matter that much.  Really.  Since nothing you accomplish at YLS is linked to them -- things like being on the Law Journal or becoming a director of a clinic or becoming a research assistant -- they are really not that useful.  At the same time, the fact that students are liberated from obsessing about grades and rankings allows them to tailor their law school path in such a way as to make themselves as attractive as possible to precisely the type of job they want to have.  In other words, if a student wants to work in a law firm, there's no presure to join the Law Journal to "prove" that she is at the top of the class -- the student can instead become involved in the Center for the Study for Corporate Law, making her stand out in a unique way to law firm employers.  Similarly, a student who really wants to do immigration law can exchange hours spent worrying about acing an exam for time on a client or in the courtroom through a clinic, gaining invaluable experience for a future career.  And for aspiring academicians, a P doesn't matter when you've had a chance to coauthor an article with a professor, or even publish one of your own papers, before you graduate.  In addition, all students get to know professors personally (you kind of can't help it, if you actually show up for class), which allows for detailed references regarding your performance and abilities.  As a result, the people doing the hiring have much more information on which to evaluate your potential than they would with grades alone.

I can understand how difficult it is for students at other schools -- particularly large ones -- to wrap their minds around the idea that grades don't matter.  To be honest, I think this tells you a lot more about what life is like there than it does about Yale.  That is, if you are in a place where professors are not particularly accessible, and where the markers of "success" are inextricably bound to grades, and where the sheer size demands that students be differentiated by rankings (since there are simply many more people competing for the same things), then grades become the most meaningful symbols of your law school career -- which probably explains why students at these schools spend more time thinking and talking about Yale grades than the Yalies do!

In conclusion: the Yale system was created by students.  If, sometime in the last 40-ish years, it had become a liability for them, presumably it would have been changed again.  But since it hasn't, ask the Yale students themselves what they think.  You can find them next to the treadmills, relaxing.

On the Campaign Trail

As you might imagine, YLS students are a politically active group.  Nothing makes this political involvement more apparent than an election year.  It's impossible to walk down the hallways of YLS without seeing posters or overhearing conversations reminding you that it's primary season.  Students are working for all of the major campaigns in varying capacities, from knocking on doors to managing state-wide campaign efforts.  Yale Law Democrats and Yale Law Republicans, as well as other student groups, have sponsored a variety of election-related events and activities this year.

For two roommates, Addisu Demissie '08 and Adam Goldfarb '09, political involvement has had an unusual personal twist.  Adam and Addisu, one campaigning for Clinton, the other for Obama, recently shared their thoughts on the race and experiences on the campaign trail with the Yale Daily News.  You can read the story here.

Rebels With a Cause

This past weekend hundreds of law students, legal practitioners, and community activists from around the country descended on Yale Law School for the 14th Annual Rebellious Lawyering Conference.  The entirely student-run conference, one of the largest of its kind, brings together individuals committed to serving the public interest to discuss innovative, progressive approaches to law and social change.

The Rebellious Lawyering Conference, better known at Yale as Reblaw, was started in 1994 by two then-current students who wanted to create a symposium for other students interested in pursuing public interest career paths.  Not only does Reblaw serve as fertile ground for the exchange of ideas and information, it provides a sense of community for public interest-minded students who face the temptations of traditional big-law practice. 

There is no particular theme for each year’s Reblaw: many different topics are discussed.  To give you a sense of the diversity of Reblaw’s offerings, here are the titles of just a few of this year’s panels and workshops:  Emerging Issues In Environmental Justice Advocacy, Human Rights and Corporate Accountability in the Global Economy, The Ongoing Struggle for Minority Ballot Access, and Reforming the Judicial Appointment Process.  A complete list of the sessions offered at Reblaw 2008 and 2007 can be found here.

In addition to the numerous panels and workshops, Reblaw attendees have opportunities to network with their fellow students and colleagues and with the panelists, many of them leading practitioners at community organizations, public interest law firms, law schools, and in the government.  Discussions at the sessions continue as casual conversation during the many breaks and meals, as well as at Friday’s happy hour and the parties held both nights of the conference.  A list of panelists and a schedule of events can be found at the Reblaw website.

Reblaw is traditionally held the last weekend of February, so mark your calendar now and check out the Reblaw website in December for registration information.
 

For Californians …

… or anyone else who thinks that proximity to the beach is an important factor in deciding which law school to attend ...

Okay, so I know it’s not the same, and maybe not quite as nice, but we do have beaches out here!  New Haven is on the Connecticut coast and the surrounding areas offer several venues for getting your feet wet.  The beaches in East Haven are particularly close (about a ten minute drive from YLS) though I am partial to Hammonasset State Park about 20 minutes up I-95. 

East Haven (on Cosey Beach Avenue) has a little food shack and restaurant, The Sandpiper, where you can get fish and chips and then just walk across the street to the beach.  Not as populated as Hammonasset, this beach is quite peaceful and is a calming place to reflect, take a study break, or gather seashells.  Whenever I have visitors in town from landlocked states they insist on going to this beach, if just to dip their feet in the water.

Hammonasset is a State Park, so it’s not free (about ten bucks to park), but it is a bit nicer.  It is super picturesque and green and you can go running or on a nature hike – you can even go camping!  From the shore you have a nice view of the Long Island Sound and can watch the sailboats floating around.  This is more of a lay-out-on-a-beach-towel-and-catch-some-rays type of beach and, in the summer, they pull out the grill so that you can buy drinks and hot dogs and make a day of it.

In addition to these beaches, Yale also has its own Yacht Club!  Located in nearby Branford, it is home to the Yale Sailing Team but also offers a summer program and sailing lessons for those of us affiliated with Yale.

If these options still don’t appease you, you can always just drive a couple hours to the Hamptons or to Cape Cod if you want a more posh weekend getaway.

 

 

The Y-Train is Still in the Station

Dear Asha,

Is it too late to apply to Yale Law School?  Will I still have a chance to get in if I apply now?

C.J.

 

Dear C.J.,

No, it is not too late to apply, and yes, you still have a chance.

First, our application deadline isn't until February 15, so you still have plenty of time to put your application together.

Second, as I've mentioned in a previous post, we have a unique admissions review system in which students are admitted in roughly equal numbers throughout the admissions season.  In other words, although our admissions process is "rolling" in the sense that we give offers on an ongoing basis, your chances of admission remain roughly the same regardless of when you apply in the season.  We do not fill the class until we have read all of the applications in the pool, so there is no way you can apply "too late."

So get to work and submit your application if you are interested in YLS -- we promise to give your application a thorough review!

--Asha

Please submit questions to 203blog@yale.edu.

Posted: Feb 06 2008, 10:51 AM by asha
Filed under: ,
Elm City Eats: Seafood and … Did I hear you right? … Cheese?!?!

 

The Blue Pearl

130 Court Street @ Orange Street

About a 5 block walk from the Law School

 

Location and décor: Downtown, but on a relatively quiet (dare I say deserted) street.  Inside, the restaurant looks like an uber mod nursery – all blue and pink and white (ugh).  And yet the furniture is modern white plastic and leather, no armrests on the couches, very loungy.  “The Shining” was playing on the TV screens behind the bar.  For a Thursday night, it was awfully empty inside.

 

Items Sampled:

-Savory fondue (artichoke, parmesan, and crème fraiche)

-French fries

-Wine and champagne (of course)

 

So I have to admit, I was skeptical of this place whose signature seemed to be seafood and cheese.  I don’t know, something about the idea of dipping a jumbo prawn into a vat of blue cheese just sounded wrong.  But, after scanning the menu, I found lots of items that sounded good – steak, salads, macaroni and cheese, fondue and french fries.  (Halfway through our meal, we overheard the bartender talking about how much she wanted the macaroni and cheese so I’ll have to try that next time.)

In the end, I picked a “savory fondue” (as opposed to the surf and turf fondue or the sweet fondues) of artichoke, parmesan, and crème fraiche.  Provided for my fondue-rific dipping pleasure: carrots, cucumber, chunks of bread, crackers, broccoli, grapes, and apples with fennel.  Armed with my little fondue spear, I dug in.

Though it looked like a stomach ache waiting to happen, the fondue was surprisingly light and the chunks of artichoke really broke up the cheesiness of it all.  Okay, so as expected, the chunks of bread and crackers dipped in cheese tasted good.  I think the problem came when someone thought that cucumbers or carrots dipped in boiling cheese would be a good idea.  We decided that fondue really hinges on the porousness of the food you’re dipping.  Bread, porous, good.  Crackers, porous, good.  Broccoli, well, everyone can appreciate broccoli and cheese.  But cucumbers and cheese?  The hot cheese just slips and slides right off the cucumber.  Same with the carrots.  And, cucumbers and hot cheese just sounds, well, about as appealing as the jumbo prawn and blue cheese that I had envisioned before.

The grapes, I confess, I ate all by themselves.  But I think the real winner of the night was the apples sprinkled with fennel.  The fondue adhered well, and it was a surprisingly good combination.  Overall, I’d say the savory fondue thing was a hit.  Remember – just stick to the porous foods!

The french fries were good, not steak cut, but not too thin.  Served very hot with a side of ketchup and garlic mayo (which we didn’t try).  I hear that the best side for french fries is champagne.

If you’re not all fondue-d out, you can try a sweet fondue for dessert.  They had everything from s’mores fondue to white chocolate to espresso.  Personally, by that point, I was leaning toward the key lime pie or the strawberry shortcake.

The service was good, friendly, and quick and it was a comfortable, loungy place to chat.  The fondue thing is fun, and if nothing else, good for laughs and entertainment!

 

The 250-Word Albatross

Dear Asha,

I know the deadline to apply to YLS is approaching, but I can't seem to figure out what to write about for my 250-word essay.  I'm not sure what the Admissions Committee is looking for.  Help!

S.B.

 

Dear S.B.,

Sigh.  The 250-word essay.  I remember putting off my Yale Law School application because of the 250, too (good thing that applying late to YLS doesn't affect your chances of admission!). 

The 250 word essay, in case you haven't checked out our application, is an essay on any subject of your choice, which the Admissions Committee uses "to evaluate an applicant's writing, reasoning, and editing skills."  In other words, this is your first exercise as a potential lawyer: say something meaningful in a limited space, and make it good.  You'll be asked to do this repeatedly in the future: law school papers have page limits, and there are judges who will throw out motions or briefs that exceed their word number guidelines.  Being persuasive and concise is the quintessestial lawyerly skill, and we want to see that you have it.

Honestly, though, the 250-word essay is really a gimme.  It gives you a second bite at the personal statement -- after all, given all of your goals, interests, opinions, accomplishments, backgrounds, and hobbies (just to name a few aspects of yourselves), you couldn't have possibly covered everything important about who you are in a two-page personal statement.  So the 250 is a chance for you to explore something you care about that might have ended up on the cutting room floor in writing your personal statement.  Maybe it's a policy argument.  Maybe it's a piece about a hobby or passion of yours.  Maybe it's a personal anecdote.  There's not much you can't write about.

In fact, there are tons of "Dos" in writing the 250, and just a few "Don'ts."  So it might be more helpful if I list the five major mistakes people make in writing their 250s and you can avoid them, thereby increasing your success rate exponentially.  These mistakes are:

 1.  Not Keeping Your Essay at 250 Words or Less.  Yes, it seems like it would be obvious that a 250-word essay should be, well, 250 words.  I'm not sure why people choose to ignore this.  Because they think what they have to say is so special that the limit doesn't apply?  They didn't read the instructions?  They don't know how to use the word counter on their computer?  Not clear.  Look.  It's an excercise.  The faculty who came up with this application requirement a billion years ago do not like to be mocked.  Do I or the faculty reading your application actually count the words?  Maybe -- do you want to take the chance?  Bottom line:  Don't go over 250 words.  If what you have to say is longer, edit it.  And yes, definite and indefinite articles and prepositions count.

2.  Writing the 250-Word Essay about Writing a 250-Word Essay.  There are always a couple of hundred applicants each year who think they are pret-ty clever.  So they write an essay which will go something like, "So I have to write a 250-word essay.  Actually, now I have written 20 words so it's actually a 230-word essay!  Wait, make that a 224-word essay!"  And it will go on in this vein, subtracting numbers until the applicant has managed to write 250 words about absolutely nothing.

3.  Giving 250 Words in Stream-of-Consciousness Prose.  So, another couple of hundred people think that they can just barf out everything they didn't mention in their personal statement, putting a period after 250 words.  As in, "I obtained my black belt at age 15.  I like to sleep with my window open.  My cat has fleas.  I can bake an awesome apple pie."  And so on.  OK.  So I indicated above that the 250 is an opportunity for you to talk about things you may not have mentioned in your personal statement.  BUT YOU STILL HAVE TO INCORPORATE THEM INTO A COHERENT ESSAY.  We are not asking for 250 words' worth of random facts about yourself.  Remember: "writing, reasoning, and editing skills."  This type of essay gets an F in all categories.

NOTE:  I have never seen anyone using tactic 2 or 3 be admitted. 

4.  Not Proofreading Their Essay.  Somehow, it seems, the 250-word essay is really prone to grammatical and typographical errors.  Probably because people are putting it off till the last minute, therefore not going over it with a fine-toothed comb as they have done with their personal statement (though those sometimes have issues as well).  Please ask someone to read your essay.  There are things that spell-checker will not catch, but are still wrong.  For example, "peek" vs. "peak," "Untied" vs. "United," "affect" vs. "effect," you get my point.  Again, remember that this is a lawyerly exercise, and no one wants a sloppy lawyer.

5.  Using the 250-Word Essay as an Addendum, or a "Why Yale?" Essay.  This is not as egregious as the first four, but I mention it because I really think people who take this route lose an opportunity.  First, you can add an addendum -- about the C you got in Calculus, or the alarm that was going off during the LSAT -- in addition to the required essays.  The 250 doesn't preclude that (just keep it brief).  Second, a listing of the courses or programs at Yale which intrigue you is nice, and shows that you've researched the school, but doesn't really add to the Admission Committee's knowledge about you (they already know Yale's courses and programs are great, they teach them!).  You should really try to take advantage of the 250 to showcase your writing ability, and pursue a topic other than an explanation of the components of the application or a list of things that caught your fancy on our website.  We want to find out more about what makes you tick!

I hope that the above pitfalls are helpful in guiding you in what not to do, and therefore in pointing you in the direction of what to do.  The 250-word essay is rarely a dealmaker or breaker.  Mostly, it offers the Admissions Committee a window into some small snippet of who you are, carefully and thoughtfully condensed into a few short, but meaningful, paragraphs.  Think this isn't possible?  Remember that the Gettysburg Address is only 272 words -- 22 words short (or long) of being the ultimate Yale 250.

Asha

Please submit questions to 203blog@yale.edu.

Posted: Jan 23 2008, 10:24 AM by asha
Filed under: ,
Red Sox Nation - Yale Law School Chapter

To the outside observer Yale Law School is probably not the most likely of stops on a Boston Red Sox post-World Championship thank you tour.  But when the Red Sox visited Connecticut last Friday, they made sure to stop by to thank their rabidly loyal YLS fan base.  At a small event held in the Dining Hall, only open to the YLS community, Red Sox president, CEO, and YLS alum, Larry Lucchino, proudly showed off their last two World Championship trophies and thanked their many YLS supporters.  Head of Yale Law School’s chapter of the Red Sox Nation, Dean Harold Koh, offered enthusiastic greetings to the Red Sox entourage.  Students, faculty, and staff had the opportunity to pose with the trophies and meet with mascot Wally the Green Monster and pitcher and Yale College alum Craig Breslow.

One of the two trophies was making its second visit to YLS.  The Red Sox visited the Law School for a small victory rally after their 2004 World Championship win.  When the Red Sox win their next Championship, I’m sure we’ll be welcoming back the 2004 trophy for a third time.  Until then, you can view a video and photos of their recent visit and a video of their 2004 YLS rally.

 

YLS alum Bharat Ramamurti, Sox pitcher and Yale College alum Craig Breslow, Wally the Green Monster, Dean Harold Koh, and Red Sox president, CEO, and YLS alum Larry Lucchino, pose with the 2004 and 2007 World Championship trophies.

 

The Great Outdoors - Sleeping Giant State Park

 

Sleeping Giant State Park
http://www.sgpa.org/

If you are the kind of outdoorsman who likes hiking as long as you have marked trails, a restroom close by, and a path cleared of poison ivy, Sleeping Giant State Park is for you!  Named for its likeness to a ginormous man sleeping on his back, Sleeping Giant State Park offers several wide, well marked trails of relatively short length (generally 2-3 miles).  The trails are well-shaded and offer a slow and steady incline.

On Saturdays, especially in the fall, the Park is a popular place for picnickers, for families who want to hike with their kids, for people who want to jog the trails with their dogs, and for couples who want to be romanced by 360 degree views of the New Haven region.

The Tower Path, probably the most traveled trail in the Park, is only 1.6 miles each way and leads you to a stone tower at the summit.  Stone Tower is a three story old stone building, which provides a view all the way to the ocean from its top level.

If you attend YLS, you are sure to visit Sleeping Giant at least twice: Dean Koh takes 1Ls there for a hike and picnic lunch during their first month of law school and then again during their 3L year to book-end their time here at Yale.

The Park is just a short drive from the Law School and great for dates, solo time, or even parental visits.  If you’re tired of the “city” or just need a study break, I recommend checking it out.

 

 

The 4-1-1 on Your G-P-A

Dear Asha,

I took one year off after undergrad and I'm currently in grad school.  Will my grades in grad school be weighted the same (or less or greater) than my undergraduate grades?

J.J.

 
Dear J.J.,

Apologies for the three-week hiatus from the blog: we've been busy in the Admissions Office processing your applications and reading them very carefully, so there was a good reason (though I have to admit I snuck in a few hours to catch The Biggest Loser finale last month -- will a woman ever win that show?)...

So grad school.  Generally speaking, your undergraduate grades will carry the most weight in your application.  Your graduate grades will be taken into account, but if anything they will be given as much or less weight than your undergrad grades.  This is for several reasons.  First, we need a common basis upon which to evaluate applicants and, since most of our applicants do not have advanced degrees but all have a college degree, the undergraduate GPA is the best point of comparison.  Second, the undergraduate GPA usually represents coursework over a span of four years, and usually across several disciplines, while a Masters is only for one or two years and in a very specific subject area (which is sometimes not very closely related to law).  Finally, I rely a lot on the LSDAS report to give me data, and the data they give me -- for example, the breakdown of individual grades by units, the percentile rank of your GPA compared to applicants from your own undergraduate institution for the last three years, and the percentage distribution of GPAs at your institution -- is based on your undergradate grades  (yes, we do look at all of that information!).

Honestly speaking, then, a stellar graduate transcript may not necessarily obviate the relevance of your undergrad GPA.  However, doing well in grad schools does tell us that you are capable of doing well in graduate level work, which is important in assessing your academic potential.   And you should not hesitate to provide a reference from a professor in grad school if there was a class in which you excelled or if you got to know a professor extremely well -- my comments above refer only to GPAs, not to the weight given to recommendations from grad school.

Happy New Year to you and all of our 203 readers!

--Asha

Please submit questions to 203blog@yale.edu.

Posted: Jan 03 2008, 02:05 PM by asha
Filed under: ,
The $42,000 All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

Most of you are aware of Yale Law School’s reputation as one of the world’s premier educational institutions.  You’re familiar with some of our amazing faculty, our reputation for cutting-edge legal scholarship, our leadership role in the legal community, and the high quality of life we afford our students.  However, little known outside of the Yale Law School community, we hold another, unofficial distinction as the world’s most expensive all-you-can-eat buffet.

Let me explain how this unique buffet works.  Our diners, let’s call them “students,”  pay us a one-time door charge, we’ll refer to this as “tuition,” for eight months of non-stop feasting, known by some as an “academic year,” at our restaurant, “Yale Law School” in the vernacular.  The price for this one-of-a-kind dining experience:  $42,000. 

Our buffet mainly consists of four stations:  talks and workshops, student organization meetings, social gatherings, and “The Table of Plenty.” 

Talks and Workshops

Food is a recurring theme at the School’s many talks, workshops, and colloquia.  Most events scheduled close to noon will provide lunch.  Evening events will frequently include dinner or be followed by a reception featuring hors d’oeuvres and drinks.  A quick look at the calendar and my email shows at least 15 events in the past week that served food.  Participate in heated discussions on current events or analyze the most recent theories in constitutional law while enjoying bagels with Barak or coffee with Kofi.

Cuisine most likely to be served:  pizza, sandwiches, and wraps.

Student Organization Meetings

After filling up on all of those meals at the talks and workshops, it’s doubtful you’ll be hungry.  However, in case you missed a meal or are still finding yourself a bit peckish, the student organizations are around to fill the void – in your stomach.  Most student orgs meet weekly, usually in the evening.  They feature stimulating conversation, opportunities to catch up with classmates who share your same interests, and ample quantities of food.  Since most students belong to several orgs, it’s easy to see how these meetings can provide dinner all week long.

Cuisine most likely to be served:  pizza, Thai, and Indian.

Social Gatherings

At some point in the term, you’re going to get tired of pizza (blasphemous in New Haven), wraps, Thai, and Indian.  Thankfully, the School hosts purely social gatherings on a regular basis with slightly different cuisine than you’ll find at the talks, workshops, and student org meetings.  For example, each Friday the Dean’s Office sponsors happy hour in the Dining Hall with free food, wine, and beer.  The menu changes each week, but you’ll often find items like spicy buffalo wings, cheese and vegetable trays, and clam chowder.  The Student Affairs Office also sponsors three or four events each term with really nice food.  This term they hosted a gelato party with real Italian gelato, a wine and cheese tasting led by a local importer of fine wines and cheeses, and a sushi night during which 2400 pieces of sushi and sashimi were eaten (inhaled?) in 30 minutes.

Cuisine most likely to be served:  nicer than you’re going to get at a talk, workshop, or org meeting.

The Table of Plenty

Some of you may be familiar with The Table.  The Table is a nondescript, wooden table situated in the center of the School’s main hallway.  Located at the building’s main architectural nexus, it’s –the– meeting spot for the Law School community.  At lunch, and especially at dinner, The Table also becomes the central repository for much of the food remaining from the many talks, workshops, and student org meetings.  Even if you didn’t attend one of these events, or didn’t like what they were serving, you can usually find a meal waiting for you at The Table.

Cuisine most likely to be served:  leftovers.  Hey, beggars can’t be choosers.


Not included in the four “buffet stations” above are other occasions for feasting.  Pub crawls, dinners with faculty at their homes, and homemade baked goods during exam period are some of the more notable opportunities.  One of our first-year students blogs about his buffet experiences in our Student Perspectives Blog.

Although not a piece of advice offered by our Financial Aid Office, enterprising students find ways to make the most of their buffet privileges.  It is quite easy for a student to eat almost all of his or her meals during the week at the Law School, dramatically reducing the food component of a standard student budget.  So, when that tuition bill arrives in your e-mail, remember that $42,000 a year is not only buying you a world-class legal education, it’s your check for the most expensive buffet on the planet.

Reference This
Dear Asha:

I have been out of school for several years and am concerned about my recommendations.  While I will be able to secure a recommendation from my employer, I also have some recommendations from my undergraduate work filed with a credential service.  Because these recommendations speak more to my academic ability and performance, would it be wise to include one from my undergraduate years, even though they are several years old?

Sincerely,
C.L.
 
Dear C.L.,
 
YES.  In fact, I would strongly advise you to include at least TWO academic recommendations, if at all possible.  And if you have the option of submitting a third work reference or a third academic reference (note that we only require two, so I emphasize the word OPTION), I would go with the latter.   
 
As I noted in a previous post, we have a fairly unusual admissions process, which is faculty-driven.  Yale Law School is an academically rigorous place to begin with, but given that we have professors making the bulk of admissions decisions on top of that, recommendations which speak to your academic ability will carry the most weight and influence in your application.  In other words, professors care most about what other (surprise!) professors have to say about you.
 
In fact, in my experience, work references  -- though they don't hurt -- don't add much to your application, either.  That's not to say that your work experiences don't matter -- they do.  But the value of most work experience comes in what you gleaned from it and how it has impacted your perspective and goals, and that's something that comes through best in your personal statement or 250-word essay. 
 
This may go against the grain of what your prelaw advisors/"How to Get Into Law School" book/well-intentioned but underinformed friends and family tell you: namely, that you should try to give references that show that you are "well-rounded," and so having one from each area of your life -- college, work, volunteer -- is the best way to go.  This may very well be true for other law schools.  But the honest truth is that all else being equal, an applicant who has two or more academic references that attest to the fact that s/he is an intellectual superstar -- particularly across different disciplines relevant to law, like history, political science, economics, humanities, etc. -- will have an advantage over another applicant who only has one recommendation which speaks to academic strengths and another that says that s/he was a great team player.
 
Keep in mind that it is the detail provided in the reference, and not the grade that you received in the class, that matters most.  This is a little hard to control since you will (if you are wise) waive your right to read the recommendation.  But know that even a detailed reference from a TA who can give specific examples of your superior analytical ability, your writing, and the insights you were able to make into the subject material is preferable to a general, perfunctory reference from a big-name prof who gave you an A but can't remember what you look like.  And someone who has worked with you over a period of time -- for example, a senior thesis advisor -- who can talk about a particular topic you've explored, the depth of your research, and the cogency of your argument, is an ideal recommender.
 
Some of you may have been out of school for a while and did not have an undergraduate credential service like C.L.  If you really don't have someone who can write a strong academic reference for you, the next best thing is to get a work reference that speaks to the kinds of things I mentioned above: writing, analytical ability, logical reasoning (those sound weirdly familiar from another part of your application...).  The closer this is to the legal world, the better (e.g., a judge or lawyer), but other employers can give the same kinds of information.
 
And if you are currently in school and planning to take time off before applying to law school, take the opportunity to approach your professors NOW, while your brilliance is still fresh in their minds, and get their references filed with LSAC (with which you can get an account for five years).  That way, when you finally do apply, your academic references will be only a mouse click away!
 
--Asha
 
Please send questions to 203blog@yale.edu. 
Posted: Dec 05 2007, 01:45 PM by asha
Filed under: ,
The Owl Shop - Favorite Bar/Lounge of the Day

268 College Street
http://www.owlshopcigars.com/

 

If you’re looking for a movie-like, dimly lit lounge to kick back with a cigar and glass of whiskey on the rocks, The Owl Shop is the place for you!  Not one of those packed bars with scantily clad teenagers with fake IDs, The Owl Shop has a slightly older, more law school/young professionals kind of crowd.  And yes, you can smoke your cigar or cigarette or pipe of choice indoors (a plus for some of you during those New Haven winters). 

Complete with couches and lounge chairs, you can people-watch as others strut on down to more clubby venues; you can even play a game of chess!  The music was mellow and jazzy and the service was good.  It was nice not having to push my way to the bar through hordes of inebriated people.

Now, it’s possible that my affection for The Owl Shop is partly due to the fact that I had also gone to The Playwright that same weekend – and the two couldn’t be any more different. 

Crowds of sweaty people bumping into you on the dance floor?  Check.

Average age of 21?  Check.

People sloshing beer all over you?  Check.

Disco ball and ear-splitting hip-hop music?  Check.

Don’t get me wrong … I enjoy hip-hop and dancing and perhaps there was even a day when The Playwright would have been my type of scene.  But that day is not today, tomorrow, next month, or next year.  Today’s recommendation is The Owl Shop!


 

Posted: Dec 01 2007, 07:55 AM by sarah
Filed under:
It's a Small World

Dear Asha:

Thanks for the opportunity to ask questions. I'm interested in studying International Law, and am excited about YLS's course offerings. I did have some questions, which I'm hoping you might help with.  Does YLS allow its students to study abroad at foreign institutions as part of their legal training? Are there summer and/or semester-year long programs?  What do most students whose focus is international law do with their degrees? How do they serve?

Thanks,
D.R. Honolulu, HI

 

Dear D.R.,

OK, so right now I am so jealous that you are in Honolulu, because the weather here is starting to get pretty cold.  Not that that's a bad thing: Sarah will, no doubt, be giving you some insight into the many things you can do on cold and snowy days in New Haven, so stay tuned!

Now, to your question.  Yale does not offer a formal study abroad program during the academic year.  While this is popular at the undergraduate level and some law schools do allow this, our program currently emphasizes the fostering of a strong community for the three years you are here, and with all of the courses, activities, journals, and independent research opportunities we have, we think it's important that you are in residence for all six semesters in order to take advantage of your time here.

With that said, there are opportunities to go abroad, apart from an exchange with a foreign legal institution.  First, Yale offers the possibility of doing an Intensive Semester, which can involve spending a semester in a foreign country.  To do an Intensive Semester abroad, a student must have a very detailed research proposal which would be impossible to carry out while remaining in residence at the Law School, which must then be approved by the Faculty Committee on Special Courses of Study.  I should note that the bar for doing an Intensive Semester is very high, and only a few students are approved to do this each year.  Nevertheless, it is an option for those of you whose specialized interests may involve foreigh legal systems and research.

In addition, the Law School has region-specific programs that can involve going abroad over the summer or during the school year.  For example, the Middle East Legal Studies Seminar (MELSS) is an annual meeting bringing together students, academics, lawyers, and judges interested in Middle Eastern legal issues.  You can read more about last year's meeting, which took place in Athens, Greece, here.  In addition, the Law School sponsors a South America Linkage Program over the summer, in which Yale Law School students visit their student counterparts in Argentina, Chile, and Brazil -- the Yale students then host the South American students in New Haven the following spring.

Finally, the most common avenue for students to go abroad is during the summer.  The Law School's Schell Center for International Human Rights provides summer fellowships for students seeking to do human rights work over the summer: the fellowships cover travel costs, and are in addition to the Summer Public Interest Fellowships (SPIF) which cover living expenses for any student doing public interest work during the summer, both domestically and internationally.  Students have used this funding to work in countries such as Uganda, Thailand, Israel, and China, just to name a few.

As for what to do with a internationally-focused law degree from Yale, the answer is: just about anything.  Dean Harold Koh has made globalization a cornerstone of the Law School's future, and you'll find that almost any subject will have international implications.  Students from Yale go on to become (among other things) human rights activists, journalists, attorneys specializing in international financial transactions, and environmental lawyers...the world is your oyster!

-- Asha

Please submit questions to 203blog@law.yale.edu.


 

I Want an iPhone

If you’re a regular reader of 203, you’ll remember my Global Constitutionalism Seminar post in which I talked about the staggering array of visitors, many of them leaders within the legal profession, who pass through the doors of the Law School.  What many people don’t realize is that the School also plays host to many notable guests from outside the legal field, like Tom Friedman, author and columnist for the New York Times, and Yul Kwon, YLS alumnus and winner of last season’s Survivor: Cook Islands. You can view their talks here:  Friedman and Kwon.  Some guests come at the invitation of the Law School while others visit for University functions that are held at the School because of its beautiful facilities and central location.

David Pogue visited at the end of September.  David is a Yale alumnus, the personal technology columnist for the New York Times, and a technology correspondent for CBS News.  You might remember him from one of his blog postings that received a lot of attention this summer:  iPhone: The Musical.  David visited the campus as a Poynter Fellow in Journalism and gave a talk/show-and-tell at the Law School on the latest high-tech gadgets to pass across his desk.  You can view his talk online at the University’s Office of Public Affairs website.  Unfortunately, the University still uses RealMedia as its streaming video format, so you may need to download RealPlayer.  Maybe they need to spend some more time with David. 

The Secret

Dear Asha,

I have heard that Yale does not have a traditional Admissions Committee, like at most schools.  Can you please explain how the admissions process works?

A.D.

 

Dear A.D.,

Sure thing.  Basically, at Yale, the entire permanent faculty -- over 60 people -- serve as the "Admissions Committee."  It works like this.  First, I review each file.  Files are read in the order they become complete -- in other words, we do not sort by grades or LSATs.  At this stage, I am looking for whether you can 1) perform extremely well academically at Yale and 2) make a significant contribution to the composition of the incoming class, in terms of (among other things) experience, perspective, leadership, special skills, and future goals.

We are very fortunate to have many more people who fit the above criteria than we have room for in the incoming class.  To this end, I send about 25% of our applicant pool -- close to 1,000 files -- to our faculty "Committees."  At this stage, each application is sent, in a stack of about 50 files, to three faculty readers.  Each faculty member uses his or her own criteria to rate each file on a scale of 2-4, with 4 being the highest.  Each faculty member reads independently -- that is, the faculty member does not know who the other two readers of the file will be and so there is no discussion of the files with other people --and his or her scores are kept confidential from the other readers.

Once the application is circulated through the three readers, we add up the scores in the Admissions Office.  All applicants who receive a 12 (straight 4s)  and most who receive an 11 (two 4s and a 3) are admitted.

There are roughly 50-80 applicants each year who are "presumptive admits" and who bypass the three reader process.  Instead, they are reviewed by myself and a a faculty member who serves as the Chair of the Admissions Committee.  These are students who are truly outstanding in every way, not just scores -- again, we are trying to fill the class with interesting and well-rounded students, not just students who can take tests well!  It's hard to articulate what places a student into the presumptive admit category, so I'll just borrow Justice Potter Stewart's view: I know it when I see it.

As you can see from our process, we have a very thorough review process, in which each file is read carefully by up to 4 readers.  This process, which has been in place for as long as anyone can remember, allows the perspectives of a broad range of people -- not just a select few "admissions" folks -- to determine the depth and diversity of the class, and also gives each faculty member a personal stake in the outcome.  The result is the most highly-qualified, interesting, and talented law school classes in the country and a close knit community for all those who come to Yale. 

What it means for you, the applicants, is that your chances of getting into YLS are not just based on numbers.  In fact, I have had several faculty members tell me that when they read files, they are not as concerned with numbers as they are with some other part of the application: some focus on the personal statement or the 250-word essay, others on the recommendations, and one even swears by the LSAT writing sample (I want to say he was joking, but I'm not actually sure).  While this makes it difficult to know "why" someone does or does not get in, it also means that your entire application, not just your scores, mean a lot to us.

So, take the opportunity to shine in every aspect of your application -- there is someone who will notice!

-- Asha

 
Please submit questions to 203blog@yale.edu.

Posted: Nov 08 2007, 10:58 AM by asha
Filed under: ,
Elm City Eats: Slow Food Movement or Just Phenomenally Slow Service?

Zinc

964 Chapel Street
http://www.zincfood.com/


Location and décor:  Across the street from the New Haven Green and a short three block walk from YLS.  Very wanna-be NYC trendy hot spot décor.

 

Items Sampled:

-Grilled Natural Hanger Steak

-Scallops and Beef Kielbasa  (Market Menu)

-Maine Crabmeat and Cucumber Salad

-Roasted Organic Yellow Beets

-Peach Crème Caramel


The evening started off oh-so promising.  We had a lovely and attentive waiter who delivered our pear martinis, bread bites with salsa, and other appetizers without a hitch.  The yellow beets were wonderful, and the dab of cool ricotta cheese on top, a great compliment to the sweet taste of the beets.  The crab salad with cucumbers was delightful (or so I was told, as seafood makes me tad squeamish) and I can certainly vouch for the parts of the salad that were sans seafood (the radishes and cucumbers).  Content with our selections, we waited for the main course …

And waited

And waited

Exactly one hour and twenty minutes from when we were seated our meals finally arrived.

My hanger steak could have been phenomenal, except that the meat I was served was definitely not cooked to “medium” as I had ordered.   (We suspect that the plates were mixed up, as someone else in the group had ordered theirs well done, and got something pink and juicy instead.)  On the plus side, the greens and manchego cheese tamale were yummy.  The tamale was a bit spicy, with a taste reminiscent of the salsa that we were served at the beginning of our meal.

The scoop on the scallops and kielbasa was that although the two didn’t conflict with each other, they also didn’t complement each other or blend well.  The green lentil ragout and salsa verde were unfortunately not magical side dishes that turned the seemingly random hodge-podge into a dazzling culinary treat.  And while this is the inherent risk for a fusion inspired restaurant, it seems to me that trying to fuse scallops and sausage into a treat for the taste buds is prima facie risky.

So as not to end my restaurant review on a down note, I must say that the dessert, a mix between crème brulee and flan with little bits of peach throughout, was absolutely delicious.  Cool, creamy and light, it was the perfect end to a … well, a meal that had the potential to be perfect.

Organize Me

The Law School recently held a student organization fair in the courtyard.  The fair, an annual tradition, highlights the rich extracurricular offerings of the School and gives students a chance to receive more information about different student organizations, speak with representatives from each group, and sign up for email lists if they’re interested in becoming involved.  Most groups have introductory meetings at the beginning of the year, but the fair is great opportunity to “one stop shop” all of the groups’ offerings.

The Law School has an amazing selection of student organizations, particularly for a school of slightly over 600 students.  Many groups have a web presence and most are listed here.  The nine student journals are listed separately; you can find them here.  All of the organizations, including most of the journals, are open to 1Ls.  Since the required curriculum is limited to the first term, and even that is Pass/Fail, 1Ls have plenty of time to become involved.

There is a wide range of activities with which to become involved.  Understandably, most have a legal focus like the Morris Tyler Moot Court of Appeals, the Yale Environmental Law Association, and the Initiative for Public Interest Law at Yale.   However, there are many without any tenable relation to law, such as College Acceptance, Yale Law Revue (no, not that law review), and Six Angry Men which, contrary to popular belief, is an a cappella group, not a faculty workshop.  I encourage you to view the list of organizations online, since there are too many groups to list in this posting.

New groups are formed each year as students, and their interests, change.  For example, College Acceptance was started last year by a group of 1Ls.  It’s relatively easy to start a group and to secure funding for it from the School.  However, with such a diverse selection of student organizations, the problem students usually face is how to pare down their lists.

 

 

To Complete, or Not to Complete

Dear Asha,

      I plan to submit my application within a few days. However, I am just beginning some exciting projects that may come to fruition in the next few months. Depending on the outcomes, I may want to provide additional information to the Admissions Committee. Once my complete application is submitted, is it possible to supplement it?
 
J.S.
 
Dear J.S.,
 
     It is possible to supplement your complete application.  However, keep in mind that once your application is complete -- that is, once we receive the basic components of your applications, including your LSDAS report and two recommendations -- your application will enter the queue to be reviewed.  Once it is under active review, during which your application is circulated outside of the Admissions Office to faculty readers, any supplemental material received in the meantime will be held until the file is returned.  This means, of course, that we can't guarantee that your supplemental material will be included at the time that the file is reviewed.  And, we will generally not re-review a file upon receipt of supplemental material.
 
    If you feel very strongly that your file be considered only after you obtain any additional information you think might be relevant, I would suggest that you wait to submit your application until you have everything you are waiting for (but before our deadline of February 15).  As I noted previously, there is no inherent disadvantage to sending in your application later rather than sooner, though it may mean that you will not get your decision until later in the season.
 
  On the other hand, if your file is reviewed without the additional information and you are waitlisted, the supplemental materials may be useful in the event that we revisit your file.  So, the decision is up to you -- best of luck!
 
-- Asha
 
Please submit questions to 203blog@yale.edu.
Posted: Oct 25 2007, 02:01 PM by asha
Filed under: ,
Pumpkin Pickin' at Bishop's Orchards

Bishop’s Orchards
1355 Boston Post Road
Guilford, CT 06437-2399
About 14 miles from the Law School

For months I had seen signs along I-95 for Bishop’s Orchards and wanted to check it out.  Though I had gone with the intention of wandering out in some field and picking my own fruit, what I found when I got there was more timely and just as cool.

On the one side, they have a whole grocery store, with everything from bushels of apples to homemade chicken pot pies (and apple pies, and pumpkin pies, and berry pies …).  They even sell Turkish Delight for those of you who read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and always wondered if the stuff could really be THAT good.  Though you may not be able to find your brand food favorites, the shopping experience is worlds nicer than going to the Shaw’s on Whalley Avenue (super long lines, no matter what time of day, and something about that place just makes you feel not so fresh).  They also have a little garden area where they sell firewood and plants.

On the other side, they had a huge pumpkin patch complete with a hay maze and a make-your-own-scarecrow tent for kids.  I firmly believe that getting your pumpkins this way is so much more fun than going to the grocery store or Home Depot.  At the entrance they have wagons so that you can fill it up with pumpkins and gourds and dried, ornamental corn.  They even had a mini petting zoo with what looked like a llama or ostrich (or some other tall furry and feathery animal).  The parking lot was packed by the time we left, and as we drove off I saw a family loading into their minivan a life-sized scarecrow dressed as a 10 year old boy. 

Pick up a bottle of their homemade apple cider on the way out and you’re all set for a weekend of carving pumpkins and enjoying a New England autumn!

 

Alumni Weekend and Law & Media

The Law School recently hosted its annual Alumni Weekend.  The Weekend brings together alumni for three days of classes and events designed to reconnect them with each other and with the School.   Each Weekend has a theme and this year’s was particularly timely:  elections, media, and politics.  Attendees engaged in discussion over these topics both formally in the various seminars held during the Weekend and informally over the many meals shared with classmates, faculty, and students.  I encourage you to check out the videos from the Weekend on our website.

A few highlights from the Weekend included:

  • the interactive polling game in which alumni voted on hot-button issues and then played pundit on the outcome;
  • awarding of the Yale Law School Association Award of Merit to alumna Linda Greenhouse, Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times; and
  • remembrances for alumnae Jane Bolin, the first Black female graduate of the Law School and the first Black female judge in the U.S., and Reverend Pauli Murray, a poet, professor, civil rights lawyer, and co-founder of the National Organization of Women.

The Weekend also provided the opportunity to unveil the Law School’s new Knight Law and Media Program to alumni.  The Program is targeted at students, journalists, scholars, and policymakers interested or involved in law and media.   It includes courses on law and media, research fellowships, and summer internships.  There will be more information about the Program on our website in a few weeks.  In the meantime you can read a bit more about the Program in this press release.
 

The Scoop on Joint Degrees

 Dear Asha,

             I'm interested in designing a joint JD/PhD program with Yale's Department of English. Can you tell me anything about whether Yale encourages individually designed programs? Does my unusual profile make me a more or less desirable candidate?

Thanks,
A.M.

Dear A.M.,

            I’ve received a number of variations on the question of joint degrees, so I hope my response to this one will answer most of them.

            First, let me explain how our joint degrees work.  If you would like to do a joint degree with Yale Law School and another program, you must apply and be admitted to each program separately.  During your first year or second year at Yale, you can petition the Faculty Committee on Special Courses of Study to do your joint degree with the other program.  If you are approved, you will be allowed to use up to 12 units of coursework (about one term) from the other program towards your JD.  This thus reduces your total in-residence time requirement at the Law School to five semesters, rather than the usual six.

            The other program may, at your request, allow you to credit Law School coursework towards its program.  In such a case, your total time required to complete that degree would be reduced as well.  Certain programs, such as the Graduate, Divinity, Forestry, Management, and Medicine schools at Yale, as well as the Woodrow Wilson School for International and Public Affairs, have in practice approved such an arrangement.  However, you may also pursue a joint degree with other programs and institutions; the caveat is that Yale Law School can only approve and grant credit for work completed for your JD; we have no control over whether the joint program will reciprocate.  So, always check with the program or institution with which you are considering a joint degree to find out what their policy and requirements are and whether they will give you credit for Yale Law School coursework.

            In considering a joint degree, you should think about a few things.  First, as I mentioned previously, you must be enrolled at Yale to petition to do a joint degree, and at the time you petition, you must be accepted into the other program.  This means that you either need to apply to the other program at the same time you apply to law school (or already be enrolled), or apply no later than your second year at Yale.  The second thing to keep in mind is that you may only receive Law School credit for coursework completed prospectively, i.e., you cannot receive credit for any work you completed before you matriculated at the Law School.  In this vein, if you are a PhD candidate who has reached ABD status, you cannot pursue a joint degree, and if you defer your entrance to Yale Law School to begin another program, you cannot use any of the work completed during your deferral towards your JD.

            With respect to individually-designed programs, Yale encourages coursework outside the Law School within the parameters described above, if you are a joint degree candidate.  If you are not a joint degree candidate, you can still take up to 12 units of class outside the Law School at the undergraduate, graduate, or professional schools (including up to two semesters of language courses!).  There are also numerous courses cross-listed between other programs and the Law School each semester.  So there are ample opportunities to get an interdisciplinary legal education without doing a joint degree.

            Finally, an intention of doing a joint degree will have no impact on your chances for admission.  We do ask on the application whether you are considering a joint degree – this is mainly for us to get a sense of students’ interests.  However, at the point of admission, you will be evaluated solely for the JD program, so keep that in mind as you put together your application! 

-- Asha

Please submit questions to 203blog@yale.edu.

 

It's Not You, It's Us

 Dear Asha,

I received a confirmation e-mail that my application has been received, but have not yet received confirmation that my application is complete. Is this simply because it is early in the admissions season and applications are not yet being considered, or is it possibly indicative of a missing component in my application?

Sincerely,

A.P.

Dear A.P.,

            When you hit “submit” on your electronic application to Yale Law School, we receive your basic data and an indication that you have applied.  Base on this data, we will send you an “application received” email.  However, it will take us another week to receive your actual application in the mail.  It may take an additional week or two for us to receive your LSDAS report, which contains your LSAT score, transcript, and recommendations.

            Before October 15, LSAC will not release an LSDAS report to Yale until it contains at least two letters of recommendation.  After that date, LSAC will release your report immediately and continue to send us updates as you provide recommendations.

            Your application will be complete once we receive your application, LSDAS report, and two letters of recommendation.  At that point, we will send you a “file complete” email and your application will enter the queue to be read.  In early spring, if we still have not received all of the components of your application, we will send you an email letting you know what is missing from your file and give you time to provide those materials.

            Although we have already begun considering applications, there are a couple of important things to know about our system.  The first, which I have mentioned in a previous posting, is that your chances of admission will not be affected by when your application becomes complete.  The second is that we will not fill up the seats in the class until we have given all applicants a chance to complete their files and we have read every last application.  So relax -- we won’t forget about you, we promise!  

 --Asha

Please submit questions to 203blog@yale.edu.
 

Posted: Oct 11 2007, 04:02 PM by asha
Filed under: ,
New Haven Road Race: September 3

http://www.newhavenroadrace.org/
 

Well, my blog posting about the New Haven Road Race was intended to be this brag-fest about how great it is to run through scenic New Haven accompanied by the music of 12 bands and with people watering and feeding and hosing you down along the way. 

That was before I ran the 12.4 mile race, when the memories of my last half-marathon were but a distant memory and I was looking at this upcoming race through beer goggles. (Next year when I say I’m running this again, will someone PLEASE remind me that at mile 10 I’ll be wondering what in the world I was thinking?!)

But, so as not to discourage any aspiring New Haven 20k-ers, here are some race highlights:

  • “Eye of the Tiger” playing at the start line, makes you feel like you really could be Rocky and run the fastest race ever
  • Orange slices, GU, Gatorade and water at almost every mile
  • There really were people hosing us down as we ran.  Some people were authorized and race-sponsored hosers, but others were just random homeowners watering their lawns.
  • The nicest people you will ever meet running along-side you.  At mile 10.75 when I was about to keel over in the middle of the street at least half a dozen people stopped (or at least slowed down) to ask if I was okay and needed anything.

And hey, no matter what your time at least at the end you get free Dunkin Donuts and beer.  You heard me right.  Beer.  After a twelve-mile race.  Yeah, doesn’t make sense to me either, but at least a hundred people were lined up waiting for their cup.

Until next September, I’ll be on the look out for fun races in the area.  And, in the meantime, check out the iPod/Nike Sports kit ! …

Global Consitutionalism Seminar

Yale Law School hosted its eleventh Global Constitutionalism Seminar last week. The Seminar is a unique event that brings together Supreme Court and Constitutional Court judges from around the world. This year eighteen justices spent four days at the Law School meeting with faculty, students, and each other. Each year there are a number of topics selected for discussion. This year’s topics included secrecy and judicial hearings, the design of judicial review, and the relationship between national and transnational constitutional law. The Seminar provides the justices with an opportunity to engage these topics with their peers and leading legal scholars.

While the justices were at the School they also met with students. Justice Anthony Kennedy gave a lecture (more on that later), Justices Stephen Breyer and Kennedy spent time talking with two student groups: the American Constitutional Society and the Federalist Society, and Justice Kate O’Regan of the South African Constitutional Court led a breakfast talk with interested students.

Opportunities like this, while amazing, are not unusual at Yale Law School. A veritable parade of legal luminaries passes through the halls of the School throughout the year. While they’re here to attend or speak at the many lectures, conferences, workshops, and seminars that the School sponsors, they often make time to meet informally with our students. I tell prospective applicants that in order to get an accurate sense of the intellectual offerings of the School, one needs to look beyond the course catalog. Events like the Seminar provide an impressive supplement to a traditional legal education and the opportunity to speak with the individuals helping to shape the law offers an unparalleled educational enrichment. Where else can you have breakfast with a constitutional court justice or have a Supreme Court justice preside over your moot court final?

Confessions of an Admissions Dean
Dear Asha:

I am planning on taking the December 2007 LSAT. Will taking the exam so late hurt my chances of gaining admission for Fall 2008?

S.K., California

Dear S.K.,

            Excellent question.  The short answer is no.

            I realize this contradicts the common wisdom for law school applicants, namely that because most schools have a rolling admissions process in which slots are filled on an ongoing basis, it’s to an applicant’s advantage to apply as early as possible.  I’ll delve into our file reading process, which also involves offering admission on a rolling basis, in more detail soon.  But for now let me just say that based on the way we distribute files for review  – which is unique, as far as I am aware – your admission chances stay more or less constant throughout the season.  The most important thing is to have the strongest application possible, and if that means you need until December to prepare for and take the LSAT, so be it.

            There are a couple of disadvantages to taking the December LSAT.  The first is that it is the last LSAT you can take in order to apply for Fall 2008.  So, if you are unhappy with your score for any reason, you either have to apply with what you’ve got or take the test again and wait to apply next year.  The second is that since our application volume increases as we approach the deadline, and since our review process is fairly lengthy to begin with (we are very thorough), the later you apply, the longer the delay between when your application becomes complete and when you receive a decision.  I mention this because some applicants receive scholarships with early deadlines from other schools, and depending on where your application is in the review process, we may be unable to expedite a decision based on such factors.

            Finally, let me add a personal note about getting too anxious about the LSAT.  Sometimes, when I am wading through hundreds of LSDAS reports, I have flashbacks to my own LSAT trauma back in 1995 (you don’t need to do the math, I’m 32).  It was the last section, and I felt really good, having just eaten the Rice Krispies treat I had diligently packed for energy over the break.  I sped through the last section just in time, sat back, and handed my test to the proctor…only to notice to my horror as I handed over the test that I HAD BUBBLED 27 ANSWERS TO 26 QUESTIONS.  Yeah, those words went through my mind, too.

            Whatever I wrote in the writing portion was jibberish, since at that point I was sobbing uncontrollably.  I went home, tortured myself over whether to cancel my score, ultimately decided to keep it (it was the September test, see paragraph 2), and then spent the next six weeks wearing sweatpants and staring at the ceiling of my dorm room.  This was back when you had to wait for your results to come in the mail.  Yes, like in an envelope.

Anyway, the story ends well, i.e., I got into law school (though I still have major issues with Scantron answer sheets).  The point is that I was once a neurotic law school applicant myself, and in the words of a famous Yalie, I feel your pain.  But it’ll be fine…trust me.

-- Asha

 To submit questions, please write to 203blog@yale.edu.

Posted: Sep 29 2007, 09:41 PM by asha
Filed under: ,
Elm City Eats: SO Much Better Than Your Average Pub Food

Christopher Martins Pub
860 State Street
http://www.christophermartins.com/

Location and décor:  East Rock, the "Grad Ghetto", probably a 15 minute walk from YLS.  Traditional pub interior, with a few tables outside if you want to people-watch.

Items Sampled:

-Steak Wrapped Asparagus
-Mesclun Greens with Pecans, Blue Cheese, and Pears
-Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwich on Focaccia - "Christopher Martins' Best Sandwich"

Though my expectations were rather modest when I arrived at the pub for a Sunday night bite, I left Christopher Martins full, content, and rather surprised.  I was prepared to "dine" on greasy chicken fingers, fries, or perhaps a hamburger ... you know, your typical pub food.  The game was on the TV set and a group at the bar behind us was doing shots and roaring in drunken laughter.

The steak wrapped asparagus is an appetizer worthy of some of New Haven's "best" restaurants.  The asparagus was warm, with the perfect amount of thinly sliced steak wrapped around the stem.  It was accompanied by a bed of jicama salad that was gobbled up almost as fast.

The pear, pecan, and blue cheese salad had such light, varied, and complimentary flavors that I had seconds, and thirds.  The pear was perfectly grilled and served warm; the pecans were candied, but not too sweet; and the dressing light and flavorful.  I really would have been happy simply with the appetizers, but I felt compelled to try "Christopher Martins' Best Sandwich", grilled chicken on focaccia.

I must admit, I'm a sucker for focaccia - you could stick a slice of bologna on focaccia and I'd be happy.  But, the sandwich was tasty (though it probably would have been even better had I let them put their pesto mayonnaise on it) and I was perfectly content.  I'm not qualified to say that it's their best sandwich, at least until I try a few more, but I am looking forward to going back again. 


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"Hey, lady! You call him Dr. Jones!"

This summer New Haven played host to filming for the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones film franchise.  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was shot in various locations in New Haven and at Yale University.  Virtually overnight, downtown New Haven was transformed into a 50’s-era city, complete with vintage storefronts, period vehicles, and extras that appeared to have walked out of a Norman Rockwell print.  Spectators from across Connecticut and surrounding states flocked to New Haven to look at the city transformed, try out as extras, and perhaps catch a glimpse of Harrison Ford.  Ford sightings abounded, but most proved to be his stunt double.  I didn’t see Ford (or his double), but I did have dinner two tables down from George Lucas, who refused to refund the money I spent seeing those awful Star Wars prequels.

The Law School was the site for several days of shooting. The faculty dining room and the seminar corridor became sets for the fictional Marshall College, the school at which Indiana Jones teaches.  The scenes shot at the Law School were tame compared to the motorcycle chase filmed inside of neighboring Sterling Memorial Library (we’ve been assured that no animals or 14th-century illuminated manuscripts were harmed in the filming of the movie).  I’m certain the Law School would have hosted more action-packed scenes had they chosen to film a few years ago, prior to our $110 million renovation which rid the School of most of its snakes, falling stones, and spiked pitfalls.

Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to post photos of the actors, sets, or actual filming.  So, please enjoy this captivating photo of Associate Dean Mike Thompson coordinating filming at the Law School with Location Assistant Tim Slacker.  A quick Google search should produce more interesting photos.

Indiana Jones may be in the vanguard of movies filming in New Haven during the next few years.  Drawn by the proximity to NYC (1 hour by car, 1.5 by train), the picturesque architecture of Yale’s campus, and the generous tax breaks recently offered by the Connecticut State Legislature, studios are looking to New Haven as a site for their productions like never before.  In fact, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro were in the area a few weeks ago shooting a heartwarming film entitled Righteous Kill.

So, the next time you’re in New Haven you may find yourself rubbing elbows with Hollywood glitterati (or their stunt doubles), dodging a motorcycle chase in the library, or waiting in line at a casting call for extras.  And while you’re enjoying your dinner at one of New Haven’s many terrific restaurants, look around – you may be dining next to a star.

 

On the Road Again

Dear Asha,

I plan to apply to Yale Law School this fall and have some questions about your courses and programs.  I’ve looked through your website, but it would be really helpful to talk with someone from the Admissions Office.  I live in Atlanta and won’t be able to visit in person – would it be best to call?

R.S., Atlanta, GA

Dear R.S.,

            Though we would love to gab with you, the honest truth is that if you call, we won’t be able to get back to you for a while.  The fall is our recruiting season, so we are out of the office most of the time (and when we are here, we’re frantically gearing up for the next trip!).

            The good news is that since you live in Atlanta, you can chat with one of us at the LSAC Forum in Atlanta on Friday and Saturday, October 26 and 27.  Someone from the Admissions Office will also be at each of the other LSAC Forums in Boston, New York, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco (for a complete list of dates and locations, please visit www.LSAC.org) as well as at law fairs in Miami and Philadelphia.   We’ll also be making visits to several individual schools – please check our recruiting schedule to see whether we’ll be coming to your city or campus this fall.

            If our paths won’t be able to cross at one of our recruitment events, you can send your question to admissions.law@yale.edu.  We’ll respond as soon as we are able, though given our email volume it may take a few days.  If you have a question which you think may be relevant to other applicants, you can send it to 203blog@yale.edu, and I will answer it here.  I hope we’ll get a chance to meet sometime this fall!

-- Asha
Posted: Sep 21 2007, 04:55 PM by craigj
Filed under: ,
PWG: Blowing Other Gyms Out of the Water

    I’m quite certain my grandfather didn’t intend for his twelve gauge pump-action shotgun to be handed down to me.  In fact, after nearly thirty years without ever so much as touching a firearm, I never expected to find myself shooting a clay target, then jumping up and down at the victory with a shotgun in my hands.

    Skeet and trap shooting is just one of the more interesting courses offered through Yale’s Payne Whitney Gym (PWG).  I suppose being the second largest gym in the world has something to do with that.  This year I also took classes in Pilates and horseback riding.  Yes, Yale has its own Equestrian and Polo Center for equine enthusiasts, a fly tying course for fishermen, an Outdoor Education Center for campers, and ballet classes for dancers.  (For a complete list of facilities and classes, click here.)

    In all honesty, the biggest single factor helping me get through a New England winter with a smile on my face has been PWG.  Just one block from the Law School, there is really no excuse for missing a day, even on the snowiest of days.  I have run into YLS students, staff, and even faculty at the fitness center; on the flip side, I’ve met law school applicants at the barn and at the shooting range.

    In the fall PWG offers a much talked about deep-sea fishing course and we take a chartered boat out to where the Long Island Sound opens into the Atlantic.  Although I’m a bit squeamish about baiting my hooks, I can’t wait to sign up!

 


 Sarah skeet shooting in a course offered by the Payne Whitney Gymnasium

The Paper Chase

Dear Asha,

I went to the Washington, D.C. law fair last July and picked up a Yale brochure, but I don’t see an application inside.  Where can I get one?

T.M.

Dear T.M.,

             Thanks for stopping by our table at the D.C. Forum and picking up a viewbook!  You can also obtain a copy of our viewbook online, and if you have some time we encourage you to take a tour through our website, which can answer many of your questions about the academic programs and events at the Law School.

            Since last year, we’ve gone completely electronic with our applications, so you won’t find a paper application in the viewbook or online.  You can access our e-app at www.LSAC.org.  The application fee is $75; if you are applying for a need-based fee waiver, you should send an email requesting a fee waiver form to admissions.law@yale.edu.  You should return this form along with your certification letter.

            We’ll be addressing the components of our application in more detail in the coming weeks, but please note that our application is different from most schools’ in that we require not one, but two essays.  One is the 250-word essay, which many students find to be both challenging and extremely fun to write (OK, maybe "extremely" is stretching it a little, but people do find it fun).  The other required essay is a personal statement, for which most applicants submit the personal statement they have written for their other applications.  We’ll send you an email once we receive your application, and will keep you updated on anything that’s missing until it is complete.  Good luck!

-- Asha

To submit questions, please email 203blog@yale.edu

Posted: Sep 17 2007, 02:24 PM by sarah
Filed under: ,
New Beginnings

Yale Law School recently welcomed its 196th-ish class of students.  Before classes began on September 5, the 189 members of the Class of 2010 enjoyed a weeklong orientation program designed to introduce them to the study of law and help acclimate them to New Haven and life at YLS.  Throughout the week incoming students enjoyed meeting each other, upperclassmen, and their professors.

Orientation events included Dean Koh's convocation, a reception at the Yale Center for British Art, Shakespeare in the Park, lectures by YLS faculty as part of the Dean's Introductory Lecture Series, a carnival, and, capitalizing on New Haven's claim to the best pizza in the country, a pizza party in the courtyard which, sadly, did not feature the best pizza in New Haven.  Orientation wrapped up with a hike and picnic with Dean Koh in Sleeping Giant State Park, a journey that will be repeated at the end of these students' final term, book ending their time at the Law School.

In his welcome Dean Koh enumerated some of the details about this year's incoming class.  The Class of 2010:

  • has representatives from 72 undergraduate institutions
  • lived or worked in 65 countries (1/3 of the world's countries)
  • earned 35 Masters degrees, 13 doctoral degrees, and 14 foreign academic fellowships
  • speaks and reads 25 languages

During his speech Dean Koh emphasized that this is a community committed to excellence, humanity, and service, and that students here are committed to each other.  He offered many pieces of advice to the class as they took their first steps into the legal profession, but one especially resonated with the students to whom I spoke:  the people who will teach you the most during your time at YLS, the people who will get you through law school, are your classmates.  You'll draw upon the personal, professional, and educational experiences of your fellow students to make the most of your time at YLS.  Scanning through the backgrounds of the incoming class, it's not difficult to imagine how their skills can help you succeed in law school:

  • eight marathon runners (wake up, dress, and make it to class in under 10 minutes)
  • a cartoonist (doodle professionally in class)
  • a fingerpainter (doodle professionally in the Dining Hall)
  • an Army Reservist, a competitive wrestler, and six martial artists (easily obtain paper extensions)
  • a competitive figure skater and a former member of the U.S. National Speedskating team (navigate New Haven winters)
  • Miss Venezuela beauty pageant staffer (look your best for the winter formal)
  • cryptanalyst (decipher professors' comments scrawled on your exams)
  • an internationally ranked Minesweeper player (pass time in class in a meaningful fashion)
  • a professional gambler (ditto)
  • a ballet dancer and a belly dancer (entertain the class when it's your day to be "on call")
  • a pool inspector (??? If you have a suggestion for this one, email us at 203blog@yale.edu)

Dean Koh accurately summed up the entering class in his convocation:

"You are, quite simply, the finest group of entering law students assembled anywhere on the planet this year.  Each year, one school in the world gets to say that, and this year, happily, it is us."

 

Dean Koh announces the winners of the raffle held during the orientation carnival

 

 

 The Law School community enjoys traditional carnival fare during orientation

Welcome to 203!
    We know, we know.  It seems that there’re just too many law school admissions blogs to read as you prepare to submit your applications this year.  Given the amount of “required reading” you have – in addition to studying for the LSAT, writing essays, and oh, by the way, keeping up your schoolwork or your job – we thought we’d mix it up a little here in New Haven to make things a bit more interesting.

    First, if you’re visiting this blog, you’re probably most interested in our admissions process, as well as information on the reasons why Yale might be a great fit for you.  So we’re going to focus on these topics by offering three columns.  The first, “Ask Asha,” will answer your questions about applying to Yale and the courses and programs offered here.  You can submit your questions to  203blog@yale.edu – I will get to as many as I can!  In addition, our Director of Admissions, Craig Janecek, will provide regular updates (a “Craig’s List,” if you will) on people and events of note at the Law School.  Finally, Associate Director of Admissions, Sarah Arimoto-Mercer, will give you a glimpse of life in New Haven through  “Sarah and the City,” a column about activities, restaurants, and social events around town.

    We know you are also interested in hearing about student life here at YLS.  Rather than ask students to filter their thoughts through the “official” lens of the Admissions Office, we have created a separate Student Perspectives Blog where students will offer their honest input on a number of student issues.  We hope that you’ll find both of these blogs informative and that you’ll decide to apply to YLS this fall!

Asha Rangappa
Dean of Admissions, YLS