With Yale Law School alumni on the United States Supreme Court, holding top government offices and acting as partners in globally-ranked law firms, there is no shortage of prominent alumni to recruit as speakers for current law students. But although high profile speakers and the large crowds they attract are always popular, a new initiative by Dean Harold Hongju Koh has brought in Yale Law alumni to converse with students in a more informal and intimate environment.
Koh developed the Dean’s Program on the Profession earlier this year in the beginning of his term to recognize the range and variety of influence that Yale Law School graduates have had in the world after leaving the school. The series was set up to offer information on both traditional and non-traditional careers and yesterday hosted this year’s last speaker, Fay Vincent LAW ’63, former commissioner of Major League Baseball.
Law school spokesperson Janet Conroy said that the program gives students a chance to meet and chat with some very prominent lawyers who have made “exciting” and sometimes unusual uses of their Yale Law School educations.
“Many of our graduates have had some incredibly rich life experiences and enjoy offering our current students a glimpse of the endless career opportunities available to someone with a Yale Law School degree,” Conroy said.
Conroy said this series is particularly notable not only because it attracts graduates from all different walks of life, but also because the talks are designed to be more intimate. Speakers often talk on a personal level about their life experience, and the environment is conducive to interaction with the audience.
“What is special about the series is the intimacy and the focus on using your education in ways that are personal to you,” Meg Gleason LAW ’05 said, after a talk last Thursday by philanthropist and entrepreneur David A. Jones LAW ’60, of Humana, Inc., a large health care company.
The series began in November, opening with a talk on “Wine Country Practice” by Ralph Mendelson LAW ’55 of Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty. Medelson has worked as a law partner, a vineyard owner and a professional metal sculptor. Other speakers included Jonathan D. Blake LAW ’64 of Covington & Burling and William J. Perlstein LAW ’74 of Wilmer Cutler Hale and Dorr, both of whom spoke in a program on law firm management in a global environment.
Kevin Czinger ’82 LAW ’87, a former Yale football star who served as assistant United States Attorney under Rudolph Guiliani and now heads Fortress Private Equity, a $1.25 billion private equity fund, also gave a talk as part of the series.
Gleason said students have enjoyed the talks thus far. She said it is important to see examples of people who have not only had successful private law careers, but have also been instrumental in their roles as public citizens.
“I certainly think it is great to have graduates who have done interesting things with their law degrees come in and talk to students, because it is quite easy to take the traditional path, and there are certainly more interesting ways to use the legal profession,” Gleason said.
Conroy said that the school has plans to continue the program next year and is already lining up new speakers.
Koh could not be reached for comment for this article.