Of the 199 students that matriculated to Yale Law School this year, 23 graduated from Yale College.
This year’s figure is consistent with the past several years, during which the number of Yale College graduates entering YLS ranged from 23 to 33. Students and faculty interviewed credited this track record to Yale College’s strong liberal arts curriculum. Professors and administrators at the Yale Law School confirmed that students with well-rounded academic backgrounds often make the best applicants for law school, and students interviewed who are interested in law said they are confident in their chances for securing admission to law school following graduation.
“At Yale we are known for many things but maybe pre-eminently for liberal education,” said Akhil Amar ’80 LAW ’84, who teaches both at Yale College and at YLS. “At Yale Law School, Yale College is consistently one of our best appliers.”
Due to their varied academic background, Yale College students are often some of the best applicants to YLS, YLS director of admissions Craig Janecek said. Though the lack of a defined pre-law track at Yale might cause anxiety among students, Janecek said institutions with pre-law tracks do not generally produce the strongest candidates for YLS. Janecek said this is not because these institutions are not top-tier ones, but because the pre-law track is often a “homogenizing factor” and it makes it more difficult for students to distinguish themselves.
Still, YLS professor Peter Schuck said relying on their first-rate academic training to get into law school could disadvantage Yale students by putting them on equal footing with students from other top institutions.
Extracurricular organizations such as the debate and mock trial teams, along with the Yale Political Union, may help some students prepare for a legal career, Dean of Yale College Mary Miller said.
Amar teaches “Constitutional Law,” a course that many undergraduates interested in the legal discipline take each year. Though his course may also serve to augment Yale College students’ pre-law resumes, Amar said the class is more importantly part of the varied liberal arts curriculum that makes Yale undergraduates such strong candidates for law school.
“When you come to a place like Yale, you should encounter Shakespeare, and Newton, and Darwin and the American Constitution.” Amar said. “It’s a perfect part of the classical liberal education.”
Camy Anderson ’14, who is currently applying to law schools, said that unlike students anticipating medical school, applicants to law school are not responsible for a body of technical knowledge so much as analytical thinking skills. Most Yale classes can teach students to think critically, she said.
Amar said liberal arts education composed of courses like “Constitutional Law” also enables students to experiment with the legal discipline and decide if they are truly interested in it.
Students interviewed echoed this sentiment. Robert Batista ’15, for example, said taking Amar’s class cemented his desire to go to law school.
Brad Rosen ’04 GRD ’04, who teaches undergraduate courses on the intersection of law and technology, said the preprofessional nature of a pre-law track would tamper with Yale students’ self-discovery. Many students also go to law school for the wrong reasons, perhaps because they want to postpone making decisions about their careers, Rosen said, adding that a pre-law track would only reinforce this mindset.
“It lets you kick the can down the road,” he said.
Still, Juliann Jeffrey ’14, a psychology major who is president of the Yale Pre-Law Society, said that she would like to see Yale giving law school applicants more support, like it does with prospective medical school students. She added that she revived the Yale Pre-Law Society this year in part to make up for this lack of support.
Rosen said if he could change one thing about Yale’s approach to pre-law, he would emulate Harvard’s system and provide prospective law students with student advisors from YLS.
In the past five years, the highest number of students to enter Yale Law School from Yale College was 33 in 2010.