Money, freedom of the press and election polling were among the topics of lively discussion at the Law School’s Alumni Weekend, which drew nearly 1,000 graduates and their family members to New Haven over the weekend.
The annual Alumni Weekend — which took place Thursday through Sunday — was one of the best attended in the school’s history. Alumni attended numerous panel discussions, ranging in topics from “Money and Politics” to “The Internet Influencing Democracy” — all relating to the overall theme of “21st Century Democracy: Elections, Media, Politics.”
The weekend also featured a student-alumni breakfast, tours of the school and a question-and-answer session with Law School Dean Harold Koh.
Some notable alumni present for the weekend’s events included Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 and U.S. Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey LAW ’67.
During the panel on “The Media Covering Elections: Heroes or Villains,” alumni were given a chance to ask questions of journalists from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CBS and Talking Points Memo Blog.
Panelist Henry Weinstein, Legal Affairs Writer for the Los Angeles Times, summarized the overall views of the panel — that journalists can be heroes if they work hard to uncover new information.
“What we’re supposed to do is be in the accountability business,” Weinstein said. “We’re supposed to be the watchdogs of democracy.”
Alumni reacted positively to the panels, which Associate Dean Toni Davis LAW ’92 said were an attempt to recreate the spirit of discussion in which alumni would have engaged as students.
During the question-and-answer session, Koh gave the alumni a presentation of the Law School’s current priorities, student body makeup and happenings on campus.
The entering class can speak and read 25 languages, Koh said in his presentation, exemplifying “the globalization of our student body.”
He said this wide diversity of backgrounds and ideas is also reflected in the Law School’s curriculum.
“We are working hard to globalize our curriculum,” Koh said.
Koh said although other law schools usually put little emphasis on international law or only see it as an economic phenomenon, at Yale Law School, “the study of international law has become both scholarly and clinical.”
In his presentation, Koh also highlighted the Law School’s focus on teaching students so they can work in a variety of roles, rather than just as lawyers.
“Yale Law School has never been interested in just training lawyers,” Koh said. “We have always focused on training leaders, not just in law, but also in related professions.”
Administrators agreed that student initiatives play an important roll in propelling globalization within the Law School.
“We are in the vanguard of trying to think about things in a global way,” Davis said. “Different student groups foster dialogue and exchanges among people of different countries about legal issues.”
These types of dialogues and exchanges occurred throughout the weekend, as students met with alumni during planned breakfast discussions.
Julianna Bentes ’04 LAW ’09, a student organizer for the weekend, said students who volunteered enjoyed talking to alumni and learning about their experiences after graduation.
Alumni said they were glad to learn more about what it is like to be a student at the Law School today, both through Koh’s presentation and their discussions with students.
“I enjoy seeing what the differences are between what students are doing both during and after law school compared to 30 to 40 years ago,” Jeffrey Glekel LAW ’72 said.
Other alumni who attended the Law School before its renovation, which lasted from 1994 to 2000, said the only thing that seems to have changed is the campus itself.
“Although the building has been completely renovated, the values and atmosphere have not changed,” Ann-Elizabeth Purintun LAW ’82 said.
But the most recent Law School renovations – which turned the faculty dining hall into a dean’s office – were for this summer’s filming of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” Koh said, drawing chuckles from the audience.