Pre-law students lack “clear path” in application journeys
Students reflect on resources for prospective law students at Yale College.
Yale Daily News
The number of people who applied to law school nation-wide increased by around 13 percent in 2021, making it the biggest surge in applicants since 2002.
But at Yale College, pre-law students report feeling somewhat lost in their application journeys. The News spoke with a range of prospective law students who noted — for better or worse — the lack of a clear path for students interested in law school at Yale College.
“At Yale, there’s a very clear, distinct distaste for any pre-professional tracks,” said Mariana Collichio ’25. “And because of that, there’s kind of a vacuum where a lot of people that would probably be interested in law would actually end up going into consulting or things like that because there isn’t a clear path.”
Elayne Mazzarella, Director of Pre-law and Alumni Advising at the Office of Career Strategy told the News that OCS hosts workshops with YLS for students interested in attending law school such as recruiting events. OCS recently held their first in-person recruiting event with YLS in three years, Mazzarella added. The office also provides lists of what Yale students do over the summer and where they end up six months out from graduation to give students examples of how their predecessors have navigated the professional world.
Mazzarella also explained that OCS compiles numerous resources for students interested in attending law school. While there is no pre-law track at Yale, Mazzarella said that OCS offers specialized newsletters, information about jobs and internships, networking events and pre-law advising.
“I had one meeting with [an OCS advisor], we talked about basically everything on the law school application,” Hamzah Jhaveri ’23 said. “She was really validating and affirming. However, it wasn’t as informative a meeting as one about financial careers might have been.”
While students agreed that there was no clear academic pre-law track among Yale’s course offerings, not all cited this as a negative.
Jhaveri emphasized that recent trends in law school matriculation encourage students to pursue varied interests before entering law school, with an increasing number of students taking time off before attending. Only 15 percent of Yale Law School’s 2025 class matriculated directly out of undergraduate studies, and 20 percent took five or more years off between undergrad and law school.
“I don’t think Yale necessarily sets up a clear pathway for students interested in pursuing a legal career, but I actually actually think that’s a really awesome thing,” wrote Kelli Hines ’24. “I think that if there was a structured undergrad pre-law program it would be pretty limiting in terms of academic exploration.”
Mazzarella also told the News that Yale is one of the top feeder schools for top law schools, so there are usually quite a few students from Yale that attend Yale Law School. In 2006, the News reported that 86 of Yale Law School’s 600 students were graduates of Yale College. YLS, which has consistently been ranked as the nation’s most selective law school, boasts a 6.9 percent acceptance rate.
Despite this apparent pipeline, Collichio reflected that many of her undergraduate peers were dissuasive when she mentioned an interest in attending law school. According to Collichio, a “corporate emphasis” in undergraduate life means many undergraduates’ view of the legal profession centers around corporate law.
“Law is thought of only in the light of big law, and people have a fundamental distaste for it because those careers are abysmal, and they do lead to higher suicide rates.,” Collichio said. “When I brought this to my colleagues over the summer, who are all recent law school grads or federal judges or prosecutors, they all reacted saying law is great, and there’s so much diversity in it.”
According to a study published by the American Bar Association, about one in five corporate lawyers mostly coming from corporate jobs have considered suicide during their careers.
Jhaveri told the News that he perceived a reluctance from many students to pursue post-graduate options outside of finance and consulting in part due to heavy recruiting efforts from those fields on campus. Jhaveri also highlighted that students with certain financial pressures have less flexibility to consider law and graduate school as options.
Collichio offered a similar observation, attributing it in part to the inaccessibility of student-groups dedicated to pre-law skills like speech and debate.
“The finance world… and other wealth management industries are really capitalizing on a lot of the open questions that undergraduate students are grappling with as they contemplate what to do after college,” Jhaveri said.
It is undoubtedly true that financial security – or its absence – and student debt are two of the biggest barriers for students considering law school after graduation. A YLS initiative called “Launchpad Scholars” announced in early October seeks to offer support for prospective law students facing financial obstacles in their application processes.
The program will open applications for its inaugural class in March of 2023. College students and graduates planning on applying to law school in the fall of 2024 are eligible to apply. Through the year, scholars will have access to extensive resources in preparation for the LSAT, including proctored practice exams and individual review sessions. Additionally, admitted scholars will attend discussions with YLS faculty and staff on important aspects of legal education and careers.
“The Launchpad Scholars Program will provide substantial support to current college students and recent graduates who are thinking about law school but who may not have the tools they need to navigate the law school admissions process,” Associate Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Miriam Ingber LAW ’04 said. “Our goal is to lower barriers to accessing law school and the legal profession.”
The Yale Office of Career Strategy is located at 55 Whitney Ave.