Yale Law School vs. Harvard Law School
Yale Law School
P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
Application Deadline: Feb. 28, 2014
Annual Tuition: $51,350
Class of 2016 Stats:
Acceptance Rate: 8.8%
Total Applicants: 2,684
Students of Color: 39%
Average Age: 24
Total Full-Time Enrollment: 615
Median LSAT: 173
LSAT Scores (25th-75th percentile): 170-176
Median GPA: 3.90
GPA Scores (25th-75th percentile): 3.82-3.97
Employed at Graduation: 90.7%
Employed Nine Months Later: 95.4%
Bar Passage: 96.2%
Average Pay: $$100,188
Yale University’s Law School is the undisputed best school to become a lawyer in the U.S. Ever since U.S. News & World Report began ranking law schools in 1987, Yale has almost always been No. 1.
“As of today, as of this instant, everything will begin to change. Our task, in the next three years, is to take the magnificent kaleidoscope that presently shines in this auditorium, and, turn by turn, to knit you together, each to the other.”
And with those words, Yale Law School Dean Robert C. Post welcomed the latest Class of 2016 to the world’s No. 1 law school. The 199 J.D. students hail from four different countries, 33 different states, and 72 different undergraduate institutions. Included among the members of the class is a competitive synchronized swimmer, a foreign policy advisor and speechwriter, a sketch writer from 30 Rock, a police drill instructor, a Thai restaurant chef, and a certified bartender. Collectively, the Class of 2016 speaks 31 different languages and holds 42 advanced degrees ranging in subjects from Biochemistry to Poetry.
In short, Yale’s extremely high admissions standards and ultra-low acceptance rate assures that every member of the incoming class will be in the company of an extraordinary group of truly exceptional people. You’ll get to know them well at Yale because the average class size is under 25 students.
With nearly 200 courses taught by more than 60 full-time faculty and dozens of visiting and adjunct professors, the school has no shortage of specialties, from administrative law and public policy to public interest law. Though there are no specific areas of concentration, you can study just about any aspect of the profession over your three-year course of study.
Indeed, YLS has fewer required classes than many other schools. After the first semester, students are free to specialize and have only a few other requirements to complete before graduation. So YLS students can specialize early and dive deeply into a subject area they feel passionate about–whether at the law school or in the wider graduate school community at Yale.
Some quip the hardest part of Yale Law School is simply getting accepted. After all, the school doesn’t have traditional letter or numerical grades and there is no set grading curve. The first-term courses are ungraded, and subsequent classes are graded by honors, pass, and low pass. Even so, YLS is an extremely challenging place and will test you in ways that will stretch you, from a professor’s Socratic questioning in class to the difficult exams you’ll be required to take.
Applicants will especially find useful the school’s (203) Admissions Blog, particularly the P.S. Boot Camp series, which offers smart advice on how to avoid some of the major mistakes in law school applications.
Yale Law School is unusual among law schools because it has historically produced leaders in all walks of life: distinguished deans and faculty members at law schools across the country and the world; industry CEOs and corporate counsels; founders of nongovernmental organizations and other nonprofit entities; entrepreneurs; government servants in federal, state, and local offices and the judiciary. Among the school’s graduates are U.S. Presidents and Supreme Court Justices.
The latest employment stats for the Class of 2012 show that the single largest chunk of the grads–41%– accept judicial clerkships. Some 36% landed jobs with law firms, while 11% took public interest and public defender jobs. About 4% went directly into business and industry, while another 4% pursued academia.
Average starting pay was $100,188 but varied widely depending on job choice. For YLS grads headed into private practice, the starting pay was $156,320 a year versus $60,432 for those who became judicial clerks.
How Yale Compares Vs. Peer Law Schools
|2013 TTS Rank||2||3||5||1||11||12|
|Employed At Grad||90.7%||90.9%||93.2%||93.2%||90.6%||93.1%|
Source: Schools reporting to U.S. News
Academics & Programs: It’s hard to beat Yale Law School, where the atmosphere is “highly intellectual” and classes are mostly “small” (first-year classes vary in size from fifteen to ninety students). One of the many uniquely cool things about Yale is that “there aren’t very many required courses.” All 1Ls must complete course work in constitutional law, contracts, procedure, and torts. There’s also a small, seminar-style legal research and writing course, and that’s pretty much it. Best of all, there are “no grades.” First semester classes are graded pass/ fail. After first semester, there is some semblance of grades but, since Yale doesn’t keep track of class rank, it’s not a big deal.
Academically, “This is the best place in the world.” “It’s easy to learn about whatever you’re interested in, from medieval European law to helping immigrants in the modernday United States,” says one student. Yale is home to cutting-edge centers and programs galore. Clinical opportunities are vast and available “in your first year,” which is a rarity. You can represent family members in juvenile neglect cases, provide legal services for nonprofit organizations, or participate in complicated federal civil rights cases. It’s also “easy” to obtain joint-degrees or simply “cross-register for other classes” at Yale. A particularly unique program allows students to get a joint-degree at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton.
Student report that the administration is “generally friendly.” Word on the faculty is mixed. “I love all my professors,” beams a 2L. “They will help me with anything.” Nearly all agree that “most professors are delighted to help you.” When jobs and clerkships are on the line, it’s not uncommon for professors to personally make calls on behalf of students “to high-profile firms or government officials.” Other students, however, tell us the faculty isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. “Quality teaching is not valued enough,” gripes a critic. “Professors are hired based on their scholarship rather than their ability to teach or their interest in interacting with students.”
Employment prospects are simply awesome. A degree from Yale virtually guarantees “an easy time finding a good job” and a lifetime of financial security. There is “very solid career support” (including “lots of free wine” at recruiting events). But did you know that Yale prolifically produces public interest attorneys? It’s true. Every one of Yale’s graduates could immediately take the big firm route but, each year, hordes of them don’t. Yale “encourages diverse career paths” and “nontraditional routes” (“especially in academia and public interest”) and annually awards dozens of public interest fellowships to current students and newly minted grads. There’s a “great” loan forgiveness program too.
Campus Life/Facilities: Facilities are phenomenal. Yale boasts wireless Internet access throughout the Law School, wireless common areas, and perhaps the greatest law library in the history of humanity. “The research facilities are spectacular.” Aesthetically, “Everything is beautiful,” especially if you are into “wood paneling, stained glass windows, and hand-carved moldings.” “If you care about architecture and Ivy League ambiance, come to Yale.”
Though the student population “is a bit Ivy heavy,” it doesn’t necessarily follow that everyone is wealthy. Approximately eighty percent of the lucky souls here receive financial assistance of some kind. It does follow, however, that students are pretty conceited about their intelligence and their privileged educational status. “If egos were light, an astronaut on the moon would have to shade his eyes from the glare of New Haven,” analogizes one student. “I’m not sure there’s a cure for that, but it might not be wise to tell us in the first week of torts that many of us will wind up on the federal bench.”<p>“There are parties,” swears a 1L. However, for many students, the social scene at Yale is simply an extension of academic life. Lectures and cultural events of all kinds are, of course, never-ending.
The surrounding city of New Haven is lively in its own way and New York City and Boston are both easily accessible by train. On campus, Yale offers an “encouraging environment” and a “wonderful community.” “Because of the small size of each class and the enormous number of activities, it is incredibly easy to get involved with journals (even the Journal) and any other student group you might want to try.” “Students are very engaged and motivated, but not generally in a way that stresses everyone else out,” explains one student. “The no-grades policy for first semester completely eliminates the competition I expect exists at other schools.” “People ask me what law school is like, and I can honestly say, ‘I work pretty hard, but it’s fun,’” says a satisfied student. “Then those people stare at me oddly, and maybe they’re right that ‘fun’ isn’t exactly the right word. But I’ve found it enriching and enjoyable and the people I’ve met here have been great.”
* The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.
Harvard Law School
1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
Application Deadline: Feb. 1, 2014
Annual Tuition: $52,350
Class of 2016 Stats:
Acceptance Rate: 15.6%
Total Applicants: 5,510
Students of Color: 40%
Total Full-Time Enrollment*: 1,727
Median LSAT: 173
LSAT Scores (25th-75th percentile): 170-175
Median GPA: 3.88
GPA Scores (25th-75th percentile): 3.77-3.95
Employed at Graduation*: 90.9%
Employed Nine Months Later*: 93.7%
Bar Passage*: 97.5%
“Look to your left, look to your right, because one of you won’t be here by the end of the year,” one Harvard Law School dean allegedly said. For a long time, HLS has both enjoyed and suffered from a reputation for competitiveness, bolstered in pop culture by films like “Legally Blonde” and “The Paper Chase.” Today, though, the school projects a very different image. In a recent admissions blog post, Christopher Liedl, a 1L blogger, answered a prospective student’s question—“What’s been your most memorable HLS experience?”—by writing about a ski trip with 40 of his sectionmates. It was “a great mix of relaxation and activity,” the student wrote, describing activities that ranged from skiing and sledding to making hot chocolate and debating.
As idyllic as Liedl’s trip sounds, applicants seeking a small, cozy school should probably think twice about picking HLS. The Class of 2016 contains 560 students divided into seven sections of about 80 each. Students spend nearly their entire first year taking required classes within these sections. Still, the school does do a few things to help the newbies transition. For example, during their 1L year, students can participate in small, specialized, faculty-led reading groups of 10 to 12 students.
In their 2L and 3L years, the school’s size works in students’ favor: they have plenty of time to take electives in seven well-defined tracks. HLS offers more classes than any other law school. Researching the material shouldn’t be a problem either, as students can simply drop by the largest law library in the world. As for non-law interests? There are more than 100 different student organizations.
That variety extends to the student body. The Class of 2016 includes students from 42 states, 12 foreign countries and 171 different undergraduate institutions—schools from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to Harvard College itself. Students who don’t mind the big pond can enjoy rubbing elbows with classmates who’ve already accomplished quite a bit. In March, Business Insider compiled a list of “the most impressive students at Harvard Law School right now.” It names a tech startup founder, a U.S. Navy flight instructor, a published novelist and an impressive number of activists.
The list of HLS alumni is even more impressive; after all, President Barack Obama is on it. The school’s connections allow students to meet and network with some of the country’s most prominent figures—sometimes on very short notice. Earlier this year, Chief Justice John Roberts held a surprise 40-minute Q&A session in a 1L class.
Though the majority of the Supreme Court Justices have attended HLS, most alumni don’t go into public service. In the Class of 2012, 328 graduates took jobs at law firms, with 261 of them flocking to Big Law. Still, a full 131 graduates took judicial clerkships, nearly all of them federal. Whichever path graduates choose, their prospects aren’t too shabby. According to the latest employment statistics, the median public service starting salary for HLS graduates is $57,408, and the median private sector starting salary is $160,000—a sum even Harvard Business School students might envy.
*Derived from school-reported U.S. News data
Academics & Programs: Harvard Law School—perhaps you’ve heard of it?—is like the land of Oz for aspiring lawyers, where “anything you want exists.” Indeed, the school has plenty of funding for student scholarships, interests, and activities, and the opportunities for “public service, research and publication, faculty mentor relationships, editorial, moot court, or legal aid experience, and international study and service options are endless.” The “you name it, it’s on the menu” mentality is definitely present for most students, and humility can (understandably) be a bit short in supply. “Harvard is Harvard. This is…simply a reinforcing circle of virtue, i.e., you get brilliant professors, amazing students, interesting courses, great opportunities, attracting brilliant professors and amazing students, etc.”
The “abundance of resources” available here lends itself to excellent support for public interest law, including a formidable public interest advising group, who “do a lot to build the community.” “Though there’s a lot of pressure to take a firm job, the counselors at [the public interest office] do a heck of a job fighting back. They’ll chase you down in the hall and tell you it’s time to start applying for fellowships, clerkships, and jobs,” says a student. “When employers start cutting their recruiting classes, the last place they cut is HLS,” says another. Everyone agrees that the economy has taken its toll, though—the ice skating rink closed—and “While the Harvard name will open doors, students still have to put in work and make sure that they are putting their best foot forward.”<p>Though each HLS class is hefty in size, it actually creates an “atmosphere of conversation and collaboration.” “Because our class is so big, there is always a critical mass for any interest, activity, or cause students want to pursue,” says a 2L. “I was a little concerned entering this school that its size would be intimidating or overwhelming, but in fact I’ve found that its size is one of its greatest strengths,” agrees a 1L.
As expected, the courses offered are top-notch, with “a lot of very random options” to diversify the curriculum, though many students wish there was “more emphasis on practical lawyering skills,” not to mention an alternative to the “arcane and mysterious” registration system. Though in recent years, a sizeable portion of the faculty has “fled to Washington, D.C., to work on Change,” students are “still terribly spoiled to have as many wonderful professors as we do.” According to a student, “O[bama] left us a couple of our best profs,” and plenty of “superstar” professors remain at Harvard, and “everyone is extremely accomplished and an expert in his/her field.” “Not everyone is a natural teacher,” but “Most of them are approachable and have interesting insights into the law (and many other areas).” There are also many research assistant and student writing opportunities offered.
Campus Life/Facilities: The administration is “very flexible and willing to work with students as circumstances arise,” and the school “really strives to please students, even in tough economic times.” Classroom buildings are “often ugly, but all are nicely equipped and in good condition,” research facilities “could not be better,” and the library—the largest law library in the world, by the way—is “huge and lovely, with a staggering quantity of books.” In other words, don’t come to this corner of Boston if you’re looking for the entire package of “sunshine, butterflies and architectural triumphs”—”There are reasons to come here; aesthetic bliss is not one of them.”
is most definitely “a lot of underlying stress and tension” at HLS, but “It’s never about beating your classmates.” While Harvard isn’t the same cutthroat school of the Paper Chase era, “There are still quite a few gunners”; however. As you hit your second year, “Everyone has relaxed a bit and gotten comfortable with their law school identities.”
It’s “very easy to find a great group of friends” because people are “generally fun and good-humored (in addition to being extremely smart and accomplished).” There is a Bar Review every week, and “The student government and other organizations host happy hours and other social events.” While the size of the school means that students “wouldn’t say the school as a whole has a strong general sense of community,” it does provide a larger potential pool for friends, and students “are able to find a sense of community by joining various organizations.” Be careful—students often “overwhelm themselves with extracurricular activities.”<p>Students tend to be “quite liberal,” but “One of the biggest surprises at HLS is how acceptable it is to be a conservative,” as students here “tend to be tolerant and accepting of people despite their gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.” “It’s very cooperative—there’s a definite feeling of ‘we’re all in this together,’” says a 1L.
* The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.