Yale Law School
The information on this page was provided by the law school.
Official Guide to ABA-Approved JD Programs
Yale Law School is an extraordinary community in which to study law. Standing at the intersection of the worlds of thought and action, Yale seeks not only to promote an intellectual understanding of the law, but also to sustain the moral commitments that justice requires.
Extensive student-faculty interactions and institutional flexibility are hallmarks of the Yale Law School experience. Students enjoy countless opportunities for research and writing with professors. The school’s unmatched faculty-to-student ratio allows it to offer a wide range of courses and small classes, with an average class size of approximately 20 students.
The school is also part of one of the world’s great research universities.
Yale University is home to an abundance of intellectual, cultural, social, and athletic activities, all of which are accessible to Yale Law students.
The vitality of Yale Law School depends as much on the knowledge, experience, and interests of its students as it does on its faculty, library, or alumni. The school selects its entering class from applicants with the highest academic qualifications. Within this exceptional group, Yale seeks a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and interests. This diversity is reflected in the many thriving student organizations and student-run journals found at the school.
The faculty at Yale Law School is as broad-ranging in its interests and expertise as it is distinguished. It includes prominent scholars of economics, philosophy, and the social sciences as well as leading specialists in every area of law. More than 70 full-time professors are joined each year by visiting lecturers, adjunct professors from other parts of the university, and practicing lawyers. Additionally, dozens of guest lecturers from around the world—ranging from Luis Moreno Ocampo to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—help to make Yale Law School a vibrant intellectual community.
Facilities and Housing
The Sterling Law Building occupies one city block at the heart of Yale University in downtown New Haven. Constructed in 1929–1931, the building was modeled on the English Inns of Court, with classrooms, a dining hall, faculty offices, and the law library surrounding three pleasant courtyards.
University-affiliated housing is available, but most students live in non-University-affiliated properties close to the Law School. Within a 10-minute walk to the school, students can find housing options ranging from high-rise apartments downtown to Victorian houses in quiet residential neighborhoods.
Curriculum and Grading
The Yale Law School curriculum is very flexible. Students are able to shape their own course of study to satisfy their unique intellectual interests and goals. In the fall semester, all first-year students take classes in constitutional law, contracts, procedure, and torts. One of these classes, which includes instruction in legal research and writing, is a small group of about 17 students. After the first term, students may select any classes they wish, including independent studies, clinics, and courses outside of the Law School. Two major writing projects and courses in criminal law, legal ethics or professional responsibility, and experiential learning are required for graduation.
In order to allow students to concentrate on learning, rather than on grade-point averages, Yale Law School does not use grades in the traditional sense. During the fall of the first year, all classes are credit/fail. In subsequent terms, grades are honors, pass, low pass, and fail, with credit/fail options available. Yale Law School does not calculate class rankings nor does it impose a standardized grading distribution on its courses.
Joint Degrees, Special Programs, and Clinical Opportunities
Yale Law School sees the study of law as interrelated with other intellectual disciplines and with practical experience. The Law School allows a number of joint degrees with other schools and departments at Yale, including JD/MBAs, JD/PhDs, and JD/MDs. Joint degrees and opportunities for intensive semester experiences outside of Yale University are also available.
Yale Law School offers numerous clinical opportunities to all students beginning in the first year. For example, students gain real-world experience participating in the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic, Environmental Protection Clinic, and the Community and Economic Development Clinic. Other clinics, including advocacy for children, immigrants, and tenants, provide opportunities for Yale Law students to work on behalf of clients who cannot afford private attorneys.
Transfer Students and Other Degrees
Students who have completed two semesters of study at another ABA-approved law school may apply to transfer to Yale Law School. Transfer students must complete at least four semesters of work at Yale Law School.
In addition to the JD, Yale Law School offers a PhD in Law, designed to prepare JD graduates for careers in legal scholarship. Foreign lawyers who are interested in teaching law may pursue an LLM degree at the Law School. The Master of Studies in Law (MSL) is a one-year program designed for mid-career professionals and journalists who desire an intensive introduction to the law. Yale also offers a JSD program for the school’s LLM students.
Financial Aid and Loan Forgiveness
Financial aid is awarded solely on the basis of need, and admission decisions are made independent of financial aid decisions. Approximately 70 percent of the student body receives some form of financial aid. A financial aid award may consist of a portion in scholarship grant and a portion in loan; typically, the higher the total financial need, the higher the proportion of scholarship grant. Last year, approximately 60 percent of Yale Law students qualified for scholarship grants, and the median grant was approximately $26,000.
In addition to financial aid during law school, Yale has one of the most generous loan forgiveness programs in the country: the Career Options Assistance Program (COAP). COAP provides grants to help repay the educational loans of graduates who take relatively low-paying jobs, regardless of what those jobs are. Unlike many loan forgiveness programs, COAP includes not only law school loans, but some undergraduate loans as well. Last year, COAP covered $5.2 million worth of loan payments for over 450 graduates.
Yale Law School graduates occupy leadership positions in a tremendous range of fields. The Law School’s Career Development Office helps students explore the unparalleled diversity of opportunities available to them. Most students work for public interest organizations, private firms, or government entities during summer breaks. After graduation, roughly half of each class obtains judicial clerkships. Others work for law firms or corporations, while still others take advantage of public service fellowships available to Yale Law School graduates. In addition, many graduates pursue careers in academia.
The Admission Process
Yale Law School considers every application for admission in its entirety, and no index or numerical cut-offs are used in the admission process. No single element in an application is decisive; the totality of available information about the applicant is taken into account. A personal statement and a 250-word essay on a subject of the applicant’s choice are required. Applicants are encouraged to bring aspects of their personal background or other special characteristics to the attention of the admission committee. Two letters of recommendation are required.
Each application file is first reviewed by the dean of admissions. A group of the most highly rated files is then considered by faculty. Each faculty member rates applications on the basis of the faculty member’s unique criteria; the weight given to various factors is within each reader’s discretion. In a review process unique in legal education, the entire faculty of the Law School reviews applications.
The Law School issues decisions on a rolling basis, but most of its decisions are made in February, March, and April. Unlike traditional rolling admissions processes, an applicant’s chances of admission remain constant throughout the cycle. Use of the wait list varies from year to year, and the list is not ranked until offers are made.