The Yale LL.M: Settling in

If you keep to my last piece of advice you will not be spending your first half-day in New Haven randomly running around on the lookout for cabs, but you will actually have some time to settle in. This additional time might come in handy. Orientation week, which is just over, will keep you quite busy.

That is, of course, it will only keep you busy, if you interpret orientation to have a social aspect as well. Even with less than 25 classmates (as opposed to 180 at Harvard and 450 at NYU) and about as many future JSDs (juridical science doctors) and visiting researchers it will take you some time to get to know your colleagues and to develop a first and provisory idea of who might be your preferred partners in class and crime for the 10 months to come.

During daytime you will have an endless influx of information hammering down on you, while at night you will have to check out the diners, bars, pubs and clubs of New Haven (don’t worry, there will be more information on this aspect of living in New Haven in the months to come). And do not underestimate the effort it takes to go to Walmart, IKEA or Target by bus or by Yale housing department’s shuttle in order to pimp up the place that will be your home for the next year.

Therefore put something familiar onto the wall.

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(My miniature version of the Bayeux tapestry. Hopefully my experience at Yale will help me to get rich so that I can buy the original and an appropriate dining hall to go along with it.)

And don’t forget to get some Yale paraphernalia

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Again, I would very much recommend that you stick to THE BINDER. It will advise you to arrive at New Haven no later than mid-August. I did not follow this piece of advice and am still recovering, trying to catch up with my various organizational duties (e.g. setting up a bank account, getting a cell phone plan [which by restoftheworld standards is extremely expensive], looking for an affordable bike, installing all kinds of annoying and rebellious software on your mobile devices, signing up for a locker at the gym).

Speaking of which: The Yale gym looks like this:

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(I will write some more on the architectural atrocities that will await you at Yale in one of the next posts).

It is an insanely huge Gymnasium in pseudo gothic style (15+ squash courts, 50 yards swimming pool, two rowing tanks, Sauna etc.). I guess this is what tuition fees are spent on. Although, to be fair, I must admit that tuition apparently only pays for 1/3 of the law school’s expenses (the remaining 2/3 being owed to the generosity of donors most of whom are Yale alumni).

For more on the LL.M. programs at Yale Law, please see the school’s profile on LLM GUIDE.

The Yale LL.M: Getting here

There are several possible meanings that one might attach to this post’s somewhat vague title. I will not, today, be writing about how to get admitted into YLS. To be frank, I don’t know much about it. Nor will I be blogging about the endless paperwork, fundraising and self-(or soul-)selling that took me here. You will soon find out about that yourselves (and I will share some of my thoughts on the admission process well before the end of the December application deadlines). Instead, I will begin with the down-to-earth question of how to – physically – get here.

Unsurprisingly, I took a plane. I recommend flying into New York. Taking the 2-hour MTA train from Grand Central Station to New Haven is a great means of catching one first glimpse of the great city of New York.

It also gives you a good idea of the ease with which you can reach NYC, whenever New Haven should start to feel boring. For those used to bigger cities: Be prepared for a small place! You can virtually walk everywhere and you will know your way around after just a couple of days.

There are, of course, other means of getting here. You can take the shuttle from JFK airport, take AMTRAK from downtown New York Port Authority. Beware though, since the latter is more than twice the price of the MTA train and only slightly faster. I guess you could also fly into Boston and take AMTRAK or Megabus.

Once you arrive in New Haven, please do not take a cab to your place! There is the free Yale Shuttle taking you downtown and to some other places. There is also Uber and Lyft. If you do insist on taking a cab, write down the name of the cab company and your driver. Or just don’t leave your smartphone in the cab, since you will not see it again. I guess this is the message I learned, spending my first few hours in New Haven erring around town on the lookout for the driver in order to retrieve my phone. At least now I know the place.

Preparing for Yale

One good thing about the – by European and I daresay restoftheworld standards – astronomical tuition fees at US law schools is the fact that in return you will get the full care package. There is not a single deadline or item necessary for your stay in the US that will not be mentioned in the carefully assembled admission binder (THE BINDER). There is not a single e-mail that will not be satisfactorily answered within less than 24 hours. You will even receive e-mails urging you to carry along your teddy bear or canned Sauerkraut in case you might experience homesickness or culture shock. So I guess, all I can advise you to do is: Stick to THE BINDER, it will carry you all the way. This even holds true for people like me who lack any logistic talent.

Your BINDER will most likely look like this:

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(In preparation to your LLM this shall be your torah, your bible, your quran, your book of mormons or whatever word of whatever higher being you find yourself believing in.)

One issue that you might especially worry about is health insurance. Like most other law schools, Yale offers its own – by American standards – quite affordable, basic health plan (about $ 1000 per semester). Unlike other law schools, especially Harvard, Yale seems to be very lenient in admitting foreign health insurance carriers, allowing students to waive the default Yale health plan requirement. These waivers are admissible until well into the semester, so – again – do not worry too much about this issue.

For everything else I can only reiterate my essential piece of advice:

Stick to THE BINDER!

For more on the LL.M. programs at Yale Law, please see the school’s profile on LLM GUIDE.

About this blog

I am a law graduate from Germany and will be following the Master of Laws (LLM) program at Yale Law School for the ten months to come. The purpose of this blog is to give you an idea of what it could be like to be studying and living at YLS. I will also try to compile and provide some useful information for prospective LLM-students, visiting researchers and the like. Be advised, however, that diving in and finding out about these things for yourselves will be a crucial part of enjoying your experience. So don’t let me spoil your fun.

This blog is featured on LLM GUIDE, a global, online community for prospective LLM students, and a directory of programs offered worldwide.