Yale Law School

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Yale Law School
Coat of arms of Yale Law School
Parent school Yale University
Established 1824; 199 years ago (1824)
School type Private law school
Endowment $1.2 billion
Parent endowment $25.6 billion[1]
Dean Heather K. Gerken
Location New Haven, Connecticut, United States
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Enrollment 629[2]
Faculty 149[2]
USNWR ranking 1st (2023)[3]
Bar pass rate 99%[3]
Website law.yale.edu

Yale Law School (Yale Law or YLS) is the law school of Yale University, a private Ivy League research university in New Haven, Connecticut. It was established in 1824 and has been the top-ranked law school in the United States by U.S. News & World Report every year since the magazine began publishing law school rankings in the 1980s.[4] One of the most selective academic institutions in the world, the 2020-21 acceptance rate was 4%, the lowest of any law school in the United States.[5] Its yield rate of 87% is also consistently the highest of any law school in the United States.[6]

Yale Law alumni include many prominent figures in law and politics, including United States presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton and former U.S. secretary of state and presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. Alumni also include current United States Supreme Court associate justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor and Brett Kavanaugh, as well as a number of former justices, including Abe Fortas, Potter Stewart and Byron White; several heads of state, including Karl Carstens, the fifth president of Germany, Jose P. Laurel, the third president of the Republic of the Philippines; and Peter Mutharika, the immediate former president of Malawi; five current U.S. senators; the former governor of California and immediate former governor of Rhode Island and current United States Secretary of Commerce; and the current deans of two of the top fourteen-ranked law schools in the United States: Virginia and Cornell.

Each class in Yale Law's three-year J.D. program enrolls approximately 200 students. Yale's flagship law review is the Yale Law Journal, one of the most highly cited legal publications in the United States. According to Yale Law School's ABA-required disclosures, 83% of the Class of 2019 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required or JD-advantage employment nine months after graduation, excluding solo practitioners.[7]


The school began in the New Haven law office of Seth P. Staples in the 1800s, who began training lawyers. By 1810 he was operating a law school. He took on a former student, Samuel J. Hitchcock as a law partner, and Hitchcock became the proprietor of the New Haven Law School, joined by David Daggett in 1824. The Yale Law School shield (shown at the upper right of this page) shows staples and a rampant dog, representing Seth Staples and David Daggett. The school's affiliation with Yale began in the mid-1820s and in 1843, the school's students began receiving Yale degrees.[8]

Daggett went on to serve as mayor of New Haven, U.S. Senator, and judge on Connecticut's highest court. An opponent of education for African Americans and a supporter of colonization, he helped lead opposition to the establishment of a college for African Americans in New Haven and presided over the trial of a woman who ran a boarding school for African American girls.[9]

Sculptural ornamentation on the Sterling Law Building
Yale Law School Class of 1883
Four African-American students, Class of 1921

20th century

A special relationship or connection developed between YLS and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Professors Clark and Frank, among others, became judges on that court. Some of the faculty members who became Second Circuit judges continued to teach courses at YLS and chose their clerks from student graduates. These judges influenced thinking in general at YLS and particularly reinforced student interest in public service, a characteristic tradition at YLS since the New Deal.[citation needed]

Early 21st century

The law school's 15th dean, Harold Koh (2004–2009), made human rights a focus of the law school's work, building on a tradition that had developed over the previous two decades. On March 23, 2009, the White House announced the appointment of Koh to the United States Department of State as the Legal Adviser of the Department of State. Robert C. Post was selected to replace him as dean of the law school.[10]

Yale Law School is housed in the Sterling Law Building, erected in 1931. Modeled after the English Inns of Court, the law building is located at the heart of Yale's campus and contains a law library, a dining hall, and a courtyard.



The institution is known for its scholarly orientation; a relatively large number of its graduates (9%) choose careers in academia within five years of graduation, while a relatively low number (46%) choose to work in law firms five years after graduation.[11] Another feature of Yale Law's culture since the 1930s, among both faculty and student graduates, has been an emphasis on the importance of spending at least a few years in government service.[12] A similar emphasis has long been placed on service as a judicial law clerk upon graduation.[13] Its 7.6:1 student-to-faculty ratio is the third lowest among U.S. law schools.[14]

Yale Law does not have a traditional grading system, a consequence of student unrest in the late 1960s.[15] Instead, it grades first-semester first-year students on a simple Credit/No Credit system. For their remaining two-and-a-half years, students are graded on an Honors/Pass/Low Pass/Fail system. Similarly, the school does not rank its students. It is also notable for having only a single semester of required classes (plus two additional writing requirements), instead of the full year most U.S. schools require. Unusually, and as a result of unique Connecticut State court rules, Yale Law allows first-year students to represent clients through one of its numerous clinics; other law schools typically offer this opportunity only to second- and third-year students.

Students publish nine law journals that, unlike those at most other schools, mostly accept student editors without a competition. The only exception is YLS's flagship journal, the Yale Law Journal, which holds a two-part admissions competition each spring, consisting of a four or five-hour "bluebooking exam," followed by a traditional writing competition. Although the Journal identifies a target maximum number of members to accept each year, it is not a firm number. Other leading student-edited publications include the Yale Journal on Regulation, the Yale Law and Policy Review, and the Yale Journal of International Law.

In November 2013, it was announced that a $25 million donation would bring student dormitory living back onto campus, with renovations to begin in 2018.[16]


Yale Law has been ranked the number one law school in the United States by U.S. News & World Report in every year in which the magazine has published law school rankings.[17] Among U.S. law schools, Yale has the lowest acceptance rate and the highest yield rate—whereas less than 5% of applicants are admitted, about 80% of those who are accepted ultimately enroll, either in the Fall following their acceptance or after a deferral.[18][19][20] It is currently ranked as the second best law school in U.S (behind Harvard) and fourth in the world by the 2016 QS Rankings.[21] The school also saw a greater percentage of its students go on to become Supreme Court clerks between the 2000 and 2010 terms than any other law school, more than double the percentage of the second-highest law school (Harvard Law School).[22] Additionally, a 2010 survey of "scholarly impact," measured by per capita citations to faculty scholarship, found Yale's faculty to be the most cited law school faculty in the United States.[23]


Yale Law School enrolls about 200 new students a year, creating one of the smallest classes among top U.S. law schools. Its small class size and prestige combine to make its admissions process the most competitive in the United States. Half of the class that entered in 2015 had a GPA above 3.93 and/or an LSAT score above 173 (on a possible scale of 120 to 180) or 99th percentile.[24]

After an initial round of screening by the admissions department, approximately 25% of applications are independently evaluated by three different faculty members. Each application is scored from 2–4 at the discretion of the reader. All applicants with a perfect 12 (i.e., a 4 from all three faculty members) are admitted, upon which they are immediately notified by the school. There are also 50–80 outstanding students admitted each year without going through this review process.[25][26]

The LL.M. Program and the Visiting Researchers Program at Yale Law are amongst the smallest and most selective graduate law programs in the United States. Yale Law admits around 25 LL.M. students and around 10 visiting researchers every year.[27] These programs are usually limited to those students who intend to pursue a career in legal academia.

Yale Law admitted only men until 1918.[28]

Clinical programs

The Yale Law School houses over two dozen clinics that allow students to represent clients in real-world legal problems. Participation in clinics is common among Yale Law students, with over 80% of degree candidates participating in clinical activities prior to graduation.[29]

Yale Law's clinics cover a wide range of issue areas and legal fields. Students represent clients before courts at all levels of the federal judiciary, state courts in Connecticut and other states, international tribunals and adjudicative bodies, administrative processes, and private arbitration. The Yale Law School has greatly expanded its clinical programs in recent years, adding eight new clinics during the 2016-2017 academic year.[30]

Summer school with Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas University

Yale Law School signed in June 2011 an Agreement for Collaborative Activities to create an environment for long-term joint research, exchange and programming activities, with Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas University, the direct inheritor of the Faculty of Law of Paris and acting law school of the Sorbonne University.[31] They organize, together with the ESSEC Business School, a summer school in law and economics, the Yale-Paris II-Essec Summer School.[32][33]

Centers and workshops

  • The China Center
  • Yale Law School Center for the Study of Corporate Law
  • Center for Global Legal Challenges
  • Cultural Cognition Project
  • Debating Law and Religion Series
  • Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy
  • Yale Law School Center for Global Legal Challenges
  • Global Health Justice Partnership
  • Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women's Rights
  • Human Rights Workshop: Current Issues & Events
  • Information Society Project
  • The Justice Collaboratory
  • Abdallah S. Kamel Center for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilization
  • Knight Law & Media Program
  • Yale Law School Latin American Legal Studies
  • Yale Center for Law and Philosophy
  • Law, Economics & Organization Workshop
  • Law, Ethics, & Animals Program
  • Legal History Forum
  • Legal Theory Workshop
  • The Arthur Liman Public Interest Program
  • Middle East Legal Studies Seminar
  • John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics and Public Policy
  • Yale Law School Center for the Study of Private Law
  • Quinnipiac-Yale Dispute Resolution Workshop
  • Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice
  • Robina Foundation Human Rights Fellowship Initiative
  • Solomon Center for Health Law & Policy
  • The Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund
  • Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights
  • Workshop on Chinese Legal Reform


Cost and employment

The total cost of attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses) at Yale Law School for the 2021–2022 academic year is $93,923.[35] In 2015, the Law School Transparency estimated debt-financed cost of attendance (including cost of living) for three years is $289,879.[36] According to Law School Data, the average student who borrowed money to attend Yale Law School in the graduating class of 2022 graduated with $143,437 in debt.[37]

The annual total cost of attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees, mandatory university health insurance, and living expenses) at Yale Law School for the 2021–2022 academic year is $93,821.[38]

According to Yale Law School's official 2013 ABA-required disclosures, 78.8% of the Class of 2013 accepted full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation, excluding solo-practitioners.[39] Yale Law School's Law School Transparency under-employment score is 8.4%, indicating the percentage of the Class of 2013 unemployed, pursuing an additional degree, or working in a non-professional, short-term, or part-time job nine months after graduation.[40]

The median salary for a class of 2021 graduate 10 months after graduation was $94,000.[41] and the mean salary for a class of 2021 graduate 10 months after graduation was $136,943.[42]

ABA Employment Summary for 2014 Graduates[43]
Employment Status Percentage
Employed – Bar Passage Required
Employed – J.D. Advantage
Employed – Professional Position
Employed – Non-Professional Position
Employed – Undeterminable
Pursuing Graduate Degree Full Time
Unemployed – Start Date Deferred
Unemployed – Not Seeking
Unemployed – Seeking
Employment Status Unknown
Total of 203 Graduates

The law school was ranked # 17 of all law schools nationwide by the National Law Journal in terms of sending the highest percentage of 2015 graduates to the largest 100 law firms in the US (23.58%).[44]

Notable people

Deans of Yale Law School

  1. 1873–1903 Francis Wayland III[45]
  2. 1903–1916 Henry Wade Rogers
  3. 1916–1927 Thomas Walter Swan
  4. 1927–1929 Robert Maynard Hutchins
  5. 1929–1939 Charles Edward Clark
  6. 1940–1946 Ashbel Green Gulliver[46]
  7. 1946–1954 Wesley Alba Sturges
  8. 1954–1955 Harry Shulman[46]
  9. 1955–1965 Eugene Victor Rostow
  10. 1965–1970 Louis Heilprin Pollak
  11. 1970–1975 Abraham Samuel Goldstein
  12. 1975–1985 Harry Hillel Wellington[46]
  13. 1985–1994 Guido Calabresi
  14. 1994–2004 Anthony Kronman
  15. 2004–2009 Harold Hongju Koh
  16. 2009–2017 Robert C. Post
  17. 2017–present Heather K. Gerken

Current prominent faculty

Dining Hall of the Yale Law School

Notable alumni


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Further reading

External links