Why is Harvard Law School so special

Matthias Roßbach completed his law studies at the Universities of Münster and Cambridge in 2008 as the best in North Rhine-Westphalia. He moved to New Haven / USA in August 2011 for his master’s degree - he received one of 24 places at the renowned Yale Law School. Matthias Roßbach reports in Wissen | Leben which experiences surprised the 27-year-old, especially in the first few weeks at the elite university, under what conditions he studies in the USA and what he particularly appreciates about Yale:

Tony Blair explains the euro crisis to us, Henry Kissinger talks about China, and the portrait of Yale graduate Bill Clinton hangs over our heads: visits from well-known personalities are not uncommon at Yale Law School. But what makes the course so special here can be better described through my experiences from the first few weeks:

We, the students of the master’s course, were welcomed with a boat trip to a professor’s beach villa. Yale selected 24 law graduates from 14 countries for the program. We got to know each other over a picnic in the professor's garden: South Americans, Canadians, an Indian, three Chinese, students from Israel and Iran, an Italian and four Germans, including three alumni of the University of Münster. So we realized that our year at Yale Law School was going to be more than attending lectures.

"The Yale Law School is not only regarded as the best law school in America. It is also a big and very exciting family," a graduate told me beforehand. I quickly felt this atmosphere myself: Right at the beginning of my first seminar, the professor invited the 15 participants to dinner. The seminar topic - The Law of American Politics - is exemplary for the topics at the Yale Law School: Politically, philosophically and historically the law is considered here. My constitutional law course is also a journey through American history.

The discussions are particularly exciting thanks to the American fellow students: former speechwriters for Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush, submarine officers, development workers. Many of the 25-year-old students, on average, have done something extraordinary between college and law school. And so recently several arms went up when a professor asked who could report on his work in the White House.

But what makes Yale Law School an academic "family"? First of all, of course, is the small size of 600 law students and the tuition rate of one professor for seven students. In every course the professor knows us by name and has time for one-on-one discussions. This also means: With course sizes between three and 75 students, you will quickly notice if you have not worked through the extensive "Reading List". Nobody wants that - even if there is practically no printing of notes. In the first semester, no grades are given at the Law School. Those who have succeeded in recording should concentrate more on content than on notes. That doesn't mean less work, but more lightheartedness.

Just as important as the courses are the numerous events organized by student groups. With free lunch, there are several discussions and guest lectures by politicians, managers and academics every day at the Law School alone. Every Monday we master students can also watch the professors discuss essays at their "Faculty Workshop" in a fireplace room.

After all, my life at Yale Law School is also shaped by the environment. The neo-Gothic architecture is more reminiscent of the British Cambridge. However, the small American town of New Haven stretches around the university, where you often bump into each other - if you don't take the train to New York for 90 minutes. For many, the university is also the social center. The library therefore not only offers books to borrow, but also soccer balls, DVDs, laptops and the law school dog Monty.

The "Yalies" stuck together the most, of course, when their rival Harvard was a guest a few weeks ago: Yale University suffered a clear defeat in the traditional football game. But for the Yale Law School the world was halfway okay: our team had beaten the Harvard Law School in basketball the night before. That the main thing of the weekend was less the sport and more the Harvard-Yale parties, however, is another story ...