Wednesday was my final day of classes. Ever. I finished up four years of intensive law and graduate school and walked away from the Forestry School, feeling a bit dumbfounded. This was the first semester in which I had no final exams and so I was able to finish up two final papers, one final project, and a final team paper and presentation by 5:20 pm Wednesday evening. I did not feel elated but I was definitely ready to move forward with my career. I would like to take this blog space to reflect on my experience in the joint program and share with you my recommendations and lessons learned.
First, I must say that I believe I made the right decision in applying and finishing the joint law and graduate schools program. I really enjoyed my two and a half years at Pace Law School, and the transition to graduate school occurred right about when I wanted a break from the rigor of law school and the pressure of maintaining a strong GPA. I left Pace Law School for a year-long study at FES and with that, left the non-environmental law courses like Federal Tax and Evidence. While I did continue to take five credits from Pace during my year at FES, my efforts focused almost entirely on developing strong networks and strengthening my understanding of green chemistry and industrial ecology. I loved being able to almost immediately apply industrial ecology to a real-world situation: I spent last year’s spring break in Hawaii applying the foundational themes of industrial ecology that I learned from Professor Thomas Graedel to a proposed biofuels production plant on the Big Island. That said, while last year was nothing short of incredible, I struggled with the transitions of going between Pace and Yale this year. I got married only two days before my law school courses started in September, and I must admit that my motivation to be at school needed a jump-start. I was taking a few night classes (I’m a morning person and don’t love being at school until 10 pm!) and I really didn’t know many of my classmates. Returning to FES has been difficult, too. I missed many of the fall semester projects that my classmates had begun and I was a little late in deciding my course schedule. To be honest, this semester’s courses were not my favorite and I found myself looking forward to graduating more than I had ever expected. I blame that only in small part on the four year program (I had some other non-school things going on, too).
Second, I have found that the joint program has helped me further my career. As I hope you read in my previous blog, “Joint Program: To be or not to be,” many lawyers are a little confused at initially reading that my JD has been extended and interrupted by three semesters. But the Yale name does grab attention and I have consistently found that potential employers are intrigued by the joint program. I have only applied for legal jobs (e.g. various law firms, judicial courts, and environmental legal non-profits) and feel that all interviewers recognized the strength in my analytical skills and the comprehensive approach to learning law that the joint program encourages. And I do feel that the joint degree with the MEM has helped me line up two jobs following graduation. My future bosses were curious about what the MEM program offered and I felt at ease describing my experience in environmental science and comparative environmental law.
In retrospect, I would likely have tried to do a few things differently. I should have taken more courses at schools outside of FES. It would have been great to listen in on Yale Law professors or to continue Chinese classes. I loved the Payne Whitney Gym and took swimming lessons last year but did not take anything this semester. It might be that there will never be enough time or enough energy to participate in everything that you want to do at Yale. There are constantly fantastic opportunities for sitting in on lectures with famous alumni, or listening to great musicians, or even trying local cuisines! I suppose this regret is not unique to me, but I am sure that all of us Foresters have done as much as we possibly could with the time that we have left at the school. And I find great comfort from the fact that I can return to New Haven on my commute home from work this year, or sit in on lectures in White Plains at Pace Law. I can relax knowing that no professors will expect my participation!