Yale University: YLS Welcomes a Remarkable New Class to New Haven

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Dean Heather K. Gerken welcomed Yale Law School’s newest students to campus on Aug. 16, speaking at convocation about the values that sit at the heart of an academic institution and define the profession.

“If you want to make an impact as a lawyer, you need to be able to think hard about your values and why they matter, look at the evidence, marshal a record, and persuade,” said Gerken. “And if you want to persuade, you need to be able to see, genuinely, the world through the eyes of an adversary, construct the best argument on the other side with sympathy, and then dismantle it with clarity. If you want to be a great lawyer, now is the time to start inhabiting that role.”

Gerken encouraged students to get to know one another and take advantage of the vast opportunities and rich academic community that awaits them.

“Let me assure you that getting to know one another will be one of the highlights of your entire legal careers,” said Gerken. “Try approaching your peers as if you don’t already know what they think, because you probably don’t. Keeping an open mind will make our community learn and grow.”

The class of 2025 is the most diverse in Yale Law School history, continuing a seven-year trend of increasingly diverse classes. Of the new J.D. students, 56% are students of color and more than half are women. Thirty percent are the first in their families to attend graduate or professional school. Almost one in six are the first in their families to graduate from college, and one in 14 is a veteran. The number of student veterans has tripled over last five years, and this year they join the Law School from every service branch, including the Space Force.

In addition to incoming 1Ls, new students include nine transfer students joining the class of 2024. Gerken also welcomed 22 LL.M. students, seven J.S.D. students, and one M.S.L. student. Graduate students hail from 16 different countries and legal traditions, speak 12 different languages, and are writing about topics ranging from federalism to the law of war.

The class of 2025 comes to New Haven with a strong record of academic excellence and a range of accomplished backgrounds. Among its 198 members are an Olympic athlete, a licensed pilot, a concert pianist, professional ballet dancers, and mock trial champions. Members of the class have been journalists, small business and nonprofit founders, and aides and researchers for federal, state, and local governments. Together, they have worked and lived in 77 different countries, read and speak 30 different languages, and come from 89 undergraduate institutions. In all, the new class holds 62 advanced graduate degrees in subjects that range from classics to chemical engineering.

During her address, Gerken spoke about the abundance of resources and opportunities available to all students, including the rich and vibrant academic environment, the world-class faculty, and the newly launched Tsai Leadership Program.

“Hearing about the success of our grads can be daunting, but I want assure you that we are doing everything we can to light up those paths for you,” Gerken said. “Know that we have put in place a set of alumni mentors, career advisors, and faculty advisors that are going to help you get from here to there.”

Gerken concluded by giving students her advice for succeeding in the first year of law school.

“Learn for the pleasure of it, the sheer joy of it,” she said. “The conversation inside these hallways is one of the most interesting conversations on the planet. Don’t miss it.”

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