Back to top

Challenging, engaging, rewarding: Semester One at Yale Law School

27 February 2024 | news

2023 Ethel Benjamin Scholarship winner Jessica Fenton on her first semester at Yale Law School

Every year, Universities New Zealand - Te Pōkai Tara awards the New Zealand Law Foundation Ethel Benjamin Scholarship to a female postgraduate lawyer to attend Yale Law School. Last year’s scholarship winner was Auckland lawyer, Jessica Fenton.
We caught up with Jessica online to hear how her time at Yale has been so far.

“If I had to select three words to sum up my first semester as a Masters student at Yale Law School I would choose: challenging, engaging, and rewarding.

There are so many incredible papers on offer, so I tried to follow advice from past students and work with professors I admired. The result was a broad range of classes which gave me a good grounding in both American and international legal thought.
My classes are academically challenging, but I’m grateful for my legal training through the University of Auckland and my years as a practicing lawyer, both of which have prepared me well.

Outside the classroom I was recently hired as a research assistant for Professor Monica Bell who is conducting an "Empirical Poetry" project where she uses poetry as a way of presenting sociological data. It’s very exciting to have the opportunity to use both my legal and poetry skills in this project, and to work closely with a professor whose scholarship I so admire.

In terms of the upcoming semester, my classes are similarly varied – I am taking classes on capital punishment, the rights of nature, sexuality and gender law, and a second class on Native American tribal sovereignty.

However, my experience at Yale has extended far beyond the classroom. One of the best parts about studying here has been the people, both the professors and the students. Because the law school here is so small, it really is possible to feel like I have met most of the school in my short time here, and I have made some real lasting friendships.

It has been wonderful to have had the opportunity to study at Yale, and I have not taken any of my time here for granted. I’m so grateful to the New Zealand Law Foundation for the grant of the Ethel Benjamin scholarship, which has made my study here possible. Ethel Benjamin was a visionary leader in Aotearoa’s legal world, and it is my sincere hope that I can use the skills and strengths I have gained at Yale Law School to return home and make a real difference in New Zealand.”


Jessica Fenton

The LLM class about to head out to the Yale/Harvard football game.

The Yale Law School courtyard in the Winter.

Yale's extraordinary Beinecke Library - the walls are made of thin marble to protect the rare books inside from the light.