It all has to do with how each of these two
major institutions structures its approach to legal education and
public policy. According to Scheiber, the much smaller Yale sees its
mission (or at least it did when Clinton was there) to encourage its
students to be more creative — "to unlock students' innate brilliance
in an atmosphere of freedom, intimacy, and intellectual ferment." And,
Scheiber writes, as president, "Clinton was everything you'd want from
a good Yale Law student: creative, deep-thinking, engrossed by public
policy. But his White House was chaotic."
In contrast, Scheiber wrote, Harvard was more formulaic and traditional, priding "itself on instilling discipline . . . [It] was, in certain respects, a three-year hazing ritual." And Obama "absorbed the dispassionate, conservative, relentlessly logical mode of analysis a Harvard legal education was meant to convey."
It's certainly true, despite what Schieber writes, that the two schools are not that easily categorizable; there are plenty of Harvard types attending Yale or teaching there, and vice versa. And there is a bit of student self-selection that gives each school its personality: the kind of students who would turn down the better known Harvard to go to Yale are probably more apt to be a bit more non-traditional than their Cambridge counterparts. Certainly that may have been the case with both Clinton and Obama, who undoubtedly embodied some of the traits of their law schools long before they got there.