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Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Yeshiva University
Special thanks go out to Matthew Diller, Dean, and to several TLS students for providing insight and additional details for this profile. Published February 2008, last updated by TLS January 2011.
The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law is located in New York City, the largest legal and financial center in the world. As a result of Cardozo’s location, students are afforded many benefits by sheer proximity. Aside from improved employment prospects, Cardozo students can also take advantage of the vibrant city/night life offered by Manhattan. And while Cardozo is a fairly young law school, there has been a general upward trend in its ranking; in 2006, it was ranked 58th by US News and currently, it is 52nd (down three spots from the school’s highest ranking of 49th in 2009).
Cardozo Law does not have a ‘campus’ in the traditional sense; the law school is really just one building and a nearby dorm. Of course Cardozo students have the entire city at their disposal, though this can be a challenge, especially when it comes to finding a suitable and quiet place to study. The law school is conscious of this concern, however, and recently poured millions of dollars into renovations. The school now has an impressive law library with spacious facilities.
Before the recession and the corresponding pressure on the legal job market, around 90 percent of Cardozo graduates were landing jobs upon graduation. Given the current economic climate these numbers have declined and the continuing unknowns surrounding the job market cause some nervousness among students (as they do at most law schools these days.)
Fortunately, Cardozo’s location helps students mitigate a struggling legal market to some degree. Situated at the heart of the changing legal marketplace, it is well positioned to observe and respond to these changes accordingly. For applicants hoping to find employment in one of the many prestigious law firms of Manhattan, Cardozo Law is (and will likely continue to remain) a place from which such goals can be attained. Of course, students hoping to secure these positions will need to earn top-notch grades.
Cardozo has three different enrollment timelines; most opt for the full-time September start, some begin in January (full-time) and others begin in May (part-time). Cardozo never enrolls more than 400 students per year, however, keeping its class size at a reasonable level.
In recent application cycles the law school has had the luxury of increasing selectivity in its admissions process as more students apply each year. Its location plays a major role in this fact, as many students (rightly) believe that being in a major legal market will help them find a job upon graduation. Other students are drawn by the high-quality faculty (as evidenced by Brian Leiter’s faculty quality ratings, http://www.leiterrankings.com).
As the school receives more applications it has been able to consistently improve the LSAT and GPA medians for its admitted students.
According to Dean Matthew Diller, Cardozo Law is “first and foremost…looking for students who have distinguished themselves academically.” For this reason, the law school takes the two numerical indicators – GPA and LSAT score – seriously. He continues:
Also, Dean Diller states that students who are serious about Cardozo Law should send in their applications as soon as possible. “Applicants enjoy a slight edge,” he reveals, “by being among the first groups of applications our committee reads.” So, get your materials in early if you want your chances to be the best they can be.
Letters of Recommendation
While Dean Diller doesn’t have any specific advice for students regarding their additional materials (personal statements or addenda), he did drop something regarding letters of recommendation. “We pay careful attention to letters…for every applicant,” he said, “especially for candidates who are still in school or have recently graduated.” The implication being that if you are not in school or have been in the workforce for a while, a letter of recommendation from a current boss is probably more applicable than one from a professor from four years ago.
However, for students who are currently in school, he suggests (especially for sophomores and juniors) “start thinking now about who will write these references, especially if you are at a large institution.” He adds:
In general, poor planning regarding letters of recommendation can hold up a student’s application for weeks or months at a time. In order to avoid delay you should talk to potential recommenders early and remember to follow-up with reminders.
Cardozo has been known to attach notable stipulations to the scholarships it offers some students. At Cardozo Law, some of the more coveted scholarships come with the following qualifications: if you remain in the top 40% of your law school class you keep your entire scholarship, if you remain in the top half of your class you keep three-fourths of your scholarship, and if you remain in the top two-thirds of your class you keep half of your scholarship.
One current student reported:
A student with a similar offer commented:
Whether you think such stipulations would be a source of stress or an impetus to work hard, it is worth taking note of these requirements so that you can make an informed decision.
Dean Diller said of the waitlist: “In recent years, we have found that the majority of our May part-time students are those who were originally placed on the fall waitlist.” Since this part-time May start transitions into full-time enrollment for a student’s second year, this can be a great option for students who are waitlisted after applying for the regular fall start.
Alternative Start and Part-time Programs
A current student who was a May starter had the following notes about the part-time start:
The program that begins in January is accelerated, though according to Dean Diller, students in both the May and January start programs “have the same opportunities to participate in our on-campus interview program and clinics, and to join journals” as the fall starters. He elaborated on these alternative start programs.
Whenever you start at Cardozo, by the second year everyone is on the same schedule. More students start in May than in January; for the January start, there may be as few as 24 entrants, while for the May start there are usually around 100.
Law School Culture
Cardozo students report a generally collegial environment with a friendly student body. A current first-year commented on the level of competitiveness at the school:
While this public chastisement is not commonplace, it does highlight how close-knit the law school community is. This first-year continued, speaking on this communal culture (with a note on part-time students):
This helpful first-year also added that, “Students don't have trouble making friends/being social.”
The workload at Cardozo varies throughout the semester. During finals or tough assignments stress picks up (as is the case with all law schools). One student commented that “1Ls usually only pull late nights when a big legal writing assignment is due.” Of course when finals roll around everyone buckles down.
A current student, who enrolled after attending an Admitted Students Weekend, said (about the visit), “The atmosphere was great, the location of the school is fantastic, and the staff really seemed to have it together.” This seems to neatly sum up what has been said of the culture at Cardozo Law.
Cardozo Law is affiliated with a Jewish institution, which means it will naturally attract Jewish applicants; though no students at Cardozo are required to have any particular religious affiliation. The school’s religious affiliation has minimal impact on its students, except for those who like to be in the library on Saturdays. A visiting student tells us:
A current student also commented on the religious affiliation of the school:
The best way to evaluate a law school’s faculty is to see it in action, and the best way to do this, of course, is through a school visit. If you are unable to plan a visit, however, Cardozo Law has posted five mini-lectures for prospective students to watch online.
We also have word from a current student who tells TLS what it is like sitting in on some classes:
This variation in teaching method is relatively standard, and while the Socratic Method can seem intimidating at first, it is prevalent at most law schools and students typically adjust quickly.
This first-year continued with an example of what student participation can look like:
Many of the school’s professors are leaders in their fields, and if you are interested in speaking with one in particular, you can find a helpful list (organized by field of expertise) on this page. The law school has about 130 full and part-time faculty; most of them have advanced degrees in a field besides law and about a dozen hold a Ph.D. as well as a J.D. The student-to-faculty ratio, at 16 to 1, is on the higher end of the spectrum when compared to peer schools.
A typical first-year class will consist of about 50 students. Students enjoy a rather generous grading curve with a median between 3.1 and 3.2. This friendly curve takes some of the pressure off of students to be overly competitive. The workload at Cardozo is, however, reported to be intense, and while students are highly capable, some will find law school immensely stressful.
Cardozo requires its 1L students to enroll in mostly standard core classes: property, torts, elements of law, civil procedure, criminal law, constitutional law, and legal writing. Second and third year students are mostly free to choose their courses. There are over 130 elective courses available.
Dean Diller said, of the law school’s curricular strengths:
For more information about the upper-level course offerings, you can visit this site. Dean Diller also mentioned that “during the mid-winter break, Cardozo offers an intensive trial advocacy program (ITAP) that brings together lawyers and judges from around the country to provide students with an intensive two-week immersion in the art of trial practice.” This sort of attention to practical training in the law is a large focus at Cardozo.
Cardozo also makes allowances for students to pursue other academic interests outside of the law school itself. “On occasion,” said Dean Diller, “students want to take graduate level courses in non-law areas such as foreign languages or history, and to that end, we permit them to take up to two graduate courses across the street at The New School.” This is especially attractive to students who want to take non-law courses but who don’t want to travel uptown to Yeshiva’s main campus.
Cardozo lets students partake in a number of study abroad options. JD candidates have spent summers abroad in Austria, Budapest, and at Oxford University, and have spent semesters abroad in Amsterdam, Budapest, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, and Bilbao. Dean Diller spoke again of the winter break; “Our international programs offered during this period expose participating students to the legal communities and problems of such countries as China, Japan, and even Rwanda.” Whatever your international preference, Cardozo has plenty to offer – though you can only take up to 12 credits abroad.
Clinics and Externships
Cardozo Law offers its students an impressive array of clinics and externships. Each year nearly 400 Cardozo students help represent clients in real cases under the supervision of professional attorneys through these clinics.
One such program is the Holocaust Claims Restitution Practicum, in which students aim to assist Holocaust survivors and their heirs in legal proceedings. Other clinical opportunities include the Human Rights and Genocide Clinic, the Family Court Clinic, and the Immigration Law Clinic.
Dean Diller tells us:
The law school also offers a prestigious and highly selective Alexander Fellows program through which students can work as full-time law clerks for federal judges in New York City. Students who are interested in gaining practical experience will have plenty of chances to get involved at Cardozo Law. A full list of these offerings is available here.
It is still unclear how large and how permanent the recent contraction in the legal market will be, so it’s not surprising that current students have some trepidation about their ability to find work. As one first year student puts it:
Dean Diller commented that “Cardozo students in the middle of the class are very well situated to compete for NY-based post-grad positions against similarly placed students who come from law schools across the country.” Implying that it is the below-median students who might struggle to find work. Still, Cardozo’s job placement numbers have been high in recent years, and its alumni network, concentrated primarily in New York City, is young but committed.
Dean Diller notes that “many alumni participate in Cardozo’s mentorship, mock interview, career coach, and practice profile lunch programs. Many are also involved in Cardozo’s fall and spring recruitment programs.” While schools such as Columbia, NYU, and Cornell have more history in the New York legal market, with larger alumni bases, Diller says, “Cardozo has established significant relationships with many large firms as well as with employers in the private and public sectors – small and medium- sized firms, corporations, governmental agencies, and public interest organizations – and they continue to seek hires from Cardozo.”
Recently Cardozo has reported an 80.4% employment rate upon graduation and a 98% employment rate nine months later. Students with below-median grades, however, will likely have to look outside of Biglaw.
Cardozo’s major advantage is its proximity and access to the prestigious New York City legal market. Those who graduate near the top of their class at Cardozo will likely have some of the top law firms in Manhattan within reach. For all students, employment prospects remain fairly local, though “local,” in this case, is the largest and most diversified legal market in the world.
Cardozo Law does offer a Loan Repayment Assistance Program designed to help students pursuing public interest careers with their sizeable law school debt (details below).
As mentioned above most Cardozo grads will stay in New York City. A large majority will remain in the Northeast with very few heading further afield.
Cardozo Law generally posts impressive bar passage rates. In recent administrations of the exam in the state of New York, nearly 91% of first-time test takers from Cardozo passed the exam, while the overall state passage rate was about 86%.
About 6 percent of Cardozo law students obtain clerkships. While most students head to private practice upon graduation, Dean Diller notes that of those who have clerked from Cardozo, students have been clerks for “the Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals and District Courts as well as different federal specialty courts, and various state courts at the trial and appellate levels.” The percentage of students at Cardozo who do clerk, however, is rather low when compared to more highly ranked schools.
Summer Funding and LRAP
Not everyone at Cardozo wants to work in a law firm, and for those students who want to pursue a legal career in public interest, Cardozo Law’s LRAP program is there to help. Dean Diller commented that Cardozo recently “received a generous donation of $5 million from Laurie Tisch to endow our Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which provides forgivable loans to Cardozo graduates working in the public sector.” This provides recent graduates with financial support, which is important considering the large amount of debt so many students assume to fund their legal education.
Funding is also available for students who spend their summers doing public interest work. Dean Diller noted that in 2009, “more than 200 1Ls and 2Ls received funding to work at legal services providers, public interest organizations, government agencies, district attorneys’ offices, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and federal and state judicial chambers.” These jobs are often unpaid but always provide valuable experience.
In that vein, a 1L tells us:
Alternatively, in the second-year, Dean Diller says:
Cardozo works hard to provide its students with summer-time opportunities in both the public and private sectors to ensure that they are gaining valuable legal work experience.
Quality of Life
Given Cardozo Law’s location in Manhattan’s hip Greenwich Village, students generally report a high quality of life. Those who aren’t “city people” will obviously not enjoy this environment as much, though law students tend to be pretty busy with school anyway.
The area around Cardozo is home to an endless array of bars, clubs, and restaurants, and also houses popular parks and coffee shops that serve as hang-out spots for students before and after classes. Cardozo also provides social opportunities for its students through annual formal events and monthly bar reviews, among other activities.
Cardozo Law also provides housing for its students, although many students choose to cut costs by living outside of the expensive Greenwich Village area. Cars are not necessary and aren’t even practical for Cardozo Law students who can save time and money by taking advantage of the efficient New York City subway system.
Commenting on housing options and the social scene at Cardozo, one first-year says:
The law school is located on 12th Street in Greenwich Village, and consists of the main building and a nearby residence hall. Everyone we’ve talked to reports that the facilities are more than adequate and that the library is particularly spacious and well-lit.
As mentioned, the law school offers housing for about 100 students. Dean Diller tells TLS:
A resident of New York City gives the following insight for those facing the great New York apartment hunt:
As the busiest borough in ‘the city that never sleeps,’ Manhattan provides a unique backdrop for a law school. Within walking distance of Cardozo Law there are several dozen international cuisines available, countless bars and nightspots, and a host of world famous landmarks. Cost-conscious students will likely chose to live in the outer boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx or Staten Island) as living in Manhattan is extremely expensive and commuting is relatively easy using public transit.
There is, of course, plenty to do in the outer boroughs as well. Of particular note for dining and partying (respectively) are tree-lined Park Slope and hipster-clogged Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Students can also check out the culinary centers of Jackson Heights (for Indian or Latin American) or Flushing (for Korean, Japanese, or Chinese) in Queens.
The average outgoing debt of Cardozo Law students is about $105,000. Six-figure debt is par for the course when it comes to law school these days, so this sum isn’t actually too bad. Note that this is average debt; students who enjoy Manhattan too much can certainly end up with more.
Cardozo Law offers a wide variety of extracurricular opportunities to its students. Many of the student organizations are focused around a particular area of the law, while others are purely social. Some examples include the Yoga Club, the Cardozo Ski Club, the Cardozo Target Shooting Club and the Cardozo Basketball Club. There are also religious organizations (such as the Cardozo Christian Legal Society), and more academic/legally oriented organizations such as the Tax Law Society.
For those interested in Public Service Law, Dean Diller says:
There are also a variety of extracurricular activities available to students over winter, spring, and summer breaks. For example, Dean Diller tells us:
Students interested in working on law journals will have plenty of opportunity to do so at Cardozo through the school’s six student-edited journals. These include: the Cardozo Law Review, the Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal (“the first and preeminent journal of its type,” according to the school’s website), the Cardozo Journal of International and Comparative Law (which seems to focus on issues in Europe), the Cardozo Public Law, Policy, and Ethics Journal, the Cardozo Journal of Law and Gender (specializing on subjects like health care, family law, and civil rights), and the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution Topics.
Each year interested students compete for journal placement. According to Cardozo’s website:
Cardozo also has a journal called Law and Literature which focuses on “restrictions on creative expression and legal themes in works of literature.” Finally, students have the chance to work on the New York Real Estate Law Reporter, a monthly survey of real estate cases that are decided in New York; this can be valuable experience for students interested in the particular machinations of New York real estate.
The main competitive organization at Cardozo is the Moot Court Honor Society through which students can participate in intramural, regional, and even national moot court competitions.
Cardozo is a good law school in a great location. The law school has some excellent and experienced faculty; some professors currently teaching at Cardozo were there when Cardozo first opened. The facilities at Cardozo are relatively new, with the library receiving strong reviews. Students at Cardozo have few complaints about the law school itself, and seem generally happy.
Job prospects for Cardozo Law are decent for students above median, but those below median can expect to struggle to find employment. But many firms based in New York that have been forced to cut back on recruiting are still stopping at Cardozo; this is not likely to change given its choice proximity to the offices of so many firms.
The greatest concern for Cardozo Law students is the lack of institutional legacy that other schools in New York enjoy (such NYU and Columbia). The fluctuations in the legal job market do present some corresponding measure of worry for Cardozo students.
Still, students looking to find work in New York City can do very well at Cardozo. Though it lacks a long history, it is slowly cementing its reputation as a strong feeder school for the New York City market.
U.S. News & World Report Ranking: 49th
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