Rising 2L at CUNY Law. I figured I would jump in here and join Hot_Pocket in discussing the school, its culture, etc.
As a heads-up, this post isn't about job rates or bar rates. I personally came to CUNY for the public interest minded culture, and I am posting to illustrate that culture for those seeking something similar. I had, and have, friends with different values and a different calculus on what is important from a law school that many would agree is more practical than mine (including my parents). I can only say that I am happy with my choice.
My own initial thoughts: CUNY is the place to go for those with a very tailored and specific frame of mind, especially in regards to law school. It caters and centers on PI, but not really typical PI, more radical and non-mainstream forms. One of my favorite professors for example, Dinesh, teaches on the merits of civil disobedience. A good number of students from the 1L class attended the first few days of the Floyd Stop-and-Frisk case. Several of our numbers were legal observers at the 1 year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. Race and Social Justice Orientation, formally known as Third World Orientation, is a pre-law school orientation that specifically focuses on navigating issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. both within and external of the law school atmosphere. Our 1L Contracts professor spoke on the merits of alternative Contracts theories, in addition to encouraging us to always challenge the power relationships implicit within Contracts. Our Crim professor is one of the leading scholars on Rape Law and moving it away from its patriarchal and archaic roots. Our Con law and Family law professor is the founder of Lesbian Legal Theory. Etc. Etc. Etc.
The class culture is also fairly different. My seminar group, about 14 of us, shared all of our outlines, studied together, and did "boards" (outlining on the white boards) that were shared amongst all the CUNY law students. Almost everyone has had some actual direct service experience (folks who have worked in resistance housing, DV shelters and programs, etc.) and want to go directly from law school into the public service sector. Some groups that have CUNY law alum include many of the programs at the Urban Justice Center (Street Vendor Project, Peter Cicchino Youth Project, etc.), Common Law (an alternative housing / employment based organization that have supported the move for active courtroom solidarity), NLG, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Legal Aid Society, etc. People have posted about CUNY's job prospects before, and I agree that the rates are worse than T30 schools, but orgs and firms in NY know of CUNY's reputation as a devout Public Interest law school and if you're committed to that field, there are alums everywhere in the area.
Note: I would agree with folks that say venturing out of NY upon attending CUNY is difficult. It's such a niche school that specializes almost exclusively on PI that it's out-of-state rep suffers dramatically as a result. The higher ranked equivalent would probably be Indiana's Maurer Law School, but even that has significantly low name recognition considering its rank.
In recent years, there has been more of a focus on rankings and grades under Dean Anderson, so the overall student body and student curriculum has become slightly more "traditional" than it once was. That being said, the school still caters to those that have a clear interest in PI; "normal" student organizations that are found in other schools, such as the Federalist Society or the Corporate Law Society, don't exist here. Instead, we have organizations such as the Mississippi Project (working on progressive lawyering in the South), the Race and Privilege Working Group, and the Law Students for Justice in Palestine.
CUNY also, historically, puts an emphasis on accepting those with lower scores and grades through its Pipeline for Justice program. If you're worried about such issues, I would look up the program; David Nadvourney, CUNY's resident guru of "skills" training, is possibly the most brilliant man ever at teaching good "law school" based techniques and helps the Pipeline kids successfully transition.
As a final note, I was one of CUNY's c/o 2015 Grad Fellows so I can also answer anyone's questions on that. In terms of Aceituna's questions:
It is relatively selective. I agree with Hot_Pocket that a lot of it is based on uGPA/LSAT + History in PI (either can balance out the other) and they tend to use the fellowship as an incentive sometimes. That being said, there were 14 of us in 2015 from widely variant backgrounds (a couple straight from undergrad, a few that had just come from working on housing / employment / DV issues, a few that had really stellar uGPA / LSAT, etc.) I'll check when I got notified, but I think it was relatively quickly and it really changed my calculus (I was thinking more traditional PI program until I did extensive research on the culture and people who go to CUNY, in particular its professors who you will be working with and doing research with).
My own thoughts on Fredmerz's question:
Absolutely. I had some doubts coming to this school from out-of-state and not knowing anything about it. It was a calculated risk, but one I would hope others would do after having been here. The people and professors here are unparalleled in terms of their commitment to PI - so much so that other schools kind of view CUNY as a cliched, imaginary world and rarely believe we are as familial as we are. The doctrine and cases we learn almost always have some subtle or overt social implications - one of the first lectures I had at CUNY, through RSJO, was how cases rarely overtly discuss the race of the defendants, but how such a factor can almost always be observed through language choices by the judge.
If you like, I'm open to private messages and I'll try and respond ASAP.