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Columbia Law School

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Columbia Law

Columbia Law School is a highly respected law school that is part of Ivy League Columbia University. The school consistently ranks in the top five US law schools and offers an excellent education in corporate law. Additionally, its graduates are highly sought-after by the nation's top law firms.

Columbia Law School has a long tradition of legal scholarship, dating back to the 18th century. Its graduates include some of the most notable early-American legal figures, such as John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States, and Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury. Both men were co-authors of The Federalist Papers.

Columbia has educated many successful individuals who have played influential roles in the US government, including two presidents, nine Supreme Court justices, and numerous cabinet members and presidential advisers. The school has also produced many successful businessmen and women, as evidenced by the large number of alumni who are members of the Forbes 400.

Most of Columbia Law School's 2013 graduating class obtained full-time, long-term employment that required a Juris Doctor within nine months of graduation. The starting salaries for these graduates were in the range of $180,000-$195,000. The law school was ranked number one by the National Law Journal for the percentage of 2015 graduates it sent to the largest 100 law firms in the United States.


James Kent and Columbia Law School
The history of law at Columbia University dates back to the 18th century. Notable early American judicial figures who graduated from the university's colonial predecessor, King's College, include John Jay, who later became the first Chief Justice of the United States.

James Kent was appointed the first law professor at Columbia College in 1793. After four years of lectures, Kent's work developed into the first two volumes of his Commentaries, with the second volume being published in November 1827. However, Kent was unsuccessful in establishing a law school or department within the college. As such, formal law instruction as a course of study did not begin until the middle of the 19th century.

The Founding of Columbia Law School and Theodore Dwight
The Columbia College Law School was officially founded in 1858. The first law school building was a Gothic Revival structure located on Columbia's Madison Avenue campus. However, the college eventually became known as Columbia University and moved to the Morningside Heights neighborhood. At the time of its founding, there was still some uncertainty about the demand for a formal law school education. Columbia Law Professor Theodore Dwight noted that many people were still skeptical about the need for such a course of study. However, the school's founding helped solidify the place of law as a respected profession. At the time, most people believed that it would be impossible to provide competent legal education through professional schools. The prevailing view was that lawyers mainly learned through on-the-job training or self-study. However, standards for legal education were very low at the time. Clerks in law offices were often not even supervised by the lawyers they were supposedly studying under. Examinations for admission to the bar were often superficial and did not test for actual legal knowledge. Politically influential people often got into law school regardless of their qualifications. Many people saw law as a trade or a way to advance their political careers rather than a science.

Columbia Law School is one of the oldest law schools in the United States. It was founded before the Civil War. In those days, most legal education took place in law offices, where young men would learn by copying documents and filling out legal forms under the supervision of an experienced lawyer. John Jay, a founding father of the United States and the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, learned the law this way. He was lucky to have a good teacher. Not all apprentices had such good luck. Theodore Dwight, who used to teach at Hamilton College in New York, believed that formal classroom education was a better way to learn law than being an apprentice in a law office. History Of Columbia Law During The 20th Century William Albert Keener became dean of Harvard Law School in 1891 and held the position until 1901 when George Washington Kirchwey succeeded him. Harlan Fiske Stone, who would become a Supreme Court Justice, graduated from law school in 1898.

Stone began lecturing at Columbia Law School in 1899 while practicing law in New York. He joined the faculty as a full professor in 1910 and became dean of the law school in 1923. Stone left to join Sullivan and Cromwell as a partner in 1924. He served as Attorney General of the United States for almost a year before being appointed to the Supreme Court as an associate justice. In the 1920s and 30s, the law school at Columbia University became known as a hub for the legal realism movement. This movement was characterized by a focus on practicality and real-world applications of the law, as opposed to theoretical or academic approaches. The most prominent legal theorists associated with this movement were Karl Llewellyn, Felix S. Cohen, and William O. Douglas. Columbia Law School founded the first AIDS Law Clinic in September 1988. Professor Deborah Greenberg and Mark Barnes taught the clinic. The clinic focused on helping those with AIDS navigate the legal system.


The Columbia Law School seeks curious, resourceful applicants, committed to excellence and motivated to effect change and serve as leaders in their fields. The admissions process is designed to be inclusive, seeking applicants with varied backgrounds and life experiences. Applications for the fall 2023 entering class will open on September 1, 2022, with a February 15, 2023, deadline for regular decision applicants. If you're not sure about applying to law school or just beginning the application process, then please take the time to read some of the excellent pre-law articles found here.


Admissions Stats
Class of: 2020-2021 2021-2022
25th - 50th - 75th percentile LSAT 169 - 172 - 173 172 - 174 - 176
25th - 50th - 75th percentile GPA 3.72 - 3.82 - 3.91 3.75 - 3.84 - 3.92
Acceptance rate 16.7% 11.4%
Applications received 6986 9612
Acceptances 1166 1098
Matriculants 2536 1912

Acceptance Rate

In the 2022 application cycle, 9,933 people applied to Harvard University, and 685 were offered admission. The 1L class size at Harvard is 562, with a yield of 54.01%. This means that 54.01% of applicants offered admission ended up attending the school. 370 out of 685 applicants who were offered admission were accepted, meaning that 54.01% of those offered admissions ended up attending the school.

Application Components

Columbia Law

Columbia Law School provides an opportunity to get a first-hand look at the law school experience by offering a preview of the application process. This can be extremely helpful for those considering applying to law school in the fall of 2023. The application fee is $85, and applicants will need to submit some or all of the following:

  • a personal statement/essay,
  • GRE or LSAT scores,
  • two letters of recommendation,
  • a resume, and academic transcripts.

Reviewing these materials in advance can give you a significant advantage in the law school admissions process. You can also read the wwaitlist from BCG Attorney Website and When to apply to Law School.

Early Decision

For early-decision candidates, the application process is simplified and expedited considerably. Early-decision candidates must complete their applications by November 15 and are generally notified of the Admissions Committee’s decision by December. Successful early-decision candidates may not initiate any new law school applications. They must decline any acceptances they may have received prior to admission to Columbia and the Early Decision Plan. Some early-decision applicants not offered admission will be reviewed again in April as part of the regular applicant pool; others will be informed that their application for admission has been denied and will not be re-evaluated that year.


Columbia Law School typically admits 35 to 60 transfer students every fall. The Admissions Committee looks at the whole application when making decisions, not just GPA or class rank. Most successful applicants are in the top 5 percent to 10 percent of their law school class. To be eligible to transfer into Columbia Law School, applicants must have completed between 28 and 32 credits at another law school. Students who have completed an LL.M. or other post-J.D. program at another law school, including an international law school, must apply as first-year students. Transfer students can apply to participate in all Columbia student law journals. For information on personal statements and application essays, check out the TLS Guide to Personal Statements or Submit your Law School Essays.

Tuition and Expenses

Columbia Law School's tuition fees in 2022 are at $75,572, a 3.8% increase from the previous year. The total cost of attendance, including room, board, and other living expenses, is $110,450.

The above budget does not include costs associated with summer study.

Scholarships and financial aid are available to help cover the cost of attendance. For more information, please visit the Office of Financial Aid website.

Columbia Law School is committed to making legal education affordable and accessible to all qualified students. They offer a variety of need-based and merit-based scholarships and loan programs. More than half of their students receive some form of financial assistance, and they are need-aware in their admissions process.

Financing Your Legal Education

Columbia Law School offers some grants and fellowships that are not based on financial need. These awards are given to admitted students at the time of their admission to the school. Each year, a large portion of the incoming class receives a grant from the Law School, usually a partial tuition waiver. However, since most law students still need to take out loans to cover their expenses, most do not rely solely on these grants. Instead, they use them to supplement their other financial aid. Applicants are expected to share in the cost of the LL.M. Program and actively seek other funding sources for their studies throughout the application process. This cost-sharing philosophy leads to a greater diversity of students in the LL.M. class from a geographic, practice area, and socioeconomic perspective, greatly enhancing your professional network of colleagues and your learning experience at Columbia.

All graduate-level students at Columbia Law School are considered independent to determine eligibility for Federal Loans and the Federal Work-Study Program. Their FAFSA will not require parental information, and their eligibility will be determined based on their resources and spouses (if applicable). However, institutional funds such as grants and Columbia University loans require complete family and parental information on the CSS Profile application from custodial and non-custodial parents. If the student's parents have separate households (unmarried, separated, or divorced), they must provide complete financial information for both parental households on the application. The school's policy is to assist students from the neediest families primarily. Their institutional funds are distributed mainly to students with limited personal and family resources. The school's grant decision will be based on an analysis of the student's family's financial strength regardless of age, marital status, or dependency status for tax purposes.


Columbia Law School urges students to be as prudent as possible when borrowing for their education. For every $10,000 borrowed, a student can expect to pay approximately $125 each month in debt servicing after graduation. Students must understand the terms, requirements, and in-school and post-graduation obligations of the loans they borrow and that they maintain complete records of all their loan documents and promissory notes. To help the school keep accurate records of student eligibility and borrowing, all Law School students are required to notify the Financial Aid Office of any changes made to their educational loans.

Loan Repayment Assistance Program

Columbia offers a Loan Repayment Assistance Program to enable students to pursue careers in public service. More information about Columbia's LRAP can be found on Columbia Law School's website.


1L Foundation Curriculum

Columbia Law School offers a variety of courses on topics such as crimes and defense strategies, the application and adjudication of law, and the role of criminal sanctions in modern society. Students can also choose to participate in extramural moot court competitions in specialized areas of law. The school also offers intensive training in research, writing, and analytical skills needed in legal practice. Additionally, students can take courses on property law, torts, and other topics. Columbia also offers a course on First-Year Electives which allows students to choose one elective course for the spring semester. Some recent offerings for the First-Year Electives include:

  • Corporations
  • Empirical Analysis of Law
  • Federal Income Taxation
  • Ideas of the First Amendment
  • International Law
  • Labor Law
  • Law and Contemporary Society
  • Legislation and Regulation

Upperclass Curriculum

Columbia Law School offers a range of courses on different legal topics. There is a January Term where students can explore areas of the law that they may not be familiar with. In addition to required courses, students must also complete a professional responsibility course, two writing credits, and six experiential credits. There are also opportunities to take classes at other schools within Columbia University and to spend a semester abroad.

Joint Degree Program

The law school announced the addition of an accelerated JD/MBA joint degree program, which allows students to obtain both a JD and MBA within three years. There will not be a reduction in the four-year joint program of JD/MBA when the accelerated program begins. Both programs will be available to interested students. In terms of career objectives, law students may benefit from a joint degree. Columbia's law school may approve joint degrees with any of these graduate or professional schools to enable students to achieve this goal:

  • Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Ph.D. in selected programs)
  • School of Business
  • School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA)
  • Graduate School of Journalism
  • School of the Arts
  • School of Public Health
  • School of Social Work
  • School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation

Furthermore, students have petitioned the Columbia Law School Rules Committee previously for permission to create a joint degree program with schools that grant advanced standing for work completed in the Columbia J.D. program, including:

  • Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government
  • Johns Hopkins' Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies
  • Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
  • Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

Dual Degree Programs and International Alliances

Columbia has established partnerships with several law schools abroad, including those in London, England; Paris, France; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Frankfurt, Germany. These relationships allow for students to pursue a dual degree program, earning a JD along with a Master in French Law (4-year program in Paris), Global Business (3 Year program in Paris), LLM (3-year program in London), LLB/JD (4-year program in London), or JD/LLM (4-year program in Frankfurt). Columbia Law School has a large number of international students from China and specifically has a joint exchange program with Peking University. This program began in 2006 and has been expanded multiple times to include different aspects such as faculty teaching or co-teaching courses abroad. In 2013, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the two universities, which has allowed for even more collaboration between their faculty, such as joint publications and seminars.

Clinical Programs

The law school has nine clinical programs that help the community. These include a technology-based clinic, which helps people understand the consequences of criminal charges, and a clinic focused on sexuality and gender law. The Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic is the first of its kind in the United States. It is dedicated to helping people with legal and public policy issues related to gender and sexuality. Columbia also has a program in law and technology. Columbia Law School has strong programs in corporate law. For example, they offer a course on Deals that includes participants from the Columbia Business School and the law school. The Columbia Business and Law Association (CBLA) also sponsors events and lectures on various business-related topics. This group is open to students from both the law school and the business school. Finally, the Unemployment Action Center has a chapter at Columbia Law School that helps students interested in this area of law.

Quality of Life

Columbia Law

A campus tour at Columbia Law School will give you more than just an idea of how to get around from the classroom to the library. You'll also see how you can interact with faculty, other students, and their community while you're there as a student. This is a great way to get a feel for what life would be like as a Columbia Law School student.


Located in Manhattan's ever-expanding Upper West Side, Columbia offers students an endless number of ways to pass their prized free time. The school is surrounded by restaurants, clubs, and bars of all varieties, and everything that New York City has to offer is accessible via a short ride on the subway. Also, because the law school is connected to the main campus of the university, law students have the opportunity to enjoy a "real" college campus in Manhattan.

Morningside Heights

  • FOOD TRUCKS AND FARMERS MARKET - Columbia Law School is located near a farmers market that is open year-round on Thursdays and Sundays. The market features food trucks that offer a variety of cuisines, including halal chicken with rice. Students often visit the market for quick and affordable meals.
  • SUBWAYS - New York's 24-hour mass transit system, the subway, makes it easy to get around the city for work or play. The subway can take you to all of the city's boroughs, making it a convenient way to explore everything New York has to offer;

15 minutes to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
20 minutes to Midtown, Broadway, Madison Square Garden, and Times Square
25 minutes to Grand Central Terminal, New York Public Library, Greenwich Village, the High Line, and the Whitney Museum
30 minutes to SoHo, Tribeca, and Chinatown
40 minutes to Wall Street, One World Trade Center, and Lower Manhattan courthouses
45 minutes to Williamsburg, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Barclays Center

  • RIVERSIDE PARK - Columbia Law School is located on the waterfront of the Hudson River, offering beautiful biking and running paths, playgrounds, dog runs, tennis courts, and a skate park. Manhattan's scenery along the river is unmatched, making this an ideal spot to enjoy some time outdoors. Whether you're looking for a place to get some exercise or just to relax and take in the view, Columbia Law School is the perfect spot.
  • DODGE FITNESS CENTER - Columbia Law School's athletic complex is top-notch, including a swimming pool, indoor running track, squash courts, saunas, and state-of-the-art cardio and strength-training equipment. This is a great place to stay in shape and relieve stress!
  • MORNINGSIDE PARK - Columbia Law School's campus is home to a beautiful park with sweeping sunrise views. The park has basketball courts, baseball fields, and playgrounds, making it the perfect place to relax or get active.
  • LANDMARKS - Columbia Law School is the largest cathedral in the world and holds more than a dozen services a week for worshippers of many faiths and communities. Other iconic locales are Grant’s Tomb and Tom’s Restaurant, the exterior of which was made famous by the television show “Seinfeld.” Columbia Law School is an important part of the local community and offers a variety of services to residents.
  • HARLEM - Harlem is a historic neighborhood located east and north of Columbia University's campus. The area was home to the Harlem Renaissance, a period of great creativity and cultural advancement for African Americans in the arts, music, literature, and dance. Today, the neighborhood retains its rich history and culture while also welcoming new residents and businesses. Visitors can enjoy the many sights and sounds of Harlem, from the famed Apollo Theater to gospel churches and soul food restaurants.
  • CENTRAL PARK - Central Park is a large, beautifully designed park in the heart of Manhattan. It's perfect for unwinding and enjoying nature, with plenty of space to walk around, play sports, and more. Many students and faculty members visit Central Park to relax and rejuvenate. It's a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Classrooms and Library

Greene Hall is the main building of Columbia Law School. It has modern technology for presentations and video conferences in classrooms and auditoriums. These are used for lectures, panel discussions, and other events by the school's institutes, centers, and student organizations.

Columbia Law School has several buildings on campus that provide space for classrooms, meeting rooms, and offices. In addition, Lenfest Hall offers apartment-style living for law students. The lobby of Jerome L. Greene Hall serves as the Law School’s public square, where student groups often set up tables for recruitment events. Multimedia monitors in the lobby provide up-to-date information about Law School events and links to our Twitter feed. The lobby also has comfortable areas for socializing, gathering, and studying.

Employment Prospects & Bar Passage

In the past, securing employment at top law firms has been likened to "shooting fish in a barrel" by some Columbia graduates. Now, however, it's not so easy. You can check Law Firm Interview Tips.

Typically, many Columbia law students secure full-time jobs before they begin their third year at law school. Often, students are offered employment with the same top firms at which they interned or worked during the summers after their first and second years. Of course, many of these employment opportunities are in the New York City area, as Columbia is often considered the premier school for job placement in the top law firms in the city.

But these days, entry-level biglaw hiring has been shrinking (including the traditional biglaw summer programs). Students should not assume they will get big-firm jobs, even from Columbia.

Columbia Law School is consistently ranked as one of the top law schools in the United States by various publications. For 2021, Columbia Law School's bar passage rate was 96.2% compared to the state average of 86.7%. While the 2021 job placement rate was 94.3% compared to the state average of 90.6%.

Notable Alumni

Some of the most notable students to attend Columbia Law School include Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Both men became presidents of the United States and were awarded honorary JDs in 2008. Mikheil Saakashvili, former president of Georgia, also received his LL.M. from Columbia. Giuliano Amato, twice former Prime Minister of Italy, is another notable graduate of the school. Columbia Law School graduates have also gone on to serve in high-level positions in the US government, including as members of the President's Cabinet and as justices on the Supreme Court. Three alumni have even served as Chief Justice of the United States. Nine alumni have served on the Supreme Court of the United States overall, including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Additionally, several graduates have gone on to serve as US Solicitor General. The school's international reach is also evident in the success of its alumni. Graduates have gone on to prominent judicial positions worldwide, including as members of the International Court of Justice and the Constitutional Court of Italy. Many CLS graduates have served on Supreme Courts in countries such as Denmark, Ireland, the Philippines, Japan, Sierra Leone, Norway, and Uganda.

Contact Information

Columbia University School of Law
Office of J.D. Admissions
435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
Phone: (212) 854-2674
Email: admissions@law.columbia.edu


Established 1858
Location New York, NY
Dean Gillian Lester
2021 US News Ranking 4th
LSAT Median Score 174
GPA Median Score 3.84
Bar Passage Rate 96% (2022)
Employment Rate 95% (2022)
Cost $76,088
Average Debt $168,493
Application Deadline February 15, 2023

Forum and Discussion

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