One of the oldest higher education institutions in the country, Columbia Law School also consistently finds itself among the most elite. Its location in the heart of New York City instills a cosmopolitan feel at a school that boasts a host of notable alumni, including Alexander Hamilton; Paul Cravath, an early partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore; and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Columbia Law’s global stage is reflected in its course offerings and opportunities. As part of the school’s international focus, single-semester study abroad programs are available in more than a dozen different countries as well as international dual-degree programs, allowing students to spend their entire third year abroad. Almost 70% of Columbia Law’s 2020 entering class spent at least one year out of college before enrollment, and a large portion of the school’s graduates enter the corporate field, often at some of the biggest and most recognized international corporate law firms.
Student life at Columbia Law is also shaped by the pulse of the city. Located in Morningside Heights, the law school sits within Columbia University’s central campus, surrounded by a diverse array of restaurants and sandwiched by several of the city’s parks, including the famous Central Park. The majority of Columbia Law students choose to reside either in Lenfest Hall, a newly built residence located near campus, or in other student housing throughout the neighborhood, through a process facilitated by the school.
Each entering class at Columbia Law consists of approximately 400 students (394 enrolled in 2020), who, just after orientation, begin “Legal Methods,” a three-week, twice-daily intensive course that teaches students how to read cases and write case briefs. This hallmark of Columbia Law’s academic program prepares students for coursework and introduces the analytical skills they will need in their first-year courses. During the first year, students enroll in a foundational curriculum that includes a two-semester legal practice workshop, and they can choose one elective in the spring term. Students take classes with the same cohort throughout their first year.
Upper-class students have the opportunity to complete electives that focus on different aspects of the law. Students may choose from coursework, seminars, and clinics on a myriad of subjects ranging from commercial and corporate law to gender and sexuality. However, students are required to complete two writing credits, a professional responsibility course, a minimum of six experiential units, and at least 40 pro bono hours. In the spirit of the school’s interdisciplinary focus, second- and third-year students are encouraged to supplement their upper-level legal classes by taking classes from other schools within Columbia University, spending a semester abroad, or obtaining a dual degree at a foreign university.
In connection with its JD program, Columbia Law offers dual-degree programs through several different graduate schools: Arts and Sciences; Business; Journalism; Public Health; Architecture, Planning, and Preservation; International and Public Affairs; Arts; and Social Work. Students must file separate applications to the law school and their other chosen school, and each school makes an independent decision on admission. Students may also apply initially to the law school and then apply to the other school at a later date, or vice versa.
In addition, Columbia Law offers international dual-degree programs in which students obtain a law degree from Columbia and a separate master’s degree or LLM degree in a foreign jurisdiction in the same amount of time as the traditional JD program and at no additional cost. Students in these programs spend their entire third year abroad in Paris, Frankfurt, or London.
Students also have the option of completing a JD/MPA at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs or designing their own dual- or joint-degree program with a school outside of Columbia University.
Columbia Law does not rank its students but instead awards two different levels of academic recognition: Kent honors for those who achieve a GPA of 3.8 or higher, and Stone honors for those who achieve a GPA of at least 3.41 (and satisfy several other grading requirements).
Clinical and Experiential Learning
Aligned with the new American Bar Association standards, Columbia Law now requires that all students complete six experiential credits to graduate. The school offers a variety of clinics that can help students fulfill this requirement, including the Human Rights Clinic, Community Advocacy Lab, and Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic. Alternatively, students can participate in such programs as the Pro Bono Scholars Program, the Externship on the Federal Government: Semester in Washington DC, and the Criminal Defense externship, or in a number of simulations and policy labs. In simulation classes, students tackle real-world legal challenges to develop foundational skills. In policy labs, students work in teams and with professionals from other fields to combine theory with hands-on learning in an effort to solve complex public problems.
Class Profile (Class of 2024)
Number of Applications: 9,645
Class Size: 479
Average Age: 66% are 21–24; 28% are 25–28
Students of Color: 45%
Median LSAT: 174
Median GPA: 3.84
Career Placement (Class of 2020)
- Law Firms: 83.4%
- Public Interest: 6.5%
- Judicial Clerkships: 5.8%
- Government: 3.4%
- Business and Industry: 1.0%