Cornell Law School stands out for its small size and rural setting, complemented by the benefits of a larger university and neighboring college town. The school’s notable alumni include Edmund Muskie and William P. Rogers, former US secretaries of state; Samuel Pierce, former US secretary of housing and urban development; and Tsai Ing-wen, the first female president of Taiwan.
Cornell Law emphasizes its intimate learning environment, a close-knit community that facilitates frequent interaction between students and faculty, as well as a collegial atmosphere and meaningful collaboration. The school celebrates the teaching ability of its faculty and provides individualized academic support to students in the form of workshops, counseling, and tutoring.
By encouraging interdisciplinary study, particularly through numerous dual-degree opportunities, Cornell Law also maximizes its connection to the larger university. Student life is closely connected to Cornell’s home in Ithaca, in Upstate New York, and its rustic surroundings. Overlooking Cayuga Lake and many gorges, the university offers a variety of outdoor activities as a break from studies (and has many students joking, “Ithaca is GORGEous!”). The town itself has been recognized as one of the “foodiest” towns in the country, with more restaurants per capita than New York City. Most law students live near other graduate students in Lower Collegetown, a short walk from the law school campus, while others choose to stay slightly farther away in downtown Ithaca, amid family homes.
Each entering class at Cornell Law comprises approximately 200 students (177 in the Class of 2023). The first-year curriculum consists of seven required courses, with legal research taught in small sections and the others in larger groups, and students take one elective course in the spring. During the first year, students have the opportunity to work with an academic support counselor and can also be assigned a faculty and/or student mentor. During the second and third years, most courses are elective, but a few courses in ethics and advanced legal writing are required. The JD program also offers optional concentrations in Advocacy, Business Law and Regulation, Conflict Resolution, General Practice, Public Law, and Technology and Law.
With an interdisciplinary focus, Cornell Law offers several dual-degree programs, including a Master of Labor and Industrial Relations, a JD/MBA, and a JD/PhD in Developmental Psychology. Cornell Law also offers a select group of students the opportunity to obtain an international law degree at the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Students may also spend a semester abroad during one term of their second or third year.
Cornell Law does not release the academic rankings of its students, and the school only ranks the top five students in each class. Faculty are encouraged but not required to adhere to a mean student grade of 3.35.
Clinical and Experiential Learning
Cornell Law offers in-house clinics and practicums, externships, and simulation courses to upper-class students. Among the 23 in-house clinics and practicums, some of the more unique include the Capital Punishment Clinic, Gender Justice Clinic, International Human Rights Clinic, Asylum and Convention Against Torture Appellate Clinic, and Farmworker Legal Assistance Clinic. Clinics promise direct client interaction and frequently involve arguments in appellate or trial courts. Students can also enroll in local, part-time externships (including the Judicial Externship, Law Guardian Externship, and Neighborhood Legal Services Externship); the Full Term Externship, which in the past has involved such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union, the US Department of Justice, and federal prosecutor/defender offices; or, occasionally, externships abroad. Cornell Law’s well-developed simulation curriculum covers such subjects as applied legal writing, negotiation, and international arbitration.
Class Profile (Class of 2023)
Class Size: 177
Median Age: 23
Median LSAT: 168
Median GPA: 3.86
Career Placement (Class of 2020)
- Law Firms: 79.787%
- Judicial Clerkships: 6.914%
- Government: 6.383%
- Public Interest: 4.255%
- Business and Industry: 2.660%