One of the oldest law schools in the country, Columbia also consistently finds itself among the most elite. Its location in the heart of New York City instills a cosmopolitan feel at an institution that boasts a host of notable alumni, including Alexander Hamilton, Paul Cravath, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Columbia’s global stage is emphasized in its course offerings and opportunities. As part of its international focus, Columbia offers single-semester study abroad programs in a dozen different countries as well as international dual degree programs, allowing students to spend their entire third year abroad. Almost 80% of Columbia’s entering class has 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 is also touched by the pulse of the city. Located in Morningside Heights, the school sits within the 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 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 Columbia.
Each entering class at Columbia is approximately 400 students, who, just after orientation, enter Legal Methods, a three-week, twice-daily intensive course that teaches students how to read cases and write case briefs. This hallmark of Columbia’s academic program prepares students in advance for coursework and introduces analytical skills they will need in their first-year courses. During the first year, students enroll in a foundational curriculum, a legal practice workshop, and can choose one elective in the spring term. Students will take classes with the same sub-cohort of the incoming class throughout their first year.
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 at other schools within the institution, spending a semester abroad, or obtaining a dual degree at a foreign university.
In connection with its J.D. program, Columbia offers dual degree programs through 9 different graduate schools (Arts and Sciences, Business, Journalism, Public Health, Urban Planning, International Affairs, Arts, Social Work, and Public and International Affairs). Applications to the Law School and another chosen school are filed separately, with each school making 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.
Columbia also offers International Dual Degree programs in which students obtain a law degree from Columbia Law School and a separate master’s degree or LL.M degree in a foreign jurisdiction in the same amount of time as the traditional J.D. program, and at no additional cost. Students in these programs spend their entire third year abroad in Paris, Frankfurt, or London.
Columbia Law School does not rank 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 particular grading requirements).
Clinical and Experiential Learning
Aligned with new American Bar Association standards, Columbia now requires that all students complete six experiential credits to graduate, which can be satisfied by taking one of a variety of clinics (including, among others, the Challenging the Consequences of Mass Incarceration Clinic, Community Advocacy Lab, and Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic).
Alternatively, students can participate in the Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem Community Defense Externship, the Externship on Federal Government – Semester in Washington D.C., the In House Counsel Externship, or a number of simulations and policy labs. In simulation classes, students tackle hypothetical 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 Size: 412
Average Age: 61% are 21-24 yrs. old, 32% are 25-28 yrs. old.
Students of color: 40%
Median LSAT: 172
Median GPA: 3.75
- Law Firms: 81.6%
- Judicial Clerkships: 5.7%
- Business & Industry: 2%
- Government/Public Interest: 10.5%
- Education: 0%
- Northeast/Mid-Atlantic: 44%
- Central: 9%
- South Atlantic/Central: 17%
- Mountain/Pacific: 20%
- U.S. Territories/Foreign: 10%