The influence of New York City’s Columbia Law School, its faculty and alumni, can be seen throughout American political, economic, and cultural history.
President Roosevelt graduated from Columbia Law, as did nine Supreme Court Justices. The school’s roots go back to the colonial-era King’s College, the law school that trained John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Renowned faculty not only provide students with an academically rigorous and thorough training in legal studies, but also shape policy nationally and internationally through the school’s venerable Columbia Law Journal and at the many campus institutes and centers for policy study and advancement.
Columbia offers several joint degrees, including a JD/MBA with an accelerated three-year version and a four-year version.
Students at Columbia Law can pursue a joint graduate degree program with any of Columbia’s graduate or professional programs.
International dual JD programs offer students a chance to earn two degrees at once, one U.S. and one international, studying at partner campuses in London, Paris, and Frankfurt.
Many other exchange programs exist for students interested in international law, including programs in Latin America, Europe, and Asia.
Columbia’s many areas of study include criminal law, international law, and corporate law, but also new areas of policy, including data analytics and intellectual property & technology.
Beyond its JD program, Columbia Law’s graduate studies department provides paths to a Master of Laws (LLM), as well as a doctorate in legal studies (JSD).
Columbia Law fosters cooperative learning and collegiality over competition. Faculty advising, a peer mentoring program, and community building activities in curriculum and student life give Columbia Law Students the foundation for a strong professional network post-graduation.
Columbia Law School Acceptance Rate
According to the admissions information on the program website, Columbia Law’s acceptance rate for the class entering in 2021 dropped to 11.3%.
But the admissions department emphasizes that they require no minimum LSAT or GPA, focusing instead on the cumulative evidence of a candidate’s potential for succeeding in the program and beyond.
Median LSAT scores for admitted students was 174, and median GPA was 3.84; with its high number of applications, Columbia accepts some of the strongest law school candidates in the nation.
The Early Decision option for application furnishes candidates an avenue to a slight advantage; a rolling admissions process means earlier applications can have a slightly higher statistical probability of acceptance.
If accepted, a candidate ready to commit to Columbia may place themselves in the smaller pool of applicants who choose Early Decision.
The candidate’s personal statement plays a crucial role in Columbia Law acceptance, so hopeful applicants should think carefully about their mission in attending law school before composing.
The statement’s twofold purpose for Columbia Law admissions makes it the centerpiece of an application; personal statements must demonstrate superior writing skills, along with a concise, compelling narrative that illustrates the candidate’s dedication to law study and legal service.
Likewise, applicants should secure letters of recommendation from two sources, at least one academic, who can speak to their fitness not only to succeed academically, but to represent the legal profession with dedication and dignity. A practicing lawyer, legal scholar, or political figure can serve as a strong recommender.
Columbia Law School Tuition
An Ivy League, private institution in a metropolitan area with a high cost of living, Columbia Law School costs more than any other U.S. law school to attend. Out of the top ten most expensive law schools, three more are Ivy League schools, and another is located in New York City.
Columbia Law School’s tuition and fees for the 2021-2022 year comes in at just under $80k, but the entire cost of attendance, including living expenses, books, housing, and anticipated loan fees takes the total budget up to $107,625. Students may also petition to add dependent care costs to the budget.
For many years, Columbia graduates ranked among the highest first-year post-graduation salaries, but they also carried the greatest debt burdens, especially when adding ten-year interest totals.
A recent program designed to encourage legal careers in public service offers an avenue to a Columbia Law degree with less of the associated financial burden.
Graduates going into public service careers can qualify for financial assistance through the school’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program, along with a corresponding federal loan forgiveness program, in order to relieve their post-program educational debt.
Columbia Law School Requirements
Columbia does not require a specific major as a prerequisite for admission to its law program. Only two undergraduate majors rank in double-digit percentages among accepted candidates in 2021: political science (23%) and social science (12%). Other majors from psychology to finance make up the incoming 2021 class fairly equally.
The admissions department actively encourages diverse applicants; the Class of 2021 profile includes students from all kinds of backgrounds, from veterans to rabbis, from a U.S. Supreme Court aide to a taxi driver.
Standard requirements for application include completion of an undergraduate degree, LSAT or GRE scores, a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and a resume.
An interview may be required, but the admissions department decides whether or not an interview should be scheduled.
All application requirements derive from the admissions department’s mission to determine each student’s potential for success in the program and their ability to provide a high level of service to the legal profession and the community.
The committee looks for traits like self-discipline, intelligence, superior legal skills, and commitment to active citizenship.
While Columbia does not explicitly require work experience or some kind of post-undergraduate service, about 70% of their accepted candidates have spent time after their undergraduate degree pursuing further study, careers, or family responsibilities.
Columbia reports about 11% of a typical incoming class have earned other graduate degrees before applying to Columbia Law.
Columbia Law School Notable Alumni
While Columbia Law alumni pursue careers across law, legal studies, business, politics, national security, and many other fields, a high number of graduates serve in the judicial branch of government at all levels. Alumni have also founded or served as president for over 30 U.S. colleges and universities.
Both Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt studied at Columbia; both went on to become Presidents who shaped the future of American political thought. Caroline Kennedy chose Columbia for her JD studies; ACLU board member and defender of the Chicago 7 William Kunstler was a Columbia alumnus.
Long-serving U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, women’s rights advocate Bella Abzug, and infamous McCarthy hearing counsel Roy Cohn all graduated from Columbia Law. Legal commentator and news anchor Dan Abrams and former New York Mayor George Pataki are Columbia Law graduates.
American musical theater legend Oscar Hammerstein II quit Columbia Law for a theater career, which turned out to be a better plan than it probably seemed at the time.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg, one of the century’s most gifted and respected legal minds, transferred from Harvard Law to graduate from Columbia.
When Ginsberg married, Harvard denied her request to finish the third year of her law degree at Columbia. So Ginsberg transferred to Columbia, where graduated at the top of her class and became the first woman to serve on the editorial board of both major law reviews, Harvard and Columbia.
Columbia Law School Ranking
The law school at Columbia University in New York ranks among the top law schools in America. Columbia’s longstanding record of placing graduates at top corporate firms often earns it the top spot on lists evaluating career benefits.
U.S. News places Columbia’s contract and commercial law specialty area at number one, and its corporate specialty at number two among U.S. program divisions. International law at Columbia comes in among the top three programs as well.
The data alone regarding Columbia Law students reflects the prestige of the school’s program. LSAT scores, undergraduate GPA, percentage of bar exam success, and post-graduation employment factors place Columbia’s Law School at number 3 nationally, behind Harvard and Yale.
In the QS global law school rankings, Columbia breaks the top ten at number 8. For domestic and international prestige, for corporate credibility and public service, Columbia ranks among the top law schools on any list.
Should You Attend Columbia Law School?
Like most elite graduate programs, Columbia Law seems to offer a golden opportunity for students with the background, education, and work ethic necessary to gain admission. Those exceptional students have many options to consider, and in order for Columbia to be the right choice, its strengths should suit the candidate’s career goals.
Considering that an elite law school education involves a serious financial commitment, Columbia candidates should plan on going for high-paying corporate positions in order to pay off their loans.
Law school hopefuls planning to shape policy and serve public interest might also find their place at Columbia, for its faculty, facilities, history, and especially for its debt forgiveness programs offered to lawyers in public service careers.
New York City’s kaleidoscopic diversity and international status provide the appropriate context for Columbia Law School. This program encourages intellectual curiosity and the exploration of possibility in service to a global community.