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Columbia Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Columbia University. A member of the Ivy League, Columbia is located in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. David Schizer is the dean.

Ever since U.S. News and World Report began its law school rankings in 1989, Columbia has always appeared in the Top 5, an honor shared only with Yale, Harvardmarker and Stanford. In addition, U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks Columbia among the top four institutions for academic reputation and currently ranks Columbia 4th overall in their 2010 rankings.

For the past two years, Columbia ranked 1st in The National Law Journal survey of "Go-To Law Schools" as determined by the percentage of law school graduates hired by the nation's top 250 law firms. Similarly, Brian Leiter's recent law school rankings (an alternative to U.S. News) ranked Columbia 1st for job placement at the nation's elite law firms and, for the past several years, 3rd for student numerical quality, surpassed only by Yale Law School and Harvard Law Schoolmarker.

Admission to Columbia Law is among the most selective in the U.S. with only 14.7% of applicants being accepted in 2008.

Columbia Law School has produced a large number of distinguished alumni including, among others: two Presidents of the United States; nine Justices of the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker (three of whom were Chief Justices); numerous U.S. Cabinet members and Presidential advisors; U.S. Senators, Representatives, and Governors; members of the federal trial and appellate courts; and academicians and diplomats. Alumni of the Law School have been the president of twenty-four colleges and universities. More current members of the Forbes 400 attended Columbia than any other law school. For its teaching and scholarship, Columbia is lauded in international law and intellectual property — constitutional law, criminal law, legal philosophy and critical race theory, among others, are also exceptionally strong. Columbia is also well known for corporate law where it has a storied job placement rate at the nation's top law firms.


The teaching of law at Columbia reaches back to the 18th century. Graduates of the university's colonial predecessor, King's College, included such notable early American judicial figures as John Jay, who would later become the first chief justice of the United States Supreme Courtmarker. Columbia College appointed its first professor of law, James Kent, in 1793, but the formal instruction of law was suspended for some time during the early decades of the 19th century.

A revival of interest resulted in the formal establishment of the law school in 1858. The first law school building was a Gothic Revival structure located on Columbia's Madison Avenue campus. Thereafter, the college became Columbia University and moved north to the neighborhood of Morningside Heightsmarker.

In the 1920s and 30s, the law school soon became known for the development of the legal realism movement. Among the major realists affiliated with Columbia Law School were Karl Llewellyn, Felix S. Cohen and William O. Douglas.

In September 1988, Columbia Law School founded the first AIDS Law Clinic in the country, taught by Professor Deborah Greenberg and Mark Barnes.

Columbia Law School today

Today, Columbia Law School is well regarded in a number of different areas, including--but not limited to--notable scholars in the following legal disciplines:

Widely cited scholars in other specialties include Philip Bobbitt, Henry Monaghan, Trevor Morrison (constitutional law); Marvin Chirelstein (tax law); Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Patricia J. Williams (MacArthur Fellows Program "genius grant") (race and gender); Robert E. Scott (contract law).

Columbia was among the first schools to establish both comparative and international law centers. The Law School also has major centers for the study of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean law, as well as centers for European Legal Studies, Law and Economics, Corporate Governance, Law and Philosophy, ten other law centers, and numerous law programs.

In 2006, the Law School embarked on an ambitious campaign to increase the number of faculty by fifty percent without increasing the number of students.

On May 26, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia since 1999, to be a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker. Judge Sotomayor created and co-taught a course entitled "The Federal Appellate Externship" every semester at the Law School since the fall 2000.

Law School’s Arthur W. Diamond Library is the second largest law library in the United Statesmarker, with over 1,000,000 volumes. The Columbia Law Review is the third most (and often the second most) cited law journal in the world and is one of the four publishers of the Bluebook. Columbia publishes twelve other student-edited journals, including the Columbia Business Law Review, Columbia Human Rights Law Review, Columbia Journal of Asian Law, Columbia Journal of Environmental Law, Columbia Journal of European Law, Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Columbia Journal of Law & Social Problems, Columbia Journal of Law & Fine Arts, Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, Columbia Science and Technology Review, the American Review of International Arbitration, and the National Black Law Journal.

Columbia has cultivated alliances and dual degree programs with overseas law schools, including King's College Londonmarker (KCL), University College Londonmarker (UCL), and London School of Economicsmarker (LSE) in London, England; the Institut d'études politiques de Parismarker (“Sciences Po”) and the Universite de Parismarker, Sorbonnemarker in Paris, France; and the Institute for Law and Finance (ILF) at the University of Frankfurtmarker in Frankfurt, Germany.

The Law School runs nine vigorous clinical programs that contribute to the community, including the nation's first technology-based clinic, called Lawyering in the Digital Age. This clinic is currently engaged in building a community resource to understand the collateral consequences of criminal charges. In April 2006, Columbia announced that it was starting the nation's first clinic in sexuality and gender law. In 2007, Columbia opened a new program in law and technology.

Columbia is also well known for its strength in corporate law. For example, the school offers a "Deals" course that includes participants from the Columbia Business School and the Law School. In addition, the Columbia Business and Law Association (CBLA), the Law School's principal student group dedicated to the interaction between law and business, routinely sponsors lectures, workshops, and networking events from traditional areas of interest such as investment banking, management consulting, venture capital, private equity, hedge funds, and entrepreneurship. CBLA also serves as a center for members of the Columbia Law School community interested in many aspects of business law, including corporate governance and securities regulation.

Columbia Law School’s main building, Jerome L. Greene Hall (or simply "the Law School"), was designed by Wallace Harrison and Max Abramovitz, architects of the United Nations Headquarters and Lincoln Center for the Performing Artsmarker (which for many years served as the site of Columbia Law School's graduation ceremonies). It is located at the intersection of Amsterdam Avenue and West 116th Street. One of the building's defining features is its frontal sculpture, Bellerophon Taming Pegasus, designed by Jacques Lipchitz, symbolizing man's struggle over (his own) wild side/unreason. In 1996, the Law School was extensively renovated, including the addition of a new entrance façade and lobby, as well as the expansion of existing space to include a café and lounges. Other Columbia Law School buildings include William and June Warren Hall, the Jerome Greene Learning Annex (which Jerome Greene's representatives politely declined to have renamed after the building of Jerome Green Hall), and William C. Warren Hall (or "Little Warren").

The student-run organization Unemployment Action Center has a chapter at Columbia Law School.

Columbia Graduate Legal Studies Program

Columbia offers a Graduate Legal Studies Program, including the Master of Laws (LL.M.) and the Doctor of Juridical Science (J.S.D.) degrees. The LL.M. Program is considered one of the best in the United States and has been ranked very highly according to private studies. Each year the Law School enrolls approximately 210 graduate students from more than 50 countries with experience in all areas of the legal profession, including academia, the judiciary, public service, civil rights and human rights advocacy, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, and private practice. Graduate students are an important component of the Law School community. They participate in many co-curricular activities, including student journals, moot courts, and student organizations. Graduate students also organize and speak at conferences, workshops, and colloquia on current legal issues.

Columbia Law School alumni

Columbia Law School in popular culture

  • Marvel Comics character Matthew Murdock, the alter ego of superhero Daredevil, and his roommate and eventual law partner, Franklin "Foggy" Nelson, attended Columbia Law School.
  • On the television show Law & Order, Assistant District Attorney Jamie Ross studied law at Columbia.
  • In Body Heat, Edmund Walker (played by Richard Crenna), the wealthy husband of the film's femme fatale, is a Columbia Law School graduate.
  • In the film Old School, Dean Gordon Pritchard bribes the student body president by guaranteeing her admission to Columbia Law.
  • In the film Just Cause, Law Professor Paul Armstrong, played by Sir Sean Connery, is a Columbia Law graduate.
  • In the film Two Weeks Notice, Howard Wade, played by David Haig, asks for a lawyer trained at Columbia Law School.
  • On the television show How I Met Your Mother, the character Marshall is a graduate of Columbia Law School.
  • On The West Wing (S7E1), Toby Ziegler is seen in a three-year flash-forward to be teaching at Columbia.
  • On The West Wing (S5), Angela (the new head of legislative affairs at the White House) meets Leo in regards to the President's high popularity in polls during the time of his daughter's kidnapping. When Leo says that the President's temporary self-removal from office was a constitutional necessity, Angela comments on the negative political ramifications and tells Leo, "If you want a Constitutional debate, call the Dean of Columbia Law."
  • On the television show Raising the Bar, the character Judge Trudy Kessler is a Columbia Law alumna.


  1. Best Graduate Schools - Education - US News and World Report
  2. 2009 Reputational Scores from U.S. News Surveys of Academics and Practitioners
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  7. Business News and Financial News at
  8. Brian Leiter Newest Rankings Table of Contents
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