Columbia Law School
|Columbia Law School|
|Degrees||JD, LLM, JSD|
Columbia Law School (CLS) the most corporate of elite law schools in the US, occupies Jerome Greene Hall, one of the ugliest buildings in Columbia's ensemble. Students slave away in its library at odd hours.
The teaching of law at Columbia began with the hiring of jurist James Kent as Columbia College's first law professor in 1793. Kent left in 1798 to pursue other projects. A law department was established in 1858 (the formal date given for the establishment of the law school) under the leadership of Theodore Dwight, who remained the sole law professor until 1873, when the department was expanded into an independent school.
It occupied a soaring gothic structure on Columbia's Midtown campus. In 1891, Columbia's trustees adopted the case method of law teaching, first developed at Harvard. Dwight, who had developed his own, independent method, was furious. In protest, he and many of the other faculty left to found New York Law School, where Woodrow Wilson taught. It has a higher pass rate on the New York bar examinations than Columbia, and is responsible for Xerox and AIG, among other money makers.
With the move to Morningside Heights in the late 19th century, the law school moved into Kent Hall and, subsequently, to Jerome Greene Hall across Amsterdam Avenue. Kent Hall still bears the markings of a law school, particularly on its library's stained glass windows.
The school probably reached its high point during the first half of the 20th century. Both Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt were students there, though neither graduated. Prominent scholars of the legal realist movement, including Karl Llewellyn and Felix Cohen, were also associated with the school.
In recent years there have been fears that it has been losing out to downtown rival NYU, with which it is sometimes tied in the US News rankings (in the most recent ranking, CLS placed a solid 4th, though, with NYU trailing in 6th). The departure of notable professors such as Jeremy Waldron has been seen as an indication of its relative decline. Some say the deanship of David Schizer may have instigated divisiveness within the faculty; others claim departing professors are simply upset the school places an emphasis on teaching.
A lounge in Kent Hall for law students in the 1950's
The law library ca. 1900, when the collection was housed in Low Library
The law school library on Columbia's Midtown campus
The law school building on the Midtown campus ca. 1860
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