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Cornell Law School

From lawbrain.com

Cornell Law School is a highly-ranked institution for legal education. It is located in Ithaca, New York and, in terms of tuition, is one of the most expensive law schools one can attend.



Cornell Law School is located in Ithaca, New York. It began its life as a law “department” in 1887, not even requiring newly-admitted students to possess a high school diploma. As the need for legal education rose, so did the standards. By 1924 Cornell’s legal education resulted in a graduate degree, and in 1925, Cornell trustees bestowed the law department with a new name, “Cornell Law School.”[1]

Today, Cornell currently enrolls 603 students and offers four degree programs, including Juris Doctor (J.D.), Master of Laws (LL.M.), Doctor of Juridical Science (J.S.D.), and Master of Science (Legal Studies) (M.S.L.S.).[2] Additionally, Cornell offers a joint J.D./M.B.A. program with their own Johnson School of Management as well as a joint J.D./M.P.A. program with Cornell’s Institute for Public Affairs.[3]

As far as admissions statistics go, the median LSAT score for the Class of 2011 was 167 and the median undergraduate GPA was 3.65. Three-thousand nine hundred twenty-three prospective students applied,[4] with an acceptance rate of 22%.[5] Forty percent of the Class of 2011 identified themselves as minorities. Students hailed from 36 different states and 8 foreign countries, possessed 45 unique majors, and came from 116 different undergraduate institutions.[6] Faculty statistics include 51 full-time faculty members; 34.1% of the faculty members are women, and 9.8% of the faculty members identify as minorities. The Class of 2012 is projected to experience a 10:1 student to faculty ratio.[7]

Cost is big factor in graduate school education. Tuition at Cornell Law School for 2011-2012 is projected to cost $53,150. It is estimated that a student in that same timeframe would spend $11,250 for room and board, $1,100 for books, $5000 for personal and travel expenses, with an estimated cost of $1,880 for health insurance coverage.[8]

In exchange for those costs, Cornell Law School offers over 150 wide-ranging courses and clinical programs for full-time students to choose from, with areas of specialty in labor law, public interest law, and international law. Cornell even offers a Lawyering Program offering students the opportunity to learn real life skills employed by practicing attorneys. The first year is comprised of mandatory courses in addition to the Lawyering Program. The second and third years of instruction are comprised of elective courses, though students, at some point, must complete a Professional Responsibility course as well as a course that satisfies the law school’s writing requirement.[9]

Cornell Law School also has plenty of opportunities for students to become involved. Cornell has over 30 student organizations covering a wide variety of interests and topics, as well as an extensive number of clinical programs.[10] Cornell Law Students can learn about organization activities and other events on and off-campus from Scoops, Cornell Law School’s own official newsletter.[11]

In addition, Cornell Law School is host to five publications. All but one (Journal of Empirical Legal Studies) is student-edited.

  • Journal of Empirical Legal Studies
  • Cornell International Law Journal
  • Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy
  • Cornell Law Review
  • LII Bulletin

Some leading goals coming out of law school are to pass the bar and get hired, and Cornell Law School treats its graduates well in that respect. Cornell Law School’s New York State Bar Passage Rate is right at 99%, with the majority of Cornell Law School graduates going on to work at larger firms in the Tri-State area. Ninety-three percent of those surveyed from the Class of 2009 were employed at graduation.[12]


Of course, rankings are vitally important to not only a school but also its students and alumni. Schools continually seek to improve their standing on the various lists and know that rankings are a big part of why students choose to attend a school. Students seek out highly-ranked schools to improve their employment prospects, and alumni appreciate graduating from schools with high rankings for their future career development. It also goes without saying that a high ranking affords a certain amount of arrogance, or even feelings of superiority over others, often assumed by schools, students, and graduates. Cornell is ranked 13th[13] by U.S. News and World Report and 15th by Vault.com.[14]

What They Are Saying

Cornell Law School was recently said to be the second-best law school (behind the University of Chicago) to attend in order to land a “Biglaw Job” after graduation.[15] While most law schools sent fewer students to top law firms in 2010, Cornell bucked that trend, sending 58.3% of its class to big law firms compared with 41.5% of its class in 2009.[16] Cornell was also recently identified as the most expensive law school (based on tuition cost) one can attend.[17]


Cornell Law’s Dean recently tried to explain an unusually high increase in the number of its applicants, citing a number of reasons, one being that the between the two tiers of the lawyering world – Main Street and Wall Street – and why would anyone want to wait out the recession at a law school that doesn’t send a large number of its graduates to Wall Street firms?[18]

Former United States Supreme Court Justice wrote an essay with Cornell Law School dean, Stewart J. Schwab, revisiting the Supreme Court’s ruling concerning affirmative action in 2003, and arguing that her opinion, “should not be seen as imposing a deadline on the use of race-conscious policies or as relieving the need for more research showing such policies have educational benefits.”[19]

Notable Professors

Cornell Law School is home to many notable professors. A small sampling is as follows:

  • Michael C. Dorf - constitutional scholar and blogger
  • Joshua A. Chafetz - comparative constitutional law and legal history scholar
  • Robert S. Summers - co-author of the Uniform Commercial Code

Notable Alumni

Cornell counts many federal and state government legislators among its alumni. Cornell Law Alumni also has its fair share of former students who entered the judiciary as well as various positions within state and federal government.

  • William P. Rogers – United States Attorney General
  • Bob DuPuy – President and Chief Operating Officer of Major League Baseball
  • Barber Conable – President of the World Bank
  • Mary Donlon Alger – First female judge to serve on the United States Customs Court
  • Jan Schlichtmann – Lawyer profiled in A Civil Action (book and motion picture)
  • Edward Muskie – former Governor of and Senator from Maine and former Secretary of State
  • Ellsworth A. Van Graafeiland – United States Court of Appeals Judge


  1. http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/about/history.cfm
  2. http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/about/facts_stats.cfm
  3. http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/law-school-03105
  4. http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/careers/aboutus/statistics.cfm
  5. http://www.top-law-schools.com/cornell-law-school.html
  6. http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/careers/aboutus/statistics.cfm
  7. http://www.admissionsdean.com/law_schools/cornell-law-school/faculty-and-student-body
  8. http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/admissions/tuition/tuition_expenses.cfm
  9. http://www.admissionsdean.com/law_schools/cornell-law-school/academics
  10. http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/careers/employers/why_cornellian/student_groups.cfm
  11. http://support.law.cornell.edu/technology/scoops/scoops.html
  12. http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/careers/aboutus/upload/2009atgradstatspublichandout.pdf
  13. http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/law-school-03105
  14. http://www.vault.com/wps/portal/usa/!ut/p/c5/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3gzQ0u_YHMPIwP_IBMTA09fL6cg4yBfLyMvc6B8JLJ8oLGLgadBsJ-vsZmpj7GPIQHd4SD7cKpwNjdFl8c0HyRvgAM4Guj7eeTnpuoX5EYYZAakKwIARarXxw!!/dl3/d3/L2dJQSEvUUt3QS9ZQnZ3LzZfNjE5TlM3SDIwT1I0NDBJTUpCUjNSTUoyTzM!/?programid=984&programtype=2954&pagetype=school&video_flag=0
  15. http://abovethelaw.com/2011/03/best-law-schools-for-getting-a-biglaw-job-2011/
  16. http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202483536206&Top_law_schools_placed_fewer_graduates_at_top_firms_in_
  17. http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202483945182&Chicago_Howard_are_the_best_buy_GoTo_law_schools&slreturn=1&hbxlogin=1
  18. http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2010/02/03/the-cornell-law-mystery-continues-or-why-cls-is-like-lady-gaga/
  19. http://chronicle.com/article/Sandra-Day-OConnor-Revisits/63523/


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