Cornell Law School is the law school of Cornell University, a privateIvy League university in Ithaca, New York. One of the five Ivy League law schools, it offers four law degree programs, JD, LLM, MSLS and JSD, along with several dual-degree programs in conjunction with other professional schools at the university. Established in 1887 as Cornell's Department of Law, the school today is one of the smallest top-tier JD-conferring institutions in the country, with around 200 students graduating each year. Cornell Law School has consistently ranked within the top tier of American legal institutions, known as the T14.
Entrance to Myron Taylor Hall, Cornell Law's principal building for instruction
The Law Department at Cornell opened in 1887 in Morrill Hall with Judge Douglass Boardman as its first dean. At that time, admission did not require even a high school diploma. In 1917, two years of undergraduate education were required for admission, and in 1924, it became a graduate degree program. The department was renamed the Cornell Law School in 1925. In 1890, George Washington Fields graduated, one of the first law-school-graduates of color in the United States. In 1893, Cornell had its first female graduate, Mary Kennedy Brown. Future Governor, Secretary of State, and Chief Justice of the United States, Charles Evans Hughes, was a professor of law at Cornell from 1891 to 1893, and after returning to legal practice he continued to teach at the law school as a special lecturer from 1893 to 1895. Hughes Hall, one of the law school's central buildings, is named in his honor.
In 1892, the school moved into Boardman Hall, which was constructed specifically for legal instruction. The school moved from Boardman Hall (now the site of Olin Library) to its present-day location at Myron Taylor Hall in 1937. The law school building, an ornate, Gothic structure, was the result of a donation by Myron Charles Taylor, a former CEO of US Steel, and a member of the Cornell Law class of 1894. Hughes Hall was built as an addition to Myron Taylor Hall and completed in 1963. It was also funded by a gift from Taylor. Another addition to Myron Taylor Hall, the Jane M.G. Foster wing, was completed in 1988 and added more space to the library. Foster was a member of the class of 1918, an editor of the Cornell Law Review (then Cornell Law Quarterly), and an Order of the Coif graduate. In June 2012 the school embarked on a three-year, multi-phase expansion and renovation. The first phase created additional classroom space underground, adjacent to Myron Taylor Hall along College Avenue. The second phase will include the removal and digitization of printed materials from the library stacks so that the space can be converted to additional classroom and student space. The third phase involves converting Hughes Hall into office space.
In 1948, Cornell Law School established a program of specialization in international affairs and also started awarding LL.B. degrees. In 1968, the school began to publish the Cornell International Law Journal. In 1991, the school established the Berger International Legal Studies Program. In 1994, the school established a partnership with the University of Paris I law faculty to establish a Paris-based Summer Institute of International and Comparative Law. From 1999 to 2004 the school hosted the Feminism and Legal Theory Project. In 2006, the school established its second summer law institute in Suzhou, China. The Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture was established in 2002.
Hughes Hall after 2017 renovations
Myron Taylor Hall saw the addition of 40,000 square feet of underground classrooms in 2012–2014. Hughes Hall was renovated in 2017.
Banner outside the law school's Jane M.G. Foster wing
Cornell Law School is highly selective: for the class entering in the fall of 2021, there were 5,998 applicants, with an acceptance rate of 15.41% and 200 students enrolling. The median LSAT for the 2021 entering class was 171, with 25th and 75th percentiles of 169 and 173, respectively. The median undergraduate GPA was 3.86, with 25th and 75th percentiles of 3.74 and 3.95, respectively.
In the LL.M. program, which is designed for non-U.S.-trained lawyers, 900 applications were received for the 50 to 60 openings. LL.M. students come from over 30 different countries.
Along with consideration of the quality of an applicant's academic record and LSAT scores, the full-file-review admissions process places a heavy emphasis on an applicant's personal statement, letters of recommendation, community/extracurricular involvement, and work experience. The application also invites a statement on diversity and a short note on why an applicant particularly wants to attend Cornell. The law school values applicants who have done their research and have particular interests or goals that would be served by attending the school versus one of its peer institutions.
Cornell Law School was ranked 12th in the 2023 U.S. News and World Report Law School rankings and 3rd in the 2022 Above the Law rankings, which prioritize career outcomes above all other factors. The Master of Laws (LL.M.) program at Cornell Law School was ranked 1st in the 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2011 AUAP rankings. In 2017, the National Law Journal ranked Cornell 4th on its list of "Go-To" law schools that excel in placing graduates at the top 250 law firms. Cornell has one of the lowest student-to-faculty ratios at 5:1.
Cornell has offered LL.M and J.S.D degrees since 1928. The joint JD/MBA (with Cornell's Johnson School of Management) has three- and four-year tracks, the JD/MILR program is four years, the JD/MPA is four years, and JD/MRP is four years.
In addition, Cornell has joint program arrangements with universities abroad to prepare students for international licensure:
The JD/Master en Droit lasts four-years and prepares graduates for admission to the bar in the United States and in France. The JD/M.LL.P is three years and conveys a mastery of German and European law and practices. The JD/Master in Global Business Law lasts three years.
Cornell Law School runs two summer institutes overseas, providing Cornell Law students with unique opportunities to engage in rigorous international legal studies. The Cornell-Université de Paris I Summer Institute of International and Comparative Law at the Sorbonne in Paris, France offers a diverse curriculum in the historic Sorbonne and Centre Panthéon (Faculté de droit) buildings at the heart of the University of Paris I: Panthéon-Sorbonne. Coursework includes international human rights, comparative legal systems, and international commercial arbitration. French language classes are also offered.
In 2006, Cornell Law School announced that it would launch a second summer law institute, the new Workshop in International Business Transactions with Chinese Characteristics in Suzhou, China. In partnership with Bucerius Law School (Germany) and Kenneth Wang School of Law at Soochow University (China), Cornell Law provides students from the United States, Europe, and China with an academic forum in which they can collaborate on an international business problem.
92% of the Class of 2021 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment within nine months of graduation. According to Reuters, Cornell Law placed a greater portion of its 2021 graduates in associate positions at big law firms than any other law school in the United States. Of the graduating class of 2021, 76% were employed at large firms with more than 250 attorneys, and 71% were employed at firms with more than 500 attorneys. In total, approximately 80% of that class obtained elite employment outcomes in the form of federal clerkships or employment at firms with more than 250 attorneys. In a comparative survey of all law schools, Cornell graduates earned the highest average salaries in the United States from 2014 through 2019, with a mean salary of over $183,000. In 2021, Law.com ranked Cornell Law #3 on its ranking of the 50 best law schools for getting an associate position at the largest 100 law firms in the country.
The 2021-2022 non-discounted tuition for the JD program was $71,522 per year. The total cost of attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses) at Cornell Law School for the 2021-2022 academic year was $95,114, bringing the total non-discounted cost of attendance for the three-year program to $285,242. According to Cornell Law's 2021 509 ABA disclosures, 83% of its 578 students received grants or scholarships.
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Cornell Law students actively participate in myriad moot court competitions annually, both in the law school itself and in external and international competitions. The Langfan First-Year Moot Court Competition, which takes place every spring, traditionally draws a large majority of the first-year class. Other internal competitions include the Cuccia Cup and the Rossi Cup.
Rare books in the library include the Samuel Thorne collection, which has 175 of some of the earliest and most rare books on law. Other significant collections include the Nathaniel C. Moak library and the Edwin J. Marshall Collection of early works on equity and the Earl J. Bennett Collection of Statutory Material, a print collection of original colonial, territorial, and state session laws and statutory codes. Among the library's special collections are 19th Century Trials Collection, Donovan Nuremberg Trials Collection, Scottsboro Collection, William P. and Adele Langston Rogers Collection and the Chile Declassification Project.