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Columbia offers a variety of legal degrees including the traditional J.D., LL.M., and J.S.D. (Doctor of the Science of Law) in addition to a "special student" non-degree program which allows practicing attorneys to enroll in certain classes.
Though Columbia offers a strong foundation in every legal discipline in which it offers courses, its strong suits have been intellectual property and tax law. Its international law program is also widely considered to be the best in the nation. The school is also home to the second-largest law library in the nation, housing more than 1 million volumes.
Admission to Columbia Law is, of course, very competitive, with an average 1,000 applicants being granted admission out of a total pool of between 7,000 and 8,000. Median GPA scores for accepted students average about 3.65, with a corresponding median LSAT score of 172. Columbia Law offers a binding early decision option for those applicants for whom it is a first choice.
Dean of Admissions Nkonye Iwerebon says there are three key features which distinguish Columbia as an excellent law school: the quality of its legal training, its student body, and its location.
"Throughout its storied history, Columbia Law School has remained committed to the pursuit of excellence and its command of academic vitality. Columbia offers a challenging yet supportive environment where theory and practice converge; where coursework is both vast in scope and substantive in depth; where teaching by renowned scholars is the very cornerstone of the academic experience; and where opportunities to become immersed in the legal intricacies affecting our local neighborhood or the far reaches of the globe abound equally," she says.
Columbia is oft noted for seeking out law students who have spent at least some time working or pursuing other interests after completing their undergraduate careers. Additionally, the school makes an earnest attempt to create as diverse a student body as possible, with at least 10% of its new students coming from overseas.
First-year students must fulfill certain course requirements before moving on to their chosen specialties. First-year classes at Columbia can be quite large in many cases, with classes often numbering 100 students or more. By the second year, however, when students may select their own classes, class size drops to around 25 students. The official student-faculty ratio currently sits at 11:1, though the school is actively engaged in bringing that number down further through recruitment of more qualified professors and legal scholars.
Tuition at Columbia is comparable to that of other elite schools at about $42,024 per year for the 2007-2008 academic year. Though nearly half of its students receive some form of financial aid or grants, Columbia law students generally graduate with an average debt of $100,000. The school advises students to budget for the current academic year at a total of $64,700. Federal Stafford loans are limited to an annual rate of $20,500 per eligible student.
Employment prospects for graduates of Columbia Law are among the best in the nation, with nearly all students securing full-time positions prior to graduation. A significant number of students are even able to find jobs prior to the start of their third year in law school. Columbia students are famous for being offered posts at the same firms for which they interned early in law school, though annually as many as 10% of the school's graduates elect to move out west, where job opportunities are expanding at impressive rates.
Notable alumni from Columbia Law School include the following: presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, first chief justice of the Supreme Court John Jay, leader of the Tiananmen Square protests Li Lu, MSNBC general manager Dan Abrams, and famed musical director and writer Oscar Hammerstein.
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