Columbia Law School (often referred to as Columbia Law or CLS) is a professional graduate school of Columbia University, a member of the Ivy League. It has always been ranked in the top five law schools in the United States by U.S. News and World Report. Columbia is especially well known for its strength in corporate law and its placement power in the nation's elite law firms.
Columbia Law School was founded in 1858 as the Columbia College Law School and was known for its legal scholarship dating back to the 18th century. Graduates of the university's colonial predecessor, King's College, include such notable early-American legal figures as John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States, and Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, who were both co-authors of The Federalist Papers.
Columbia has produced a large number of distinguished alumni including US Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, nine Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States; numerous U.S. Cabinet members and Presidential advisers; US Senators, Representatives, and Governors; and more members of the Forbes 400 than any other law school in the world.
According to Columbia Law School's 2013 ABA-required disclosures, 95% of the Class of 2013 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation, with the 25th percentile, median, and 75th percentile starting salary for graduates all being $180,000 (including the standard first year associate bonus of $15,000 this figure rises to $195,000). The law school was ranked #1 of all law schools nationwide by the National Law Journal in terms of sending the highest percentage of 2015 graduates to the largest 100 law firms in the US (52.6%).
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. Columbia College appointed its first professor of law, James Kent, in 1793. The lectures of Chancellor Kent in the course of four years had developed into the first two volumes of his Commentaries, the second volume being published November 1827. Kent did not, however, succeed in establishing a law school or department in the College. Thus, the formal instruction of law as a course of study did not commence until the middle of the 19th century.
The Columbia College Law School, as it was then officially called, was founded 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 Heights. As Columbia Law Professor Theodore Dwight observed, at its founding the demand for a formal course of study in law was still speculative:
It was considered at that time mainly as an experiment. No institution resembling a law school had ever existed in New York. Most of the leading lawyers had obtained their training in offices or by private reading, and were highly skeptical as to the possibility of securing competent legal knowledge by means of professional schools. Legal education was, however, at a very low ebb. The clerks in the law offices were left almost wholly to themselves. Frequently they were not even acquainted with the lawyers with whom, by a convenient fiction, they were supposed to be studying. Examinations for admission to the bar were held by committees appointed by the courts, who, where they inquired at all, sought for the most part to ascertain the knowledge of the candidate of petty details of practice. In general, the examinations were purely perfunctory. A politician of influence was not readily turned away. Few studied law as a science; many followed it as a trade or as a convenient ladder whereby to rise in a political career."