CUNY School of Law
Academics & Programs: The incredibly affordable CUNY—Law is “full of school spirit, clinical training, and no page ripping out of library books.” Working under the mission “law in the service of human needs,” the school is “genuinely committed to the struggle for justice,” and tends to attract a different type of law student; unlike a lot of New York law schools, the vast majority of the “dedicated” and “idealistic” students here go on to careers in public interest. This mission creates a law school experience like no other—students are encouraging to one another and help each other to thrive, and everyone involved with the school wishes success on each new class. “Put it this way, I have a number of my professors’ cell phone numbers, I call them by their first names, and our janitors come to our graduation because they are proud of us,” says a 3L.
The curriculum here provides a well-rounded education of law and case-teaching method, along with policy and legal theory, enabling students to do more progressive work in the legal field. There is no grading curve, classes stress doctrinal work and advocacy, seminars teach practical skills with lawyering, and the research requirements prepare students for internships/careers. Legal clinics offer myriad of practical experience, particularly in the third year. Professors are “diverse, engaged and receptive to students,” and many “have amazing histories of advocacy work,” with backgrounds in feminist organizing work, gay rights, environmental justice, reproductive rights, and “everything else fun and liberal.” There can be a touch of disorganization and bureaucracy in the administration, but it’s kept to a minimum, and administrators “can be great if you find them on a good day.”
Campus Life/Facilities: CUNY Law recently moved locations to Long Island City, which is within walking distance of seven subway lines, the Long Island Railroad, and many buses, not to mention the Long Island City courthouse. The new LEED Gold certified building now makes the law school one of the greenest law schools in the country. All classrooms are equipped with at least one computer and a SmartBoard for easy note-taking, and outside of the classroom, discussions are continued “on the course websites that each professor dedicate to maintain.”
In the end, it’s the complete commitment from faculty, staff, and students to the school’s mission that wins students over, and the comfortable, supportive environment created when surrounded by people with similar motives. “No one here is trying to be an ambulance chaser or a barracuda or any of the other stereotypes of lawyers. Everyone here is genuinely interested in being a champion for a cause and the cause is people who genuinely need the law on their side,” says a proud student. Most who attend school here have been out of undergrad for quite awhile and have a wide variety of experience working for nonprofit organizations and activist jobs, so they come to school with a clear idea of the type of public interest law they want to practice. This results in an “incredibly collaborative learning environment” and students want to see each other succeed. In fact, they’re downright rabid about the fact that competition does not exist at CUNY: “I had computer problems during midterms and finals my first semester, and people were practically throwing their outlines at me so I would do well!” says a student.
Since a lot of people commute and there is no out-of-state housing, it “sometimes feels hard to get everyone together,” but “small class sizes make it easier to make ‘school friends.’” and people “definitely coalesce around local bars to celebrate midterms, finals and anything in between.” There are many student clubs and events, even if students are often too exhausted to take part in them. Although the school is very liberal in its ideology, when it comes to conversation and debate, “No one is shunned because they aren’t of a certain persuasion.” This liberalism also translates to action, and “Everything gets heated up, from new listservs, banning Coke products, and scheduling of classes and finals.” Still, everyone here gets along really well and is “like a family,” but just like in a family, “Any drama is magnified because of the school’s small size.”
* The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.