City University of New York School of Law
The information on this page was provided by the law school.
Official Guide to ABA-Approved JD Programs
The mission of the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law is to graduate outstanding public interest lawyers and to enhance the diversity of the legal profession. Our motto, “Law in the Service of Human Needs,” infuses everything we do.
CUNY Law is located at 2 Court Square in Long Island City, a vibrant, urban community in the heart of New York City in the borough of Queens. The school is just minutes from midtown Manhattan and easily accessible by public transportation. CUNY Law’s beautiful facility is LEED-Gold certified, meaning its construction had a reduced environmental impact, and its design promotes occupants’ health and well-being. It was built with 90 percent post-consumer, recycled steel. The building recycles rainwater and runs on wind power. This makes CUNY Law one of the greenest law schools in the nation.
CUNY Law’s unique and integrated curriculum has made it a national leader in progressive legal education heralded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Our program of study integrates practical experience, lawyering, and doctrinal study beginning in the first semester and continuing throughout the entire curriculum. All first-year students take a required two-semester Lawyering Seminar, where they focus on fundamental lawyering skills, including the skills of legal analysis and legal writing and engage in simulations requiring a wide range of lawyering tasks, such as document drafting, client interviewing and counseling, fact assessment, attorney negotiations, and presentations before tribunals. In the second year, each student also elects a four-credit Lawyering Seminar focused on developing more advanced lawyering skills in a subject area of choice, such as trial practice, mediation, public benefits, community economic development, criminal defense, and judicial writing. The lawyering program culminates in the third or fourth year, when all students are required to participate in a supervised clinic or directed externship. Complementing our lawyering program, our doctrinal faculty designs the core law school courses, such as torts, contracts, civil procedure, and constitutional law, to connect lawyering skills with the theory and doctrine necessary for our graduates to become excellent public interest attorneys. In addition, comprehensive academic support is provided by the Irene Diamond Professional Skills Center to assist students as they navigate law school. Regardless of the type of class, faculty guidance, supervision, and feedback permeate the process, as does an open-door policy, so that students learn to reflect on and become active participants in their own learning.
CUNY School of Law offers a full-time day program over the course of three years, as well as a part-time evening program over the course of four years.
The diversity of New York City is reflected in our dynamic student body and faculty. Women constitute 58 percent of the student body, and 50 percent of the student body are people of color. Faculty diversity is similar: 66 percent are women, and 34 percent are people of color. Our dedication to diversity is also threaded throughout the curriculum. For example, a required course for all first-year students is Liberty, Equality, and Due Process, which examines issues of racial and gender equality and sexual orientation in the context of legal and historical analysis.
Building on Lawyering Seminars in the first two years, every third-year CUNY Law student is required to participate in a clinic or supervised externship for 12 to 16 credits. Clinical offerings include Community and Economic Development, Criminal Defense, Economic Justice, Elder Law, Human Rights and Gender Justice (formerly International Women’s Human Rights), Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights, and Mediation. The supervised externships or “concentrations” include Equality, Health Law, and Family Law.
Students are primarily responsible for cases, clients, and projects in a variety of legal roles and practice contexts, including individual and group client representation; administrative, state, and federal litigation; clemency advocacy; alternative dispute resolution; and international tribunals. Students also work on projects that address systemic problems in the legal system, including challenging the incarceration of juveniles in US prisons, legislative advocacy to allow CUNY students to earn college degrees while receiving public assistance, advising clients subjected to government surveillance of Muslim communities, know your rights presentations, and using technology to promote access to justice through an “A2J Guided Interview” software program for pro se litigants in adult guardianship cases.
Clinics collaborate with community groups, organizers, legal services offices, social workers, forensic psychiatrists, international organizations, and governments outside of the United States, all in order to address social justice issues. Recent work includes legal victories in low-wage labor campaigns, challenges to solitary confinement sentences of people who are incarcerated, successful representation of immigrants in deportation and asylum cases, federal litigation challenging NYPD surveillance policies, documentation of human rights abuses in other countries, amicus briefs to international tribunals, mediation in state and federal court, advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities in adult guardianships under Article 81 of the NY Mental Hygiene Law, community education projects throughout New York, and interdisciplinary representation of clients who have suffered trauma from torture and domestic abuse in the United States and abroad.
Each clinic and concentration provides students with skills and experiences that prepare them for employment and are transferable to many different practice contexts.
Despite the relatively small size of the law school, numerous student organizations thrive on campus. Students also have a major role in the law school’s governance, recognizing and preparing them for their future as professionals and community leaders. One exemplary student program is the Mississippi Project. Since 1992, this program has sent a delegation of law students to Mississippi and Louisiana during midyear break to work with lawyers in civil rights organizations. CUNY students work and learn together in an exceptionally collaborative, noncompetitive atmosphere and interact on a first-name basis with the faculty. One of the hallmarks of the CUNY Law experience is its supportive community, warmly acknowledged as “CUNITY.” The student experience is further enriched by New York City’s cultural offerings and by the exceptional resources of the third-largest university system in the country, the City University of New York.
CUNY Law is home to a diverse faculty, many of whom have been public interest practitioners with experience in a wide range of issues, including employment discrimination, immigration, racial justice, environmental law, women’s rights, labor, and international law. They have worked around the world, and their prestigious awards include Fulbright, Ford, Rockefeller, and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships. Their scholarship reflects their interest in, among other areas, international human rights and access to justice for underserved populations and communities.
CUNY Law graduates are employed in a full range of public interest and public service jobs—legal services and public defender organizations, government agencies, international human rights organizations, not-for-profits, and the judiciary. Within the past decade, 75 to 90 percent of the most recent graduates secure positions within nine months of graduation. Historically, 55 to 65 percent of graduates are employed in public interest/public service sector jobs each year, while 25 to 30 percent are employed at private firms from large to small and solo, community-based practices. CUNY Law graduates are consistently awarded judicial clerkships in federal and state courts, such as the New York Court of Appeals and Appellate Divisions, and prestigious public interest postgraduate fellowships that include Equal Justice Works, Skadden, Echoing Green, Yale Public Interest Initiative grants; Georgetown University Law Center Fellowships; and Borchard Fellowship in Law and Aging. Although the vast majority of the most recent graduates are employed in the mid-Atlantic states, CUNY alumni can be found throughout the United States and abroad, where they are engaged in a variety of work including international human rights work.
Child care is available for law students at CUNY’s La Guardia Community College Campus, a 10 to 15 minute walk from CUNY Law.
CUNY Law offers a number of unique programs and initiatives that enrich our students’ experiences and provide graduates with continued support and resources for lifelong success. As part of CUNY Law’s nationally recognized clinical program, students provide supervised direct legal representation to real clients in underserved communities, and every CUNY Law student has the opportunity for a capstone clinical experience.
- Community Legal Resource Network (CLRN): CLRN provides innovative support for CUNY Law graduates to have fulfilling social justice careers from law school through retirement. CLRN programs not only provide opportunities to improve access to justice in New York but also address the quality of professional life as we engage in difficult social justice work.
- Launch Pad for Justice: Through a special practice order, in conjunction with the New York State Courts, CUNY Law’s Launch Pad for Justice provides an opportunity for recent graduates awaiting admission to the New York State Bar to become fellows in the New York Civil Court’s Access to Justice program. Program fellows receive training and supervision in civil courts as they provide pro bono assistance in the areas of housing, consumer law, and uncontested divorces.
- Community Lawyering: As part of the program, alumni intent on expanding the legal practice beyond traditional attorney roles are encouraged to explore models of lawyering that combine the law with methods of popular education and organizing to have a greater impact in a community.
- Court Square Law Project (CSLP): Court Square Law Project (CSLP) is the collaborative effort of CUNY Law and the New York City Bar Association to provide high-quality civil legal services to moderate-income clients and jobs to recent law school graduates. The project will help address serious gaps in access to civil legal services for individuals with moderate incomes who have difficulty finding affordable legal counsel.
- Interdisciplinary Learning: As part of the City University of New York, a thriving academic community, students enrolled at CUNY Law may take some interdisciplinary graduate courses at other CUNY institutions, with approval by the academic dean.
Additionally, there are a number of centers that students get involved with, including the Center for Diversity in the Legal Profession, the Center on Latino and Latina Rights and Equality, the Center for Urban Environmental Reform, and the Sorensen Center for International Peace and Justice.
The law school’s student profile includes many individuals returning to school after careers, and many possess advanced degrees. The average age of the student body for the full-time day program and part-time evening program is 28; some students enter directly from undergraduate school, while others are older, entering after having had careers and families, making the law school a comfortable environment for a variety of students.
At CUNY Law we believe that a legal education should be affordable. As the only public law school in New York City, CUNY Law offers an excellent legal education at substantially less than half the cost of most private law schools. Annual in-state tuition, including all fees, is $14,100 for the 2017–2018 full-time program (fall and spring) and $9,680 for the part-time evening program (fall and spring). An additional mandatory six credits for the part-time program’s 1st summer is $595/credit in-state and $975/credit out-of-state. (The cost of books is not included in the calculation of tuition and fees.)