Columbia Law School

Columbia Law School, Columbia University

US News & World Report 2016 Ranking: 4=

Situated on the Northern end of Manhattan Island, New York City, is the Ivy League University, Columbia University.  Within Columbia University’s beautiful campus is Columbia Law School, currently ranked 4th equal by US News & World Report rankings (tied with Chicago).

Columbia Law School has a reputation for being the world’s top law school for studying commercial law. The fact that Columbia Law School is well-known for being a crucible for the study of commercial law, may have something to do with the fact that it has more members of the Forbes 400 (400 richest people in the United States) than any other law school. However, Columbia Law School’s excellence is not limited to commercial law; this is evidenced by the fact that the law school has produced a large number of distinguished alumni in United States public service, including nine Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States (including the notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg), numerous U.S. Cabinet members and Presidential advisers

Columbia Law School Application

The components for the Columbia Law School application are:

  1. Personal statement;
  2. Curriculum vitae;
  3. Transcripts;
  4. Statement of class rank;
  5. Letters of recommendations (no more than two);
  6. TOEFL scores (if applicable).
  7. Financial aid application (optional);
  8. Appel, Jagdish Bhagwati, or Human Rights Fellowship Essays (optional).

The personal statement is generic and applicants will be able to use the same essay they have used for other similar applications (e.g. Part B of the Harvard application). The specific instructions from Columbia pertaining to the personal statement are:

Your Personal Statement should describe your background, academic interests, the program of study you wish to follow and your reasons for doing so. You should prepare this statement without assistance from others. The format of the statement should not exceed three double-spaced pages using a 12-point font with standard margins. We will not accept a résumé or curriculum vitae in place of the statement.

Like Stanford Law School, Columbia places an emphasis on experience. Thus, the LLM program is not generally geared towards fresh graduates. As the Columbia website states:

Strong preference is given to applicants who have had at least one year of work experience after earning their first law degree. Only in exceptional circumstances are applications from candidates who are in their final year of their first law degree accepted. Applicants who have not yet graduated must demonstrate in their personal statements that their admission to the program would enable them to realize an immediate and specific career objective that would not otherwise be attainable.

This may not be the worst thing after all. If you are hoping to score yourself a coveted legal job in the United States, having some solid experience under your belt will likely prove helpful.

Financial Aid

As discussed in their respective pages, Yale Law School and Harvard Law School factor in an applicant’s parental resources when making financial aid decisions. In summary, this means that while you may be a broke, independent, 25-year-old human rights lawyer, if your parents have significant assets, you won’t likely get any financial aid; this is on the assumption (often false) that your parents should assist you with funding your LLM.

However, Yale Law School and Harvard Law School appear to be unique in this respect. Columbia does not inquire into parental resources, but, instead, asks for expected “parental contribution”.

It is not uncommon for Columbia Law School to offer significant financial aid waivers (sometimes after negotiation). For example, I know of applicants that were awarded 50%, 75%, and even 100% financial aid waivers (yes, in the case of the latter you pay no tuition!). The very competitive applicant secured his 100% financial aid waiver after negotiating with Columbia Law School (i.e stating he had a better financial aid offer from a comparable law school). N.B.: I will do a future post on how to negotiate (or attempt to negotiate) financial aid packages.


Prepare for the Journey, LLMSherpa lolololol.png