Tuesday, November 14, 2017

First Tier Holdup: Columbia Law School


Tuition and Fees: As you can see, full-time law students at Columbia Univer$ity will be slammed with a tuition bill of $65,252 – for the 2017-2018 academic year. This is the equivalent of posting a sign that reads “Poor people: Keep out!” I’m sure that is part of the charm for rich students – and their parents. It’s exclusive, just as those expensive prep schools were, when they were little.

Don’t forget the following mandatory fees: Student Activity in the amount of $270; University Facilities to the tune of $960; and Health Services reaching $1,082. This takes the total cost of admission to $67,564. Again, this is for a single year of “legal education.” Apparently, law schools have ridiculous overhead, equipment, and laboratory costs. Actually, that is medical school.

Total Estimated Cost of Attendance: Based on this same page, the school includes Student Health Insurance costs of $2,991 and a Document Fee for first year law students of $105. That brings the tab to $70,660. We haven’t even reached living expenses yet. Who doesn’t cringe when seeing those numbers? Plus, books and supplies add another $1,575 to that immense amount.

Now, we can address living costs. Columbia Law $chool lists room as $12,405, board as $5,200, and personal expenses at $3,900. Transportation is not listed but that is fair since most denizens of New York City get by on public transit. At any rate, this brings the estimated Total Academic Year Budget to $93,740. 

Since actual, breathing law students will accumulate expenses over the entire damn year, and not just for nine months, we will prorate the following items: room, board, and personal costs. Doing so, we reach the following, more accurate total COA of $100,908. If that figure doesn’t make you lightheaded, then you must be from an incredibly wealthy family. Congratulations for coming out of the right birth canal. For the rest of you, i.e. the vast majority of the populace, proceed cautiously. 


Ranking: Columbia Law $chool is rated as the 5th greatest and most astonishing law school in the entire nation, by US “News” & World Report. It doesn’t even share this distinct honor with any other in$titution of “higher learning.” Then again, they charge a king’s ransom in tuition. Hell, at those prices, they should guarantee that you will land a Biglaw position or federal clerkship. 


Employment Placement Statistics: Look at the ABA Employment Summary for 2016 Graduates, for this school. There were 389 members of this cohort. Of this amount, a total of 377 reported landing full-time, long-term employment within 10 months of receiving their degrees. That is an effective placement rate of 96.9 percent. Then again, 12 grads were in posts funded by the univer$ity of law school. Without those dozen jobs included, the rate drops down to 93.9% of the class. Regarding outcomes, most landed Biglaw positions. 


Back on September 23, 2009, Elie Mystal informed ATL readers that Columbia Law School recommended that its students attend the undergrad job fair. That piece was labeled “Disturbing Message About the Legal Job Market From Columbia Law School.” Check out this opening:

“We all know about the difficult legal job market facing current law students. But is it so bad that J.D. candidates would have been better off never going to law school in the first place? At Columbia Law School — the fourth best law school in the country according to U.S. News — is suggesting that job seekers crash the undergraduate job fair. A tipster puts it this way:

Recruiting is bad this year, as you know, but CLS is just highlighting it by recommending we attend an UNDERGRADUATE career fair. It says it is open to all, and that is true, but when you look at the actual companies and organizations coming to the career fair the vast majority require only a bachelors, and none want a law degree specifically. Great to know that $200k+ and 3 years of lost opportunity cost can leave you in the same position as if you never went in the first place.” [Emphasis mine] 


Average Law Student Indebtedness: USN&WR lists the average law student indebtedness - for those members of the New York Univer$ity JD Class of 2016 who incurred debt for law school - as $159,769. By the way, a mere 63% of this school’s 2016 graduating cohort took on such toxic debt. Remember, this amount does not include debt from undergrad. It also doesn’t take accrued interest into account, while you are enrolled in school. Of note, while it is ranked 5th best in terms of overall reputation, it only has the 8th highest amount of average law student debt. That must make it a ridiculous bargain for the students, right? 

Even with outrageous costs of attending this school, 37 percent of the 2016 graduating class did not incur a single dime of student debt for law school. Have fun breaking your ass so you can make law review, while those young men and women can put forth minimal effort and still land the best positions available. When you are basically living in the law library that first year of school, just keep in mind that those students can rely on their wealthy parents – or connected uncle – to make a few phone calls, in order to secure stellar employment.

Conclusion: In the final analysis, if you are not from a financially loaded and politically connected family, then you will be out of place here. Even if you land a coveted Biglaw position, you will need to stand out and bring in major new business in a relative short time span. If you do not make partner within 3-5 years, the firm’s partners will find that you are expendable. And other white shoe law offices do not make it their practice to hire those who failed in Biglaw.


  1. Going to Columbia Law School after an undergraduate degree with honors from Harvard/Yale/ Princeton was the worst mistake of my life.

    It is then and now story. My class was 275 people. Graduates of Brooklyn and Fordham could get big law back then. Veterans of big law were able to secure employment.

    Since then my colleagues with double Harvard or Princeton and Yale degrees, along with many colleagues from Columbia Law and lesser schools have fallen into long term unemployment and underemployment.

    The American Bar Association needs to wake up to the damage it has done to the legal profession. It is much too hard to have a full career as a lawyer. There are close to a million Americans of working age with degrees from ABA accredited law schools who are not working as lawyers in establishment jobs. There are only 632 of such jobs.

    The turnover/ drop out rate from practicing law is now a whopping 43% according to the BLS.

    When is the ABA going to wake up and put the very much needed brakes on law school enrollment?

    1. ABA won't put the brakes on anything. It's filled with law profs and deans. And the ABA's never given a shit about small law practitioners either.

  2. Columbia needs to drastically pare its class size so that its lawyers can work for a full career. The huge classes are at the expense of older, more experienced lawyers who have high unemployment and underemployment rates.

    Columbia is very much at fault for graduating many lawyers who will not be able to secure a full-time permanent job as a lawyer for a full career because their classes are much too large.

    If they were fulfilling their mission of training lawyers who can work for a career, enrollment would be at the 250 -265 level, rather than the 465 they now graduate in each class.

    Too many experienced Columbia lawyers are forced into substandard types of work that very often does not even come close to breaking 6 figures in very expensive New York City. They may not get pension or retirement benefits on their jobs. By contrast, unionized employees in New York City in areas such as teaching make over six figures after 20 years of experience with huge pensions and free health insurance.

    Big mistake for most people to go to Columbia Law even if your parents can pay. Columbia Law is a poor investment long-term for maybe half the class.

  3. And how many of their students come from out of state?

    Plus biglaw tends to drain the workers. Imagine that. Pushing papers on some transactional shit causing lawyers to be bored to tears. If that's not what you really want to do you could just go to your flagship law school for free.

  4. Everybody, read the Minding the Campus article "Teaching Millennials How Not to Think Stupid" by a Faulkner Law professor trying to get his dumb, low LSAT scoring Social Justice Warrior students to use reason and logic in crafting arguments. I don't think he knows that his school is a Rank Not Published 4th tier school with a 25 percentile LSAT of 142.

    Here's the URL, or it's already linked on the right of this page >>>>

    1. I'm surprised that his complaints have to do with reflexive invocation of "diversity", "equality", and the like.

      His students, most of whom scored in the 140s or lower on the LSAT, cannot demonstrate critical engagement with a text. Their LSAT scores alone show that they are incapable of thinking at the level that he expects.

    2. I'm not sure he really knows that standards have collapsed. Faulkner is an unranked school, and clearly they are appealing to the political activist-type student.

    3. This guy is unbelievable; he's a "professor" at a school so bad it's unranked, yet he's shocked, just shocked about the quality of students. It's like a guy joining the Mafia and then being surprised that he's surrounded by criminals.
      The entire essay is an exercise in self-congratulations-after all, he's such a genius, and produces such amazing legal scholarship, that he's entitled to be pedantic, supercilious, and abrasive. I don't think I've ever read anything more arrogant and self-congratulatory. He thinks so little of his students it's palpable. He refers to them as if they were a bunch of 6th graders.
      But wither the students? Ok, so you attend a truly terrible law school-but why put up with this? This guy's type are a dime a dozen-the haughty law "professor" who genuinely believes he's given up that seven figure biglaw salary so he can enlighten the unwashed masses-in other words you, the students. So Faulkner students, some free advice: you're going to be saddled with debt and a lousy degree-but no reason to be made miserable by guys like this, who will remind you, every day, how much smarter he is then you. So boycott his classes, and encourage him to return to the actual practice of law. He wouldn't last a week.

  5. Lol school is for training the next crop of law profs. Since only about 1% of us will ever become one, it's a fucking waste.

  6. It was ranked 4th when they sent their students to the undergrad job fair.

    And dumbshits still saw fit to apply to (and pay for) law school at TTTs. Now we know why paint containers have that warning on the label.

  7. This is another sad story at another New York State law school.
    2d Circuit Dismisses SUNY-Buffalo LRW Prof's Wrongful Termination Claim; Former Dean Claims 'Unequivocal Vindication' And Blames 'Small Cabal Of Racist Law Faculty Who Had Trouble Accepting A Black Man Running The Law School'
    By Paul Caron
    This is the same greedy Mutua whom this blog previously exposed.
    The faculty at SUNY Buffalo has been too cowardly to defend itself from these heinous allegations and is happy just to keep paying off this exploiter and character assassin.
    The reason that nine tenured and emeritus professors spoke out against Makau Mutua in federal court with unrefuted testimony and documentary evidence that he had committed multiple crimes against the judicial process (in a due process case!) is that they had sworn to tell the truth. Lying would have been a crime. That was their motivation, not racism. No one could possibly believe that nine respected legal educators were engaged in a conspiracy that involved perjury and the forgery of written documents for the invidious purpose of destroying a black man.
    But they know what he is capable of and would rather see him paid off by the University than call an end to this criminality.
    The University has continued paying former-Dean Mutua his full salary for what has turned into a no-show job since he was removed from the Dean's Office at the end of the fall 2014 semester, including (as reported in the UB Spectrum) three consecutive semesters of “sabbatical” and “leave” (the spring 2015, fall 2015, and spring 2016 semesters) while he was drawing a second full time salary as a consultant in Washington, D.C.
    Since that report, he was absent from campus for the spring 2017 semester and is absent from the spring 2018 teaching schedule as well. His base salary throughout this time, not including employment benefits, has been between $250,000 and $300,000 a year, according to public records. See SeethruNY website.) By his own account in a Kenyan newspaper, his total salary is closer to $400,000. That doesn't count the $155,000 base salary paid to his spouse, Athena Mutua. The total amount collected by the Mutua family cannot be verified because money paid by the UB Foundation to an administrator is kept secret at this University.
    Guess who pays for all this?

  8. While it's nice to see the upper echelon of law schools getting roasted, I must say that it's even better news to read that the ABA is actually doing something about the true, need to have been shut down ten years ago, toilet schools--most notably, putting Thomas Jefferson on probation, and shitholes like Cooley, Florida Coastal and John Marshal Atlanta on notice that these toilet schools are no longer in compliance with the ABA's already pathetic accreditation standards.

    Can't see TJ$L coming back from this one. Probably safe to say that San Diego is going to have some newly available office space in the near future.

  9. And Valpo is suspending admissions for its 2018 class....


    Congrats, Nando. Your hard work over the years is beginning to pay off.

    1. Try not to get too excited, 2:31 pm. Today, OTLSS featured a post from "Law School Truth Center," under the title ""Valparaiso Exploring Alternatives to its Continued Existence." Look at this opening:


      "Let's be clear. Valpo Law is not closing. Not yet. Folding such a great hand would be silly, particularly where Indiana Tech just closed a mere one hundred miles away and after Valpo's most recent blessing from the ABA should give them incentive to hang on the cliff a bit longer.

      No, Valpo Law is just taking an admissions year off, looking for alternatives:

      Valparaiso University announced Thursday that is [sic] suspending admissions to its law school and exploring alternative possibilities related to the "severe financial challenges" it's been facing for a number of years.

      The school mentioned several other options: It could affiliate Valparaiso's law school with another law school or relocate it to a place where the demand for a law education is higher. The school also is preparing plans to allow its current law students to complete their degrees.

      It's a Chapter 11, not a Chapter 7. Sure, Chapter 11 is often a gateway drug to Chapter 7, but hold your cheers, sadists; these law schools are going to hang on for dear life as long as they possibly can."

    2. Nando, that's just for public consumption. Valpo is closing down. Otherwise it would not be "preparing plans to allow its current law students to complete their degrees".

  10. http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-valparaiso-law-school-class-canceled-st-1117-20171116-story.html

    Here's some good news.

  11. Let’s see what it takes to get into the 5th greatest and most phenomenal law school in the nation, courtesy of Law School Transparency:


    We will do a comparison. First, look at the number those those who entered Columbia Law $chool in the Fall of 2010:

    25th percentile LSAT: 170
    50th percentile LSAT: 172
    75th percentile LSAT: 175
    25th percentile UGPA: 3.61
    50th percentile UGPA: 3.72
    75th percentile UGPA: 3.82

    Here are the figures for those who entered this law school in Fall 2016:

    25th percentile LSAT: 168
    50th percentile LSAT: 172
    75th percentile LSAT: 174
    25th percentile UGPA: 3.56
    50th percentile UGPA: 3.7
    75th percentile UGPA: 3.81

    The pattern of lower LSAT scores at top flight ABA law school holds. In fact, even the undergraduate GPA numbers dropped for those attending Columbia Law $chool later. But these “educators” are performing a “public service,” right?


    Employment Score: 91.5% for 2016 grads
    Under-Employment Score: 5.7% for 2016 grads
    2015 Bar Passage Rate: 92.7%
    Non-Discounted Cost: $335,964 for those starting in 2017

    If the cost of attendance doesn’t make you faint, then congratulations for being born into the right family. An Ivy League law degree is seen as a rite of passage for these young men and women – and their parents are more than happy to pay the bill. If nothing else, the proud mother and father can point to the academic credential as further “proof” that their child is wonderful and amazing.

  12. For NYC schools, public transportation isn't free. MTA monthly pass is currently $116.50/month.

  13. Nando, consider writing a profile of Western State University, which despite its name is a private profit-seeking institution. Unemployment stands at 37.4%, short-term and part-time employment together are at 11%, and practically everyone else coming out of this toilet is in a tiny firm or a bullshit "JD-advantage" job. The median salary for those that are employed is under $60k, but the cost of attendance, when fully financed with student loans, is over $284k.

    1. @ Old Guy,


      I profiled We$TTTern $TTTTaTTTTe Univer$iTTTTy COL, back on January 7, 2010. It seems that they have changed their name to Western State College of Law at Argosy University. A miniature baseball card in a box of Cracker Jack is more prestigious.


  14. No victory unless top law schools are forced to disclose employment data and compensation going out many years from graduation. Only then will it be apparent that most top law schools are a very risky proposition, even for free. They do not place most of their classes in full-time permanent jobs for a career. The jobs available post-big law are often very marginal and not what anyone would go to an elite law school for. Many of these jobs are part-time, temporary or eat-what-you-kill counsel positions where the lawyer is unpaid while struggling to get work.

    You have a whole industry of elite law schools that is relying jobs that end within a few years of law school graduation for placement. It is like the emperor's new clothes - it was obvious he was naked, but no one is willing to say that.

    The overall number of lawyers in big law (about 120,000), the median salary of lawyers in the $118,000 range and the fact that the median salary only covers the 634,000 establishment jobs for lawyers surely suggests that there are not tons of high paying legal jobs out there paying the $150,000 + going rate outside of big law. In expensive US cities, unionized employees earn over $100,000 after a few years and long-term teachers are easily at the lawyer median in base salary alone. It looks like the 5,000 lawyers leaving big law each year are no way going to earn the first year going rate for big law or anything close to that.

    Bait and switch advertising and the "smart" lawyers going to these elite schools are mostly not willing to admit they were scammed, except for the exceptional gentleman from Penn Law who posted earlier in the thread about top law schools. He is not alone though and has plenty of company in the barren job market for older, experienced lawyers from elite law schools.

    It is time to wake up to the scam of the elite law schools and their poor long-term employment outcomes.


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