Cornell Law School

Cornell Law School
Motto "Lawyers in the Best Sense"
Parent school Cornell University
Established 1887
School type Private
Parent endowment $6.2 billion
Dean Eduardo M. Peñalver[1]
Location Ithaca, New York, United States
Enrollment 595[2]
Faculty 88[2]
USNWR ranking 13[3]
Bar pass rate 91.61%[2]
ABA profile Cornell Law School Profile

Cornell Law School is the law school of Cornell University, a private Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York. It is one of the five Ivy League law schools and offers three law degree programs (J.D., LL.M., and J.S.D.) along with several dual-degree programs in conjunction with other professional schools at the university. Established in 1887 as Cornell's Department of Law, the law school is ranked 13th in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.[3]

Cornell Law alumni include business executive and philanthropist Myron Charles Taylor, namesake of the law school building, along with U.S. Secretaries of State Edmund Muskie and William P. Rogers, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Samuel Pierce, the first female President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, federal judge and first female editor-in-chief of a law review Mary Donlon Alger, former President of the International Criminal Court Song Sang-Hyun, as well as many members of the U.S. Congress, governors, state attorneys general, U.S. federal and state judges, diplomats and businesspeople.

According to Cornell Law School's ABA-required disclosures, 95.8% of 2014 graduates obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation[4] with a median private sector starting salary of $160,000.[3] Cornell also has the third lowest faculty-to-student ratio (10.4 to 1) of ABA–accredited law schools in the United States[5] with each class containing approximately 200 students.[2] Cornell Law School is home to the Legal Information Institute (LII), the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, the Cornell Law Review, the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy and the Cornell International Law Journal. The current dean of the law school is Eduardo Peñalver, who assumed the role in 2014.


Entrance to Myron Taylor Hall, Cornell Law's principal building for instruction

The Law Department at Cornell opened in 1887 in Morrill Hall with Judge Douglass Boardman as its first dean. At that time, admission did not require even a high school diploma. In 1917, two years of undergraduate education were required for admission, and in 1924, it became a graduate degree program.[6] The department was renamed the Cornell Law School in 1925. In 1890, George Washington Fields graduated, one of the first law-school-graduates of color in the United States.[7] In 1893, Cornell had its first female graduate, Mary Kennedy Brown. Future Governor, Secretary of State, and Chief Justice of the United States, Charles Evans Hughes, was a professor of law at Cornell from 1891–1893, and after returning to legal practice he continued to teach at the law school as a special lecturer from 1893–1895. The law school’s residence hall is named in honor of Hughes.

In 1892, the school moved into Boardman Hall, which was constructed specifically for legal instruction. The school moved from Boardman Hall (now the site of Olin Library) to its present-day location at Myron Taylor Hall in 1937. The law school building, an ornate, Gothic structure, was the result of a donation by Myron Charles Taylor, a former CEO of US Steel, and a member of the Cornell Law class of 1894. Hughes Hall was built as an addition to Myron Taylor Hall and completed in 1963. It was also funded by a gift from Taylor. Another addition to Myron Taylor Hall, the Jane M.G. Foster wing, was completed in 1988 and added more space to the library. Foster was a member of the class of 1918, an editor of the Cornell Law Review (then Cornell Law Quarterly), and an Order of the Coif graduate. In June 2012 the school embarked on a three-year, multi-phase expansion and renovation. The first phase created additional classroom space underground, adjacent to Myron Taylor Hall along College Avenue. The second phase will include the removal and digitization of printed materials from the library stacks so that the space can be converted to additional classroom and student space. The third phase involves converting Hughes Hall into office space.[8]

In 1948, Cornell Law School established a program of specialization in international affairs and also started awarding LL.B. degrees. In 1968, the school began to publish the Cornell International Law Journal. In 1991, the school established the Berger International Legal Studies Program. In 1994, the school established a partnership with the University of Paris I law faculty to establish a Paris-based Summer Institute of International and Comparative Law. From 1999–2004 the school hosted the Feminism and Legal Theory Project. In 2006, the school established its second summer law institute in Suzhou, China. The Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture was established in 2002.


Banner outside the law school's Jane M.G. Foster wing

For the class entering in the fall of 2015, 1,192 out of 3,899 applicants (30.6%) were offered admission, with 203 matriculating. The 25th and 75th LSAT percentiles for the 2015 entering class were 164 and 168, respectively, with a median of 167. The 25th and 75th undergraduate GPA percentiles were 3.62 and 3.82, respectively, with a median of 3.74.[2]

In the LL.M. program, which is designed for non-U.S.-trained lawyers, 900 applications were received for the 50 to 60 openings. LL.M. students come from over 30 different countries.[9]

Along with consideration of the quality of an applicant's academic record and LSAT scores, the full-file-review admissions process places a heavy emphasis on an applicant's personal statement, letters of recommendation, community/extracurricular involvement, and work experience. The application also invites a statement on diversity and a short note on why an applicant particularly wants to attend Cornell. The Law School values applicants who have done their research and have particular interests or goals that would be served by attending the school versus one of its peer institutions.[9]


Cornell Law School was ranked 7th in the Law School 100 Rankings and 13th in the 2017 U.S. News and World Report Law School rankings.[10][11] The Master of Laws (LL.M.) program at Cornell Law School was ranked 1st in the 2011, 2010, 2008 and 2006 AUAP rankings.[12] In 2011, the National Law Journal reported that Cornell Law graduates had the 2nd highest percent placement at the top 250 law firms.[13]


View of Cornell Law School from Central Avenue
Interior of Cornell Law School quad

The advanced degrees in law, LL.M. and JSD, have been offered at Cornell since 1928.[14] The JD/MBA has three- and four-year tracks,[15] the JD/MILR program is four years, the JD/MPA is four years, and JD/MRP is four years.

In addition, Cornell has joint program arrangements with universities abroad to prepare students for international licensure:

The JD/Master en Droit lasts four-years and prepares graduates for admission to the bar in the United States and in France. The JD/M.LL.P is three years and conveys a mastery of German and European law and practices. The JD/Master in Global Business Law lasts three years.

Cornell Law School runs two summer institutes overseas, providing Cornell Law students with unique opportunities to engage in rigorous international legal studies. The Cornell-Université de Paris I Summer Institute of International and Comparative Law at the Sorbonne in Paris, France offers a diverse curriculum in the historic Sorbonne and Centre Panthéon (Faculté de droit) buildings at the heart of the University of Paris I: Panthéon-Sorbonne. Coursework includes international human rights, comparative legal systems, and international commercial arbitration. French language classes are also offered.

In 2006, Cornell Law School announced that it would launch a second summer law institute, the new Workshop in International Business Transactions with Chinese Characteristics in Suzhou, China. In partnership with Bucerius Law School (Germany) and Kenneth Wang School of Law at Soochow University (China), Cornell Law provides students from the United States, Europe, and China with an academic forum in which they can collaborate on an international business problem.


Cornell ranked 2nd nationally on the American Bar Association's list of law schools with the highest bar-passage-required job placement.[16] According to Cornell Law School's official ABA-required disclosures, 95.8% of the Class of 2014 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation.[4] Cornell Law School's Law School Transparency under-employment score is 2.1%, indicating the percentage of the Class of 2014 unemployed, pursuing an additional degree, or working in a non-professional, short-term, or part-time job nine months after graduation.[17]


The total cost of attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses) at Cornell Law School for the 2014-2015 academic year is $79,429.[18] The Law School Transparency estimated debt-financed cost of attendance for three years is $297,190.[19]


Cornell seal beneath the tower of Myron Taylor Hall

Cornell Law also is home to the Legal Information Institute (LII), an online provider of public legal information.[20] Started in 1992, it was the first law site developed for the internet.[21] The LII offers all opinions of the United States Supreme Court handed down since 1990, together with over 600 earlier decisions selected for their historic importance.[22] The LII also publishes over a decade of opinions of the New York Court of Appeals, the full United States Code, the UCC, and the Code of Federal Regulations among other resources.[20]

It recently created Wex, a free wiki legal dictionary and encyclopedia, collaboratively created by legal experts.[23] And the LII Supreme Court Bulletin is a free email- and web-based publication that intends to serve subscribers with thorough, yet understandable, legal analysis of upcoming Court cases as well as timely email notification of Court decisions.[24]


The school has three law journals that are student-edited: the Cornell Law Review, the Cornell International Law Journal, and the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy. Additionally, the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies is a peer-reviewed journal that is published by Cornell Law faculty.

Moot Court

Cornell Law students actively participate in myriad moot court competitions annually, both in the law school itself and in external and international competitions. The Langfan First-Year Moot Court Competition, which takes place every spring, traditionally draws a large majority of the first-year class. Other internal competitions include the Cuccia Cup and the Rossi Cup.


Cornell Law is housed within Myron Taylor Hall (erected 1932), which contains the Law Library, classrooms, offices, a moot court room, and the Cornell Legal Aid Clinic.


The Cornell Law Library is one of 12 national depositories for print records of briefs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The law library contains 700,000 books and microforms and includes rare historical texts relevant to the legal history of the United States.[25] The library is one of the 12 national depositories for print records of briefs filed with the United States Supreme Court. Also, there is a large collection of print copies of the records and briefs of the New York Court of Appeals. The large microfilm collection has sets of Congressional, Supreme Court, and United Nations documents, as well as a large collection of World Law Reform commission materials. Microfiche records and briefs for the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and D.C. Circuit, and the New York State Court of Appeals are also collected.[26] The library also has a large collection of international, foreign, and comparative law, with the main focus being on the Commonwealth of Nations and Europe. Along with this, there are also collections of public international law and international trade law. A new initiative by the library is to collect Chinese, Japanese, and Korean resources to support the Law School’s Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture.[26]

Rare books in the library include the Samuel Thorne collection, which has 175 of some of the earliest and most rare books on law. Other significant collections include the Nathaniel C. Moak library and the Edwin J. Marshall Collection of early works on equity and the Earl J. Bennett Collection of Statutory Material, a print collection of original colonial, territorial, and state session laws and statutory codes.[26] Among the library’s special collections are 19th Century Trials Collection, Donovan Nuremberg Trials Collection, Scottsboro Collection, William P. and Adele Langston Rogers Collection and the Chile Declassification Project.[26]


Deans of Cornell Law School[7]
Name Tenure
Douglass Boardman 1897–1891
Francis Miles Finch 1891–1903
Ernest Wilson Huffcut 1903–1907
Frank Irvine 1907–1916
Edwin Hamlin Woodruff 1916–1921
George Gleason Bogert 1921–1926
Charles Kellog Burdick 1926–1937
Robert Sproule Stevens 1937–1954
Gray Thoron 1956–1963
William Ray Forrester 1963–1973
Roger Conant Cramton 1973–1980
Peter William Martin 1980–1988
Russell King Osgood 1988–1998
Charles W. Wolfram † 1998–1999
Lee E. Teitelbaum 1999–2003
John A. Siliciano † 2003
Stewart J. Schwab 2004–2014
Eduardo Peñalver 2014–present
denotes interim dean




Federal Judiciary

State Judiciary

International Judiciary

Law and Business



See also


  1. Brouwer, Chris (March 18, 2014). "Eduardo Peñalver named dean of Cornell Law School". Cornell Chronicle.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Cornell University - 2015 Standard 509 Information Report" (PDF). American Bar Association. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 "Cornell University - Best Law Schools". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  4. 1 2 "Employment Summary for 2014 Graduates" (PDF). American Bar Association. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  5. ABA – LSAC Official Guide to Law Schools,
  6. "Cornell Law School: History". 2010-07-08. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
  7. 1 2 "Cornell Law School: Historical Timeline". 2010-07-08. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
  8. Okin, Harrison. (2011-11-22) As Law Faculty Increases, School Plans Expansion | The Cornell Daily Sun. Retrieved on 2013-08-27.
  9. 1 2 "Cornell Law School". Retrieved 2006-06-23.
  10. "Law School 100 Rankings". Retrieved 2010-11-22.
  11. "Best Law School Rankings | Law Program Rankings | US News". Retrieved 2011-08-18.
  12. "AUAP Rankings". Retrieved 2009-12-28.
  13. "Top 250 firms hire most from big names". The National Law Journal. Retrieved 2011-06-18.
  14. "Robert S. Stevens, Cornell Law School (1919–1954)". Retrieved 2010-03-03.
  15. Cornell Law School: Joint Degrees. (2012-09-21). Retrieved on 2013-08-27.
  16. "Cornell Law 2014 Job Placement".
  17. "Cornell University Profile".
  18. "Tuition and Expenses".
  19. "Cornell University Profile".
  20. 1 2 "Legal Information Institute". Retrieved 2011-08-18.
  21. Laurence, Helen; William Miller (2000). Academic research on the Internet: options for scholars and libraries. Routledge. p. 160. ISBN 0-7890-1177-8.
  22. Hall, Kermit; John J. Patrick (2006). The pursuit of justice: Supreme Court decisions that shaped America. Oxford University Press US. p. 244. ISBN 0-19-532568-0.
  23. "Wex Legal Dictionary and Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2011-08-18.
  24. "LII Supreme Court Bulletin". Retrieved 2011-08-18.
  25. "Tax Proof Blog: Rankings of Law Libraries". Tax Proof Blog. Retrieved 2006-06-23.
  26. 1 2 3 4 "Cornell Law School Library". Cornell University. Retrieved 2006-06-23.
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