Founded in the early 1980s, the CUNY-Queens College School of Law (CUNY Law) is one of the nation’s premier public interest law firms. Located one subway stop from Manhattan, CUNY Law moved into its current location in Long Island City in 2012 from its original home in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens. CUNY Law’s founding Dean was Charles Halpern, widely regarded as the “father” of public interest law who founded a legal center in Washington, D.C. to serve the city’s underrepresented citizens. Since its founding, CUNY Law has strived to train lawyers in the practical skills required to be a successful lawyer in the public interest field. Its alumni have included seven New York State Assembly Members.
CUNY Law’s curriculum blends traditional academic subjects with practical training throughout all three years of the full-time curriculum. The first-year offers only four of the traditional six core courses: civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, and torts. Students take two additional substantive courses: one focused on legal due process and the other on family law. In conjunction with these six academic subjects, first-year students take practical courses in legal research and fundamental lawyering skills.
In their second year at CUNY Law, students are required to take two additional substantive courses: a course covering administrative law and two-semesters covering property law. Students are also required to take a third semester covering the fundamentals of lawyering. Prior to graduation or participating in a legal clinic (which almost all students opt to do), CUNY Law requires students to complete several additional courses: evidence, constitutional structures, and professional responsibility. Students are also required to take a course during their final semester–“Mastery and Application of Core Doctrine”–that functions as a capstone to their entire legal education.
Since 2015, CUNY Law has also offered a part-time degree program that allows students to obtain their Juris Doctor through additional semesters that require less credit hours per semesters. The first-year requires two nine-hour semesters plus a mandatory summer session. Courses are taught in the evening for the first-year. After completion of the first-year curriculum, part-time students can also mix some day classes into their evening coursework to best fit their schedule.
CUNY Law offers students the opportunity to pair their Juris Doctor degree with another related program from CUNY. Students must apply and be accepted to both programs independently. Once admitted, however, students share coursework between both programs, allowing students to complete both programs in less time than pursuing them independently. Additionally, students gain additional insights by approaching their legal studies through an interdisciplinary lens. Joint programs include combining the J.D. with a M.P.A. in Law and Public Accountability from CUNY’s renowned John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Law students may also pursue a Masters in International Affairs or an M.A. in Forensic Psychology in conjunction with their law degrees.
Career and Career Placement
Within 10 months of graduation, over 88% of all graduates of CUNY Law are employed in long-term, professional positions. Of those employed, more than 93% are employed in positions that either require a law license or prefer a Juris Doctor degree. As expected, positions in government offices or in the public interest sector account for over 65% of all career choices. Traditional law firm work accounted for only 15% of careers with small law firms being the overwhelming choice for graduates who pursed law firm work. Smaller percentages of students pursued careers in the business sector (10%) or accepted judicial clerkships (5%). Almost all graduates (90%) remained in New York or New Jersey to begin their professional careers.
CUNY Law Career Planning Office (CPO) staffs five full-time professionals who offer students a range of services and resources to help plan their professional careers. Primarily, students receive individual counseling throughout their careers (even as alumni) from the CPO staff. For first-year students, this planning begins on November 1st, allowing students to get adjusted to their academic schedules before focusing on their careers. The CPO also offers interview and resume preparation assistance for all students. If recommended, the CPO may also administer testing such as the Myers-Briggs test to help students identify career options. The CPO also maintains a wealth of online and physical resources to help students prepare for the transition to their professional lives. This includes CUNY Law’s extensive alumni network that students may leverage to help their career search.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
The clinical program at CUNY Law is considered one of the top three programs in the country. As the top-ranked public interest school in the country, the clinical program is integral in preparing graduates to be ready to practice law in the public interest sector as soon as they graduate. The school offers a dozen different practice areas where students spend a semester (or more) working with faculty experts to master a certain field of law. The remarkable part of the CUNY Law clinical program is the that students function as lawyers through the entire cycle of a legal case which allows them to see an entire process.
All students at CUNY Law also take a capstone course in their final semester that focuses on the practical application of the academic lessons to real-world, legal problems.
CUNY Law does require residential coursework for completion of the Juris Doctor program.
CUNY Law’s student body is one of the most diverse in the country. The campus life reflects and celebrates this diversity through a range of student organizations and programming. Student organizations celebrate the many ethnic backgrounds of the student body while also bringing students together who share a passion for a range of social and cultural issues. Students also bond over shared pastimes such as the law school’s Ping Pong club. The law school is housed in a 15-story building that offers students a plethora of students spaces for studying and socializing. The LEED-certified campus is also one block from multiple subway and bus lines allowing for easy access to all five of New York’s boroughs.
Located just across the East River from Manhattan, students at CUNY Law live in the heart of America’s busiest and most renowned city. The school’s convenient location allows a range of housing opportunities for all students. CUNY Law is also a short distance from some of Brooklyn’s most famous neighborhoods–offering students every possible option for food and entertainment. The school’s commitment to public service and pro bono work also make it a community that is deeply invested in New York City’s diverse–and often underrepresented–citizens.