Academic Philosophy

CUNY School of Law brings together the very best in clinical training with traditional doctrinal legal education to create lawyers prepared to serve the public interest. As part of our mission, we prepare our students to practice, in the words of our motto, "Law in the Service of Human Needs." Our curriculum requires all third-year students to represent actual clients in such fields as immigration law, elder law, human rights law and more. CUNY is a national leader in progressive legal education. In the spring of 2007, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, in a national study of legal education, lauded CUNY School of Law's innovative curriculum, which has become a model for law schools across the nation.

Traditional Doctrinal Study

The basic premise of the Law School's program is that theory cannot be separated from practice, abstract knowledge of doctrine from practical skill, and understanding the professional role from professional experience. Our curriculum integrates practical experience, professional responsibility, and lawyering skills with doctrinal study at every level. Forming the core of our lawyering curriculum are the skills recognized by the profession as essential to successful law practice: problem solving, legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, factual investigation, communication (legal writing, oral argument), counseling, negotiation, litigation and alternative dispute-resolution, organization and management of legal work, and recognizing and resolving ethical dilemmas.

The Role of Clinical Education

Layered onto the traditional foundation of doctrinal education is our deep and broad clinical training program. First-year students acquire clinical experience through simulation exercises conducted in a required year-long lawyering seminar; second-year students take an advanced one-semester lawyering seminar in a public interest law area of their choice; third-year students earn 12-16 credits in either a field placement program or a live-client clinic onsite at the Law School.

Our curriculum rejects the traditional separation of substantive law courses into narrowly defined subjects. Precisely because attorneys are seldom presented with legal problems neatly compartmentalized into analytically distinct subject headings, our curriculum teaches students to think critically about subject matter, rule application and procedures and to synthesize these aspects critically. Thus, our graduates are able to address the many-sided problems that confront attorneys and their clients in real life.

Student-to-Student Collaboration

Because collaboration is both an important practical skill and a valuable learning mode, the Law School encourages students to work together and provides opportunities and frameworks for them to develop collaborative skills and practices. This approach alters the conventional hierarchical structure and atmosphere of most legal education. Students collaborate in virtually all of their work, so the cutthroat competition at most law schools is absent at CUNY Law. Our small size and 12 to1 student-faculty ratio foster a supportive learning environment designed to maximize individual and professional development. Because examination should be the servant, not the master of learning, many courses rely upon writing exercises and simulation work to evaluate student performance and progress.