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Areas of Study


Accounting and Statistics    
A grasp of financial accounting is key to a lawyer's ability to represent business clients. CLS students learn everything they need to know, from bookkeeping and valuing assets to recognizing the signs of financial danger—or deception. In the statistics course, students analyze and interpret the financial statements of real companies, examining the uses and misuses of financial statement data.
 
Administrative and Regulatory Law
    
Increasingly, lawyers must deal not only with courts and legislatures, but also with administrative agencies made responsible for fundamental questions of contemporary public policy. Columbia's innovative Foundations of the Regulatory State course introduces these questions and intellectual techniques for dealing with them. Upperclass courses, clinics and seminars examine the machinery of government and regulatory procedures, and a variety of substantive regulatory problems, from antitrust, securities regulation, and telecommunications to the environment, health care, immigration, and income assistance.
 
Civil Procedure    
As the introduction to the lawyer's craft, Civil Procedure looks at the nuts and bolts of the litigation system. While addressing the basic elements of discovery, justiciability, adjudicatory authority, parties, pleadings, trials, and judgments, the class also focuses on the overriding goals of our dispute-resolution system and looks at how the rules under which it operates frustrate or promote the aims of substantive justice.
 
Clinical Education
    
In Columbia Law School's eight innovative and challenging clinics, students get a jumpstart on the lifelong process of becoming thoughtful and responsible lawyers. Working with real clients, alongside public-interest lawyers, students delve into the areas of child advocacy, arts law, environmental law, human rights, mediation, nonprofit organizations and small businesses, prisoners' rights, and the use of technology to enhance the practice of law.
 
Commercial Law    
At CLS, students interested in the law and policy affecting commercial affairs find a broad range of courses from which to choose. Moving beyond the basic Contracts course to more specialized offerings in commercial transactions, corporate reorganization and bankruptcy, international trade, or independent study, students integrate the doctrinal and transaction-oriented aspects of this area of study. 
 
Constitutional Law    
CLS's introductory Constitutional Law course locates the Constitution in the life of the United States and serves as the foundation for more advanced and specialized courses. It explores the theory of the Constitution and its antecedents; judicial review; the nature of our federal system; the growth of national power and limitations; and the theory and content of individual rights, as well as the role of the judiciary as their guardian. 
 
Contracts    
First-year CLS students studying contracts not only study the most widely used textbook on the subject (Farnsworth on Contracts); they learn from its authors Allan Farnsworth, Carol Sanger, and William F. Young. The basic Contracts course addresses the bases for enforcing promises, the bargaining process, remedies for breach of contract, and other critical issues in the context of agreements over construction, sale of goods or land, employment, and family issues. 
 
Corporate and Securities Law    
Exploring the vast area of corporate law from diverse perspectives, students learn from nationally recognized experts who are not only leading scholars but also key architects of government policy and corporate practice. Faculty members include lawyers who serve on boards and committees of Nasdaq, the New York Stock Exchange, and the SEC. Coursework is enhanced by research taking place at CLS's Center for Law and Economic Studies. 
 
Criminal Law
    
Criminal law courses address the nature and quality of culpability and the place of criminal law enforcement in a free society. The curriculum covers the constitutional constraints and prerogatives of law enforcement in the gathering of evidence and the adjudication of criminal cases. Columbia also presents opportunities to consider the future of criminal law in a global setting, particularly in response to the issues of terrorism and electronic surveillance.
 
Educational Law    
Tackling issues from affirmative action, to single-sex education, to free speech on campus, education law goes to the heart of constitutional protections. CLS's basic survey course addresses these hot-button topics as well as school-finance reform; matters related to separation of church and state, including voucher and choice plans; a school's authority to make and enforce rules governing student and staff conduct; and searches and seizures in the school setting.
 
Environmental Law    
One of the first law schools in the country to offer a course in environmental law, CLS continually refines its approach to this field. The basic course analyzes the development of air- and water-pollution control, hazardous-waste disposal, and the effects of national environmental policy. It also covers the widening impact of environmental litigation. Two seminars—Environmental Litigation and Hazardous Waste Law—enable students to deepen their understanding of this ever-broadening area.
 
Family Law    
Broadly understood to encompass the many sets of rules regulating intimate relationships in American society, family law regularly crosses the line between civil and criminal law and public and private systems of control. CLS's courses and its clinics in family law address the diverse regulations that affect families, often depending on whether they are rich or poor, traditional or nontraditional, self-supporting or receiving public aid. 
 
Health Care and the Law    
Health care and the law are broadly and inextricably linked. Students at Columbia Law School are introduced to health care regulation in the Foundations of the Regulatory State course during their first year. Upper level courses and seminars address issues as far ranging as medical malpractice, bioethics, biotechnology, health care antitrust, organ transplantation, reproductive rights, mental health law, and the comparative analysis of the medical and legal professions.
 
Human Rights    
Columbia Law school has the oldest, richest, and most widely acclaimed human rights program of any law school in the United States and probably the world. For nearly half a century, it has been the model for pioneering education and scholarship in human rights. Since 1998, Columbia's human rights program has been coordinated by the Human Rights Institute.
 
Intellectual Property Law    
New developments in media and communications require that the law—and our thinking about it—be adapted rapidly. Few places better prepare lawyers to face those changes than Columbia Law School, where intellectual property has long been an area of teaching and scholarship. Complementing the work of the Law School's outstanding IP faculty is the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts, which coordinates courses, internships, and seminars with leading practitioners.
 
International, Foreign & Comparative Law    
From Francis Lieber, whose work formed the basis of the modern laws of war, to Professor Hans Smit, one of today's leading experts on international arbitration and litigation, Columbia's faculty have long been on the cutting edge of international legal scholarship. Columbia was among the first law schools to offer courses in foreign law and comparative legislation, to create joint-degree programs with law schools overseas, and to encourage the enrollment of foreign students.
 
Labor and Employment Law    
Home to an unusually large and distinguished cluster of faculty in this area, CLS has the strongest labor and employment law program in the country. Faculty expertise allows the Law School to offer cutting-edge courses and to partner with law schools around the world. Labor Law, Employment Law, and Employment Discrimination courses cover the basics, and advanced courses, such as a seminar in international labor rights, address issues of globalization and organizational change. 
 
Law and Economics    
Columbia Law School is home to many faculty members who apply economic analyses to their research and teaching in corporate law, securities law, and commercial law. As a result, the School's approach to law and economics emphasizes the corporate and commercial aspects. Students may take a yearlong workshop in which outside researchers present their current work or participate in programs coordinated by the Center for Law and Economic Studies. 
 
Law and Humanities    
Lawyers use the same devices as literary critics do, but often without realizing it. This course connects literary works to legal texts to give greater insight into the use and habits of legal language. It also familiarizes students with the literary texts that every lawyer should know. These works help dramatize central problems in law that the profession has failed to address and can help the reader consider approaches to reform.
 
Law and Philosophy    
Columbia Law School and the University in general are home to a remarkable collection of theorists working in legal, political, and moral philosophy. The Center for Law and Philosophy was established in 1997 to draw together the work of these individuals and to foster research, discussion, and teaching in areas of philosophy that are relevant to law and legal scholarship. 
 
Law and Social Sciences    
One of the few law school offerings of this type, Columbia's Law and Social Science course reflects two intersecting developments: the growing tendency of courts to use scientific evidence to resolve the factual bases of cases and the Supreme Court's Daubert decision, which raised the standards for scientific evidence presented in court. Students learn basic social science theories and methods, and apply these methods both in analyses of caselaw and litigation strategies.
 
Legal History
    
Columbia Law School, the University, and New York City abound in rich source material for research in legal history. Courses address topics from the legal theory of conquest in the New World, to the Civil War and the New Deal, to today's debates over remedies for discrimination, allowing students to delve deeply into the law's development. The joint Law School-History Department Program in Law and History further supports such interdisciplinary scholarship.
 
Legal Methods    
Columbia has long signaled its commitment to its students by starting legal education with its Legal Methods course. Most law schools ask their students to master fundamental skills and perspectives as an element of substantive classes. Columbia assigns some of its most experienced professors to this first course. Its purpose is to introduce the processes and the skills necessary in the professional use of case law and legislation, and to give its students an appreciation for the changing styles of legal analysis over time and an awareness of current disputes about the role of judges, particularly in relation to the work of legislatures.
 
Legislation    
Most of today's law reflects the work of legislatures, not common law courts, proactively addressing fundamental questions of public policy. From early last century, Columbia's pioneering Legislative Drafting and Research Fund has engaged students directly in legislative processes. Unlike most law schools, Columbia begins legal studies with a course (Legal Methods) stressing statutes and their interpretation. Foundations of the Regulatory State then asks how a large, heterogeneous society makes law, develops the institutions and rules necessary for regulating the economy, and addresses complex political, environmental, and social problems. Upperclass courses, including some addressed solely to legislatures and their issues, continue this important work in a wide variety of fields. 
 
Professional Responsibility    
The profession of law requires of its practitioners a deep commitment to ethics. The basics of legal ethics are covered in the weeklong Profession of Law class, an interactive, experiential course that provides students with a realistic sense of the ethical and professional issues they will confront in their careers. Additional courses in ethics in complex litigation, lawyering and the workplace, and professionals and professions complement this introduction.
 
Taxation    
Although tax law is built on formulas and technical rules, it presents core social-policy issues about efficiency, fairness, and political accountability, and it deeply affects people's every day lives. Thus, while some law students may think of tax class as a necessary evil, most find that it is a wonderfully interesting, intellectually engaging subject. "It's pretty common for students to take tax because they think they have to, and then find out that they just love it," says Professor David Schizer. 
 
Tort Law    
Tort law is one of the foundations of any legal education. While each basic Torts class provides an introduction to the various types of civil wrong and infraction of public duty that are addressed by tort law, Columbia courses are enlivened by the perspectives of a variety of professors who, in teaching the course, bring their own areas of expertise to bear on this far-reaching subject. 
 
Trusts and Estates
    
For many families, the inevitable division of assets presents challenges. Therefore, it is important for any lawyer who will go into family or general practice to understand trusts and estates. The basic course teaches students how to help families pass down money in an efficient and effective way. Advanced courses, for those who may specialize in this area, address drafting of wills and trusts, as well as issues of taxation.