A Diverse Community
At Columbia Law, we cultivate and value a talented community that is broadly and multidimensionally representative. Our students come from countries around the world, speak hundreds of languages, and have earned degrees in every subject, from comparative literature to particle physics. And they have educational backgrounds as diverse as they are, whether they have lawyers in their families or are the first in their family to attend college.
Support and Engagement
Events and programs addressing issues at the intersection of diversity, equity, and inclusion are a fixture of the Columbia Law experience, beginning before new student orientation and continuing well after graduation.
For incoming students:
- Connecting Columbia Law, our pre-orientation event focused on welcoming and empowering incoming 1Ls who are from communities that have been historically underrepresented in law schools.
- Student workshops and trainings focusing on the Law School's commitment to equity and sharing tools for cultivating inclusion and resiliency (for example, our Creating an Inclusive Community workshop during 1L Orientation, Campus Conversations, and the Community Citizenship Initiative for all new students).
- Beginning in Fall 2021, the Law School will create and award five new need-based awards, the Columbia Law Diversity and Opportunity Scholarships, for incoming J.D. and LL.M. students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, who have experience living or working in diverse environments, and/or who have demonstrated experience in or commitment to working with historically underserved or underprivileged populations.
For current students:
- Social Justice Initiatives' weekly lunchtime discussion series, SJI Mondays, featuring speakers and discussion topics on a range of pressing issues, including social activism, civil and human rights, racial justice, law and the arts, and mass incarceration.
- The Beyond the Casebook Series, faculty led lunchtime discussions around timely, relevant issues outside of the classroom setting. This year's discussions center on the theme of “lawyers and the challenges of inclusive democracy.”
- Professional development programs and mentorship opportunities with Social Justice Initiatives, the Office of Career Services, and the Office of Judicial Clerkships.
- The Academic Scholars Program, which identifies and provides academic and financial support for J.D. candidates who want to pursue a career in legal academia.
- Faculty guidance and support from the Committee on Teaching on best practices for inclusive teaching, as well as for innovating and collaborating on ways to address race and inequality through course materials and coverage.
- Frequent events—from weekly panels to annual conferences—sponsored by student affinity groups and journals.
- The Fellowship in Support of Careers in Racial and Social Justice, provides a $25,000 grant in the fall of the 3L year to J.D. students who intend to pursue racial justice legal work after graduation and/or students of color who intend to pursue other social justice legal work after graduation.
- The Anti-Racism Grantmaking Program.
- Academic advising resources, panels, and lunches to help all students acclimate to and navigate the Law School.
- The development of new pro bono projects and experiential learning opportunities in Harlem, such as the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem Community Defense Externship.
Regular meetings between affinity group leaders and directors from Student Services and Social Justice Initiatives in which administrators hear directly from student leaders; share resources and updates; and give leaders another opportunity to discuss their plans, concerns, and efforts with each other.
- Opportunities for networking and connection, including the Alumni of Color initiative.
Our Commitment to Anti-Racism
In May 2021, Dean Lester announced the convening of the Anti-Racism Coordinating Committee for the 2021-2022 academic year. This Committee will track and support the work the Law School began in the summer of 2020 through the Anti-Racism Steering Committee agenda, as well as help to establish new initiatives. The Anti-Racism Coordinating Committee is part of Columbia Law's ongoing commitment to engage in the hard work of self-examination—our past, our values, our responsibilities—and charting a course for a future built on a strong and indefatigable commitment to combating structural racism.
On November 10, 2021, the ARCC hosted a forum to update the Law School community about its work during the Fall 2021 semester. A recording of that forum is available here.
- Richard Briffault, Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation
- Philip Genty, Vice Dean for Experiential Education and Everett B. Birch Innovative Teaching Clinical Professor in Professional Responsibility
- Michael A. Heller, Vice Dean for Curriculum and Lawrence A. Wien Professor of Real Estate Law
- Bert Huang, Michael I. Sovern Professor of Law
- Olatunde C. Johnson, Jerome B. Sherman Professor of Law
- Jeremy Kessler, Professor of Law
- Gillian Lester, Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law (ex officio)
- Edward R. Morrison, Charles Evans Gerber Professor of Law
- Christina D. Ponsa-Kraus, George Welwood Murray Professor of Legal History
- David Pozen, Vice Dean for Intellectual Life and Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law (Chair)
- Colleen F. Shanahan, Clinical Professor of Law
- Jane Spinak, Edward Ross Aranow Clinical Professor of Law
- Kendall Thomas, Nash Professor of Law
- Robert Ford, Executive Director of Student Services, Community Engagement, and Equity
- Yadira Ramos-Herbert, Associate Dean for Student and Registration Services
- Erica Smock, Assistant Dean and Dean for Social Justice Initiatives and Public Service Lawyering
- Anu Chugh, Class of 2022
- Julianna Simms, Class of 2023
- Dante Violette, Class of 2022
- Matthew Ybarra, Class of 2023
As part of its ongoing efforts to advance racial justice in the Columbia community and beyond, the Law School invites applications from second-year J.D. students for the Racial and Social Justice Fellowships for the 2021-2022 academic year. The Fellowships are offered in recognition of the unique role that lawyers can play in addressing structural racism and social inequality, and of the desire of many Columbia students to use their law degrees in furtherance of this work. The goal of this Fellowship is to provide financial assistance during the third year of law school to facilitate students’ pursuit of careers in racial justice as well as to enhance opportunities for students of color in public interest careers.
Read more about the Racial and Social Justice Fellowship Program and contact Erica Smock, Dean for Social Justice Initiatives & Public Service Lawyering and member of the Anti-Racism Coordinating Committee, with any questions. The application deadline for 2021-2022 Fellowships is February 25, 2022.
You can read more about the 2020-2021 Fellows here.
2021 Racial and Social Justice Fellowships Selection Committee
Yaa A. Dwamena, Associate Director of Financial Aid
Jamal Greene, Dwight Professor of Law
Conrad Johnson, Clinical Professor of Law
Kiran Singh, Senior Career Adviser, Social Justice Initiatives
Erica Smock, Assistant Dean and Dean for Social Justice Initiatives & Public Service Lawyering
Kendall Thomas, Nash Professor of Law
Mary M. Zulack, Clinical Professor Emerita of Law