2019 Annual Report

Dear Alumni & Friends,

The publication of this Annual Report affords me a special opportunity to acknowledge and sincerely thank all of you, our alumni and friends, who have provided generous support to Columbia Law School within the past fiscal year, July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019. Our donors truly make it possible for us to sustain our position as one of the world’s preeminent institutions of legal education and scholarship.

As you know, we launched our ambitious five-year Campaign for Columbia Law in 2017. I am pleased to report that, to date, we have raised nearly two-thirds of our $300 million goal, from more than 11,000 donors, to support faculty and students, expand our experiential curriculum, reimagine our library, and grow our Annual Fund. And, I assure you, students and faculty already feel the campaign’s impact across campus. Here are just some of the highlights.

Our faculty continue to raise the bar in the teaching and scholarship for which they are renowned. In addition to engaging in cutting-edge research, they have developed and introduced new courses—both doctrinal and experiential—in some of the most important and innovative topics in the law today. They expose our students to a broad range of rapidly evolving fields, including artificial intelligence and the law, cybersecurity and privacy, cross-border mergers and acquisitions, and criminal justice reform. Through the campaign we have been able to endow 11 new professorships, which greatly strengthen our faculty recruitment and retention efforts.

Our faculty also lend their expertise beyond the academy and shape the public discourse on major and often contentious challenges facing the country and the world. In just one week in July, three of our professors testified before Congress on the detention of children at the U.S.-Mexico border, Facebook’s proposed cryptocurrency, and whether “big tech” companies like Amazon and Google should be broken up to increase competition. The campaign also has helped us launch pathbreaking student-focused programs, such as the cross-disciplinary Davis Polk Leadership Initiative and a public service fellows program for our students committed to using their legal training in the public interest. As part of the Reuben Mark Initiative for Organizational Character and Leadership (a joint venture with Columbia Business School), we have established a new In-House Counsel Lab, through which we hosted Bruce Sewell, formerly of Apple, and Hilary Krane of Nike as our two inaugural leaders in residence.

We are continuing to strengthen financial aid, internship, and loan repayment assistance programs. Seventy endowed scholarships have been created since the start of the campaign, and 68 percent of this year’s 1L class received financial aid, up from 49 percent in 2015. Ninety-eight percent of our 2018 graduates secured jobs within 10 months of graduation and, for the sixth year in a row, we topped the Law.com annual Go-To Law Schools ranking, which measures the percentage of graduates entering jobs at the country’s 100 largest law firms. In addition, 97 percent of our J.D. graduates passed the New York State bar exam on their first try this past July. Columbia Law School centers and programs also have had a busy year, engaging faculty and students in research, training, and events that examine diverse topics, from driverless cars to fair trials, from international arbitration to bail reform in the United States, from gender justice to the First Amendment. In one exciting development, our Human Rights Institute has partnered with the American Bar Association and the Clooney Foundation for Justice on TrialWatch, an innovative initiative to monitor trials around the world that pose a high risk of human rights violations. The official launch and first conference, in April, drew leaders on the front lines of human rights advocacy from around the world.

No round-up of the year would be complete without my mentioning how the entire Law School community came together to honor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59 as she marked the 25th anniversary of her investiture to the Supreme Court of the United States. More than 1,000 students, alumni, faculty, judges, and other guests joined a candid discussion with Justice Ginsburg about her groundbreaking career. Later, in Low Memorial Library, distinguished faculty, alumni, and guests from across the country gathered for a gala celebration, which included remarks by Elizabeth Glazer ’86, Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg served as emcee. I have never been more proud of Columbia Law School than I was that day.

One of my biggest pleasures as dean is the opportunity to meet with many of you at events on campus and beyond—especially during Reunion Weekend. This year, more than 1,300 alumni and guests from 37 countries joined us for a record-setting Reunion 2019. I am always inspired when I hear your stories about how great an impact Columbia Law School has had on your careers and lives—from that professor who first opened your eyes to the exciting possibilities of a particular area of the law to those irreplaceable lifelong friendships that you made here.

In the pages that follow, we are pleased to share a glimpse of our year at Columbia Law School, including campaign successes, a profile of our fall 2019 entering J.D. class, and voices of some of the faculty and students who benefit enormously from your generosity. Your support and engagement make all of our progress possible. I thank you and look forward to our ongoing partnership.

Best regards,

Gillian Lester signature

Gillian Lester
Dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law