Skip to Main Content
by Vault Education Editors | December 10, 2010


What's the difference between Columbia Law and NYU Law? This question was asked at a Kaplan-hosted "private practice vs public interest" panel discussion last night. Two of the panel members, each a graduate of these two schools, agreed that when it comes to overall educational quality and prestige the schools are neck and neck, with Columbia usually eking out a slight lead in the various law school rankings. For students who want to work in private practice, Columbia is probably the better choice; those interested in public interest would likely do better attending NYU, they agreed. But the biggest difference between the New York City schools, they said, was the culture.

Their characterization of the culture difference was something like: Columbia seems to breed a hyper-competitive, sometimes bordering on cutthroat, attitude; NYU, while maybe not laid-back, has in comparison a looser, calmer feel. To read through Vault's student reviews of these schools, one tends to form the same characterization held by the two panelists, despite the presence of contradictory opinions from students at both schools.


Student A:

It is a first-rate institution with a very competitive atmosphere.

Student B:

I made five or six very close friends, and that was about it. And I think I was on the lucky side. I think it’s a combination of overly intense people and the fact that the campus clears out at 5 p.m. I went to a competitive Ivy for undergrad and the difference between the social life at Columbia and there was like night and day. Nobody came to school events, and many people were just downright annoying. You found a lot of great diamonds by third year, but in general we had to deal with show-offy, socially awkward people in class daily. It was a relief to find that law firm life was better socially than law school.

Student C:

The best part of the classes are the students in them. Granted, some are very annoying because they feel like they have to show how smart they are, but all of them are very bright people. It is an extremely intellectually stimulating environment. The debates unfold at high intellectual levels, and the students educate each other just by expressing their point of view or through reading of a case or situation.


Student X:

The collegiality of NYU is great, with people willing to help you with your notes, to forming study groups.

Student Y:

People are friendlier than its cutthroat competitors. I have heard stories of people hiding books and sabotaging printers at other law schools. That doesn’t happen at NYU. It gets a bit competitive during the interview period, but relax: You aren’t really competing with your fellow NYU students. You are actually competing with people from your similarly ranked law schools.

Student Z:

Many students choose NYU because the students tend to be really down to earth and non-elitist. Whenever I missed class, people would email me their notes before I even asked anyone.


Students and alumni of NYU Law and Columbia Law, do you think this is an accurate depiction of your school cultures?


Filed Under: Education
Subscribe to the Vault

Be the first to read new articles and get updates from the Vault team.