Inside the Rivalry: NYU v. CLS

Illustrated by: Yoonji Woo

The question comes up all the time, and the rivalry has only been increased in recent years. The decision is as contentious as boxers or briefs; beer or wine; or chocolate or vanilla, but it carries much greater implications that can impact the rest of your life. Deciding between NYU and Columbia Law School is no easy choice – both are expensive, both are in New York City, and both are similarly ranked. Rumors abound about the differences between the two, from cutthroat students ripping pages out of textbooks at CLS to an exclusively public-interest education at NYU. Threads such as the ones on don’t help this problem, as posters ask and get advice on the two schools, with little to no way to verify if the information they are receiving is in any way accurate.[1]

There is the occasional apologist who will say, “the people on TLS are whiny, entitled douchebags, but they’re more accurate than anything I’ve heard in-person.” Naturally, we at the Muckraker were left unsatisfied, so we decided to bring things down to earth with a study of NYU students that is equal parts relatable and empirical. What we found was not surprising. The students confirmed some of the stereotypes (e.g., NYU students never know what they’re talking about) and refuted others (“The Dean’s Cup belongs to NYU”) suggesting that the truth lies somewhere in the impartial middle … CLS is clearly superior.

Before we get to the NYU students’ take, here are some facts on Columbia’s side. CLS is ranked higher in the all-important US News and World Report[2] than NYU, has a higher rate of employment upon graduation,[3] has a beautiful campus, [4] and has a friendly student body[5] which, contrary to popular opinion, does not rip pages out of textbooks.

Of course, there is more to a law school than rankings and employment numbers, and not surprisingly, the bleeding hearts at NYU emphasized these “soft” factors over our number$-at-all-costs conservatism at CLS.

First, they emphasized NYU’s location.  A recent graduate explained that NYU is “not in Harlem, it’s in Greenwich village.”   I was quick to point out that CLS, ever the bastion[6] of limousine liberalism, is in majestic Morningside Heights, not Harlem, but he didn’t seem to care.  The irony is that, while Greenwich Village used to be less-exclusive and more bohemian, it’s not exactly the type of place I think of as the “New York I know.”  The Upper West Side and especially Harlem seem more representative of the broader NYC community, which is ironic when we think about which school is more focused on public interest and which one’s more focused on “prestigious” jobs, which, for all their strong points, have a tendency to create social bubbles.

The attitude and culture is also a main selling point for NYU students. In keeping with their “more relaxed vibe,” no one at NYU “cares that they didn’t get into Harvard;” I, on the other hand, find it hard to focus in class without constantly recalculating my five-to-eight-percent lower clerkship chances from not going to Harvard.

NYU’s basketball skills are also apparently important, as the recent grad referred to NYU’s tendency to win the Dean’s Cup. Basketball prowess is part of our US News ranking, but this year’s victory and last year’s close match make it unclear which school has the upper hand.

Other NYU students focused on the abundant fashion and food in the village.  Dan, a current NYU student, was happy with his choice to attend NYU, thanks largely to the fashion scene, noting that “there are a lot of skinny jeans here.”  Also, Dan found the food to be much better in the village across the board.  For Chinese, he found that “Ollie’s doesn’t stack up to downtown Chinese;” for breakfast, he opined that “bagels on the square is much better than Nussbaum and Wu;” and for that late night slice, he argued “Joe’s is better than Koronet’s.”

While seemingly expressing ignorance over Absolute Bagels, which is where you should go in Morningside to get bagels, his points are among the most cogent I heard from NYU students. Those of us at Columbia know well that prestige is king, whether in choosing a law school or a midnight slice. If only Koronet had Michelin stars!

But for all the village’s advantages, our training in dispute resolution should at least teach us to follow precedent. We chose Columbia once, and we will not disturb that holding. Sorry, NYU: maybe you should’ve tried an argument by analogy?


[2]  Aided, perhaps, by the new emphasis on basketball skills?


[4] What better motivator than being constantly reminded of how your undergrad years will never come back?

[5] Well, psychopaths can be good actors, but still.

[6] Complete with battlements over Morningside Park.

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