Mid-Atlantic Region

New York, New Jersey?

The City...

Which city?  Every New Yorker will tell you that there's only one -- and it's hard to argue with them.  The wealth. The crime. The dirt. The crowds.  No other city will ever be like it. New York is the ultimate "great place to visit but." Good dinners, the theatre, sight-seeing, and shopping easily fill every spare minute.  Of course, that's both good and bad.  At 21 I didn't think there was a better place in the whole world, and I often still feel that way. No other city has as much of everything and anything you want. No other city has as much splendor, as much squalor, as much excitement.  Or as few parking spaces.  I liked New York a lot more before I learned to drive, and may like it more again when I'm smart enough to leave the car at home.  For now it's a city of mixed blessings.  

The biggest problem is the high cost of housing in the city -- $2,000 for a studio in the village, $1,200 for the sofa bed in the living room. Of course, it was the former clients who had top legal jobs in the city who were able to pay those prices. Current clients commute from the 'burbs to their less lucrative jobs.  

The destruction of the World Trade Center does not seem to have become one of the defining moments in the city.  Nowhere was there the sense of reverence or grief that should accompany such a great loss, not even at Ground Zero. For a moment I felt like a time traveler viewing the site from an entirely different perspective from the people around me. The site itself - the vastness, the number of workers, the number of jobs, all happening simultaneously - is beyond my poor powers of description. I hope that some enterprising author will undertake the task of putting words to the enormity of the project, all controlled by a dozen or two trailers dotting the edge of the site.  

One thing I did get a sense of is that New Yorkers adjust to change. New subway stations diverting traffic around the collapse, new parks and memorials, are already just part of the daily life of the New Yorker. Something built six months ago "has just been there for ages," and life goes on. Perhaps their view is better; it probably is if you have to live in the middle of the metamorphosis. But I think that as an outsider, I'm better off with the need to ponder the philosophical and historic significance of it all.  

In August of 2004, I traveled with my client Erin up and down the east coast looking at law schools and their surroundings.  

The Schools...

There are five law schools in Manhattan, each one unique.  And for each one, the architecture says a lot about the character of the school.

Columbia University


Columbia's massive architecture is a metaphor for the University's presence in the city. Massive and imposing, Columbia dominates the Upper West Side just below Harlem. The law school's modern architecture is a sharp contrast to the neoclassical main campus.  

Students run an ID card through turnstiles reminiscent of the subway in order to enter the library, and like the crowds at subway turnstiles, toss courtesy to the winds in their effort to be first through.

The undergraduate campus is gated and locked; this may be necessary given the neighborhood, but it helps to reinforce the sense of exclusiveness frequently associated with the schools in the Ivy League. The bridge across Amsterdam Avenue, connecting the law school with the library, is both fanciful and another expression of Columbia's power; the bridge is a small park crossing the eight lanes of traffic below it.  


[So few people use the full name of this school that if you say "New York University," some people won't know what you mean!]

NYU is the opposite of Columbia, physically, ideologically, and architecturally. Washington Square's turn-of--century architecture surrounds the campus.  A wrought iron gate leads to a cloistered garden. The mansion connected to the garden is the main building of the law school.

Marble floors, elegantly curved banisters, and a grand piano portray a gracious gentility appropriate to the neighborhood.  While NYU students are always in as much of a hurry as Columbia's, their urgency feels like the rush to learn and to do more rather than the rush to beat out a classmate for the plum of a seat in the library.

To me, NYU epitomizes all that's great about New York.

[There were no good photos on Wiki, so I added these that I took a decade before digital cameras existed.]

nyu law Long tables and lamps with green glass shades make the library look like a traditional turn-of-the-century reading room, but the styling exhibits many modern touches as well. In fact, NYU combines some of the best of old and new architecture throughout. The lack of a campus is offset by the presence of Washington Square right across the street, and the job opportunities in New York are unparalleled. The Village is casual and fun, and suited to a law student's hours - open all night. If you're under 40 and like cities, NYU is a great place to be.



Cardozo is the pragmatist of the city's five law schools. Its facilities are located in a downtown office building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 12th St, and its dormitories are a former hotel just around the corner. This conversion of existing architecture to meet the law school's needs does not portend an inferior or low-budget facility. The law school occupies 11 full floors of the building, which is no small investment.  It instead marks the relative youth of the school; by 1975, land in Manhattan was more precious than rubies.  

The location, right on Fifth Avenue, can create the illusion that one is going to a job instead of to school, a feeling that some of you may not like. After all, at least part of the excitement of going to law school is embodied in walking through the hallowed halls; taking an elevator up to five is just not the same. On the other hand, knowing that the minute you walk out of your classroom you are taking your legal knowledge out into the world can create its own special drama.

Fordham University

Ironically, Fordham University is in one of the most visible parts of Manhattan and is it self virtually invisible. Connected to the Lincoln Center, home of the Metropolitan Opera House as well as other performing arts theaters, Fordham could call quite a bit of attention to itself. Fordham

Instead, it has chosen to hide behind a nearly anonymous door, creating a divide that helps keep students sheltered and safe while in one of the busiest parts of this busy city. The inner atrium as well as the garden accessible only by passing through the building, provide quiet places to commune with other students, so one need not deal with the traffic of 62nd St unless one chooses to.

Fordham is a "closed" institution: one cannot enter the library and classroom sections of the building without identification and permission. While this helps keep the school safe, it also limits the opportunity to visit before one is admitted. Another drawback is the University itself. One exists, but not in Manhattan. A shuttle bus running a few times each day will take you to the main campus, but you may have to wait a bit for a return bus.

New York Law School

NYLS is the "downtown" law school, below (south of) the Village, below Canal -- in fact, that's what "TriBeCa" means:  Triangle Below Canal. "Downtown" means more than just a direction, as that fine old 1960s song indicates.  

 It's the industrial heart of the city, the part where restaurateurs go at 5:00 a.m. to buy the freshest produce, where workers are sitting in diners drinking coffee and reading newspapers as they go off shift at any hour of the night.  But this is New York, and not all of those workers are carrying hard hats; downtown is Wall Street, and the workers sit loosening ties and rolling up the sleeves on wilted shirts; the newspaper is as likely to be the Wall Street Journal as New York Newsday. nyls

NYLS is about to move to a new building.  With construction scheduled to complete by Spring of 2009,  it seemed silly to publish my 20-year-old photos. NYLS apparently agrees; they have hardly a picture on their web site, except some architect's drawings of the new building.  But the architect's drawing is very appealing -- see?

The Area


Along with the five schools in Manhattan, there are three more in the rest of the city --  Brooklyn, CUNY and St. John's -- and another three in the suburbs -- Hofstra, Touro, and Pace.  

I'm embarrassed to admit I've never seen Touro or Hofstra; twice I've been to Long Island, and twice I've become so lost I gave up and went back to Manhattan. And my visits to Pace and CUNY are so ancient that I hardly remember them.  What I remember is best captured in a photo I took landing at Kennedy Airport in 1988.  As you can see, Queens is decidedly not Manhattan.  

Brooklyn Law School  

Brooklyn Law School is my favorite of the schools surrounding Manhattan. The facilities are tasteful and elegant, practically at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge and a few blocks from a delightfully eclectic middle-Eastern community.


This photo that I cribbed from their web site (notice the attribution at the top), shows just what I mean: beautiful wood, elegant flooring, extravagant windows -- aren't you glad I don't know any songs about Brooklyn?

Newark NJ

Some of you may think of New Jersey as a separate place from New York.  There is no reason at all to make this distinction, at least as far as law schools are concerned.  Newark (with its two law schools) is closer to Manhattan than are Hofstra and Pace, and the PATH train runs to lower or central Manhattan from Penn Station Newark, within spitting distance of Seton Hall.  

Rutgers - Newark

rutgers newark

Rutgers - Newark is a fabulous facility. The new building is beautiful and functional, with all the frills that a law student could want. The only problem is that it's in a particularly bad part of town. I told my client that I wouldn't want to walk from the train station to the law school after dark, and I grew up in West Philly.

On the other hand, if you already live with urban blight and crime, you won't find a better law school for the price.  In addition to being the top law school in New Jersey, Rutgers places very well in the New York city job market.  It's within walking distance of Penn Station (at least in good weather), and is on the main campus, so you have access to the gym, undergrad libraries, and other University services.


Seton Hall

Seton Hall isn't nearly as nice as Rutgers, but the neighborhood you have to walk through to get there isn't nearly as bad. It's a good compromise for folks who want to get as close to New York as they can.

The building has a very light, airy feel, created by a large central atrium and generous use of glass, light wood, and white structural supports. It is only a block from the train station, connecting you not only to New York at any time of day or night, but also to the station's maze of fast food, news, and other quick stop shops so essential to the life of a student.  




seton hall


Take me back to the
"Grand Tour" Page

Take me back to
the Home Page