Mission and History
NYLS has always been an institution shaped by the values of New York City: diversity, opportunity, professionalism, integrity, empathy, service to others, leadership, innovation, and—of course—the drive and ambition to be the very best.
To provide an extraordinary and innovative educational experience that embodies the fundamental values of the legal system and creates a bridge from scholarship and service to leadership and practice;
To offer a vibrant, diverse, and forward-thinking center of legal studies where students develop the knowledge, skills, and professional values to serve their clients and have successful careers advancing justice, building the economy, and serving the various needs of modern society; and,
To serve as an incubator of ideas and actions to be emulated throughout New York City, the nation, and the world.
NYLS was founded in 1891 by faculty, students, and alumni who broke away from Columbia Law School. The School soon became known for its innovative educational methods, launching one of the nation’s first J.D. evening programs in 1894.
Its original campus was the Equitable Building at 120 Broadway. Though NYLS changed locations throughout its history, the School has remained a Lower Manhattan institution. Today, NYLS inhabits an iconic, high-tech glass building adjoined to two historic buildings at 185 West Broadway, a vibrant corner of Tribeca.
Through economic highs and lows, and amid dramatic changes to the legal profession and legal education, NYLS has remained a destination for thousands of committed people from all means to pursue the study of law. And with the tools NYLS provided, graduates of the School have built modern New York.
The School’s alumni include U.S. Senator and New Deal architect Robert F. Wagner Sr.; U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan II; Emilio Nunez, New York’s first Latino judge; Julius Archibald, New York’s first African American State Senator; Barbara Watson, the first African American and first woman to serve as a U.S. Assistant Secretary of State; Hon. Judith Sheindlin (television’s “Judge Judy”); Maurice R. (Hank) Greenberg, Former Chairman and CEO of American International Group and Chairman and CEO of C.V. Starr & Company, Inc.; Zygi Wilf, owner of the Minnesota Vikings; Vincent Viola, owner of the Florida Panthers; Marc Lasry, Co-Founder and CEO of Avenue Capital Group and co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks; Charles E. Phillips Jr.,
CEO of Infor; Cindy Rose, Microsoft UK CEO and Area Vice President; Joe Plumeri ’15 (Hon.), Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for First Data Corporation; and thousands of other leaders, including the founders or name partners of several global law firms.
In May 2012, Anthony W. Crowell became NYLS’s 16th Dean and President. Dean Crowell established the motto “We are New York’s law school” in recognition of NYLS’s unparalleled connection to New York and its commitment to excellence, opportunity, and service.
During 2015 and 2016, NYLS celebrated its 125th Anniversary, a tribute to its rich history and a look ahead to its vision for the next 125 years. During 2019, NYLS’s Evening Division celebrated its 125th year.