New York Law School was chartered by the state of New York on June 11, 1891. The first classes were held on October 1, 1891 in Lower Manhattan’s Financial District inside the Equitable Building. The school became the second-largest U.S. law school within one year of opening. The steady growth prompted moves to several locations in the Financial District. In 1904, the New York Law School became the largest law school in the United States.
New York Law School closed briefly during World War I and reopened in 1919 in Midtown. Enrollment peaked in the 1920s and declined during the Great Depression. The decline forced the school to accept lower quality students than previously accepted in order to remain open. The school later moved to Broadway and then again to City Hall Park. New York Law School became a coeducational institution in 1936. The school closed again in 1940 due to the military draft and the Great Depression. The current students completed their studies at the St. John University School of Law.
New York Law School reopened in 1947 under the influence of alumni headed by Supreme Court Justice Albert Cohn. The school received accreditation from the American Bar Association in 1954 and moved to the TriBeCa location in 1962. The law school is presently at this location.
School reform began taking place in 1973. School leaders wanted to reform the curriculum and were not satisfied with students passing the Bar Exam only. In 1975, the law school began offering Joint Degree Programs in conjunction with City College of New York.
New York Law School completed the expansion of a 235,000-square-foot nine-level building enclosed in glass, which integrates the existing law school building. The facility opened its doors in July 2009. The law school’s existing building is currently undergoing renovations that are expected to be complete in spring 2011.