California has long been a destination for dreamers, from gold hunters to thespians wanting to make the world their stage. It's also been home to inventors converting ideas into ground-breaking (and lucrative) technologies. California has been a land of opportunity for many, and it could very well be the place where your legal career begins.
If you're interested in California law schools, the first thing to know is that there are many good options. After all, the state is home to four law schools ranked among the top 20 in the nation.
However, ranking a law school doesn't always neatly boil down to a single number. You'll also want to consider whether a school offers the educational focus you want at a cost you can take on.
Location, Location, Location
Having numerous options for law school is a good thing. However, in some cases, greater options can mean fewer job opportunities after you graduate, especially when several schools share the same legal market.
If you plan on living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area, for instance, you'd largely be competing for first-year attorney jobs among graduates of at least seven accredited law schools.
Compare this to the Sacramento legal market, where you'd generally be competing against law school graduates from U. C. Davis and McGeorge, among others. However, not everyone practices law where they went to school. And areas with several law schools may also have more diverse job opportunities. Considering where you want to work is just one factor when choosing a law school.
Other Important Considerations
As with any important decision, you will want to choose a program tailored to your needs and goals. For example, if you're planning on working while in law school, you might consider one with a part-time or evening program. Or depending on your career goals, you may want to attend a law school that offers joint degrees.
Law students often have other important life obligations, such as caring for young children. These obligations can limit the hours spent studying the Rule Against Perpetuities (although that's probably a good thing).
ABA-Approved Law Schools in California
California is home to more than 60 law programs in the form of brick-and-mortar schools and online learning programs. However, these programs vary based on whether they are:
- Accredited by the state Committee of Bar Examiners; or
- Accredited and approved by the ABA.
Getting your degree from an accredited law school gives you more flexibility, as many jurisdictions will only admit lawyers to practice if their J.D. is from an ABA-approved program. If you're considering moving to another state after law school, an ABA-accredited program is likely the way to go. Accredited programs also tend to have higher bar passage rates.
Below is a list of ABA-accredited California law schools.
|California Western School of Law||
|Chapman University Fowler School of Law||
|Golden Gate University School of Law||
|Loyola Law School||
|Pepperdine University School of Law||
|Santa Clara University School of Law||
|Southwestern Law School||
|Stanford Law School||
|University of California, Berkeley School of Law||
|University of California, Davis School of Law||
|University of California, Hastings College of Law||
|University of California, Irvine School of Law||
|University of California, Los Angeles School of Law||
|University of San Diego School of Law||
|University of San Francisco School of Law||
|University of Southern California Gould School of Law||
|University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law||
|Western State University College of Law||
State-Accredited and Unaccredited Law Schools in California
An institution tends to have a better reputation when it's ABA-approved. However, it's also important to note that you don't need a degree from a nationally accredited law school in order to practice law in California.
In fact, under California State Bar Rule 4.26(B), you don't even need a law degree, as you're allowed to take the state bar exam and practice in the state by, among other things, studying law for at least four years in a law office or a judge's chambers (like an apprenticeship). However, going this route means taking the "baby bar."
The debate over accredited vs. non-accredited law schools is important to consider. While unaccredited programs come at a much lower cost, many have very low bar passage rates and other issues. But they also allow many people to study law who likely would not be able to pursue an accredited program. And the California bar has its own accreditation system to help students find reputable schools.
The following schools are accredited by the California state bar but not the ABA:
|Cal Northern School of Law||Chico|
|The Colleges of Law, Santa Barbara||Santa Barbara|
|The Colleges of Law, Ventura||Ventura|
|Concord Law School at Purdue University Global||Los Angeles|
|Empire College of Law||Santa Rosa|
|Glendale University College of Law||Glendale|
|Humphreys University Drivon School of Law||Stockton|
|JFK School of Law at National University||San Diego|
|Kern County College of Law||Bakersfield|
|Lincoln Law School of Sacramento||Sacramento|
|Monterey College of Law||Seaside|
|Northwestern California University School of Law||Sacramento|
|San Joaquin College of Law||Clovis|
|San Luis Obispo College of Law||San Luis Obispo|
|St. Francis School of Law||Newport Beach|
|Thomas Jefferson School of Law||San Diego|
|Trinity Law School||Santa Ana|
|University of La Verne College of Law and Public Service||Ontario|
|University of West Los Angeles School of Law, San Fernando Valley||Chatsworth|
|University of West Los Angeles School of Law, West Los Angeles||Inglewood|
The State Bar of California also maintains a list of unaccredited law schools. These institutions are registered with the state but have not been approved by the ABA or the state bar. Many are distance-learning programs or "correspondence" schools. Students from these programs can take the bar exam and practice law in California if they fulfill specific admissions requirements.
Taking Your Next Steps
Going to law school requires some life readjustments, especially during the first year. It's generally a good idea to prepare yourself (and your loved ones) as best you can ahead of time. To help you do so, FindLaw has a wealth of resources and tips from lawyers armed with plenty of lessons learned on FindLaw for Law Students.