California has long been a destination for dreamers, from gold hunters to thespians wanting to make the world their stage. In recent times, 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 several good options. After all, the state is home to at least 4 law schools ranked among the top 20 in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report. However, ranking a law school doesn't always neatly boil down to a single number. For example, a law school ranking wouldn't tell you much about the quality of a program or its faculty or, in the case of McGeorge School of Law, whether your professor could include a Supreme Court Justice.
Finding Your Terra Firma
Having several 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 schools approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), including:
- Golden Gate University
- Santa Clara University
- U.C. Berkeley
- U.C. Hastings
- University of San Francisco
Compare this to the Sacramento legal market where you'd generally be competing against law school graduates from the U.C. Davis and McGeorge schools of law, among others. Keep in mind, however, that not everyone practices law where they went to school. In addition, areas with several law schools may also have more diverse job opportunities. The point is just to consider where you might work before planting your flag.
What Are You Looking For?
As with any decision, you're going to want to choose a program that's tailored to your own 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 go to a law school that offers joint degrees.
It's also important to note that 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 (probably a good thing). For those with children, there are schools which provide child care for students. U.C. Davis even has a student-run co-operative nursery housed within the law school itself. In addition to the convenience this provides, it's also a good way to get that stuffy contracts professor to crack a smile after class.
ABA-Approved Law Schools in California
California is home to over sixty different law programs, in the form of both actual brick and mortar schools as well as distance learning programs. However, these programs can vary based on whether they are:
- Accredited by the state Committee of Bar Examiners; or
- Accredited and approved by ABA.
Essentially, 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 an ABA approved 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 4 years in a law office or a judge's chambers (like an apprenticeship).
Below is a list of California law schools approved by the ABA.
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. We're not going anywhere, so stick with FindLaw for Law Students as you take the next steps in your law school journey.