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The Best Law Schools in California

October 4, 2023
8 min read
Contents

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Reviewed by:

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 10/04/23

If you’re interested in attending law school in California, read on to learn more about the best law schools in the state.

San Francisco, CA

Often known as the sunshine or golden state, California is renowned for its ideal tropical climate, surfing, and beautiful beaches. 

With several high-ranking law schools, California might also be the golden state for you to attend law school! With around 18 different accredited law schools, aspiring law students have a variety of options to choose from.

To narrow down your search, this guide will go over the ten best law schools in California, what makes them unique, and how to get into them!

Here are the top law schools in California:

Law School Ranking Acceptance Rate Median LSAT Median GPA Bar Passage Rate In-State Tuition
Stanford Law School #1 6.9% 173 3.92 97.1% $71,610
Berkeley Law #10 12.5% 170 3.83 95% $59,306
UCLA Law #14 15.5% 171 3.90 93.8% $56,455
USC Gould School of Law #16 12.7 168 3.87 95.2% $76,438
UCI Law #35 19.5% 167 3.72 88.7% $61,463

Law School Ranking Acceptance Rate Median LSAT Median GPA Bar Passage Rate In-State Tuition
Pepperdine Caruso School of Law #45 27.7% 164 3.85 86.9% $63,660
Loyola Law School #60 34.4% 161 3.69 87.9% $63,412
UC Hastings Law #60 29% 160 3.59 81.7% $46,034
UC Davis School of Law #60 25.2% 165 3.70 79.8% $54,919
USD School of Law #78 34.5% 161 3.74 81.8% $60,861

Below we’ll go in-depth on each of the law schools. 

University of California, Berkely

1. Stanford University

Stanford’s law school not only ranks second in the nation–it also ranks first in California. This well-known school is known for its forward-thinking, boundary-breaking curriculum and immersive experiences that give students the best chance of having successful legal careers!

Stanford has 11 immersive legal clinics that its students participate in full-time for around ten weeks to allow them to take ownership of their experience and get the most out of it:

  • Community Law
  • Criminal Defense
  • Criminal Prosecution
  • Environmental Law
  • Immigrants’ Rights 
  • International Human Rights
  • Intellectual Property and Innovation
  • Organizations and Transactions
  • Religious Liberty
  • Supreme Court Litigation
  • Youth and Education Law

To have a fair shot of getting into this school and participating in these clinics, students must be academically and personally accomplished. Students should aim to have a GPA of around 3.92 and an LSAT score of around 173 to be considered competitive. 

As a prestigious law school, Stanford is on the higher end, with yearly tuition costs of $71,610. 

2. University of California - Berkeley

The second-best law school in California is UC Berkeley. This school ranks ninth in the nation and first for corporate law, environmental law, and intellectual property law. Additionally, it ranks second for criminal law! 

UC Berkeley uniquely offers its students the chance to concentrate in one area of law during their JD:

  • Social justice and public interest
  • Business and start-ups
  • Law and technology
  • Environmental law 
  • Criminal justice
  • International and comparative law
  • Constitutional and regulatory
  • Law and economics

Students can participate in various legal clinics, externships, competitions, moot courts, journals, and placements within these specialties.

While UC Berkeley has a more favorable acceptance rate than Stanford at 12.5%, it is still highly competitive to get into! Admitted students have a median GPA of 3.83 and a median LSAT score of 170.

Tuition costs $59,306 annually for in-state students and $67,816 for out-of-state students.  

3. University of California - Los Angeles

UCLA is another excellent law school in California that promises its students cutting-edge resources and scholars, clinical opportunities, and diverse extracurricular activities. While UCLA Law ranks 14th in the nation, it is best known for its environmental law program, which ranks number one in the nation.

As a pioneer in environmental law, UCLA created one of the first law clinics in the country to focus on environmental issues. This clinic is called the Frank G. Wells Clinic and focuses on diverse issues relating to public interests and non-profit groups.

For environmental enthusiasts, UCLA’s environmental program will give you practical experience in this field of law on local, national, and global levels. This program will allow you to meet and work with leading experts in the field.

UCLA admits have a median GPA of 3.9 and a median LSAT score of 171. Their acceptance rate is 15.5%. 

Prospective students can expect to pay around $56,455 for in-state tuition and $68,700 for out-of-state tuition.

4. University of Southern California (Gourd)

With a 120-year reputation for academic excellence, the University of Southern California has a long history of producing exceptional lawyers through its innovative legal curriculum.

USC also has one of the most diverse student populations in the nation. Its dedication to diversity dates back to the early 1900s, being one of the first law schools to enroll women, students of color, ethnic minorities, and international scholars!

If you’d like to join this revolutionary school, you should aim to have a GPA of around 3.87 and an LSAT score of around 168. USC only accepts around 12.7% of students and has the highest tuition costs on this list! Full-time tuition costs $76,438 a year. 

5. University of California - Irvine

Although a relatively new law school, UCI has earned a reputation in legal education. Ranking fifth in the nation for its clinical training and fourth for its practical training, UCI is sure to equip you with the right experience and skills to excel as an attorney!

Further proving their dedication to clinic training, students at UCI are required to take a core clinical course of their choice during their first year. They can join elective core clinicals during their second and third years, allowing them to continuously put theory to practice throughout their JD. 

UCI is strongly committed to public service, with its students completing approximately 125,000 hours of pro bono work at their legal clinics to date!

Only 19.5% of all applicants are granted admission to this clinical-centered school. Of this percentage, students typically have a GPA of around 3.72 and an LSAT score of around 167

Attending UCI costs $61,463.97 for in-state students and $73,708.97 for out-of-state students. 

6. Pepperdine University

Located in Malibu, Pepperdine University offers its students a great legal education and a scenic campus! 

Pepperdine is associated with the Church of Christ and involves Christian values in every aspect of its legal curriculums.

Many of these Christian values revolve around morals and ethics, which is best exemplified in Pepperdine’s pro bono programs, where students can travel nationally and internationally to help various disadvantaged populations. 

One popular pro bono program is the justice bus trip, where students provide free clinical aid to vulnerable populations living in rural and isolated parts of California. 

This experience allows students to practice what they learn in the classroom. It also gives them a strong sense of fulfillment, knowing they’re serving and advocating for those who might not have access to proper legal aid.

Pepperdine accepts only 27.7% of all its applicants and expects them to have GPAs of around 3.85 and LSAT scores of around 164. Students can also expect to pay approximately ​​$63,660 a year for tuition at Pepperdine.

7. Loyola Marymount University

The final best law school in California is Loyola Marymount. Located in downtown L.A., this university is ideal for aspiring lawyers due to its proximity to courthouses, big law firms, and other legal institutions.

Uniquely, since L.A. is also known as a powerhouse for media entertainment, Loyola Marymount offers its students an entertainment law practicum where they have the opportunity to work with entertainment giants like Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros.

Loyola also emphasizes the importance of pro bono work. It is the first law school in California to have a pro bono graduation requirement. 

Students collectively contribute over 40,000 hours annually towards these projects and have impressively helped get five wrongly convicted individuals out of prison and off death row! 

If the thought of having a significant impact on those you serve interests you, know that you’ll need an impressive application to gain admission to this school! With an acceptance rate of 34.4%, a median GPA of 3.69, and a median LSAT score of 161, students must prove their academic potential to be considered competitive applicants.

Loyola is another one of California's top-ranked law schools that offers a part-time program. This program costs a fraction of their full-time program: their part-time program costs $42,436 a year, whereas their full-time one costs $63,412 a year.

8. University of California (Hastings)

UC Hastings is another long-standing law school. Since its establishment in 1878, it has dedicated itself to producing stellar attorneys by providing its students with the best legal resources and opportunities. 

Along with this dedication to excellence, UC Hastings emphasizes creating more culturally aware lawyers who can serve diverse populations. UC Hastings has aWith a proven track record of upholding this mission, with graduates such as Kamala Harris, the first female vice president!

Additionally, UC Hastings has an Indigenous Law Center, a Center for East Asian Legal Studies, a Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, a Center for Racial and Economic Justice, and a Center for Race, Immigration, Citizenship, and Equality.

To become part of this progressive school, you should aim to have a GPA of around 3.59 and an LSAT score of around 160. UC Hastings has an acceptance rate of 28% and tuition costs of $46,034 for in-state students and $52,454 for out-of-state students.

9. University of California - Davis

As the fifth-best law school in California, UC Davis has a rigorous legal education. Located near Sacramento and the Bay Area, UC Davis is situated in a prime location for students to gain legal experience and find summer and post-grad employment!

UC Davis prioritizes their students’ success by creating a supportive environment for them throughout their legal education. UC Davis has small classrooms to ensure students make meaningful connections with their faculty and peers. 

With an acceptance rate of 25.2%, UC Davis is moderately competitive. Past admitted students had a median GPA of 3.7 and a median LSAT score of 165

UC Davis’ tuition costs fall in the same price range as the others on this list, with in-state tuition costing $54,919 a year and out-of-state tuition costing $67,164.

10. The University of San Diego

The University of San Diego is one of California’s best full-time and part-time law schools

This part-time program might be the perfect fit for students juggling multiple obligations! USD’s part-time program only takes one more year to complete but allows students the flexibility and time to complete the same curriculum as full-time students.

USD offers all of its JD students clinical experience working with low-income clients and various local and global field placements.

As one of the least competitive schools on this list, USD has an acceptance rate of 34.5%. While this is the case, USD holds its students to high standards. USD’s median GPA is 3.74, and its median LSAT score is 161

Full-time tuition costs $60,861 a year, while part-time tuition costs $45,091. 

Los Angeles, CA

FAQs: Best Law Schools in California

Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about the top California law schools. 

1. What is the Best Law School In California?

The best law school in California is Stanford University. It is also the second-best law school in the country.

2. How Many Law Schools Are There In California?

There are 18 accredited law schools in California.

3. Which Law Schools in California Offer Part-Time Programs?

Below is a list of California law schools with part-time programs:

  • The University of San Diego
  • Loyola Marymount University
  • Chapman University (Fowler)
  • Santa Clara University
  • The University of the Pacific (McGregor)
  • The California Western School of Law,
  • Golden Gate University, Southwestern Law School, 
  • The University of San Francisco, 
  • The Western State College of Law 

These California law schools might be your best bet if you hope to get a more flexible law education.

4. Which Top Law School in California is the Hardest to Get Into?

Stanford University is the most challenging law school to get into in California. It has a low acceptance rate of 6.9% and high admission requirements, with a median GPA of 3.92 and a median LSAT score of 173.

5. Which Law School in California Is The Best for Environmental Law?

UC Berkeley and UCLA are the best law schools for environmental law.

6. Why Should I Go To Law School In California?

Aside from the great weather, California offers rigorous legal programs and great employment opportunities as it’s a central hub for economics, entertainment, and law. 

If you’re interested in the entertainment industry, there is no better place to get your foot in the door than Loyola Marymount. Loyola offers law students placement opportunities with some of the most prominent Hollywood industries. 

7. How Much Is Law School in California?

The average California law school tuition is $60,327 for state residents and $63,444 for out-of-state students. Although this is high, scholarships and financial aid are available to those who need it. 

8. What Is the Easiest Law School to Get Into In California?

The easiest law school to get into in California is Golden Gate University and the California Western School of Law. Golden Gate University’s acceptance rate is 25.5%, and the median LSAT score is 154.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re on the fence about attending law school in California or are certain that the Sunshine State is the perfect place to get your JD, you’ll rest assured knowing that California is home to several outstanding law schools. 

Any one of the law schools listed here can provide you with the right education and resources to have a golden legal career!

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