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Top Law Schools in California

  • by Stephanie Michaud
  • Mar 28, 2022
  • Admissions, General LSAT Advice, Law School, Law School Admissions, Law School Life

California, complete with scenery, sunshine, celebrity and progressive politics, is one of the most desirable college destinations. It is, after-all, a popular—if not the most popular—tourist destination, the third largest state and the largest economy in the United States.

Given all that, choosing a law school in California might be as challenging as choosing your favorite restaurant over the course of a lifetime. The options are endless, from Los Angeles to Berkeley to San Diego.

Lucky for you, we compiled a list of top law schools in this sunny state along with the average LSAT and GPA scores that you’ll need to be a competitive applicant.

Top Law Schools in California

  1. 1.   Stanford University Law School
  2. 2. University of California, Berkeley School of Law
  3. 3.   University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
  4. 4.   University of Southern California Gould School of Law
  5. 5.   University of California, Davis School of Law
  6. 6.   University of California, Irvine School of Law
  7. 7.   Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law
  8.  8.  University of California, Hastings College of the Law
  9. 9.   Loyola Law School
  10. 10. University of San Diego School of Law

Not only are these California law schools among the top-rated law schools in the country with the highest echelon law programs, but they also include all the benefits of an outdoor-focused Cali lifestyle. 

  1. 1.  Stanford University

U.S. News Top Law School Ranking: #2

Tuition: $66,396 (full-time)

Average GPA: 3.77

Average LSAT Score: 171

Acceptance Rate: 10.5%

Bar Passage Rate: 92.4%

Stanford is a private research university that is not only rated one of the top universities in the country, but also considered among the best universities in the world. Stanford Law School even ranks above Harvard, coming in as the second best law school in the United States. Harvard follows closely behind as the third best and, for context, Yale continues to covet the number one position.

Tuition comes with a hefty price tag, but is comparable to Law Schools ranked in the Top 5 and significantly lower compared to Columbia, which ranks behind Harvard at number four. As far as exclusivity, Stanford is among the most competitive law schools with enrollment rates in the 600-student range or equal to 10% of total applicants. 

  1. 2.   University of California, Berkeley School of Law

U.S. News Top Law School Ranking: #9

Tuition: $60,158 (full-time)

Average GPA: 3.81

Average LSAT Score: 168

Acceptance Rate: 21.5%

Bar Passage Rate: 88.7%

UC Berkeley School of Law is one of 14 schools and colleges located at the University and has a history of being aligned with current trends and a progressive culture. Berkeley has been on the forefront of intellectual property, privacy, and other tech-related areas of law. The school also offers specialized curricular programs in areas such as Environmental, Energy and Clean Technology Law. Students can tailor academics to their interests from the second semester onward and can also create their own electives, so if greater freedom in sculpting your law education is of high importance, then Berkeley is as good as it gets.

Ranking in the top 10 with a 21.5% acceptance rate, your chances of acceptance are greater than at some of the other top-ranking schools. Significant legal figures that have come out of Berkeley include Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren, California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso and Equal Justice Society president and founder Eva Paterson.

  1. 3.   University of California, Los Angeles School of Law

U.S. News Top Law School Ranking: #14

Tuition: $50,624 (full-time)

Average GPA: 3.79

Average LSAT Score: 169

Acceptance Rate: 22.8%

Bar Passage Rate: 87.5%

If you find the allure of Los Angeles appealing, UCLA Law School might be your top pick. What this university lacks in history it makes up for in a slightly lower tuition rate. This younger institution has only been around for 60 years, but in that time has established its specializations in Business Law and Policy, Critical Race Studies and Entertainment, Media and Intellectual Property Law. Plus, the law program offers real experience with deposition participation in actual cases. UCLA Law School also publishes more than ten law journals including the Entertainment Law Review and the Journal of Law & Technology.

Students can also earn joint degrees through programs offered in conjunction with other academic divisions at UCLA, such as a JD/MBA or a JD/MA in Afro-American Studies through the UCLA Center for African American Studies.

  1. 4.   University of Southern California Gould School of Law

U.S. News Top Law School Ranking: #19

Tuition: $68,828 (full-time)

Average GPA: 3.83

Average LSAT Score: 167

Acceptance Rate: 17.2%

Bar Passage Rate: 86.6%

Another popular Los Angeles law school option is the USC Gould School of Law. It is the oldest law school in the Southwestern United States. Established in 1896, it became affiliated with USC in 1900 and is named after Judge James Gould, who graduated from Yale.

USC Gould is known for pioneering interdisciplinary and clinical legal education. The school has a later application deadline of April 1 and a higher tuition rate, but a more personalized teaching approach. The ratio of teacher to student sits at 6.7:1.

  1. 5.   University of California, Davis School of Law

U.S. News Top Law School Ranking: #35

Tuition: $50,582 (full-time)

Average GPA: 3.52

Average LSAT Score: 163

Acceptance Rate: 33.1%

Bar Passage Rate: 85.3%

The School of Law at University of California, Davis is located 20 minutes from Sacramento and an hour from the Bay area. The school is recognized for its focus on law and policy and is favored for Business Law, Criminal Law, Environmental and Natural Resources Law. This particular law school also offers externships for a semester in Washington D.C., so if politics-oriented law is in line with your goals, then this particular opportunity is a step in the right direction.  

The application deadline falls on March 15 and there is no application fee to submit. The tuition falls in the middle range and the student-faculty ratio sits at 9:1.

  1. 6.   University of California, Irvine School of Law

U.S. News Top Law School Ranking: #35

Tuition: $50,130 (full-time)

Average GPA: 3.61

Average LSAT Score: 166

Acceptance Rate: 20.3%

Bar Passage Rate: 80.6%

The UC Irvine School of Law is tied at number 35 with UC Davis. UCI opened in 2009 with a class of 60 law students and is considered the first public law school in California in 50 years. Enrollment has grown to 400 students. The school’s curriculum prides itself on innovation and clinical education. Many students gain practical legal experience by participating in pro bono work. To date, 92 percent of UCI law students have provided more than 60,000 volunteer hours for legal services to people who could not afford them otherwise.

The application deadline falls on March 15 and there is no application fee to submit. The tuition falls in the middle range and the student-faculty ratio sits impressively at 5.6:1, so if personalized attention is your preference, then UCI is the right school to consider.

  1. 7.   Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law

U.S. News Top Law School Ranking: #46

Tuition: $59,340 (full-time)

Average GPA: 3.68

Average LSAT Score: 162

Acceptance Rate: 28.2%

Bar Passage Rate: 81%

If the beach-going lifestyle or a surfing side hustle to your law degree is particularly appealing, the Rick J. Caruso School of Law sports a scenic campus in Malibu, California. This law school at Pepperdine University is known for its high-ranking dispute resolution specialty and even offers a Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR), allowing students to complete a joint JD/MDR or a joint MDR/Master of Public Policy.

If you’re interested in writing for a legal publication, Pepperdine boasts numerous legal journals including the Pepperdine Law Review and the Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal. There is also an opportunity to get involved in the school’s Global Justice Program and travel abroad for practical legal experience in international human rights, religious freedom and global development.

  1. 8.   University of California, Hastings College of Law

U.S. News Top Law School Ranking: #50

Tuition: $44,628 (full-time)

Average GPA: 3.4

Average LSAT Score: 158

Acceptance Rate: 38.7%

Bar Passage Rate: 78.9%

Pass through the Golden Gate Bridge to arrive at the University of California, Hastings. The Hastings College of Law is located in San Francisco, in close proximity to local, state and federal courts, so you’ll be right in your element. Popular concentrations include intellectual property law, social justice and health sciences.

Hastings also emphasizes legal writing and boasts a wide variety of journals including the Hastings Women’s Law Journal and the Hastings Science and Technology Law Journal. Tuition sits on the lower end for a California law school and the acceptance rate is a considerable higher rate of 38.7%

  1. 9.   Loyola Law School

U.S. News Top Law School Ranking: #72

Tuition: $60,860 (full-time)

Average GPA: 3.5

Average LSAT Score: 160

Acceptance Rate: 35.7%

Bar Passage Rate: 77.6%

If Old School Hollywood is calling, Loyola Law School is located in downtown Los Angeles and interested students may be eligible to complete the Entertainment Law Practicum, which includes practical studio experience for Paramount Pictures, MGM and Warner Bros. However, if entertainment law is not your area of interest, Loyola also ranks highly for its trial advocacy and tax law specialties.

Students also have the opportunity to work on the Law School’s legal publications including the Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Review and the Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review.

  1. 10. University of San Diego School of Law

U.S. News Top Law School Ranking: #86

Tuition: $58,821 (full-time)

Average GPA: 3.65

Average LSAT Score: 159

Acceptance Rate: 39%

Bar Passage Rate: 74.4%

The University of San Diego School of Law has the feel of a permanent vacation with campus buildings overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Mission Bay. The school offers both full-time and part-time class options and is a popular choice for those needing part-time flexibility. Notable areas of law at this San Diego school include international law, business and corporate law and intellectual property law. Various clinics are offered including the Technology Entrepreneurship Clinic, and opportunities via the Energy Initiatives Center and the Children’s Advocacy Institute.

University of San Diego School of Law also boasts popular law journals including the San Diego Law Review and the Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues, in addition to the student-run newspaper, Motion.

Which Law School in California Is Right for Me?

We know choosing a law school is extremely difficult, especially when law schools in California have impressive stats and so many appealing features. If you have the drive, you’ll become a great lawyer no matter where you go to law school, but these are some of our top California law school picks, based on best offerings:

  • California Law School with the Highest California Bar Passage Rate: Stanford University
  • California Law School with the Highest Acceptance Rate: University of San Diego
  • Most Affordable California Law School: University of California, Hastings

Ultimately, you need to decide what you’re looking for in a law school and what factors matter to you most. Does tuition rank the highest, the curriculum…or the proximity to the beach? 🙂

How Do I Get Accepted to a California Law School?

Whether you’re applying to the best law school in California or Alabama the process is the same. The first step in the law school admissions timeline is to take the LSAT. Although there are no required LSAT scores for law school, all of these law schools in California have median LSAT scores that give you a pretty good indication of how you compare to their previous incoming class. Remember, law schools want to attract the best of the best, so make sure you give yourself the ultimate shot by getting a high LSAT score.

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