The University of California, Berkeley, School of Law is typically ranked one of the top law schools in the country. The school’s distinguished alumni include former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and former US Attorney General Edwin Meese.
Berkeley Law is known for its commitment to providing a high-quality legal education in a “supportive learning environment,” according to its website. The school discourages competition and fosters collegiality among students through its unique non-letter grading system and by promoting social gatherings. In fact, students are known to have “Bar Review” every Thursday night, where they congregate and relax at a local drinking hole. Moreover, Berkeley Law’s supportive environment extends to the community as well through the school’s Pro Bono Pledge, in which students commit to completing a specified number of pro bono hours during their legal studies.
Located in Northern California just east of San Francisco, Berkeley Law’s campus is an energetic and exciting place to attend law school. The area is steeped in history and culture, and students can debate legal topics at nearby cafes and restaurants, root for the California Golden Bears at Memorial Stadium, catch a concert at The Greek, or enjoy a relaxing hike in Tilden Park. And don’t forget, San Francisco is a short BART ride away!
Berkeley Law offers its students housing along with other graduate students from the university, though students also can elect to live off campus. While typical rooms are single-residence studios, multi-bedroom apartments also exist. Another option is the Berkeley Student Cooperative, which offers cheaper housing; in exchange, residents are expected to contribute several hours of work per week to the cooperative.
Come fall, around 350 students typically begin their first year at Berkeley Law and are divided into modules of about 30 each, enabling them to get to know each other and their professors better. During their first semester, students will take one course with their module, two other courses with a larger group, and the “Legal Research and Writing” course with roughly 20 other students. Despite the relatively large class size, within the small sections, faculty focus on interacting with students—who are often invited to dinner at their professors’ homes.
Second- and third-year students are required to take a course on professional responsibility, the “Constitutional Law” course, a substantial analytical writing piece, and at least six units of experiential coursework. Areas of concentration include Social Justice and Public Interest, Business and Start-ups, Law and Technology, and Law and Economics.
Berkeley Law offers eight areas of specialized study, including Business and Start-ups, Law and Technology, and Environmental Law. The school is perhaps best known for its expertise in intellectual property law, but its Environmental Law Program—one of the first among law schools—is not to be overlooked. Consistent with Berkeley Law’s interdisciplinary approach, environmental law students can take classes at other Berkeley graduate schools and participate in Ecology Law Quarterly, a preeminent student-run journal.
Several joint-degree programs are available at Berkeley Law, including JD/MAs on Asian Studies and Energy and Resource Studies, a JD/MBA, and a JD/MSW.
Berkeley Law is also unique in that it does not award traditional grades. Rather, students are given High Honors (10% of the class), Honors (30% of the class), Pass, Pass Conditional/Substandard Pass, or No Credit in all their classes. In addition, the school does not rank its students or calculate GPAs.
Clinical and Experiential Learning
Berkeley Law offers students the ability to gain hands-on experience at 14 clinics, including the Death Penalty Clinic, New Business Community Law Clinic, and International Human Rights Law Clinic. Students can also gain hands-on knowledge through two practicums: the Veterans Law Practicum and the Domestic Violence Practicum.
Moreover, as early as the first semester, students have the opportunity to participate in Student-Initiated Legal Services Projects, which provide pro bono services to the community.
Beyond campus, Berkeley Law places students with judges, government agencies, and public interest firms for a semester through its Field Placement Program. Field placement opportunities are available both domestically and internationally.
Class Profile (Class of 2024)
Number of Applications: 8,003
Class Size: 385
Average Age: 25
Students of Color: 53%
Median LSAT: 169
Median GPA: 3.83
Career Placement (Class of 2020)
- Law Firms: 63.81%
- Judicial Clerkships: 15.56%
- Public Interest: 12.70%
- Government: 5.08%
- Business: 1.27%
- Education: .95%
- Military: 0.63%