Law Schools in California: How to Get In

Learn how hard it is to get into California law schools and the strategies to make it happen

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California’s a great place to be a law student. It’s home to many of the nation’s top law schools (Stanford, ranked #2 by U.S. News & World Report; Berkeley, ranked #10; UCLA, #15) and boasts one of the highest employment level of lawyers in the country.

Going to a public law school in California as an in-state resident, is also a better deal financially than choosing a law school of a similar caliber out of state. 

For example, Berkeley—ranked 10th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report—costs $52,016.50 in tuition and fees annually. By contrast, at Duke (also tied for 10th), tuition alone costs $77,000.

At the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, ranked 9th, tuition is $64, 526 for nonresident students. In short, if you’re a California resident, making the choice to stay in California guarantees you’ll get a top-notch education at a price hard to match by public or private schools of similar rankings out of state.

Plus, specific schools have particular advantages. If you’re interested in high-tech or intellectual property law, studying at Santa Clara University in the heart of Silicon Valley might be for you. If you’re more interested in public interest law, Berkeley could be a great fit.

My goal for this article is to outline strategies for applying—and being admitted to—California law schools

Part 1: List of California Law Schools

Part 2: California Law School Admissions Strategies

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Part I: List of California Law Schools (Updated: August 2019)

The following list is compiled using data reported to the American Bar Association in 2018, as well as U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 rankings. As you peruse the data, consider a few details:

  • California law schools are fairly consistent in size. Other than Stanford and Pepperdine, which have below 200 students in their incoming class, all the law schools on this list have between 200 and 300 matriculants per year.

  • Out-of-state tuition in the UC system is typically less than tuition at private law schools in California (Pepperdine and Golden Gate University, which are very similar in price to state tuition at public schools, are exceptions).

  • Living expenses can be high surrounding California law schools, especially in metropolitan areas like LA and the Bay—but many also boast strong financial aid.

Click on the law school below to view its information:



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California Western School of Law

  • US News & World Report Rank: #146-192

  • Location: San Diego, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Tuition & fees: $52,470 (resident and non-resident)

  • Estimated living expenses: $ 24,890 (off-campus)

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile: 3.39 | 50th Percentile: 3.17  | 25th Percentile: 2.91

  • LSAT scores of first-years: 75th Percentile: 152 | 50th Percentile: 150  | 25th Percentile: 148

  • Acceptance rate: 59.01%

  • Size of first-year class: 262

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Chapman University Fowler School of Law

  • US News & World Report Rank: #132

  • Location: Orange, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Tuition & fees: $53,124 (resident and non-resident)

  • Estimated living expenses (both on and off campus): $30,834

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile: 3.56 | 50th Percentile: 3.42  | 25th Percentile: 3.17

  • LSAT scores of first-years: 75th Percentile: 158 | 50th Percentile: 157 | 25th Percentile: 154

  • Acceptance rate: 38%

  • Size of first-year class: 153

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Golden Gate University

  • US News & World Report Rank: #146-192

  • Location: San Francisco, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Tuition & fees: $50,000 (resident and nonresident)

  • Estimated living expenses: $ 26,908 (off-campus)

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile: 3.30  | 50th Percentile: 3.03 | 25th Percentile: 2.65

  • LSAT scores of first-years: 75th Percentile: 152 | 50th Percentile: 150  | 25th Percentile: 147

  • Acceptance rate: 61.26%

  • Size of first-year class: 237

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Loyola Law School

  • US News & World Report Rank: #62 (tie)

  • Location: Los Angeles

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Tuition & fees: $58,470 tuition + $760 General Student fee

  • Estimated living expenses: $ 32,096 (off-campus)

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile 3.72 | 50th Percentile 3.58 | 25th Percentile 3.37

  • LSAT scores of first-years:  75th Percentile 162 | 50th Percentile 160 | 25th Percentile 157

  • Acceptance rate: 36.34%

  • Size of first-year class: 318

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Pepperdine University School of Law

  • US News & World Report Rank: #51

  • Location: Malibu

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Tuition & fees: $55,830

  • Estimated living expenses: $ 27,100 (on-campus and off)

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile 3.79 | 50th Percentile 3.63 | 25th Percentile 3.35

  • LSAT scores of first-years:  75th Percentile 161 | 50th Percentile 160 | 25th Percentile 155

  • Acceptance rate: 36.28%

  • Size of first-year class: 159

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Santa Clara University

  • US News & World Report Rank: #104       

  • Location: Santa Clara (SF Bay Area)

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Tuition & fees: $50,624

  • Estimated living expenses: $ 26,104 (on and off campus)

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile 3.50 | 50th Percentile  3.32 | 25th Percentile 3.02

  • LSAT scores of first-years:  75th Percentile 157 | 50th Percentile 155 | 25th Percentile 152

  • Acceptance rate: 57.74%

  • Size of first-year class: 239

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Southwestern Law School

  • US News & World Report Rank: #146-192

  • Location: Los Angeles

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Tuition & fees: $55,316

  • Estimated living expenses: $25,602

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile: 3.49 | 50th Percentile: 3.22 | 25th Percentile: 2.98

  • LSAT scores of first-years: 75th Percentile: 155 | 50th Percentile: 153 | 25th Percentile: 150

  • Acceptance rate: 45% (for all programs)

  • Size of first-year class: 288

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Stanford Law School

  • US News & World Report Rank: #2

  • Location: Palo Alto, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Tuition & fees: $60,072 (in-state and out-of-state)

  • Estimated living expenses: $25,998 (on-campus room & board)

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile: 3.99 | 50th Percentile: 3.93 | 25th Percentile: 3.82

  • LSAT scores of first-years: 75th Percentile: 174 | 50th Percentile: 171 | 25th Percentile: 169

  • Acceptance rate: 8.72%

  • Size of first-year class: 180 

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University of California Berkeley Law

  • US News & World Report Rank: #10

  • Location: Berkeley, CA

  • Public or Private: Public

  • Tuition & fees: $52,016.50 (resident) and $55,345.50 (nonresident)

  • Estimated living expenses: $31,022 (off-campus)

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile: 3.90 | 50th Percentile: 3.80 | 25th Percentile: 3.64

  • LSAT scores of first-years: 75th Percentile: 170 | 50th Percentile: 168 | 25th Percentile: 165

  • Acceptance rate: 19.69%

  • Size of first-year class: 313

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University of California Davis School of Law

  • US News & World Report Rank: #31

  • Location: Davis, CA

  • Public or Private: Public

  • Tuition & fees: $47,722 (resident); $56,974 (non-resident)

  • Estimated living expenses: $22,707 (off-campus)

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile 3.74 | 50th Percentile 3.63 | 25th Percentile 3.37

  • LSAT scores of first-years:  75th Percentile 165 | 50th Percentile 162 | 25th Percentile 157

  • Acceptance rate: 34.60%

  • Size of first-year class: 206

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University of California Hastings College of the Law

  • US News & World Report Rank: #62 (tie)

  • Location: San Francisco, CA

  • Public or Private: Public

  • Tuition & fees: $44,326 (resident); $50,326

  • Estimated living expenses: $ 26,508 (on campus and off)

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile 3.59 | 50th Percentile 3.44 | 25th Percentile 3.24

  • LSAT scores of first-years: 75th Percentile 161 | 50th Percentile 158 | 25th Percentile 156

  • Acceptance rate: 44.90%

  • Size of first-year class: 310

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University of California Irvine School of Law

  • US News & World Report Rank: #23

  • Location: Irvine, CA

  • Public or Private: Public

  • Tuition & fees: $45,099 (resident) $51,593 (non-resident)

  • Estimated living expenses: $ 21,320 (on-campus); $ 31,417 (off-campus)

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile: 3.73 | 50th Percentile: 3.57 | 25th Percentile: 3.40

  • LSAT scores of first-years: 75th Percentile: 165 | 50th Percentile: 163 | 25th Percentile: 161

  • Acceptance rate: 24.76%

  • Size of first-year class: 229

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University of California Los Angeles School of Law

  • US News & World Report Rank: #15

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA

  • Public or Private: Public

  • Tuition (fees change year to year): $47,989.30 (resident); $54,052.30 (nonresident)

  • Estimated living expenses: $25,452 (off-campus, rent only)

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile: 3.85 | 50th Percentile: 3.72 | 25th Percentile: 3.52

  • LSAT scores of first-years: 75th Percentile: 169 | 50th Percentile: 168 | 25th Percentile: 165

  • Acceptance rate: 22.52%

  • Size of first-year class: 311

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University of La Verne College of Law

  • US News & World Report Rank: #146-192

  • Location: La Verne, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Tuition & fees: $30,280

  • Estimated living expenses:

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile: 3.29 | 50th Percentile: 3.00 | 25th Percentile: 2.72

  • LSAT scores of first-years: 75th Percentile: 151 | 50th Percentile: 149 | 25th Percentile: 147

  • Acceptance rate: 46%

  • Size of first-year class: 95

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University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law

  • US News & World Report Rank: #146-192

  • Location: Stockton, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Tuition & fees: $51,312

  • Estimated living expenses: $22,095

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile 3.57 | 50th Percentile 3.34 | 25th Percentile 3.06

  • LSAT scores of first-years:  75th Percentile 156 | 50th Percentile 153 | 25th Percentile 148

  • Acceptance rate (combined full-time and part-time): 59.6%

  • Size of first-year class (combined full-time and part-time): 193

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University of San Diego School of Law

  • US News & World Report Rank: #86

  • Location: San Diego, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Tuition & fees: $54,641

  • Estimated living expenses: $23,280 (on and off campus)

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile 3.69 | 50th Percentile 3.53 | 25th Percentile 3.23

  • LSAT scores of first-years:  75th Percentile 161 | 50th Percentile 159 | 25th Percentile 156

  • Acceptance rate: 35.40%

  • Size of first-year class: 240

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University of San Francisco School of Law

  • US News & World Report Rank: #146-192

  • Location: San Francisco, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Tuition & fees: $49,820

  • Estimated living expenses: $20,810 (on and off campus)

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile 3.56 | 50th Percentile 3.32 | 25th Percentile 3.05

  • LSAT scores of first-years:  75th Percentile 158 | 50th Percentile 154 | 25th Percentile 152

  • Acceptance rate: 55.5%

  • Size of first-year class: 142

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University of Southern California Gould School of Law

  • US News & World Report Rank: #17

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Tuition & fees: $64,908 (resident and nonresident)

  • Estimated living expenses (both on and off campus): $24,522

  • UGPA of first years: 75th Percentile: 3.89 | 50th Percentile: 3.78 | 25th Percentile: 3.61

  • LSAT scores of first-years:  75th Percentile: 167 | 50th Percentile: 166 | 25th Percentile: 163

  • Acceptance rate: 19.24%

  • Size of first-year class: 199 

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Western State University College of Law

  • US News & World Report Rank: #146-192

  • Location: Irvine, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Tuition & fees: $43,350

  • Estimated living expenses: $29,684

  • UGPA of first years: Not available

  • LSAT scores of first-years: Not available

  • Acceptance rate: Not available

  • Size of first-year class: Not available

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Part 2: California Law School Admissions Strategies

Strategy 1: Look for schools that cater to your legal aspirations

Law schools boast different strengths. Stanford and Berkeley are great if you’re planning to practice intellectual property law (they’re tied for #1 in the nation). UC Irvine touts its commitment to public service law; Loyola Marymount ranks #4 in best trial advocacy programs; UCLA is fourth in environmental law.

Pick schools whose mission aligns with your own, and demonstrate through activities and an amazing law school personal statement that you’d be a good fit. 

It’s also important to consider which schools suit your degree needs. Some offer a number of degrees besides the JD (e.g. USC, which offers seven types of law-related master’s degree). Others may be particularly welcoming to students who can only enroll part-time (like Loyola Marymount, ranked #6 in part-time law schools). 

In short: think about what area of law you want to study, and the pace and intensity at which you want to study it. Apply to schools accordingly. 

Strategy 2: Be realistic about your stats 

As with any law school, it’s worth sorting California law schools into reach, target, and safety schools based on LSAT and GPA scores. If your UGPA is a 3.6, it’s a reach to apply to Stanford—but it’s definitely worth applying to Davis.

When choosing where to apply, be strategic about how much time and money you’re spending on each application. There’s no cost to apply to UCI, for example—but Stanford charges $85. If Stanford is a reach for you, and the time spent on that application takes away from others, it may be worth reconsidering whether applying to that reach is right for you.

You may also want to include a mix of public and private institutions in your application list. Public law schools tend to have larger incoming classes than private schools and tend to cost less to apply and attend (especially in-state). 

Strategy 3: If you’re interested in giving back to California, emphasize it in your application

While public California law schools might not explicitly prioritize students who hope to practice law in state after graduation, many of their alumni often end up sticking around in California. UC Davis, for example, has alumni everywhere: but the majority are located in major California metropolitan areas like the Bay Area, LA, and Sacramento. Nearly a third of Stanford grads are employed in California.

This means that by attending law school in California, your strongest alumni networks—and therefore job prospects—may be in state. If you hope to practice law in California after graduation, it’s worth mentioning in your application. It demonstrates an investment in the community and your future alumni networks. 

Many schools in California, like UC Irvine and UC Berkeley, also emphasize their commitment to public service law and may also offer financial assistance or awards to students interested in dedicating legal careers to underserved communities. If you hope to use your law degree to aid underserved causes and communities, weave it into your personal statement—many schools in California reward that wish through scholarships, externships, and alumni networks.

And if you’re interested in a California-based career in government, California schools have lots of local alumni in local, state, and national government. (California’s Department of Justice is the largest state DOJ.) Many high-profile California politicians went to law school in California, such as Senator Kamala Harris (UC Hastings) and Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye (UC Davis). Again, finding a way to have your story speak to theirs is worthwhile.

Final Thoughts

California law schools are a great place to study—and it’s a competitive admissions field. Most are close to major tech, entertainment, and government centers. Focus on maintaining high grades and scores—and finding a law school that matches your interests and career goals.