The Top 20 Law Schools for California Lawyers

Expertise.com reviews and ranks thousands of lawyers across the United States to find the best law practices in the state. We follow a strict selection process to ensure that every lawyer we recommend is one of the best.

In California alone, we’ve identified over 6300 top lawyers working in a variety of practice areas. We decided to dig in and see if there was a pattern to where our lawyers went to law school. Did they all graduate from law schools in California? How many graduated from the same program?

Overwhelmingly (and unsurprisingly), our lawyers graduated from law programs in California itself. Only 14% — about 900 lawyers — graduated from law schools outside the state, some as far away from California as the Philippines, Canada, the UK, and New Jersey.

This makes sense, even though of 238 law schools represented, only 70 of them are actually in California. While lawyers from other states certainly can and do move to California after graduating from a different program, we expect them to come from all parts of the country, which means graduating from a wide variety of programs.

In fact, the vast majority of our out of state graduates will find fewer than 10 fellow alumni. (Though we’ll give a shout out to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor for having the most — 28 alumni.)

Within California, however, it’s a wholly different picture. 70% of recommended lawyers graduated from the top 20 most represented law schools. More than 4400 of Expertise.com’s best lawyers went to just one of 20 law schools in California. While each law school has its own program accolades and highlights, we’d like to celebrate these colleges not only for the quality of their programs but for the quality of their graduates.

 

Loyola Law School | Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Law School provides a top-notch education for future attorneys, while also emphasizing the importance of giving back to the community. This accredited university is the first California-based ABA-approved school with a pro bono graduation requirement. Each year, Loyola students donate a combined total of more than 40,000 hours to nonprofit organizations. One million hours have been donated since the school was founded.

The world-renowned legal programs at Loyola Law School are ranked #1 for Superior Court judges in California and #7 for minority students obtaining JDs, plus it’s one of the top 10 schools for entertainment law in the nation. When class ends, students can stay busy with campus organizations and clubs, including the Stereotype Awareness Coalition, Women’s Law Association, and the Surf and Ski club.

Notable alumni include feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, civil rights activist Johnnie Lee Cochran, Jr., and ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ attorney Thomas Girardi.

 

McGeorge School of Law | University of the Pacific

The McGeorge School of Law is known for its rigorous academic programs; in fact, students must complete 43% more hours for a JD degree than ABA guidelines require. Several law degrees are available, such as the traditional JD, an MSL or JSD, or an MPA or MPP.

Online graduate programs are an option for students pursuing a certificate in cannabis law, Masters in Water and Environmental Law, or Government Law and Policy. This fully accredited school has more than 150 student organizations and clubs, including chess and archery, and 15 professional fraternities.

The alumni list includes familiar faces, such as politicians Greg Aghazarian and Noreen Evans and senior United States District Judge Morrison Cohen England, Jr.

 

Southwestern Law School

Located in the center of Los Angeles, Southwestern Law School is known for its diverse, inclusive student body. It’s easy to customize your academic experience with day, evening, accelerated, or part-time courses for a JD or LLM degree. In fact, Southwestern Law School is the only law school approved by the American Bar Association with four flexible programs, making it ideal for students with caretaking duties or other responsibilities.

Students can participate in numerous organizations, including the Cannabis Law club, Latino Law Students Association, and Trial Advocacy Honors program.

Alumni include news correspondent Jean Casarez, politician Tom Bradley, and former governor Jim Gibbons.

Western State College of Law | Westcliff University

Ranked 3rd for California Bar Exam preparation, Western State College of Law has day, evening, and weekend classes for ambitious students completing their JD or a legal certificate program. Student-led organizations, such as the Family Law Society, Black Law Students Association, and the Tort Law Society, keep students engaged and connected outside of the classroom.

Western State alumni include football legend Michael Lockett Garrett, former district attorney Bonnie Dumanis, and former district attorney and police officer George Gascón.

UC Hastings Law

Known for diversity, inclusion, and equity, UC Hastings Law offers everything from business and criminal justice to social justice and environmental law. Numerous on-campus organizations are popular with law students, such as student government, affinity groups, and political organizations. It offers one of the top competitive trial team programs in the United States.

The notable alumni list boasts vice president Kamala Harris, entrepreneur Richard Thalheimer, and former San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

California Western School of Law

The California Western School of Law offers several options for students pursuing careers in the legal field, including a JD, LLM, MCL and a Spanish language LLM program. The school is one of the few nonprofit, independent law schools in the nation and is the oldest law school in San Diego.

Politician Brian Maienschein, former Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Shana Dale, and advocate Alissa Bjerkhoel are part of the alumni list.

University of San Diego School of Law

Ranked in the top 20% of law schools impacting scholarship in the nation, the University of San Diego School of Law is also one of 84 law schools that belong to the Order of the Coif. When students aren’t studying for their JD, LLM, or MSLS, they can participate in sororities, sports, and organizations, such as the Student Bar Association or National Lawyers Guild.

Alumni members include businessman Robert Kardashian, former Homeland Security advisor Frances Townsend, and politician Lynn Schenk.

Santa Clara University School of Law

Students seeking a diverse yet demanding academic environment head to Santa Clara University School of Law, which has received national recognition for its staff engagement and top-rated intellectual property program. While pursuing a career in social justice, privacy, or international law, students can join organizations, such as the Student Bar Association or Law and Business Society.

Former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, and former United States Secretary of Agriculture Mike Epsy have a spot on the notable alumni list.

Golden Gate University School of Law

Innovation meets inclusion at Golden Gate University School of Law, a diverse school with full-time and flexible online JD programs. In addition to tackling their JD, LLM, or SJD degrees, students can network and make new friends in organizations, such as the American Constitution Society and Public Interest Law Foundation.

Featuring notable alumni, such as former Supreme Court judge Morgan Christen, political activist Joan Blades, and whistleblower advocate Cindy Ossias, this law school makes it possible to complete a JD in just 2.5 to 3 years via an accelerated program.

University of San Francisco School of Law

Customize your educational experience with part- or full-time and joint law degree options at the University of San Francisco School of Law. Student organizations at this diverse university, where more than half of JD enrollees are students of color, include Black Law Students Association, Pride Law, and the International Law Society.

Notable University of San Francisco School of Law Alumni members includes Supreme Court associate Justice Martin Jenkins, politician Bill Schuette, and television personality Kimberly Guilfoyle.

Caruso School of Law | Pepperdine University

Law students seeking a faith-based academic institution will appreciate the close-knit community of the Caruso School of Law. In addition to traditional law degrees, such as JD and LLM, students can complete certificate programs, including dispute resolution or law and entrepreneurship. Student organizations include the Council for Diversity and Inclusion, Black Law Student Association, and the Interfaith Student Council.

Well-known alumni include billionaire businessman Rick Caruso, actress Meredith Salenger, and Polish model and writer Izabella St. James.

Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Thomas Jefferson School of Law offers more than 155 courses for future legal professionals, including JD, LLM, and JSD programs. Students have more than 30 organizations available, including the Mental Health Law Society, Student Veterans of America, and the Middle Eastern Law Students Association.

Familiar faces from the alumni list include Former San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, politician Jessica King, and gourmet chef Roy Choi.

UCLA Law

Students worldwide flock to UCLA Law for innovative courses, inspirational professors, and challenging degree programs. Notable programs and facilities include the A. Barry Cappello Program in Trial Advocacy, the Institute on Technology, Law and Policy, and the Center for Immigration Law and Policy.

UCLA Law Alumni features more than 200 judges and other justice advocates, including federal judge Jacqueline Nguyen, politician Kirsten Gillibrand, and producer Thomas Bliss.

Berkeley Law | UC Berkeley

Berkeley Law is a prestigious university known for being one of the top-ranked law schools in the United States. Students can pursue a JD, LLM or doctorate in law and technology, social justice and public interest, and environmental law. Campus organizations include the Coalition for Diversity at Berkeley Law, the International Human Rights Workshop, and the Consumer Advocacy and Protection Society (CAPS).

The impressive alumni list includes Former San Francisco mayor Ed Lee, politician Pete Wilson, and former U.S. presidential advisor Maria Echaveste.

UC Davis School of Law

Ranked one of the top three schools for racial justice in the United States, the UC Davis School of Law attracts a diverse student body from various states and countries. Innovative areas of study include health care and bioethics, intellectual property, and public interest law. Numerous organizations are available for students, including the Law Students Association, Federalist Society, and National Lawyers Guild.

UC Davis School of Law’s respected alumni include former politician Art Torres, attorney and spokesperson Angela E. Oh, and Chief Justice of California Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

College of Law | University of La Verne

The University of La Verne College of Law boasts an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and JD students have the option to attend part- or full-time. Dubbed one of the best schools for African Americans and Hispanics by preLaw magazine, University of La Verne attracts traditional college students and returning learners with full-time careers. Several organizations are available for students, including the Pride Law Alliance, Student Bar Association, and Women’s Legal Society.

The alumni list features court commissioner Candice Garcia-Rodrigo, immigration law advocate John Gallegos, and judge Winston Keh.

USC Gould School of Law

The USC Gould School of Law offers a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, which may explain why students have an impressive 3.83 GPA average, and 83% of graduates pass the California Bar exam. When students aren’t busying studying for their JD, LLM, or MSL, they keep busy with student organizations, such as the Black Law Students Association, Family Law Society, and the Women’s Law Association.

Esteemed alumni from the USC Gould School of Law include judge Dorothy Wright Nelson, politician John Heilman, and entrepreneur Richard Rosenblatt.

San Joaquin College of Law

San Joaquin College of Law helps nontraditional students, including single parents and full-time workers, achieve their educational goals. Nearly 50% of new enrollments come from first-generation college students, and flexible part- and full-time law degree programs are available. Student organizations include the Christian Legal Society, LawSUIT, and the Student Bar Association.

The San Joaquin alumni list includes judges Houry Sanderson and Alan Simpson and attorney and SJCL Agricultural Law Review editor David Weiland.

UWLA School of Law

The UWLA School of Law is a private school that offers part- and full-time JD programs for future legal professionals. This diverse college values equity and inclusion, and students can participate in organizations such as Teen Court and the UWLA Law Fraternity. It has accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission, and graduates can sit for the California Bar exam.

Alumni include attorney and photographer Evan Freed, attorney and advocate for gay rights Albert L. Gordon, and attorney, sports agent, and former radio host Frank K. Wheaton.

Fowler School of Law | Chapman University

Fowler School of Law welcomes students worldwide for challenging programs that include JD and LLM degrees. Ranked as a top school by the U.S. News and World Report, the Fowler School of Law offers convenient day and evening courses for students pursuing a career in the legal field. Numerous student organizations are available, from the Minority Law Students Association to OUTlaw and the Student Bar Association.