Golden Gate University School of Law

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The Golden Gate University School of Law (Golden Gate Law) is one of the many law schools founded by the YMCA with the purpose of providing working students an opportunity to study law in an evening, part-time program. Golden Gate Law began educating lawyers in the San Francisco area in the beginning of the 20th century although its location and ownership have changed over the past 120 years. At one point, the law school operated out of tents after the city of San Francisco suffered an enormous earthquake in 1906. The school moved to its current location in the heart of San Francisco’s famed Mission District in 1924. By that point, the law school was now part of Golden Gate College which became a university in 1972. Golden Gate Law’s students have gone on to become California Supreme Court Justices, entrepreneurs in the pioneering technologies, and notable filmmakers.


The Juris Doctor degree at Golden Gate Law may be earned either through a full-time day or part-time evening program. The full-time program generally takes three years while the part-time program takes four years. Both require the same curriculum over slightly different timelines. The “first-year” curriculum (which takes part-time students three semesters) includes five of the traditional substantive course of American legal education: civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. Students complete two sections of constitutional law in their second year to complete their foundation courses. In the first year, all students take a two-semester course covering the basics of legal writing and research.

Golden Gate Law requires a broad array of additional courses that strive to prepare students to their professional careers and the bar exam. Students are required to take additional substantive courses covering criminal procedure, evidence, and professional responsibility. All students complete at least eight hours of coursework from California Bar subjects. Students must complete four credits satisfying the upper-level writing requirement as well as complete six credits of experiential education.

In addition to the required course load, students at Golden Gate Law may pursue a certification program that hones their electives course on a specialized practice area. Certificates prepare students to practice law by combining additional core courses with practical skill-based learning. Certifications include business law, environmental law, family law, intellectual property law, litigation, and public interest law.

Additional Programs

Golden Gate Law offers two additional graduate degrees for students who have completed their Juris Doctor or its foreign equivalent. Their Master of Laws (LL.M) program is a one-year program that further enhances students’ understanding of various areas of the law or, in the case of foreign students, prepares them to sit for the California State Bar exam. Specialization areas include Golden Gate Law’s award-winning online taxation program that may also be combined with courses in estate planning. Most LL.M concentrations require approximately 24 hours of coursework designed to be completed in two semesters. LL.M students also learn real-world skills through Golden Gate Law’s experiential education offerings.

For students who have complete an LL.M and wish to pursue additional studies in legal academics, Golden Gate Law also offers a Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) degree, the equivalent of a Ph.D in law. Golden Gate Law’s S.J.D. program is rooted in the field of legal issues surrounding the Pacific Rim, the European Community, and other issues that touch upon international law. This area of study reflects the international character of both the law school and its home city. Students in the S.J.D. program complete a dissertation of publishable quality and pass an oral examination.

Juris Doctor candidates at Golden Gate Law may also earn their M.B.A. concurrently with their law degree as part of the school’s joint degree program. In this joint degree program, students complete their first year of law school before studying for both degrees in their remaining years. Certain coursework may be applied to both degree programs, thereby reducing the total time required to complete both degrees. Joint degree candidates also bring a unique perspective to their professional careers.

Career and Career Placement

Based on recent employment outcomes, an average of 65% of all graduates of Golden Gate Law are employed with 10 months of graduation. Of those employed the majority are either employed in a career that requires a law license (62%) or prefers a Juris Doctor degree (27%). Over half of all graduates opt for careers in traditional law firms settings with the majority choosing law firms with less than 10 attorneys. Nearly a third of graduates chose careers in either the public interest sector or in government legal offices. Around 12% of graduates pursue careers in the business sector. Golden Gate Law graduates largely remain in California to begin their professional careers with less than a quarter of graduates pursuing careers outside the state.

Golden Gate Law’s Office of Career Services (OCS) provides students with a range of traditional and innovative approaches to achieving their career goals. The core of the OCS is one-on-one counseling where students work with professional counselors as they receive coaching, guidance, resume tips, and hone their interview skills. The OCS also provides students with real-time access to the job market, posting job opportunities and making students aware of market trends as they occur. Twice a year, the OCS hosts on-campus interview programs. Students are supported as they travel to off-campus career fairs. The OCS also brings industry experts and practice leaders onto campus for regular events such as panel discussions and networking events.

Experiential Learning/Distance Education

All students at Golden Gate Law graduate practice-ready. To prepare students for their professional careers, all Golden Gate Law students have the opportunity to participate in the school’s clinical program that represent underserved communities in the San Francisco Bay Area in a number of vital practice areas. Under the supervision of expert, practicing attorneys, students work with real clients in areas such as environmental justice, women’s employment rights, and veterans rights. The clinics reflect the school’s deep commitment to the community as well as social justice.

The law schools externship program affords students another opportunity to build real-world skills in an external legal office or judicial chambers. Under the supervision of faculty, students work in various law practices, government offices, corporate counsel offices, or judges’ chambers in the region. Each week, students attend a seminar to discuss their work and learn from critical feedback as they strive to apply their academic lessons to the practice of law.

Finally, Golden Gate Law offers various simulation courses each semester where students learn by doing. These courses mirror the real-world practice of law as students work with classmates to solve complex, legal problems. Simulations are an important tool as students learn to put the theory of law into practice.

Student Life

Golden Gate Law believes in a holistic approach to supporting its students by offering a range of services to enhance the quality of student life. Students have access to both individual and group counseling services, affordable student health care, and a number of programs and services related to stress management. With over 30 student organizations, Golden Gate Law also seeks to enhance the school’s diversity by giving students a voice, organizing community outreach, and building relationships

Golden Gate Law school is set in the heart of San Francisco, one of America’s greatest cities. Through a partnership with the city’s student housing authority, Golden Gate Law offers students affordable housing within walking distance of the campus. The campus is minutes away from the best of San Francisco including the historical piers in Embarcadero, Golden Gate Park, and the many renowned eateries in the Mission District. Located just off the San Francisco-Oakland Bridge, students may also live across the bay in the more affordable areas of Oakland. Wherever they live, Golden Gate Law offers students a unique experience in one of the country’s most eclectic and vibrant cities.

Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?