Situated in downtown Los Angeles, Southwestern Law School (Southwestern Law) is an independent law school that has served the Los Angeles community for over 100 years. The law school was founded with the explicit goal of providing legal education to women and minorities. Since opening, the school has become one of the leading schools for the study of entertainment law. The downtown campus features one of the largest law libraries in the state of California housed in a renovated art deco building, Over the course of its history, Southwestern Law has educated several mayors and governors as well as U.S. Senators and members of the California Supreme Court.
Southwestern Law offers four paths to earning a Juris Doctor program. Students have the option of pursuing their J.D. either full-time, part-time with both day and evening options, and through an accelerated degree program. All programs require 87 hours of coursework for to complete the program. For the traditional, 3-year program, the first-year curriculum includes traditional courses in civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. First-year students also take courses on the foundations of the law and its practice. Students may also take one elective in their first year. During the second year, students continue their substantive education with courses in business associations, constitutional law, evidence, and professional responsibility. During their final semesters, students take several courses to ensure their preparedness to pass the California State Bar exam. All students must also satisfy the requirement for six credits of experiential education and complete a major writing assignment.
The part-time programs–both day and evening programs–require the same basic courses spread out over four years including summer sessions. Another unique facet of Southwestern Law’s part-time program is the utilization of online courses that helps limit the number of days students are required to be on campus. This program is designed to meet the needs of working students or those with child or eldercare responsibilities.
Southwestern Law’s accelerated program (“SCALES”) is the longest running 2-year J.D. program in the country. The program combines summer sessions with a full-time program to allow students to complete their J.D. in two calendar years. The program also provides tailored experiential education options and a flexible curriculum that ensures graduates are ready to practice law upon completion of the program.
Southwestern Law also offers a Master of Laws (LL.M) degree with two possible tracks: a general LL.M for both domestic and international lawyers who want to expand their knowledge of the law or a focused LL.M on entertainment and media law. The focused LL.M leverages Southwestern Law’s renowned expertise in the entertainment law industry through the law school’s Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute. The LL.M program requires 24 hours of coursework for completion. Students in the general program choose from over 150 courses as they pursue their academic and professional goals.
Students who wish to pursue a dual degree at Southwestern Law may pair their Juris Doctor with professional degrees from two other educational institutions. In conjunction with The Drucker School of Management, part of Claremont University, students may earn a joint J.D. and M.B.A. degree. Additionally, in conjunction with California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), students may earn a joint Master of Arts degree along with their J.D. Both joint programs require admissions to both programs separately. By combining their law school studies with additional academic studies, J.D. candidates benefit from an interdisciplinary approach to the practice of law and increase their professional profiles.
J.D. students may also benefit from interdisciplinary studies through coursework a the Pardee Rand graduate school where students can study law and public policy. Law students at Southwestern Law may also earn a certificate from the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Science.
Undergraduates at CSUDH may also participate in a “3+3” program that allows students to complete their undergraduate and law degree in a total of six years. During their final year of undergraduate studies, students at CSUDH enroll in the first-year law curriculum at Southwestern Law.
Career and Career Placement
Over 80% of all Southwestern Law graduates are employed within 10 months of graduation. Of those employed, almost 85% are employed in careers that either requires a law license or prefer a Juris Doctor degree. Another 12% of employed students find work in professional positions outside of the legal profession. The most common career choice for graduates was work in small law firms of 1-10 attorneys (37% of employed graduates) followed by careers in the business sector (27% of employed graduates). Another 15% of graduates also pursued careers in either government offices or in the public interest sector. Larger law firms accounted for another 15% of graduates’ first career choice. Over 80% of all graduates remained in California to begin their professional careers.
The Career Service Office (CSO) at Southwestern Law staffs eight professionals who provide the student body with a range of career and professional services. Students have the opportunity to work with the CSO staff on a number of self-assessment programs that helps students chart a professional career that matches their personalities and strengths. Students also work in individual counseling sessions to map out and achieve their career goals. The CSO also presents programming throughout the school year that provide students with information on various career paths and allows them to network with practicing attorneys.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
With a mixture of in-house legal clinics, external field placements, and skill-based courses, Southwestern Law offers its students numerous opportunities to apply their academic lessons to the real-world practice of law. The school’s externship program is one of the largest in the country, offering students hundreds of external legal offices to spend a semester in practice. Nearly 75% of all students complete at least one externship while at Southwestern Law. These field placements offer students a structured setting to work alongside attorneys in almost every conceivable legal setting.
Southwestern Law is also home to nine in-house legal clinics where students can work with real clients under the close supervision of practicing faculty members. Clinics operate much like a law firm and serve the underrepresented communities of Los Angeles. Practice area in the clinical program range from immigration or family law to appellate work or advocating for children’s rights.
Skill-based practicum courses at Southwestern Law allows students to master fundamental–often complex–legal skills in the classroom environment. Students practice a variety of real-world skills from writing legal briefs to crafting oral arguments.
As previously discussed, Southwestern Law offers multiple paths to earning a Juris Doctor program. The law school’s part-time programs allow students to leverage online learning to limit the number of days they must attend classes in person. This option provides tremendous flexibility to students with additional commitments.
Southwestern Law strives to be a community that is both intimate and accessible. The diverse student body celebrates its many backgrounds and viewpoints through a robust student organization program. These organizations are part of a complete “support network” that offers students a range of extra-curricular programs to ensure their academic and personal success at Southwestern Law. This network includes mental health services, wellness programs, mentorship, and student health insurance. This network fosters a unique and vibrant atmosphere for the entire law school community.
Southwestern Law’s campus is located just outside of downtown Los Angeles on the city’s famed Wilshire Boulevard. The campus is a short distance from the beaches of Santa Monica and is easily accessible by public transportation. The location makes affords students with a range of housing opportunities throughout the greater metropolitan area. Surrounding the law school is a wealth of ethnic cuisine anchored by nearby Koreatown. The city’s Superior Court is walking distance of campus as are several urban parks.