Founded in 1968, the University of California Davis School of Law (UC Davis Law) is the smallest law school in the state of California and its most diverse. In fact, UC Davis Law is widely regarded as one of the most diverse law schools in the entire country with over 45% of its student body drawing from minority communities as well as 37% of its faculty. The law school is located in the city of Davis in Northern California just west of Sacramento. In 2011, the law added additional space to its building and upgraded classrooms and student spaces. In its short history, UC Davis Law has become a stalwart of progressive jurisprudence. Its alumni are prominent throughout the California legal system including the current Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court.
The first year of study at UC Davis Law grounds students in both the core courses of American jurisprudence but also in the practical skills required of the legal profession. All students take a week-long intensive that covers the basics of American law. First-year students take six core classes: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. Students take two semesters on legal research and writing as well as a semester-long, simulation course which teaches students the basics of the “lawyering” process.
In their second and third year of education, students at UC Davis Law are free to choose any courses that fit their desired educational goals. A class in ethics, a writing requirement, and experiential education credits are all required. UC Davis Law offers 18 different “clusters” which provide students with core electives clustered around a given practice areas. The law school also presents eight concentrations which prepare students for practice in a specific area of law. Of note is UC Davis Law’s world renowned environmental law program which awards students a certificate that insures that they are prepared as leaders in the practice of environmental law.
UC Davis Law offers a one year and a two year Master of Law (LL.M) program that provides students with a diverse set of educational outcomes. Graduate students may continue their legal education with a general LL.M program or focus on one of UC Davis Law’s special concentrations such as environmental law.
For students whose career and educational goals go beyond what can be accomplished in one year (24 hours of coursework), UC Davis Law also has a two-year LL.M program that students can use to complete their goals. The law school also allows for students in both LL.M programs to begin their coursework in the spring or fall semester. For international students opting to enroll in the LL.M program, UC Davis Law has summer programs that orient students to the American legal system as well as familiarize students with the use of English in the legal setting.
UC Davis Law also allows J.D. students to combine their legal education with any other professional degree. By “sharing” coursework across two programs, students are able to complete both degrees in less time as well as focus on the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of the legal practice.
Career and Career Placement
Over 90% of graduates of UC Davis Law are employed within 10 months of graduation in a career that either requires a law license or prefers a Juris Doctor degree. Students who opted for private practice reported a median salary of $100,000 per year. For those who chose private practice, small law firms of 2-10 attorneys were slightly more popular than large law firms of 500+ attorneys. True to its progressive curriculum, graduates also often opt for careers in the public interest sector and government offices. In 2018, 17 graduates of UC Davis Law (over 10%) were awarded judicial clerkships.
The Office of Career Services (OCS) has a proportionally large staff especially given the small size of the student body. The 7 full-time counselors offer students a broad suite of career service tools including dedicated counseling in all practice areas, loan forgiveness for students who practice in the public interest sector, and a host of programs for students. The OCS organizes both on-campus interviews and several job fairs. The law school also hosts an annual public interest job fair focused on all of Northern California.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
At UC Davis Law, students marry their classroom learning with numerous opportunities to build and hone real world legal skills. The law school hosts five legal clinics which serve the city of Davis and the surrounding communities. In legal clinics, students work with real clients who need advice on a range of legal issues. The clinics have a 40 year history of helping those most in need of legal assistance.
Students at UC Davis Law can also write for one of five student-run journals which allows them to build critical writing skills similar to appellate brief writing. UC Davis Law students are also formidable competitors in moot court, mock trial, and negotiation competitions. The school hosts two negotiation competitions every year. Finally, the law school offers students the opportunity to participate in nine different externship programs. In an externship, students earn experiential credits while spending a semester working in an office in either Northern California or Nevada.
Life at UC Davis Law is rich and diverse. The law school offers students a remarkable wellness program that offers students countless programs throughout the year as well as a full-time therapist at the law school. Students run a myriad of organizations and publish five academic journals. The law building–Martin Luther King Jr. Hall–was renovated and expanded in 2011 to add much needed student spaces and technology updates to classrooms.
With its small population, proximity to Sacramento, and an abundance of local dining, Davis is considered one of the best places to live in the United States. Law students enjoy a range of housing options (which are relatively affordable for the region) and a vibrant, quaint life in downtown Davis’ many restaurants and shops. The short drive to Sacramento offers the excitement of one of Northern California’s largest city. Additionally, the San Francisco Bay Area is only an hour away.