The University of California-Hastings College of Law (Hastings Law) has a unique and complicated history most stemming from its enigmatic founder, Serranus Clinton Hastings, the first Chief Justice of the state. Hastings donated the money to start the law school in 1878 making it the first law school in California and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. The law school is unique in that it does not share a campus with the main university. Instead, the law school occupies three buildings in downtown San Francisco not far from Union Square. Today, Hastings Law is known for its diverse student body, one of the best moot court programs in the country, and for the above-average starting salary of its graduates.
The first-year curriculum at Hastings Law is entirely prescribed. All students take six core academic courses: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. These academic subjects are complimented by a year-long course in the basics of legal research and writing. For students who hail from a science background, Hastings Law offers an options course called “Scientist to Lawyer.” Like several other law schools, Hastings Law uses an “Inns of Court” model for first-year students that divides the first-year class into four separate “inns.” These inns share professors, schedules, and career counselors as they tackle their first year together.
Upper-level students choose their own academic path by following one of Hastings Law ten different concentrations which span the arch of the legal field. All students are required to complete an upper-level writing assignment, a course in legal ethics, and satisfy the experiential learning requirement.
Hastings Law also offers three different Masters programs for a variety of professionals. For lawyers who were educated outside of the United States, Hastings Law confers a Master of Laws (LL.M) degree to candidates who complete one year of residential coursework. LL.M students also have the option of completing a concentration and clinical work for additional specialization. These international students not only learn in the classroom but outside as well as Hastings Law works to integrate international students into the legal community through a variety of social and professional events.
For non-attorneys, Hastings Law offers two additional Masters program. The first is the Master of Studies in Law (M.S.L.) degree which is targeted for professionals seeking to understand the interaction of the law with their professional field. The second is the Masters of Science, Health Policy and Law degree (H.P.L.) program which is a fully online academic curriculum that introduces covering the foundation of the health care policy and law.
For Juris Doctor candidates, Hastings Law offers two unique programs paired with professional schools at other universities. The dual degree programs allow students to obtain two degrees in less time by sharing course credits between both programs. Students may pair their J.D. with a Masters in Applied Economics from the University of California-Santa Cruz or with an M.B.A. from one of three business schools: the University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business, the University of California-Davis Graduate School of Management, and the Presidio Graduate School.
Career and Career Placement
Over 91% of graduates of Hastings Law are employed or pursuing additional education within 10 months of graduation. Almost 83% of graduates are employed in careers that either require a law license or preference a Juris Doctor degree. Interestingly, graduates of Hastings Law chose public interest and positions in small law firms as often as work in a large 500 plus attorney law firm. This fact demonstrates the breadth of the student body at Hastings Law. Over 10% of graduates also chose to enter the business sector. The state of California was–by far–the most common jurisdiction for students to begin their careers.
Hastings Law offers its students a full suite of career services. Primarily, students meet one-on-one with students to chart and achieve their career goals. However, these one-on-one meetings are grouped into ten distinct meeting types that allow counselors to focus on building particular skills or address certain needs of a student. The Career Services office maintains an extensive job postings website that is available only to students. The staff also has a series of online videos that cover a range of lessons for students as they prepare for their careers.
Since its founding, Hastings Law has emphasized the practical over the academic side of the law. It has built a reputation on graduating attorneys who are ready to practice law in a variety of fields. The heart of Hastings Law experiential learning is its award-winning clinical program–ranked as one of the top 15 such programs in the nation. In clinics, students work with clients through the entire life of their case–from the initial interview through its final disposition. This hands-on approach provides Hastings Law graduates with a concrete set of practical skills to apply in their careers. The clinical program contains traditional legal fields such as criminal defense and immigration work but also the pioneering “start-up garage,” a nod to the Bay Area’s thriving start-up community.
Students at Hastings Law can also build practical skills through a variety of other programs both in and outside of the classroom. In the classroom, Hastings Law offers a variety of simulations and practicums which center on skill-based learning under the supervision of faculty. The key to these courses is the ability for students to work on extremely complex legal issues without the risk of real litigation. Large scale transactional or regulatory work are perfect legal problems for simulations. Hastings Law also has a robust pro bono program where students can donate their legal skills to the diverse community of San Francisco.
The famed San Francisco cable cars run past the Hastings Law school campus. A few blocks away, students live in the famous McAllister Tower–the school’s own residential building in the heart of the city. The school’s Office of Student Services provides all students with a range of academic, health, and wellness services. The school’s focus is on a holistic approach that helps graduate students who are prepared to balance their careers with the rest of their lives. This includes becoming involved in the schools nearly 70 student-run organizations which build lifelong relationships with classmates and professors.
At Hastings, students enjoy life in one of America’s most unique, thriving cities. San Francisco is home to a thriving community of art, entertainment, and outdoor recreation. Across the Golden Gate Bridge, students can explore the majesty of the Redwood Forests. Or, students can wander the delights of Pier 31 and Fisherman’s wharf. With dedicated campus housing and access to the best of the city, Hastings Law is a one of a kind experience.