The University of San Diego School of Law (USD Law) sits on the stunning 180-acre campus of the University just 6 miles north of downtown San Diego. The University at-large was founded with Catholic roots (as was much of San Diego) in the mid-20th century with a commitment to both social justice as well as academic and intellectual freedom. The law school was started five years after the university began. USD Law has produced a number of notable alumni with diverse careers including real-estate mogul Thomas Barrack, baseball manager Theo Epstein, and Robert Kardashian, the patriarch of the Kardashian family.
USD Law offers a full-time (3 year) or part-time (4 year) Juris Doctor program. Both tracks require a first-year course of study that grounds students in the core courses of American jurisprudence: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. Full-time students complete all of these in their first year while part-time students take as many as four semesters. During their first year (or years for part-time students), students also take two semesters of experiential learning which helps build the practical skills necessary to become a practicing lawyer. Additionally, students take four hours–spread across two semesters–in the basics of legal research and writing.
Prior to graduation, upper-level students must complete several required courses including professional responsibility, tax law, and two courses designed at helping students pass the bar exam. Students must also satisfy the experiential education requirements and complete and upper-level writing assignment. USD Law provides students with a broad choice of courses as well as ten concentrations in various practice areas. Concentrations mold the educational path for students and prepare them with a mixture of academic lessons and practical skills for their future careers.
Alongside its Juris Doctor program, USD Law offers a Master of Laws (LL.M) program that allows practicing attorneys and graduates to expand on their J.D. degree with a one-year (24 hour) curriculum. Internationally educated attorneys almost always opt for the LL.M in international/comparative law in order to gain an understanding of the U.S. legal system. For all others, USD Law offers three additional LL.M concentrations plus a process for students to design their own programs to meet their academic and career needs.
For non-attorneys whose professions intersect with the legal system, USD Law also offers a Master of Science (M.S.) in legal studies. The degree program allows students to design their own one-year curriculum to meet their professional goals. Students are required to take two courses from the first-year J.D. curriculum and then an additional 20 hours of cousework.
USD Law also offers an American Bar Association accredited paralegal program that prepares professionals in 24 hours of coursework.
Career and Career Placement
Over 85% of the most recent graduating class at USD Law were employed or pursuing additional education within 10 months of graduation. For most (73%), graduates secured jobs that required a law license or preferred a Juris Doctor degree. Career choices centered heavily on traditional law firm work with small firms being the most popular choice. After law firm work, students opted for careers in the business sector and government offices. Although most graduates of USD law remained in California to begin their careers, students spread through the state to Orange County in Los Angeles.
The Law Career and Professional Development Office at USD Law provide students with a team of seven professionals to help shape and effectuate their career goals. The LCPD offers a range of services including a robust programming calendar that offers students events all during the year to network with potential employers and gain skills for interviewing. The career office also reviews resumes and hosts mock interviews. The career office also administers a fall and spring on-campus interview program, supports students to attend three regional job fairs, and offers a fellowship program geared at improving diversity representation in legal careers.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
Experiential learning at USD Law begins in the first year of coursework with classes in legal research & writing as well as a two semester skill-based course on the practice of law. Once students have mastered the basics, they spend time in their final two years either working in the school’s clinical program or opting for a field placement.
USD Law’s clinical program reflects the school’s Catholic heritage as students represent low-income clients in the San Diego area under the supervision of a licensed, practicing lawyer. The clinical program houses 14 different legal offices that provide students a number of practice areas in which to gain real-world skills.
The field placement at USD Law offers students six different options for a semester placement in a working legal office in the San Diego area or Washington, D.C. Students work alongside attorneys in a variety of offices (public and private practice). Field placement allows students to earn academic credits while working. Students also pair their field placement with academic courses to enhance their work experience.
USD Law’s degree programs require residential coursework for completion.
USD Law sits on one of the most scenic and progressive campuses in the country. The university campus is home to its own award-winning, renowned dining program which offers students incredible food on campus. The law school also promotes health wellness with a complete set of programs and centers which help students with mental, physical, and relationship health. To help balance the rigors of their academic courseload, USD Law also houses student-run organizations that help students socialize, donate their time to pro bono efforts, and build community.
In San Diego, students at USD Law enjoy the opportunity to live in one of the school’s unique living center or find housing in the bustling and scenic ocean side community. San Diego offers the amenities of a large city with professional sports teams and countless entertainment options. San Diego’s weather is idyllic throughout the year and the law school is only minutes away from the Pacific Ocean.