Founded in 1912 by the Order of the Jesuit Fathers, the University of San Francisco School of Law (USF Law) was the first law school in the city and part of the city’s first institution of higher learning. The original law school was housed in a renovated shirt factory but has since moved to the state-of-the-art Koret Law Center in the center of the city adjacent to Golden Gate Park. True to its Jesuit heritage, USF Law stresses the importance of academic rigor as well as the ethical practice of law. The law school has a demonstrated commitment to social justice. The school’s alumni include a number of state and federal judges as well as politicians such as John F. Shelley, former mayor of San Francisco.
The Juris Doctor program at USF Law may be completed through a full or part-time curriculum. Both programs require 87-course credits including the first-year curriculum which takes four semesters for part-time students to complete. In their first year, students take four of the traditional foundational courses of American legal education: civil procedure, contracts, criminal law and procedure, and torts. Students take two additional core courses in their second year, constitutional law and property. All students take a two-semester course covering legal writing skills in their first year as well as a course in legal drafting prior to graduation. In their final semesters, students must complete a course in evidence and professional responsibility. All students must satisfy the law school’s requirement to complete and upper-level writing project as well as six hours of experiential learning. Students must also complete at least two courses from a selection of bar preparation courses.
J.D. candidates at USF Law may opt to earn a certification in specific practice areas including business law, intellectual property, international law, labor law, public interest law, and tax law. The certification process recognizes the increasing specialization of the legal practice and the necessity for students to pursue academic concentrations in order to be prepared to practice in specialized fields.
For students who have already earned their J.D. (or its foreign equivalent), USF Law offers three Master of Law (LL.M) degrees focused on complex areas of law. The LL.M program further develops a student’s academic and skill-based background through an additional 25 hours of coursework. LL.M options include taxation, intellectual property and technology law, and international transactions and comparative law. USF Law’s LL.M in taxation is one of the best in the country. International students in the LL.M program are required to take a two-semester course introducing them to the American Legal system.
USF Law also offers non-lawyers the opportunity to earn a professional degree in their graduate tax program. The Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.) in Taxation is a one year program where accounting and finance professionals study the intersection of law with their profession. All students start with an introduction to the foundational principles of tax law before continuing into the more nuanced coursework.
Juris Doctor candidates at USF Law may also earn an LL.M in taxation concurrently with their J.D. degree. This dual degree program requires additional focus on the subject matter but allows students to earn both degree with only an additional semester of study.
USF Law also offers joint degree in conjunction with two other professional school at the University of San Francisco. Students may earn either an M.B.A. or a Master of Arts in Urban and Public Affairs in conjunction with their law degree. In these dual degree programs, students complete their first-year legal curriculum and then work towards both degrees concurrently. This approach saves students time as some credits count towards both degree programs. Additionally, students learn to understand the intersection of law with other professional areas.
USF Law’s “3+3” program allow undergraduate students to couple a J.D. program with their undergraduate studies in order to earn both degrees in six years. Undergraduate students use their last year of coursework as their first year of law school.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent employment outcome data, over 63% of USF Law graduates are employed with 10 months of graduation. The majority of students who are employed find careers that either require a law license or prefer an employee with a Juris Doctor degree. The most popular career choice for graduates was traditional law firm work (57% of all employed graduates). Small law firms of 2 to 10 attorneys were the most popular choice for graduates. Over 16% of all employed graduates opted for careers in business while another 16% chose careers in government offices. Just over 10% of graduates opted for either work in the public interest sector or secured a judicial clerkship in the state or local courts. The state of California was–by far–the most popular destination for graduates with over 92% remaining in the state to begin their professional careers.
The USF Law Career Services Office (CSO) strives to help students develop a career strategy and then work together to achieve a student’s goals. The CSO provides multiple assessment programs to identify students’ personality and professional strengths. Students may participate in the CSO’s mock interview program or take advantage of a section of the law library dedicated to career resources. The CSO also helps students attend job fairs and conferences to expand their vision of potential career options. USF Law students also take advantage of the school’s mentor program and numerous school-sponsored networking events. The CSO also works with students and employers as part of the school’s On-Campus Recruitment program that brings local law firms and other employers onto campus for interviews with USF Law students.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
Students learn to practice law at USF Law through a mixture of classroom skill-based courses and hands-on experiences including legal clinics and external field placements. All students take courses that introduce them to the fundamental skill of research, writing, and analysis. These skills are put into practice in the clinical program where students work with real clients in a variety of legal situations. The clinics serve a vital role in the representation of San Francisco’s low-income residents. Clinic options include traditional fields such as criminal law and immigration but also novel clinics in international human rights and internet property rights.
USF Law’s externship program allows students to earn academic credit while working in an external legal office in the region. The program allows students additional practice areas where they can begin to master the fundamental skills of practicing law. Students experience the day-to-day work of practicing attorneys and judges as they learn to apply their academic lessons to the real-world practice of law.
Students at USF Law also learn practical skills through a variety of co-curricular activities including the school’s two-week intensive advocacy program. The program brings veteran lawyers to the campus to work with students on mastering advanced advocacy and trial skills. Students may also participate in the school’s moot court and trial advocacy program or write on the student-run academic journal.
USF Law requires residential coursework for its J.D. program although its graduate tax program is available through an online program.
USF Law has a national reputation as one of the most diverse law schools in the country. The student body is comprised mostly of women and students of color makeup 60% of the school. This ethnic diversity is supported by the school’s active student bar association that oversees a number of student organizations. Each year, the law school sponsors a number of community events that tie the school back to the local community. All law students are eligible to receive counseling and medical services. The university’s Koret Center–a full-service exercise center–is walking distance from the law school and available to all students.
USF Law resides on a hill overlooking the historic city of San Francisco. Surrounding the law school is some of the most coveted neighborhoods in the country with walking access to the city’s famed Golden Gate Park that houses natural areas and several spaces for performing arts. The city has played a vital role in the development of the state and is full of history, art, and a legendary culinary scene. Aside from its urban delights, the city is also located to many of the country’s most famous national parks including Yosemite National Park and the famed redwoods of Muir Woods. The experience of living in San Francisco is unique as any place in the country.