Situated in the city of Los Angeles, the University of Southern California Gould School of Law (USC Gould) is the oldest law school in Southern California and has been educating lawyers since the late 19th century. In the 1960s, the law school was renamed for James Gould, the famous 18th century jurist who was instrumental in the creation of the first proprietary law school in the United States. USC Gould has a relatively small class size, admitting only 200 students into their first year class each fall. It is consistently ranked in top 20 of all law schools in the country and has a notable reputation for its concentration in entertainment law. One of its most famous alumni–Joseph Wapner–would star on the hit television show “The People’s Court” for decades.
The first year curriculum at USC Gould requires eight courses that build a foundation for the legal education and the future practice of law. Six of the courses are standard theoretical courses that cover the principal subjects of most first year law programs. In addition, students take a first year course in legal ethics as well as a semester course in legal writing and advocacy. USC Gould also offers a one-credit half semester course that covers the fundamental of businesses and corporations which provides students with a solid foundation for their upper class work.
In their upper level coursework, students pursue electives while also focusing on the subject areas most likely to be tested on the New York and California bar exams, where most students will likely practice. USC Gould also offers several pre-planned concentration areas: alternative dispute resolution, business law, entertainment law, and public interest law. In addition to these concentrations, students may also pursue one (or more) of 11 law certifications which establish students skill and mastery of a particular practice area.
Prior to graduation, all students at USC Gould must complete an upper level writing assignment and at least six hours of experiential learning.
Additional Programs (Joint Degrees, Master of Law)
Along with their juris doctor degree, USC Gould offers a range of graduate programs to meet the needs of a variety of students from various backgrounds. The Masters of Law (LL.M) degree is available both through a standard two semester residential option or through a more flexible online education. Students without English fluency can also opt for a two-year program which marries the LL.M with English language immersion. LL.M students may also concentrate in USC Gould’s celebrated LL.M in Alternative Dispute Resolution while non-lawyers may also opt for the Master of Dispute Resolution. There is also a general Master of Law program for non-lawyers who need a solid understanding of the legal system in their own discipline. Finally, USC Gould offers focused LL.M in the areas of business law, cybersecurity, and comparative law (designed for foreign students).
USC Gould offers 15 dual degrees in conjunction with virtually every other graduate department at the University. Participation in a dual degree program requires admission into both programs and satisfaction of each school’s residency requirements. In most cases, this requires students to complete the first year of their course work at law school before starting their additional studies. Since the dual degrees share academic credits, students must complete both programs before graduation from either.
Career and Career Placement
Within 10 months of graduation, upwards of 95% of the graduates of USC Gould find long term employment. Of those finding work, almost 85% accepted positions that require a law license. Although the most common career was at large (500+ attorney) law firms, USC Gould graduates often pursued work in boutique, small firms with less than 10 attorneys (20% of all jobs requiring a law license). Given its deep ties to the entertainment industry, a number of graduates also pursued careers in the business sector while roughly 5% of graduates accepted judicial clerkships.
With its notably small student population, the USC Gould Career Center staff to student ratio is one of the highest in the country which allows the center to tailor individual career objectives and programs for each of its students. The center does organize fall and spring on-campus interviews as well as off-campus interviews in four major cities around the country.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
The goal of USC Gould’s experiential learning program is connect classroom learning with real world experience. Students can participate in one of the school’s six legal clinics in the following practice area: immigration, intellectual property, international human rights, mediation, post-conviction justice, and a small business clinic. In clinics, students work under the close supervision of licensed attorneys to handle real world legal problems. Students may also opt for a semester long practicum where students tackle a single legal problem in-depth in conjunction with a faculty member. Many students at USC Gould take advantage of the school’s externship program to work in a legal office in the surrounding area to gain practical skills.
Although the J.D. program requires six semesters of residential learning, USC LL.M program has a host of programs that allow for coursework to be completed online.
As part of one of the largest research universities in the world and located in the second largest city in the United States, USC Gould has taken great strides to help integrate its students into campus life with a host of peer mentor programs as well as tutoring and support for first generational law students. Student run organizations offer the student body a variety of ways to connect for social and civic purposes. The campus of USC Gould is minutes away from downtown Los Angeles and students participate in the wide range of campus activities from USC Football games to the robust life of Los Angeles.