Founded in 1966, the Western State University College of Law (Western State Law) has one of the most complex histories as the school’s location and ownership have changed numerous times in 50 plus year history. Originally founded as the first law school in Orange County, California, Western State Law grew into the largest law school in the state with campuses in three locations. In 2000, the law school became only the third for-profit law school in the country to receive accreditation from the American Bar Association. A decade later, the school changed ownership and location several times before settling into its current home in Irvine where it is once again a for-profit law school accredited by the ABA.
The Juris Doctor degree at Western State Law requires 88 hours of coursework which blends required courses, recommended courses, and elective courses as students build an academic foundation while also preparing for their professional careers. The J.D. program may also be completed in a full or part-time program. Students may also switch between the full and part-time programs as their schedules change while they complete their degree program. Additionally, students may begin their degree program either with a traditional fall start or in the spring semester.
Regardless of the program or the start semester, all Western State Law students complete a slate of required courses as part of their first and second-year curriculum. For the first year, students study five of the traditional core academic courses: civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. Students also complete a two-semester study of the primary skills of legal research and writing. Western State Law also introduces students to the principles of the legal methodology through an innovative one hour course prior to their first semester. The program prepares students for success in the entirety of their legal careers. In their second year, students complete the second semester or property as well as several additional required substantive courses including constitutional law, evidence, criminal procedure, and business associations. Prior to graduation, students complete courses in sales, estates, and remedies. All students must complete an upper-level writing assignment as well as six hours of experiential learning.
In choosing their elective courses, students at Western State Law may opt to earn a certification in one of five practice areas. All certifications require additional focused course requirements as well as practical experiences that prepare students to practice in various areas of the law including business law, criminal law, immigration law, family law, and real estate. Additionally, Western State Law houses dedicated legal practice centers in the areas of business law and criminal law.
All law students at Western State Law participate in the school’s Strategies to Enhance Legal Learning and Achieve Results program (better known as S.T.E.L.L.A.R). The S.T.E.L.L.A.R. program begins prior to the start of the first semester as students learn the skills necessary to succeed in law school. During later semesters, the S.T.E.L.L.A.R. program provides peer mentors who can assist students with various strategies to ensure their success. Finally, S.T.E.L.L.A.R. works with students to prepare them for success on the California Bar Exam.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent employment outcome data, over 72% of all graduates of Western State Law are employed within 10 months of graduation. For those employed, almost 90% secure long-term, full-time employment. Additionally, 87% begin careers that either requires a law license or advantage employees with a Juris Doctor degree. Another 11% of students choose other professional positions. Almost 65% of all graduates choose traditional law firms for their first career with over a third of employed graduates joining small law firms with less than 10 attorneys. Careers in the business sector accounted for 16% of all graduates’ first career choices. Another 16% of students opted for work in government offices or the public interest sector. Western State Law graduates largely remained in California to begin their professional careers.
The Western State Law Career Development Department (CDD) provides all students with a roadmap for success in transitioning from their academic careers to their professional lives. This transition is unique for each student and the staff at the CDD leverages its considerable experience to help each student develop a personalized plan for success. The CDD programs events throughout the year that encourages students to step away from their coursework in order to engage with other students, professors, and professionals in order to begin building their professional networks. The CDD also engages with students in one-on-one counseling sessions, mock interviews and salary negotiations, and on-campus interviews with employers who want to hire Western State Law graduates.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
Each semester, Western State Law offers students dozens of advanced professional skills courses that prepare students for their careers and teach them to transfer substantive work into the actual practice of law. In these courses, theory becomes practice as faculty members bring their extensive professional careers into the classroom to teach students how to succeed in a variety of legal professions. Included within these professional skills courses are both external field placements and clinical opportunities. In the externship program, students spend a semester working in civil, criminal, or judicial offices as they learn to practice law alongside working attorneys. Skill-based courses cover a full range of skills including legal interviewing, mediation, contract drafting, and trial practice.
At this time, Western State Law requires residential coursework for its degree program.
Western State Law is considered one of the most diverse law schools in the country with a student body that reflects the diversity of the legal profession. The school’s student organization celebrates this diversity through a variety of programs and events available for all students. Western State Law’s competitive moot court teams have garnered numerous awards at competitions around the country.
Located in Irvine, California, Western State Law is minutes from California’s famed beaches and a short distance from the heart of Los Angeles. The surrounding city offers affordable housing options for students. The campus is in the heart of Irvine’s business district providing students with walkable options to the many restaurants and eateries near the law school. With idyllic weather and countless recreational opportunities, Irvine offers a high quality of life for all Western State Law students.