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Pacific McGeorge School of Law
Published January 2009, last updated March 2011
Located in Sacramento, California, the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law has plenty to offer. The academic program is solid, and the state-capital location presents invaluable opportunities for law students. Tuition is pricy, however, relative to starting salaries, and Pacific graduates are likely to be limited in their job search.
Admissions & Tuition
Admissions standards at McGeorge School of Law are consistent with those of other law schools similarly ranked. Roughly 42% (1,287 out of 3,035) of all applicants were granted admission last year. For those full-time students who matriculated, the 25th to 75th percentile GPA range was 3.07–3.60 and the range for the LSAT was 155-160, with medians hovering around 3.4 and 158, respectively.
Admissions standards for the school’s part-time program are generally more relaxed. Last year, the GPA range for part-time admits was 3.05 to 3.51, while the LSAT range was 151 to 157. Overall, 39% of applicants were accepted.
Once admitted, prospective students must weigh McGeorge’s pros and cons against those of other schools. At approximately $39,000 a year, McGeorge’s tuition is unlikely to be considered a positive. It will be tough, and often times unwise, for students to pass on state-school tuition bills of about $20,000 to take on the debt that a McGeorge education will bring. What’s more, with room & board averaging over $10,000 and book costs and miscellaneous fees topping $7,000, University of the Pacific Law School students face a total cost-of-attendance of more than $55,000 annually. It is no surprise, then, that the average debt load for Pacific graduates is roughly $125,000.
Most McGeorge graduates take the California Bar, which is notorious for its difficulty. Roughly 20% of McGeorge grads fail the Bar on their first try. This is a discouraging figure; but to be fair, 22% of all law students who take the California Bar for their first time fail.
90.6% of students were employed within nine months of graduation. Most of those graduates—50%—entered law firms. Roughly 25% of graduates went to work for the government, and 9% went into business. 9% of graduates entered public interest and the remainder divided themselves among academic posts, clerkships and other fields. Money was most likely the reason behind the attraction towards private-practice, as this is the field with the highest median starting salary: $72,000. Public-interest graduates earned $56,400 to start, on average.
Although it is well-regarded in Northern California, McGeorge is in the truest sense a regional law school. Scanning through the attorney profiles on the websites of even the most prestigious law firms in Sacramento reveals that the vast majority have no compunctions about hiring exceptional McGeorge graduates (and it should be noted that, being the capital of the most populous state, Sacramento has a larger legal market than many similarly sized cities), however even a short trip to the San Francisco Bay Area can make it difficult to find jobs as the McGeorge grad would find him-or-herself in line with a number of Berkeley, Stanford, Hastings, Davis, Santa Clara and USF grads competing for the same jobs.
The Princeton Review gives the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law an “Academic Experience Rating” of 79 out of a possible 100. The same website lists the school’s specialties as: Criminal law, Environmental law, Government Services, International law, Property law, Taxation and Intellectual Property law. The specialization in International law is particularly obvious, as the school was tied for the 17th spot (with Stanford and Cornell, of all schools) on the USNews ranking of programs in International law.
Aside from these specialties, McGeorge Law School students complement their classroom experiences with clinical experience (Community Legal Services Clinic, Immigration Law Clinic, Legislative Process, Strategy and Ethics Clinic…), journal staffing (McGeorge Law Review, Pacific McGeorge Global Business & Development Law Journal, California Initiative Review…) and even dual degrees (JD/MPA, JD.M.Acc., JD/MBA…).
Not all is well at McGeorge, however, as the school sports a mediocre student/faculty ratio, a competitive student body, and facilities—including the library—that are in dire need of renovation. The above-mentioned specializations and resources, however, as well as the school’s state-capital location, which gives students access to numerous opportunities in both government and business settings, seem to outweigh the negatives of the McGeorge Law School academic experience.
Quality of Life
As California’s state-capital, Sacramento offers all that a young student might want. The Mediterranean climate is more than favorable, true diversity exists, and social and recreational outlets are many. There is no shortage of bars, parks, music, restaurants or any other distraction that might occupy a rare instance of a law student having free-time.
The McGeorge campus is located in the Oak Park section of Sacramento, a neighborhood perpetually said to be “in transition” but still plagued with violence, high crime and poverty. Although the cost of living in Oak Park is low relative to other areas of Sacramento, many students find themselves living in other parts of town and commuting to McGeorge. Even taking this route, cost of living in Sacramento is much lower than other notoriously pricey California cities such as San Francisco and L.A.
On campus, McGeorge is not known for its tight-knit community. Students are competitive and the large student body prevents any real feeling of cohesion. Nevertheless, students should have no problem forming close relationships, as the necessary social opportunities abound. The main University of Pacific campus is in Stockton, so the law students do not get the benefit of living on a campus or mingling with undergraduates.
After all the weighing of pros and cons, the bottom line seems to be that McGeorge Law School is a great option for those who know they want to practice in the Sacramento area. Beyond that region, other schools may prove superior.
U.S. News Ranking: 98
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