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Santa Clara University School of Law
Written by Ken DeLeon, with kind assistance from the administration of Santa Clara Law School, particularly Dean Polden (read the Polden Interview); Dean of Admissions Jeanette Leach (read the Leach Interview); and Assistant Deans Julia Yaffee and Alexandra Horne (read Horne Interview), published October 2006, last updated by TLS November 2009.
Although Santa Clara University is in the center of bustling Silicon Valley, the picturesque 105 acre campus is filled with towering palm trees, spacious lawns, and beautifully designed Spanish style architecture. Jesuit fathers founded the campus in 1851 and in 1912 the law school was formed. Despite this long history, Santa Clara Law School has only recently climbed in law school rankings and academic reputation, due in large part to its excellent program in High Technology law. Soaring applications for admissions, a friendly administration dedicated to improving upon the already strong fields of High Technology and International law, plus a beautiful campus, make Santa Clara Law School a compelling choice for many law school applicants.
Admissions and Tuition
Over the last few years, applications have greatly increased. Now over 4500 applicants vie for admission to become one of the 320 students in each entering class. As a result, the GPA and LSAT scores of enrolled students continue to climb throughout the years. Amongst students enrolled full-time, the GPA generally ranges from a 3.1 to a 3.6 and the LSAT score ranges from a 157 to a 161 (these ranges are for students at the 25th and 75th percentiles respectively).
Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions Jeanette Leach gave some insight into how Santa Clara Law School views these scores. She indicated that the GPA was more important to the law school when compared with the LSAT score because “the GPA is a testament of what you are capable of…” When asked where the personal statement ranks in this hierarchy, she said that “after the GPA and LSAT, the personal statement is the most important, and multiple people will read all of them, so applicants should make sure that it is high quality. If an applicant does have low scores, the personal statement is their opportunity to explain why, or give us a look into their experiences.”
Letters of recommendation are not a required part of the application process, but they are recommended. Assistant Dean Leach said that “a letter from a professor is ideal. If you are coming from a large university, you can also get the letter from a teacher’s assistant, if that person knows you better. We want the letter to be a testament to your academic abilities, and show that you participate in class, and are dedicated to projects.”
Regarding submitting your application, Dean Leach recommends that you wait until all aspects of your application are finished, including the personal statement, and then send all these materials at the same time. Santa Clara Law School has no preference for electronic applications, as all applications are read in paper format no matter how they are submitted.
While the general application due date is relatively late, March 1st, those applicants whose files are complete by November 30th may ask for an early decision. Admission decisions are made in a rolling admissions process, so it is best to apply as early as possible. Note that Santa Clara Law School accepts the highest of multiple LSAT scores, so consider retaking the LSAT if you think your score will dramatically improve.
Although most students are enrolled in the full-time program, a little over 25% of students are in the part-time program, which takes four years.
Life and Philosophy
While it is becoming increasingly difficult to gain admittance to Santa Clara School of Law, the law school takes pride in keeping the law school welcoming to admitted students and keeping the school’s resources open to all of its students. Many professors have an open door policy, and are interested in speaking with their students. Dean of Admissions Jeanette Leach adds, “This is a great atmosphere for all students with the majority of the faculty having an open door policy. The professors are not at all standoffish, and you will often see professors having a group of students in their office.”
Even the Dean of the Law School, Dean Donald Polden, feels that it is important for the administration to connect with the students: “I start with the premise that law students are smart, thoughtful about their education, and quickly form an interest in the success of their law school. They are very interested in how the law school leadership is planning for the law school’s future and what kind of job the administration is doing on running the law school. So, I plan to find the most effective ways of communicating this information – and that means, in particular, listening to their ideas and concerns…”
When asked why law school students pick Santa Clara University School of Law, Assistant Dean Julia Yaffee replied, “…the most common response was the great atmosphere found at the law school… [our] students really enjoy the personal attention and small, collegial environment that we provide as a private school…the administration and faculty really tried to create a positive environment that fosters learning and friendship.”
This environment may stem from the law school’s philosophy regarding education, passed down through its Jesuit tradition. Dean Polden addressed why the Jesuit foundation of the school was important, and how it affects the school: “As a result of our Jesuit founding, Santa Clara Law School is focused upon the exploration of morals and ethics, and the school examines questions such as how legal education should be influences by ethics and morals…We use our traditions of encouraging public service and constructing proper professional values and ethics to help our students avoid these situations when they leave the law school and serve their clients. Santa Clara’s ethical training is integrated throughout our law curriculum to help students make proper decisions.”
This tradition of encouraging public service seems to be working well for the law school, as it was recently determined to have the best public interest program by the National Pro Bono Student Association. Dean Polden mentioned that “over 75% of our professors are actively involved in pro bono counseling.”
However, Dean Polden makes it clear that while the philosophy of the school is based on Jesuit tradition, religion is not a factor in the law school, “…while the law school draws on the traditions and moral strengths of the Jesuit Order, religion does not play an active role in the day to day life of the law school. For example, religion is not a factor in admissions decisions or faculty or staff hiring.”
Legal Specialties and Certificate Programs
High Technology Law
Applicants would be hard pressed to find a law school with a greater emphasis upon or dedication of resources to high technology law than Santa Clara Law School. While many law schools have only recently discovered the field of intellectual property (IP) law, Santa Clara has long been at the forefront of this constantly evolving and growing legal area.
Assistant Dean Alexandra Horne said, “I think that ever since Silicon Valley has been a semiconductor and tech center, students have come to Santa Clara because of the IP and High Tech Program.”
The Santa Clara Computer & High Technology Journal was one of the first legal publications solely dedicated to high technology law. This student run publication is considered to be one of the finest in the nation.
While Santa Clara’s long standing excellence in technology law has been well known in Silicon Valley, it achieved nationwide recognition by being ranked within the top ten law schools in IP law in the US News ranking of IP programs.
Capitalizing upon its Silicon Valley location, the law school has created a very strong IP program through extensively using visiting lecturers from the technology legal community and hiring professors’ expert in IP law. The most notable professor is patent law icon, Donald Chisum, publisher of a treatise and several casebooks on patent law.
Santa Clara’s excellence in High Technology law, particularly patents, has made the law school attract a large number of engineers and life science majors, who generally go on to become patent attorneys.
“Numerous top IP firms and technology companies, such as Cisco, Ebay, and Sony Entertainment, offer internships to students…many students receive job opportunities from these companies upon graduation,” said Assistant Dean Horne.
Santa Clara offers a wide array of classes in high technology law and often offers two classes per semester in the core IP areas, such as patent and copyright law. These classes are well attended, with over 100 students often in these classes.
Building on its success, Santa Clara Law School now offers a High Tech Law Certificate. Assistant Dean Horne explains, “The program continues to develop and expand and now offers a certificate program in High Tech. Students can get the certificate with an emphasis upon Technology Law, upon corporate issues within IP law, or an International IP certificate that has an International law component.”
To obtain this certificate, as many students choose to, requires at least 15 units in High Technology classes and a research paper analyzing IP law and policy. Additionally, a Master of Laws Degree in Intellectual Property (L.L.M. in Intellectual Property) was created in 2001, further expanding the law schools’ course offerings and expertise in this area.
Santa Clara Law School’s High Technology program is both well known and respected in Silicon Valley, as well as the other high tech hubs of Boston, Seattle, Austin, and San Diego.
The new Assistant Dean in charge of the High Technology Program, Alexandra Horne, is dedicated to building upon and expanding this renowned program and its course offerings.
She says of Santa Clara’s Law School, “Being located in the center of Silicon Valley, we are better situated than Stanford or Boalt at attracting local practitioners who are expert at Technology Law. These practitioners are wonderful and smart and are right on top of new legal issues, for they practice their area of law daily.”
Silicon Valley’s economy is driven by international trade, thus it is no surprise that Santa Clara Law School also provides rich and diverse class offerings in the field of international law. Earning the Certification in International Law requires that students complete four courses on international law and complete a research paper exploring legal issues in international law. Additionally, there is one final and exciting requirement, that students enroll in at least one overseas summer program with 11 choices of location, including Oxford, Munich, Seoul, and Singapore.
There is a lot of interplay between the High Technology and International Law programs. Several visiting professors from countries such as Germany and Japan lecture about the IP customs of their countries.
The Certificate in High Technology law with an International emphasis offers several unique learning opportunities. For example, Professor Chisum oversees the summer program in Munich, which examines the European patent system. This is taught in conjunction with faculty from the prestigious Max Plank Institute. Other overseas programs are also taught at renowned universities, such as Sophia University in Tokyo.
Santa Clara Law School’s focus upon both intellectual property and international law bodes well for students, as these branches of law will become increasingly prevalent and intertwined in the future.
Public Interest Law
Santa Clara Law School has a long-standing commitment to public interest law and representing those who would otherwise would not receive proper representation. To further this goal, a strong clinical program has been developed, where students can learn the skills necessary for effective advocacy. At Santa Clara Community Law Center, students can counsel clients in the fields of small business counseling, workers’ rights, consumer/debtor issues, and immigration rights.
Students who complete the necessary academic coursework in public interest law and complete a large written paper examining an issue in public interest law can earn a certificate in Public Interest and Social Justice. Additionally, students must complete 25 hours of community volunteer work as well as 150 hours of supervised legal work in a public interest/social justice organization, government office, or in a judicial externship.
JD/MBA Joint Degree
This combined degree can be earned in only four years, with certain classes counting towards completion of both degrees. This joint degree is helpful for those considering careers in corporate law, business, consulting, or later becoming general counsel to a company.
Students are first admitted to the law program and can then apply to the business school during their first-year. While work experience is a large plus towards admission to the business school, it is not always required.
Santa Clara Law School is on the rise and will only continue to improve over time as its recent accomplishments become nationally recognized. Recently appointed Dean Polden is focused upon continuing the great progress that Santa Clara Law School has made and building upon the renowned programs in High Technology and International law. His efforts will assuredly be rewarded with greater prominence and more applications for the law school.
In sum, applicants considering a career in IP or international law and or planning on practicing in California should consider visiting and applying to Santa Clara Law School.
Dean Donald Polden of Santa Clara
Interview: Dean Jeanette Leach of Admissions to Santa Clara University's School of Law
Interview: Santa Clara Law School Assistant Dean Alexandra Horne
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