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Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Published January 2010, last updated February 2013.
Founded in 1969 as the San Diego campus of Western State University College of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law became independent in 1995 and earned full ABA accreditation in 2001. The law school broke ground in 2008 on a new campus in the East Village district of San Diego and held its first classes there in 2011. With its abysmal bar passage rates and employment outcomes and staggeringly high tuition, TJSL is widely viewed as one of the worst law schools in the country.
Employment prospects and bar passage
According to Law School Transparency, less than a quarter (24.1%) of 2011 TJSL graduates found long-term, full-time legal jobs as of nine months after graduation. That is a total of 63 grads out of 236. Two (yes, two) students were known to have found full-time jobs in large firms (more than 100 attorneys). Zero obtained federal judicial clerkships. Ten found their way into full-time government gigs and two into full-time public interest jobs.
As those numbers would lead one to expect, salaries of TJSL grads are not high. For those who managed to find jobs in private law practice, the 25th, 50th (median), and 75th percentile salaries were $50,000, $60,000, and $75,000. In the public sector, those numbers were $50,000, $55,000, and $60,000. Of the graduating class of 2011, 26.7% were employed and reported a salary.
Most of the 2011 graduates who are employed in some capacity work in California (94). The second and third most popular destinations in 2011 were Colorado (4) and Washington, D.C. (4).
In the July 2012 administration of the California bar exam, an embarrassingly low 52% of TJSL graduates passed on their first try, last in the state. (That 52% is, however, better than the school's 33% first-time pass rate in July 2011.) The state average was about 77%.
Simply put, the odds of a TJSL student's ever becoming a practicing or even a licensed lawyer are slim. With such abysmal statistics and a total debt-financed cost of more than a quarter of a million dollars, no one without a guaranteed postgraduate job and a full ride scholarship should even consider attending TJSL.
Admissions and tuition
In 2011, matriculating students to Jefferson’s full-time program had a median LSAT of 151 and a median GPA of 3.01. For the part-time program, the median LSAT was 148 and the median GPA was 3.02. TJSL admitted about 55% of its 2,321 full-time applicants (338 enrolled) and 53% of its 376 part-time applicants (102 enrolled).
Tuition at TJSL is outrageously high. Annual tuition for 2012-2013 is $42,000 for full-time students and $31,500 for part-time students. According to U.S. News, in 2011, around 43% of students received some form of grant, and the median grant was $14,000. The average indebtedness of a TJSL graduate as of 2011 was $153,000, and according to Law School Transparency, the total debt-financed cost of a TJSL J.D. is a mind-blowing $257,905. The school does not offer its students a loan repayment assistance program.
TJSL's consistently low bar passage rate should tell you everything you need to know about the school's academics. Of particular note is that around 25% of entering TJSL students drop out before graduation.
U.S. News Ranking: Tier 4
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