San Diego Law Schools

Published October 2006, last updated August 2011

San Diego law schools are an attractive option for many students because of San Diego’s beautiful beaches and over 300 days of sunshine a year. While none of the San Diego law schools are top ten law schools or even top 50 law schools, their location and responsive faculty make the 3 San Diego law schools we profile an option to consider once admitted.

The best of all San Diego law schools is the University of San Diego (“USD”). Founded as a catholic university, professors in monk attire still wander the picturesque campus. The law school is relatively secular and on the rise academically, with a very few of their specialties amongst the top 25 law schools in national law school rankings. Amongst California law schools, USD is a top ten law school and very close to being one of the top 50 law schools in the nation.

USD receives approximately 3,000 applications and admits about 1/3 of these students. USD’s student body was academically in the top 50 law schools, at 49th. While USD is getting more competitive, they do offer many scholarships for law school.

For 2003 law school rankings, USD was in the second quartile of US News law school rankings, their tax law was ranked in the top 25 law schools and their faculty scholarly output was also amongst the top 25 law schools.

Less prestigious in all national law school rankings are the San Diego law schools of Thomas Jefferson and California Western. These schools will not make any list of top law schools nor even the top 100 law schools in any law school rankings.

A law school on the rise is Thomas Jefferson, which recently received ABA accreditation in 1996. Thomas Jefferson has been successful in recruiting both dedicated professors and increasingly strong students to bolster its reputation. Buoyed by a continually increasing bar passage rate and a decreasing acceptance rate, the law school continues to carve out a strong niche for itself amongst Southern California law schools.

Areas of particular strength are in international law and in tax law. Tax law is strong not only because of the great need for tax lawyers in the retirement Mecca of San Diego, but also because of an innovative and online masters program called the Diamond International Tax and Financial Services Program. As Thomas Jefferson University School of Law continues to build upon these areas of expertise, its reputation should continue to grow.

Of particular interest and value to those hoping to succeed in law school and on law school exams, I recommend reviewing the website, written by Ben Templin, a professor at Thomas Jefferson and a friend of mine while we were together at Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law.

California Western does slightly better in law school ratings, but is still not considered in the top 100 law schools. This San Diego law school caters to its student interests and positives include a responsive faculty that focuses upon practical lawyering skills and a trimester system that allows for graduation in two years.

Cal Western’s poor performance in law school ratings translates into low admission criteria, admitting 65% of applicants. Admitted students’ average a LSAT score of slightly above 150 and a GPA barely above a 3.00.

Overall, while San Diego law schools do not academically rank as top law schools in national law rankings, San Diego law schools can be regarded as top law schools for the student with limited choices who wants to spend 3 years in a beautiful locale with a responsive faculty, intangibles not factored in law school ratings.