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University of California Berkeley School of Law

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Berkeley Law

The Berkeley Law School is one of the top law schools in the United States and is part of the University of California, Berkeley. The school offers several degree programs and is known for its research facilities and faculty. For many years, the school was informally referred to as "Boalt Hall." This nickname came from its original building, the Boalt Memorial Hall of Law, which was named for John Henry Boalt. In 1951, this name was transferred to a new classroom wing. However, it was removed in 2020. Berkeley Law is one of the top law schools in the nation, producing leaders in law, government, and society. Notable alums include Chief Justice Earl Warren, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, civil rights activist Pauli Murray, California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, Equal Justice Society president and founder Eva Paterson, United States Northern District of California Judge Thelton Henderson, and Attorney General Edwin Meese.


From 1868, UC Berkeley's law school has undergone several name changes and expansion projects - the most recent of which was completed in 2012. However, the school made headlines again in 2020 when it decided to remove the name "Boalt Hall" from its primary building. This decision was made after it was discovered that John Henry Boalt, the namesake of the building, had expressed racist views about Chinese and Chinese Americans. While this is the first time in UC Berkeley's history that a building has been renamed for such a reason, officials believe that it is an important step in aligning the university's values with those of its students.


Berkeley Law has one of the most selective JD programs in the country. Each year, they receive over 5,000 applications for their class of approximately 290 students. They take a holistic approach to admissions and consider all aspects of your application when making decisions.


Admissions Stats
Class of: 2020-2021 2021-2022
25th - 50th - 75th percentile LSAT 163 - 168 - 170 165 - 169 - 171
25th - 50th - 75th percentile GPA 3.65 - 3.81 - 3.93 3.74 - 3.83 - 3.92
Acceptance rate 21.5% 13.7%
Applications received 5667 7948
Acceptances 1220 1086
Matriculants 2035 1646

Acceptance Rate

Berkeley Law had 7,948 applicants for the class of 2022, and 1,086 were offered admission. The school has a 1L class size of 384 with a yield (the percentage of people who accepted their offer of admission) of 31.58%. 343 out of 1,086 applicants offered admission were accepted, meaning that 31.58% of those offered admissions ended up attending Berkeley Law.

Application Fee and Waivers

The University of California Berkeley School of Law requires all applicants to submit a nonrefundable application fee of $75. The fee cannot be used for processing applications to other law schools within the University of California System. To learn more about obtaining a fee waiver, click here.

The University of California Berkeley School of Law does not offer merit-based waivers for their application fee. However, applicants can take advantage of a need-based fee waiver program administered by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). If an applicant obtains an LSAC fee waiver, the Berkeley Law application fee will be waived automatically. Berkeley Law also has a separate fee waiver program for applicants who participated in a program that falls under one of the three broad categories listed below. To request a Berkeley Law fee waiver, applicants must submit a Berkeley Law Fee Waiver Request Form along with proof of their participation in an eligible program.


Transfer students come to Berkeley after their first year in a full-time JD program elsewhere, complete their last two years here, and then receive a Berkeley Law degree. When we review transfer applications, we focus on the applicant’s performance during the first year of law school. Admission is very competitive. We usually receive more than 200 applications for about 25-35 places in our second-year class, and successful transfer applicants usually come from the top 10 percent of their respective home law school classes. The exact number of transfer places available may vary from year to year. To read a fantastic article about transferring, click here.

Personal Statements

Boalt is very comprehensive and considers all aspects of a student's file. While the LSAT score and GPA are important, Boalt is more concerned with prospective students' individual stories, which better indicate what they bring as a whole to law school. Dean Tom says that putting together an entering class is "like organizing a choir; we want 270 distinct voices. There are hundreds of similar applicants, but only one of you, so take the opportunity provided by the personal statement to let us hear your voice."

Dean Tom offers some excellent advice regarding the personal statement and why it is particularly important to the Boalt application. He says:

The personal statement is the first thing I look at when I open a folder, even before viewing the GPA or LSAT score. Applicants should be aware that our personal statement option is twice as long as most other law schools; it's four pages, and students should take advantage of that. There's no particular assignment for our personal statement; it's very open-ended. The personal statement is the applicant's opportunity to distinguish himself from hundreds of other applicants who have the same numbers, have the same major, and come from a similar school. The personal statement is an applicant's opportunity to describe the distance they've come in their lives.

Most everyone is a very different person now than they were in high school, and along that journey, they develop a voice that they will be bringing into the classroom. I want to learn about the journey that developed that voice and the decision to apply to law school. We are looking for intellectually curious people, and we are looking for people with a diverse array of experiences. So, the ideal personal statement would bring all of that out.

Boalt Hall School of Law]]The personal statement is also a sample of your writing, and we are looking for the precision of your writing skills. It is not up to Boalt to teach you how to write a sentence. There should be no typos, spelling, or punctuation errors. Please change the name of the school; we don't want to know how happy you are to apply to another school. Also, don't submit anything too far out there: no movies, no scripts, and no law transcripts.

In addition to the four pages for the personal statement, Boalt also allows applicants to submit additional written materials. Dean Tom explains: "You can also send a resume, which I recommend doing. The resumes are generally one page, but that can be exceeded. More information can only help your application, so throw it in the kitchen sink. There are no interviews, and I want to know the human behind the numbers. Also, you can send an addendum, one or two paragraphs on a separate page, dedicated to any particular talking points desired." For more information on personal statements and application essays, check out the TLS Guide to Personal Statements.

Letters of Recommendation

Boalt also allows multiple letters of recommendation. Dean Tom said of letters of recommendation: "You should cultivate two substantive letters from people who can discuss your academic potential. Usually, that is a professor or a teaching assistant. The second best letters come from people at work, supervisors who can comment on your research, analytical skills, and writing ability in particular. Letters from famous people you met once, friends of the family, or a judge for whom you babysat are not helpful. Three letters of recommendation are okay. Even four is fine; however, five is probably pushing it." For additional advice on obtaining letters of recommendation, click here.

Tuition and Expenses

In 2022, the cost of tuition at the University of California Berkeley School of Law is $27,456. The total cost of attendance, which includes living expenses, is $93,708.

Financial Aid

Information on financial aid opportunities for J.D. students, including all gift aid, can be found on the Types of Aid page. All required applications and forms must be submitted timely for consideration in these programs. In addition to taking advantage of the programs at Berkeley Law, students are encouraged to seek outside sources of scholarship funding.

Loan Repayment Assistance Program

Berkeley Law’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) provides financial assistance in student loan repayment for public interest-oriented graduates who work at nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Graduates who meet the income and employment requirements can receive financial assistance with their student loan payments under an income-driven repayment plan once they enter repayment. Visit our LRAP page for information on program eligibility, policies, and loan repayment strategies. After graduation, students interested in pursuing a public interest career are encouraged to schedule a counseling session(opens in a new tab) with an LRAP advisor. A meeting with an LRAP advisor is required prior to graduation and prior to participation in LRAP.


Loans are the principal source of aid available to law students to fund their legal education. Loans with the most favorable terms are always available first to offset student financial needs. The vast majority of educational loans are provided by the federal government, but students have the option of determining whether a private loan may make more sense to them financially.

Federal student loans are available to most students regardless of income and provide various repayment options, including income-based repayment plans and loan forgiveness benefits, which other education loans are not required to provide. Click here for more details.

Quality of Life

Berkeley is almost as renowned for being an area of social unrest and individual exploration as for its distinguished academic programs. Berkeley's town and campus thrive on the community's sweeping encouragement of individual expression and joyfully embrace all that is unique, outrageous, and extraordinary. What is most intoxicating about "Berzerkeley" is its liberating spirit, which allows for creative and artistic expression in every form. Life is lived more intensely and freely in "The People's Republic of Berkeley" than anywhere else.

For those looking for a change from the unique atmosphere of "Berzerkely," San Francisco is only a half hour away by car or public transportation, and within a few hours' drive are the many attractions of Northern California, including Napa Valley wine country, Santa Cruz beaches, Carmel art galleries, and Tahoe skiing. Also, innumerable outdoor attractions and great hiking are available in the scenic Berkeley hills.

Housing is scarce in Berkeley and students are wise to begin their search for apartments in early August. Graduate dorm housing is an option for first-year students. Those seeking cheaper rent often rent in nearby Oakland or Albany. Several third-year students choose to enjoy their last year getting to know San Francisco, one of the best cities in America.

Employment Prospects

Berkeley Law students enjoy great employment prospects. Most of our graduates find satisfying, high-paying jobs in the legal profession. In fact, Berkeley Law consistently ranks as one of the top law schools in the nation in terms of both employment outcomes and bar passage rates.

In 2022, JD graduates from the University of California—Berkeley make a median salary of $190,000 per year if they work in the private sector. If they go into the public sector, they can expect an average salary of $66,974. 63.8% of law graduates from the University of California—Berkeley choose to work for law firms, while 15.6% become clerks for judges. 12.7% of graduates go into public interest work. 96.8% of the University of California—Berkeley law graduates pass the bar exam on their first try.

Berkeley Law's Curriculum

Berkeley Law's first-year curriculum consists of the foundation classes of civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, property, torts, legal research and writing, and two elective classes taken from the upper-division curriculum. While most classes have 60 to 120 students, at least one class is taught in a small section of 30 students. Generally, the professors of the small sections seek to interact extensively with students and generally have their students over for dinner at their home.

The only requirements in the final two years are that students must take a class in constitutional law and professional responsibility and complete a major writing project. With this great academic freedom, the upper-division curriculum offers numerous seminars and classes, particularly in intellectual property, environmental, corporate, and international law. The Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, a Ph.D. program offered by the law school, offers theoretical seminars that examine the law from various disciplines, such as philosophy, anthropology, and economics. Boalt students can take classes or even receive a joint masters or Ph.D. degree from several graduate departments, including economics, history (legal history), journalism, the Haas School of Business, and the School of Public Policy. Remember, though, that formal joint-degree programs are generally expensive, time-consuming, and seldom useful in obtaining traditional legal employment.

Boalt offers a varied curriculum with many classes straying far from typical "bar preparation" classes. Some more exotic classes have included Modern Chinese Law, Law and Literature, Race and Law, and Biomedical Law. Class sizes range from seminars with a few students to lecture halls with 150 students. Individual research projects with professors can also be arranged.

Boalt also has a flexible externship program where students can receive as many as 10 credits for working with a judge, government agencies, or public interest firms for a semester. Boalt also allows students to study abroad in law schools in Europe or Asia for a semester. Boalt also has an exchange program with Harvard Law School, where five third-year students from Boalt study at Harvard Law School and vice versa.

Many students receive credit while working on Berkeley Law's four clinical programs. Students can work for the East Bay Community Law Center, where indigent clients who would otherwise not be able to afford legal counsel are assisted on real cases. Three other clinics offer hands-on experience to very academic but real-life issues, with the three clinics being the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic, the International Human Rights Law Clinic, and the Death Penalty Clinic.

Students can also receive course credit for being editor or assistant editor for one of Berkeley Law's ten legal journals. The most prestigious law journal is the California Law Review, which generally chooses 35 students from each class to participate. Grades do not play a factor in acceptance to law review. Instead, a writing competition is how members are selected. Boalt's nine other law journals ensure that any student who desires to be a member of a law journal has this opportunity.

Grading System

Boalt's grading system also mitigates student competitiveness by not ranking students and grading students with only three possible grades. The top 10% of students in a class receive a grade of High Honors, with the next 30% getting Honors and the remaining 60% getting Pass. By making the Pass grade so common that nearly every student has a few P's, the law school hopes to remove the stigma of this grade. Grades of No Credit or Substandard Pass are rarely given out.

Berkeley Law's grading system has been controversial since its origins over 30 years ago, with opponents stating that it hurts students by being hard for employers to understand and hurts Berkeley Law's best in their hunt for judicial clerkships. The opponents claim that a grade of Honors, which can be given to a student in the top 11% of a class, is much less impressive than the A or A- that most top law schools assign for that same percentile score. However, this grading system is likely to stay since a significant effort to modify the grading system has recently failed. Several top schools have switched to a similar system in the past few years.

The prestige of a Berkeley Law degree and strong job prospects for graduates are seen as the most vigorous counterarguments to changing a grading system that is viewed as the primary reason for Boalt's relaxed environment and is conducive to sharing knowledge and student camaraderie.

Read our interview with Boalt's former Dean Robert Berring, offering more about Boalt's excellent quality of life.

Intellectual Property Law

Berkeley Law's intellectual property (IP) program has long been regarded as one of the best in the country, if not the best. Berkeley's continued excellence in IP seems assured in the wake of recent faculty hiring, expanded class and clinical offerings, and the strengthening partnership between the law school and the legal community of Silicon Valley.

The linchpin to Boalt's IP excellence is the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology (BCLT). Founded in 1995, the BCLT was the first organization of its kind and continues to be at the forefront of technology law and policy issues. Some of the esteemed faculty of the BCLT include Robert Merges and Pam Samuelson.

Merges is one of the most respected authorities on patent law, and many law schools around the nation use his casebooks on intellectual property and patent law. Professor Merges is a co-founder and co-director of BCLT.

Samuelson was recently awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, or "Genius Award," for her scholarship that advanced intellectual property policy. Professor Samuelson used most of these proceeds for a $2 million gift to form the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley. Having personally worked with Professor Samuelson for my writing requirement in Cyberlaw, I can say that she is an excellent professor who is very concerned about her students and her research.

The BCLT is also instrumental in publishing the Berkeley Technology Law Journal (BTLJ). The BTLJ is considered the leading technology law journal in America and is operated and edited by Berkeley Law students.

The prestige of Berkeley Law's IP program has led many students to focus on IP law and to receive the Law and Technology Certification upon graduation. Completing the Law and Technology Certification requires six IP courses, participation in law and technology organizations, and a research paper focused on IP legal issues.

The demand for Boalt's IP graduates is still strong. Most graduates work in Silicon Valley law firms, but some get jobs in other technology hubs such as Boston, San Diego, Seattle, and Austin.

Environmental Law

Boalt's renowned environmental law program offers a rich and diverse curriculum taught by nationally recognized faculty members. At Boalt, environmental law is taught within the broader context of the social, economic, and political policies that shape the creation and interpretation of environmental statutes. As a result, students are encouraged to take classes in other graduate departments, including Environmental Science, Forestry, City and Regional Planning, and the Energy and Resource Group. Many students enroll in concurrent degree programs and can earn both a law degree and master's degree from one of the above departments in four years.

A certificate of specialization in environmental law is granted to students who complete six classes on or related to environmental law and write a research paper on an environmental topic. Many students participate in the Ecology Law Quarterly, one of the nation's premier environmental law journals.

International Law

Boalt's international law program is one of the country's strongest. Many J.D. and LL.M. students join Berkeley with the intent to practice public or private international law. Top-caliber faculty teach courses in international human rights, international criminal law, international business transactions, the law of war, comparative law, and international commercial arbitration, among many topics. The Human Rights Clinic and Human Rights Center offer students the opportunity to participate in high-profile legal and policy advocacy.

Several student groups on campus are dedicated to international issues, including the Berkeley Journal of International Law—which counts over 100 members—the Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern & Islamic Law, the Boalt Hall Committee for Human Rights, the California Asylum Representation Clinic, and the Vis and Jessup international moot court competitions.

Berkeley Law also houses the Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law and offers students the possibility of completing a semester externship at a government agency, international institution, or NGO in Washington, D.C. through the UCDC program, or in any other city in the world on the student's initiative.

A certificate of specialization in international law is available to students who complete twelve units of international-law courses and a substantial paper on a topic of international law.

Contact Information

University of California Berkeley School of Law
J.D. Admissions Office
225 Law Building
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
Phone: 510-642-2274
Fax: 510-643-6222
Email: admissions@law.berkeley.edu


Established 1894
Location Berkeley, CA
Dean Erwin Chemerinsky
2022 US News Ranking 9th
LSAT Median Score 169
GPA Median Score 3.83
Bar Passage Rate 97% (2022)
Employment Rate 87% (2022)
Cost $68,264
Average Debt $143,021
Application Deadline February 15, 2023

Forum and Discussion

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Forum: Boalt 1Ls taking questions
News: Above the Law
Interview: Edward Tom, Dean of Admissions, U.C. Berkeley Boalt Hall
Interview: Former Dean Robert Berring of Boalt Hall