California Western School of Law

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California Western School of Law
California Western School of Law Logo.jpg
School typePrivate
DeanNiels B. Schaumann
LocationSan Diego, California, US
32°43′21″N 117°9′42″W / 32.72250°N 117.16167°W / 32.72250; -117.16167Coordinates: 32°43′21″N 117°9′42″W / 32.72250°N 117.16167°W / 32.72250; -117.16167
USNWR ranking148th-194th (bottom 25%)[1][4]
Bar pass rate51% (July 2019 1st time takers)[5]
ABA profileCalifornia Western Profile

California Western School of Law, founded in 1924, is a private, nonprofit law school located in San Diego, California. It is popularly known as California Western or Cal Western and formerly California Western University. The school was approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) in 1962[6] and became a member of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) in 1967.[7] California Western School of Law is the oldest law school in San Diego.


California Western was originally chartered in 1924[8] by Leland Ghent Stanford as a private graduate institution called Balboa Law College, the first law school in San Diego.[9] His brother, Dwight Stanford, served as one of the first deans. (Leland Ghent Stanford attended Stanford, where he earned undergraduate and law degrees, and also M.A. and Ph.D degrees in Government Administration.) Balboa Law College expanded to include undergraduate and other graduate studies and changed its name to Balboa University.[9] The law school at Balboa University was closed in 1946.

In 1952, Balboa University became affiliated with the Southern California Methodist Conference, changed its name to California Western University, and relocated to Point Loma.[9] The law school was reopened in downtown. In 1960, the law school had six full-time faculty and 23 students. In that year, it relocated to Rohr Hall at Point Loma. It received approval from the American Bar Association in 1962.[8]

In 1968, California Western University changed its name to United States International University (USIU).[9] The law school retained the name California Western,[8] while USIU moved to Scripps Ranch.[9] Point Loma Nazarene University currently occupies the Point Loma site. In 2001, USIU merged with California School of Professional Psychology to become Alliant International University.[9]

In 1973, the law school relocated from its Point Loma location to the current downtown campus at 350 Cedar Street.[8] In 1975, California Western ended its affiliation with USIU and became an independent secular law school.[8] In 1980, the new trimester system was announced, allowing two entering classes per academic year, reducing individual class size and allowing students the opportunity to graduate in two years rather than the standard three.[8]

In 1993, the law school opened a new administrative and campus center at 225 Cedar Street, housing faculty and administration offices, including: student services, admissions, and financial aid.[8]

In January 2000, California Western opened a new law library building at 290 Cedar Street, which was dedicated by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.[8] The current dean, Niels B. Schaumann, joined the law school in 2012.[10]


In December 2012, National Jurist magazine ranked California Western among the top 40 law schools in the nation for diversity. At number 35, California Western was the highest-ranking law school in San Diego for student and faculty diversity; 58 percent of entering students were women.[11][12]

California Western was ranked within the top ten law schools for diversity in U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 Law School Diversity Index.[13][14]

In 2019, the College Gazette honored California Western by ranking it number six in its ranking of the "Most Incredible Law Schools Outside the Ivy League." The College Gazette recognized CWSL's highly acclaimed STEPPS program as a client-attorney simulation course where students experience what it really takes to establish an ethical and successful practice in various fields of law. The College Gazette also recognized CWSL's Clinical Externship Program; "In this unique program, students are afforded the opportunity to work for law firms, public offices, or other arenas. This provides exceptionally valuable real-world experience prior to actually joining the ranks of professional law." [15][14]

USWNR ranked the school 10th for Diversity[13] and 53rd for "Best Law Schools, Part-time Law";[16]


The law school teaches the J.D. curriculum plus dual-degree programs, specifically:

California Western also offers the Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in Trial Advocacy with a Specialization in Federal Criminal Law as well as an M.C.L./LL.M. for foreign law students.

Programs and research centers[edit]

Research centers include:

  • The California Innocence Project,[17] part of the national network of innocence projects, is a nonprofit clinical program based at California Western in which law professors and students work to free wrongly convicted prisoners in California. The law students assist in the investigation of cases where there is strong evidence of innocence, write briefs in those cases, and advocate in all appropriate forums for the release of the project's clients. Founded in 1999, the California Innocence Project reviews more than 2,000 claims of innocence from California inmates each year.[18] The project was founded by Professors Justin Brooks and Jan Stiglitz and is currently directed by Prof. Brooks.[19]
  • William J. McGill Center for Creative Problem Solving
  • Institute for Criminal Defense Advocacy
  • National Center for Preventive Law

In 2004, California Western established the STEPPS (Skills Training for Ethical and Preventive Practice and career Satisfaction) Program, one of the first skills training and professionalism courses in the nation that provides students with a simulated lawyering experience supervised by working attorneys.[20][21]

Its Clinical Internship Program routinely places students in the U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. District Court, and U.S. Attorney's Offices, as well as numerous law firms in various sizes.[22]


The law school has 25 tenured faculty members, three faculty members on the tenure track and six legal skills professors. From 2010 to 2014, 28 tenured and tenure-track faculty members published 18 books, 15 book chapters, 55 law review articles and 75 other scholarly publications. Tenure-track or tenured faculty who were members of the faculty in the last seven years wrote 70 additional publications.

In 2013, the law school joined with Bepress to create its Scholarly Commons, an institutional repository for faculty scholarship.[23] (Bepress was created to provide open access to faculty scholarship. Its Digital Commons claims to be the leading hosted institutional repository software for educational institutions across the U.S.[24]) The repository was created to make faculty scholarship more widely available, especially on the internet, and to preserve the faculty's scholarship, publications, documents, and records in a systematic way.[25]

The law school created six endowed professorships to support faculty members in their research and scholarship and to recognize their leadership in legal education and the legal profession, nationally and internationally. California Western has also been named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the past five years.[26]

Faculty members have created programs such as the Pro Bono Honors Society,[27] Community Law Project,[28] and Access to Law Initiative[29] that organize and support students and recent graduates in providing legal services to underserved segments of the San Diego community.

Bar passage rates[edit]

The California Western bar passage rate for June 2017 was 65%, versus 70% for the California statewide average of ABA-accredited schools.[30] California Western met or surpassed the statewide bar pass rate on 14 of the last 17 state bar examinations.[30]


The total annual cost of full-time (30-51 units) attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses) at California Western School of Law for the 2018-2019 academic year is $77,360 for the JD program. For the LLM Comparative Law program, total costs in 2018-2019 total $53,596.[31] The median yearly grant for the 2016-2017 academic year was $21,500 for full-time students, with 92% of students receiving grants. 48% of students had grants covering more than half of tuition.[32]


According to California Western's official 2017 ABA-required disclosures, 53.8 percent of the graduating class of 2017 obtained full-time, long-term, J.D.-required employment nine months after graduation, excluding solo practitioners.[33]

ABA Employment Summary for 2017 Graduates[33]
Employment Status Percentage
Employed - Bar Passage Required
Employed - J.D. Advantage
Employed - Professional Position
Employed - Non-Professional Position
Employed - Undeterminable
Employed - Law School/University Funded
Pursuing Graduate Degree Full Time
Unemployed - Start Date Deferred
Unemployed - Not Seeking
Unemployed - Seeking
Employment Status Unknown
Total of 224 Graduates

Student debt[edit]

According to U.S. News & World Report, the average indebtedness of 2016 graduates who incurred law school debt was $143,592 (not including undergraduate debt), and 88% of 2016 graduates took on debt.[34]

California Western has been recognized in LendEDU's annual report on student loan default rates for having one of the lowest default rates of all of the law schools within the entire country. Specifically, the default rate at California Western was 0.70 percent according to the most recent data from the Department of Education as of December, 2019.[35][14]

Areas of concentration[edit]

California Western's areas of concentration provide education in the following areas:[36]


California Western has two major publications, the California Western Law Review and the California Western International Law Journal.[37]

Notable faculty[edit]

  • Justin Brooks, criminal defense attorney and director of the California Innocence Project
  • Ricardo Garcia, the 11th Public Defender for Los Angeles County

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Best Part Time Law Programs". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  2. ^ "California Western School of Law Official ABA Data" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-05-10. Retrieved 2016-07-08.
  3. ^ "California Western School of Law Official ABA Data" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-02-15. Retrieved 2008-07-17.
  4. ^ "Best Law Schools: California Western School of Law". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  5. ^ Rubino, Kathryn. "California Bar Exam Results: A Breakdown By Law School (July 2019)". Above the Law. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  6. ^ "ABA-Approved Law Schools by Year". ABA website. Retrieved April 20, 2011.
  7. ^ AALS Member Schools
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "California Western Mission and History". California Western School of law. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Alliant International University's History". Alliant International University. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  10. ^ "CWSoL: Dean Schaumann". Archived from the original on 2012-10-04. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  11. ^ "California Western Named Among Top 40 Law Schools in the Nation for Diversity". Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  12. ^ "National Jurist - November 2012". National Jurist. Archived from the original on December 13, 2012. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^ a b c
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "California Innocence Project". California Innocence Project. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  18. ^ "About CIP: What is the California Innocence Project?". California Innocence Project. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  19. ^ "Our Staff: Meet the Team". California Innocence Project. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  20. ^ "California Western: STEPPS Program". California Western School of Law. Retrieved Dec 5, 2016.
  21. ^ "40 Years of Lasting Impact: The Legacy of Our Retiring Faculty". Res Ipsa online. Summer 2016. Retrieved Dec 5, 2016.
  22. ^ "Clinical Internship Program". California Innocence Project. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  23. ^ "About Institutional Repositories". California Western School of Law. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  24. ^ "Digital Commons". bepress. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  25. ^ "California Western School of Law: Scholarly Commons". California Western School of Law. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  26. ^ "San Diego Source - News - San Diego - Law". San Diego Source. May 3, 2013. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  27. ^ "California Western Students Recognized for Contributions to Community". California Western Student News. April 4, 2014. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  28. ^ "California Western School of Law: Community Law Project". California Western School of Law. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  29. ^ "California Western School of Law: Access to Law Initiative". California Western School of Law. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  30. ^ a b "California Western School of Law: Bar Pass Rate Comparison". California Western School of Law. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  31. ^ "Tuition and Fees". California Western School of Law. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  32. ^ Standard 509 Form.
  33. ^ a b "ABA Disclosures (pdf)". Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ "California Western School of Law - Areas of Concentration". California Western School of Law. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  37. ^ "California Western School of Law - Law Reviews and Journals". California Western School of Law. Retrieved November 27, 2016.

External links[edit]