California Western School of Law

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California Western School of Law
California Western School of Law Logo.jpg
School typePrivate law school
DeanSean Megan Scott[2]
LocationSan Diego, California, United States
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 ranking147th–193rd[1]
Bar pass rate55% (February 2020)[5]
ABA profileCalifornia Western Profile

California Western School of Law is a private law school in San Diego, California. It is one of two successor organizations to California Western University, the other being Alliant International University. The school was founded in 1924, 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 is San Diego's oldest law school and was originally chartered in 1924[8] by Leland Ghent Stanford as a private graduate institution called Balboa Law College. [9] Balboa Law College expanded to include undergraduate and other graduate studies and changed its name to Balboa University.[9]

In 1952, Balboa University became affiliated with the Southern California Methodist Conference and changed its name to California Western University, and the law school was relocated to downtown, San Diego. In 1960 California Western received approval from the American Bar Association.[8]In 1973, the law school relocated within downtown San Diego to its current downtown campus at 350 Cedar Street.[8] In 1975, the school ended its affiliation with Cal Western's successor school, US International University, 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 January 2000, California Western opened a new law library building at 290 Cedar Street, dedicated by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.[8]

Sean M. Scott [10] was named the school's new president and dean in August of 2020.[2]


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.


In U.S. News and World Report's 2020 Best Law Schools rankings, California Western ranked in top 10 for its diversity. CWSL was ranked within the top ten law schools for diversity in U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 Law School Diversity Index.[11][12] Its overall rank was 148-194.[13]

In December 2012, National Jurist magazine ranked the school 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.[14][15]

CWSL ranked 14th in the nation for "The Best Law Schools for Female Representation" published by Enjuris.[16] Enjuris compiled the law school rankings by Female Enrollment's 2017 report, which indicates how many women attend which ABA law schools.[17] In 2019, Cal Western received an A+ diversity rating and ranked number 18 in the nation for diversity by The National Jurist[18]

Programs and research centers[edit]

Research centers include:

  • The California Innocence Project,[19] 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.[20] The project was founded by Professors Justin Brooks and Jan Stiglitz and is currently directed by Prof. Brooks.[21]
  • 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.[22][23]

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.[24]


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.

The law school created six endowed professorships to support faculty members in their research and scholarship. California Western has also been named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the past five years.[25]

Faculty members have created programs such as the Pro Bono Honors Society,[26] Community Law Project,[27] and Access to Law Initiative[28] that organize and support students and recent graduates in providing legal services to underserved segments of the San Diego community.

Bar passage rates[edit]

CWSL's February of 2020 pass rate was 55%, versus 43% for the California statewide average of ABA-accredited schools.[29] It met or surpassed the statewide bar pass rate on 14 of the last 17 state bar examinations.[29]

In 2014, The San Diego Daily Transcript praised the school for its Bar pass rate; its graduates passed the CA Bar at a rate of 71.3 percent -far surpassing the average performance for all of the 21 ABA-approved schools in the state. [30]


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.[31]

ABA Employment Summary for 2017 Graduates[31]
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.[32]


California Western has two major publications, the California Western Law Review and the California Western International Law Journal.[33]

Notable people[edit]



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


  1. ^ a b "Best Part Time Law Programs". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Two African American Women Appointed to Dean Positions at Law Schools in the United States". 13 January 2020.
  3. ^ "California Western School of Law Official ABA Data" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-05-10. Retrieved 2016-07-08.
  4. ^ "California Western School of Law Official ABA Data" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-02-15. Retrieved 2008-07-17.
  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 "California Western Mission and History". California Western School of law. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  9. ^ a b "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. ^
  12. ^ "California Western Hits High Spots in Recent Reports".
  13. ^
  14. ^ "California Western Named Among Top 40 Law Schools in the Nation for Diversity". Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  15. ^ "National Jurist - November 2012". National Jurist. Archived from the original on December 13, 2012. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  16. ^ "Top 20 Law Schools by Female Enrollment (Report)". 25 March 2018.
  17. ^ "Law School Rankings by Female Enrollment, Gender Ratios".
  18. ^ <
  19. ^ "California Innocence Project". Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  20. ^ "About CIP: What is the California Innocence Project?". California Innocence Project. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  21. ^ "Our Staff: Meet the Team". California Innocence Project. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  22. ^ "California Western: STEPPS Program". California Western School of Law. Retrieved Dec 5, 2016.
  23. ^ "40 Years of Lasting Impact: The Legacy of Our Retiring Faculty". Res Ipsa online. Summer 2016. Retrieved Dec 5, 2016.
  24. ^ "Clinical Internship Program". California Innocence Project. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  25. ^ "San Diego Source - News - San Diego - Law". San Diego Source. May 3, 2013. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  26. ^ "California Western Students Recognized for Contributions to Community". California Western Student News. April 4, 2014. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  27. ^ "California Western School of Law: Community Law Project". California Western School of Law. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  28. ^ "California Western School of Law: Access to Law Initiative". California Western School of Law. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  29. ^ a b "California Western School of Law: Bar Pass Rate Comparison". California Western School of Law. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  30. ^ Palen, James; Transcript, The Daily (April 30, 2015). "Law schools question bar exam scoring transparency". The Daily Transcript.
  31. ^ a b "ABA Disclosures (pdf)". Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  32. ^
  33. ^ "California Western School of Law - Law Reviews and Journals". California Western School of Law. Retrieved November 27, 2016.

External links[edit]