Monterey College of Law

Coordinates: 36°35′48″N 121°53′29″W / 36.59667°N 121.89139°W / 36.59667; -121.89139
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Monterey College of Law
School typePrivate Law School
DeanMitchel L. Winick
LocationSeaside, CA, US
36°35′48″N 121°53′29″W / 36.59667°N 121.89139°W / 36.59667; -121.89139
Faculty112 (Adjunct Only)
Bar pass rate53.7% (2020 Cumulative Pass Rate), 21% (October 2020 repeat takers)[1][2]
WebsiteMonterey College of Law

Monterey College of Law (MCL) is a private, non-profit law school founded in 1972 in Monterey, California. The school is approved by the Committee of Bar Examiners[4] of the State Bar of California but is not accredited by the American Bar Association.[5] As a result, while graduates of MCL can sit for the California Bar Exam, and upon passing, be licensed to practice law in California, they are generally not able to sit for the bar exam or practice in other states without at least passing the California bar exam first.[6] MCL has part-time evening J.D., Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.), and LL.M. degree programs.[7]


Monterey College of Law was founded in 1972 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit by a group of local lawyers and judges. The early years reflected a modest operation that frequently moved, using temporary rented classrooms in schools, churches, and the local Naval Postgraduate School. As founding Dean David Kirkpatrick once described, “the law school was in session when I pulled up to a rented classroom and carried the box of school supplies in from the trunk of my car.”[8] Leon Panetta served as the new law school's first tort law professor.[9]

In 1995, Dean Karen Kadushin negotiated a permanent home for the law school, obtaining 3.2 acres and two abandoned army buildings adjacent to California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) on the former Fort Ord.[10]  By 2005, Dean Frank Hespe  had converted the first of the two buildings into a 12,000 sq. ft. renovated classroom, library, and administration building within the higher-education enclave being developed on the former Fort Ord Army base,[11] joining CSUMB, Hartnell College, and the Monterey Peninsula College. In April 2010, the school opened its second building, a Certified LEED Platinum Community Justice Center[12] that became home to its clinical programs[13] and the Mandell Gisnet Center for Conflict Management.

In 2010, the law school opened a first-year satellite campus in Santa Cruz, California.[14] After successfully completing the first-year curriculum, Santa Cruz students commuted to the main campus in Seaside, California to complete their degree programs. In May 2020, upon adding and expanding an online Hybrid JD program, the Santa Cruz satellite campus was closed because local students could take classes online and not have to commute to Seaside for their upper-division courses.[15]

In early 2015, Monterey College of Law acquired the University of San Luis Obispo School of Law, a registered unaccredited law school formerly located in Morro Bay, California. The new law school became an approved branch of Monterey College of Law, was moved to a new campus in downtown San Luis Obispo, and was renamed the San Luis Obispo College of Law.[16][17] In 2017, the law school opened its second approved branch campus, Kern County College of Law in Bakersfield, California.[18] In July, 2022, Monterey reached an agreement, approved by the State Bar of California Committee of Bar Examiners to acquire the Empire College School of Law as a branch, pursuant to which Empire would transition from a for-profit, unaccredited law school, to a non-profit, accredited branch of Monterey, while retaining the Empire name.[19]

Curriculum and technology[edit]

MCL has part-time evening J.D., Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.), and LL.M. degree programs.[7] MCL was the first California-accredited law school authorized to offer a Master of Legal Studies degree, concurrent MLS/JD degrees, and an LL.M. advanced law degree.[20][non-primary source needed] In 2010, MCL became the first U.S. law school to provide iPads for every student and professor.[21] In 2017, the law school was one of the first two California accredited law schools and one of only a few law schools in the nation to be approved to offer an accredited online hybrid JD program.[15][better source needed]

Programs and clinics[edit]

Mandell Gisnet Center for Conflict Management[edit]

Bill Daniels, one of the founding “fathers” of the law school, facilitated the creation of the Mandell Gisnet Center for Conflict Management through a local bequest. Organized in 2004 by the founding executive director and current California State Senator Bill Monning, the Center has subsequently provided mediation certification and training for almost 1,000 law students, local lawyers, and community mediators.[citation needed] The Center coordinates the local court-directed mediation program, the Neighbor Project, and numerous other mediation programs for city, county, and community groups.

Community clinics[edit]

Started in 1992 by former Dean Marian Penn, the original Small Claims Advisory Clinic program has grown into more than a dozen different advisory clinics in which supervised law students provide free legal advisory services in the areas of small claims, conservatorship, guardianship, domestic violence, immigration, landlord/tenant, mediation, family law, neighbor disputes, elder law, collections, workers' compensation, social security, and probate law.[13][non-primary source needed]

Moot court[edit]

Since 1984, all students have participated in a Constitutional moot court program as part of the trial advocacy skills training during their final law school year.


Following the example of founding Dean David Kirkpatrick,[8] local lawyers, including Marian Penn, Joel Franklin, Rodney Jones, Al O’Connor, R. Lynn Davis, and Fred Herro served as part-time deans for the first twenty years. In 1995, Dean Karen Kadushin ushered in the era of full-time deans. Mitchel L. Winick, the current President and Dean of the law school, joined the school as Dean in August 2005.[22]

Bar exam passage[edit]

Fewer than eleven MCL alumni sat for the October 2020 California bar exam for the first time, so a school pass rate was not reported. Of the 29 MCL alumni who repeated the exam at that sitting, six, or 21%, passed.[23]

California Accredited Law Schools (CALS) must “maintain a minimum, [five-year] cumulative bar examination pass rate” of 40 percent or more, as calculated under Rule 4.160(N) and Guideline 12.1 of the Guidelines for Accredited Law School Rules. Monterey College of Law has had a Cumulative Pass Rate on the California Bar Exam of 47.9% in 2018, 54.3% in 2019, and 53.7% in 2020.[24]

The law school has been an outspoken advocate requesting that the California Supreme Court adjust the scoring of the California Bar Exam from an arbitrarily high minimum passing score (“cut score”) to a score closer to the national norm.[25][26] The California Supreme Court issued an order on August 10, 2020 adjusting the California “cut score” from 1440 to 1390, closer to the national mean of 1350.[27]


  1. ^ [bare URL PDF]
  2. ^ [bare URL PDF]
  3. ^ "Tuition & Financial Aid - Monterey College of Law". Archived from the original on 2020-08-11. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  4. ^ "Law Schools". The State Bar of California. 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  5. ^ "ABA-Approved Law Schools by Year". ABA website. Retrieved April 1, 2011.
  6. ^ "2020 Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements" (PDF).
  7. ^ a b "General Information - Monterey College of Law | Quality Legal Education". Monterey College of Law. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  8. ^ a b "Legal eagles: Monterey College of Law reflects on its first 40 years at graduation". Monterey Herald. 2016-05-29. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  9. ^ "Honorary Chair Leon Panetta". Monterey College of Law. Retrieved 2020-09-05.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Ord Forward". Ord Forward. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  11. ^ "An Evolution of BRAC Remedial Programs." Volume 1 No. 1. Fort Ord Reuse Authority. Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed July 17, 2010.
  12. ^ Kera Abraham (2010). "Monterey College of Law presents its ultra-green Community Justice Center". Monterey County Weekly. Archived from the original on January 28, 2013. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  13. ^ a b "Workshops - Monterey College of Law | Law School | Monterey, Ca". Monterey College of Law. Archived from the original on 2020-09-22. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  14. ^ "Monterey law school to open satellite campus in Santa Cruz". Retrieved 2017-11-01.
  15. ^ a b "Monterey College of Law Announces New Hybrid Online J.D. Degree Program". PRWeb. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  16. ^ Nick Wilson (2015). "SLO law school gets new owner". San Luis Obispo Tribune. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  17. ^ "Ready to practice: SLO College of Law graduates first class". New Times San Luis Obispo. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  18. ^ Perice, Harold. "New Kern County law school offers local 'nontraditional' students a path to a legal career". The Bakersfield Californian. Retrieved 2017-11-01.
  19. ^ "Monterey College of Law to Open Empire College of Law Branch Campus". July 25, 2022. Retrieved November 30, 2022.
  20. ^ "Degrees". Monterey College of Law. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  21. ^ Nagel, David (2010-08-25). "Monterey College of Law Pilots iPad Programs for Students and Faculty -". Campus Technology. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  22. ^ "Executive Profile - Mitchel L. Winick". Bloomberg. 24 June 2023.
  23. ^ "October 2020 California Bar Examination" (PDF). Retrieved 2021-05-18.
  24. ^ "2020 Cumulative Minimum Bar Examination Pass Rates (MPR) for California Accredited Law Schools" (PDF).
  25. ^ Marino, Pam (25 September 2017). "Monterey College of Law presses Supreme Court to lower state's bar exam scores". Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  26. ^ Winick, Mitchel. "Highest Performers but Lowest Pass Rate, There is Something Seriously Wrong in California".
  27. ^ "California Supreme Court makes changes to bar exam". Monterey Herald. 2020-07-22. Retrieved 2020-09-05.

External links[edit]