UC Berkeley School of Law

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University of California, Berkeley School of Law
UC Berkeley School of Law logo (2020).png
MottoFiat lux (Latin); Let there be light (English)
Parent schoolUniversity of California, Berkeley
School typePublic
Parent endowment$4.3 billion (2017)[3]
DeanErwin Chemerinsky
LocationBerkeley, California, U.S.
Faculty119 (Full- and part-time)[1]
USNWR ranking9th[1]
Bar pass rate91%[4]

The University of California, Berkeley School of Law (commonly known as Berkeley Law or UC Berkeley School of Law, and formerly known as the Boalt Hall School of Law) is one of 14 schools and colleges at the University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley Law is consistently ranked within the top 10 law schools in the United States and the world and within the top three public law schools in the United States.[5]

In 2018, 97% of graduates obtained full-time jobs within ten months, the school's bar passage rate was 91%, and the median salary of graduates was $180,000.[4] The law school offers J.D., LL.M., J.S.D. and Ph.D degrees, and enrolls roughly 320 to 330 J.D. students in each entering class per year, with each class being further broken down into smaller groups that take courses together.

Berkeley Law has produced notable federal judges, politicians, Fortune 500 executives, noted legal academics and civil rights experts. Prominent alumni include Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and Chair of the Federal Reserve G. William Miller, Mayor of San Francisco Ed Lee, Mozilla Corporation CEO Mitchell Baker, Dallas Mavericks CEO Terdema Ussery, and Nuremberg Trials prosecutor Whitney Robson Harris.


The Law Building and the South Pavilion (in foreground) following construction work completed in 2012.

The school that is today known as Berkeley Law began life as the "University of California Department of Jurisprudence" in 1894. In 1912, the institution moved into the then newly built Boalt Memorial Hall of Law at the center of the main UC Berkeley campus.[6] This building was completed in 1911 with funds partially obtained from Elizabeth Josselyn Boalt donated in memory of her late husband, John Henry Boalt, an attorney who had resided in Oakland, California until his death in 1901. As a result of the donation and this new building, the institution became known as the "Boalt Hall School of Jurisprudence".

In 1951, the law school moved to its current location in the southeastern section of the UC Berkeley campus. This law building was christened as the new "Boalt Hall", while the old law school building was renamed to "Durant Hall". Durant Hall was subsequently rehabilitated and is still used today primarily as office space for university administration. With this move, the institution was renamed as the "Boalt Hall School of Law".

In April 2008, the law school rebranded itself[7] through an official change of name to "UC Berkeley School of Law" (shortened to "Berkeley Law") to tie the law school's name more closely with its parent university. The administration hoped that this would improve the law school's national and international name recognition, as many individuals knew UC Berkeley had a law school but were often confused as to whether the name "Boalt Hall" referred to a separate institution. Despite the official name change, "Boalt Hall" continued to be used as the name of the law school's primary building and to refer to the law school informally for another 12 years.[8][9]

By 2009, Berkeley Law was desperately short of space because the faculty had increased by about 25 percent over the past four years.[10] The law school launched a multi-year renovation and expansion project which was eventually completed in 2012. The most important improvement was to relocate and expand the law library into an underground facility under a new South Pavilion.[10] Since the mid-1990s, the law library stacks had been crammed into conventional shelving in the law school's North Addition. Construction contractors dug a deep hole in the middle of the law school's courtyard, put the law library stacks two levels underground, and installed powered compact shelving units that move at the touch of a button.[11] At ground level, they built a glass pavilion housing classrooms, a student lounge, and a cafe, all of which is topped off by a rooftop garden accessible by a second-floor bridge.[11] The North Addition is now home to the Robbins Collection (a separate library of religious and civil law materials) and the Visiting Scholar Program.

In January 2020, Berkeley Law completely removed the name "Boalt Hall" from its primary law school building and in all references made to the law school.[12] The de-naming was the outcome of a nearly three-year process launched after a UC Berkeley lecturer discovered writings by John Henry Boalt expressing flagrantly racist views.[12] In an e-mail sent to the university at the time, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ wrote, "Boalt made profoundly offensive and racist statements about Chinese and Chinese Americans, suggesting that it would be better to 'exterminate' those of Chinese descent than to have them assimilate."[12] The university also found that Boalt had no other historical legacy than his racism, and that naming the building after him had not been a condition of his widow's donation.[12] This was the first time in UC Berkeley's history that the name of a building had been removed because its namesake's values did not align with those of the university.[12] Going forward, the law school building will now be known simply as the Law Building.[12] (UCLA and UC Irvine have always used the term "Law Building" to describe the homes of their respective law schools.)


The J.D. program's admissions process is highly selective, with Berkeley Law admitting 20.2% of all applicants who applied in 2019. [13] Berkeley Law is known to value high undergraduate GPAs. The 25th and 75th Law School Admission Test (LSAT) percentiles for the Class of 2022 were 165 and 170, respectively, with a median of 168. The 25th and 75th undergraduate GPA percentiles were 3.64 and 3.90, respectively, with a median of 3.81.[14]

For a typical class in the J.D. program, the average age of admitted students is 25 years old, with a range of ages from 20 to 48 years old. The student-faculty ratio is nearly 6:1. Berkeley Law is unique among most law schools for having a class usually composed of 60% women and 40% men.[15]


Berkeley Law's North Addition, which was constructed in 1996.

Berkeley Law has approximately 850 J.D. students, 200 students in the LL.M. and J.S.D. programs, and 45 students in the Ph.D. program in Jurisprudence and Social Policy. The School also features specialized curricular programs in Business, Law and Economics, Comparative Legal Studies, Environmental Law, International Legal Studies, Law and Technology, and Social Justice.

Berkeley Law's grading system for the J.D. program is unusual among most law schools but similar to the grading system used at Yale Law School, Harvard Law School, and Stanford Law School. Students are graded on a High Honors (HH), Honors (H), and Pass (P) scale. Approximately 60% of the students in each class receive a grade of Pass, 30% receive a grade of Honors, and the highest 10% receive a grade of High Honors; lower grades of Substandard Pass (or Pass Conditional, abbreviated PC) and No Credit (NC) may be awarded at the discretion of professors. The top student in each class or section receives the Jurisprudence Award, while the second-place student receives the Prosser Prize.

The faculty of Berkeley Law also provide academic direction and the bulk of the instruction for the undergraduate program in Legal Studies, which is organized as a major in Letters and Science. The Legal Studies program is not intended as a pre-law program, but rather as a liberal arts program "that can encourage sustained reflection on fundamental values."[16]

Berkeley Law has a chapter of the Order of the Coif, a national law school honorary society founded for the purposes of encouraging legal scholarship and advancing the ethical standards of the legal profession.[17]

The law school has been American Bar Association approved since 1923.[18] It joined the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) in 1912.[19]

Berkeley Law offers combined degree programs with other schools within both the UC Berkeley campus and the broader University of California system, as well as joint master's degrees with Tufts University and Harvard University.[20]

Post-graduation employment[edit]

In 2018, the school's bar passage rate was 90.9%.[21]

According to Berkeley's official ABA-required disclosures, over 90 percent of 2018 graduates obtained full-time, long-term, bar admission-required employment nine months after graduation.[22]

Employment Summary[23]
Employment Status Percentage
Law firm
Judicial clerkship
Public Interest
Class of 2018 Outcomes Ten Months after Graduation


The western entrance to the law school, featuring a quotation from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo in raised lettering. The law school's present facilities were first constructed in 1951.

Since the inception of the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings in the late 1980s, Berkeley Law has consistently ranked within the prestigious "T14" (top 14) group of schools. For the 2020–2021 academic year, USNWR ranked Berkeley Law as the ninth-best law school in the United States, tied with the University of Michigan Law School and Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. In addition, USNWR ranked Berkeley Law ranked first in IP and environmental law, third-best in criminal and contract law, fourth-best in corporate law, and seventh-best in constitutional law.[5]

In 2020, QS World Rankings ranked Berkeley Law as the seventh-best law school in the world.[24]

Berkeley Law's flagship law review, the California Law Review, is ranked seventh in the United States.[25]

According to Brian Leiter's 2012 scholarly impact study, Berkeley Law ranks seventh in terms of scholarly impact as measured by the percentage of tenured faculty represented in specific specialty areas.[26]


Berkeley Law's tuition has increased in recent years. Currently, tuition and fees are $49,364 per year (in-state) and $53,315 per year (out-of-state). Most out-of-state students may claim in-state status in their second year of study.[27]

The total cost of attendance (adding estimated living expenses to the aforementioned tuition and fees) at Berkeley Law for the 2018–2019 academic year is $85,315 for California residents and $89,266 for non-residents.[28] The Law School Transparency estimated debt-financed cost of attendance for three years is $282,442 for residents and $296,694 for non-residents.[29]

For students working in public interest law who will earn less than $70,000 annually, Berkeley Law offers a ten-year loan repayment assistance program (LRAP).[15]

Scholarships are offered on the basis of both merit and need. Named prizes include the Berkeley Law Opportunity Scholarship, which provides full tuition to first-generation college students, and the Hyundai-Kia Scholarships, which are given to students who demonstrate sustained and unique interest in law and technology. Stipends are also awarded for summer public service internships.[15]

Centers and Institutes[edit]

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay from the law school.

Berkeley Law hosts over 21 centers, six primary clinics, and a five-area domestic and international field placement program for experiential learning in specific areas of the law.[15] These institutes are located both on the UC Berkeley campus and in other regions of the greater San Francisco Bay Area, and are often conducted through partnerships with attorneys, interest groups, law firms, and corporations throughout Northern California and the United States. In addition to these centers, students are given the ability and funding to create "SLPs", or student-initiated legal services projects.

Business and Economics[edit]

The Berkeley Center for Law and Business was established in 2004 and is the Law School's focal point for experiential learning in corporate law. It focus on issues of corporate governance, mergers and acquisitions, financial fraud prosecution, capital markets, cybersecurity, antitrust compliance, and venture capital investments. The program also hosts the joint J.D./M.B.A. degree with Berkeley Law's adjoining Haas School of Business and national competitions for corporate negotiation.[30][31]

Other centers in business law include the Robert D. Burch Center for Tax Policy and Public Finance (established in 1994) and the Law, Economics, and Politics Center.

Constitutional, Regulatory, and Policy[edit]

Constitutional and regulatory law centers at Berkeley include the new Berkeley Center for Consumer Law and Economic Justice that was founded in 2018, the Berkeley Judicial Institute, and the California Constitution Center, which is the only non-profit organization dedicated to the study of the Constitution of California.[32] In addition to housing chapters of the American Constitution Society and The Federalist Society, the Law School enables interested students to spend a semester studying constitutional and regulatory law at the University of California's Washington campus, and hosts civil field placements and externships with the offices of various judges, United States Attorneys, Attorneys General, and other government offices.

Other policy centers the Law School include the Center for the Study of Law and Society (established in 1961), the Kadish Center for Morality, Law and Public Affairs (established in 2000), a center dedicated to data on redistricting and voting rights, and the Institute for Legal Research.

Criminal Justice and Public Interest[edit]

The University's criminal justice learning centers include the on-campus Thelton Henderson Center for Social Justice (established in 1999), Death Penalty Clinic (founded in 2001), the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice (established in 2006), the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity, the Center on Race, Sexuality and Culture, the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice, the Policy Advocacy Clinic, the Civil Justice Research Initiative, and the Domestic Violence Practicum.[33][34] Many clinics, externships, field placements, and programs within these centers are hosted in partnership with the nearby East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) in Oakland, California, which provides legal aid for disadvantaged Alameda County residents. Students can work with the EBCLC on issues such as juvenile justice, expungement of minor crimes, housing law, tax assistance, and small business establishment.


The Center for Law, Energy & the Environment and the Environmental Law Clinic[35] focus on legal solutions to climate change, sustainable power use, renewable energy, and ocean health.

International and Comparative[edit]

Berkeley Law's international law program encompasses the International Human Rights Law Clinic (established in 1998), the Human Rights Center, the Robbins Collection, and an LL.M. program.[36] These organizations and programs develop policy solutions for human rights causes, promote global human rights and international justice through advocacy, investigate war crimes and serious violations of human rights, and sponsor comparative research and study in the fields of religious and civil law. The Human Rights Center previously won a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. In addition, the centers in this area train students for moot court competitions focused on international law.

Other international law centers within Berkeley Law include the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies and the Korea Law Center.


David Estrada '93, former Chief Legal Officer at GoogleX and editor of the Berkeley Technology Law Jorunal

The Berkeley Center for Law and Technology was established in 1996. Issues addressed by this center and its affiliates, such as the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic (founded in 2000) and the Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law, include intellectual property, privacy, patents, healthcare law, and digital entertainment.[37]

Law journals[edit]

California Law Review[edit]

Terdema Ussery '87, former president and CEO of the Dallas Mavericks who served as Executive Editor of the California Law Review.
Nicole Wong '95, Chief Technology Officer of the United States (2013–2014) and co-founder of Berkeley Law's Asian American Law Journal

Established in 1912, the California Law Review is the flagship journal of Berkeley Law. The application process consists of an anonymous write-on competition, with grades playing no role in the consideration of membership. A personal statement is also considered.

Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law[edit]

Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law was first established in 2000. The journal publishes work concerning emerging issues of both substantive and procedural criminal law, as well as criminal justice issues unique to California and the Western United States. The journal publishes a fall edition in January and a spring edition in June every year and is completely digital.

Berkeley Journal of Employment & Labor Law[edit]

Berkeley Journal of Employment & Labor Law was first established in 1975 and publishes articles focusing on current developments in labor and employment law. Typical articles in the journal cover legal issues dealing with employment discrimination, "traditional" labor law, public sector employment, international and comparative labor law, employee benefits, and the evolution of the doctrine of wrongful termination. In addition to scholarly articles, the journal includes student-authored comments, book reviews and essays. It is published twice a year.

Berkeley Journal of International Law[edit]

Berkeley Journal of International Law was first established in 1982 and covers public and private international law and comparative law. It also publishes reviews of new books in the field, and is published twice yearly.

Berkeley Technology Law Journal[edit]

Berkeley Technology Law Journal began in 1986 and covers emerging issues of law in the areas of intellectual property, cyber law, information law, biotechnology, antitrust, and telecommunications law. The journal appears quarterly.

Ecology Law Quarterly[edit]

Ecology Law Quarterly began in 1971 and is Berkeley Law's journal focusing on environmental and energy law. Analysis in the journal includes short-form commentary and analysis of court decisions and policies relating to environmental law.

Other journals[edit]

Other student-run legal publications include the Asian American Law Journal, Berkeley Business Law Journal, Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy, Berkeley Journal of Entertainment & Sports Law, Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice, Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern & Islamic Law, and Berkeley La Raza Law Journal.


Berkeley Law has produced a substantial number of prominent alumni at all levels of government, jurisprudence, business, legal practice, academia, and society. For a full register of all notable Berkeley Law graduates, see this list of Berkeley Law alumni.

In domestic government and politics, the law school has produced numerous influential individuals from both the Democratic Party and Republican Party. Several state governors and United States Senators, including Earl Warren and Pete Wilson of California and Neil Goldschmidt of Oregon, are graduates of Berkeley Law. The law school has also graduated a substantial number of officials who have served at the U.S. Cabinet level. Included are U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who served in the Kennedy administration and Johnson administration, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and Chairman of the Federal Reserve G. William Miller, who served in the Carter administration, and U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III, who served in the Reagan administration. Beyond these individuals, many Berkeley graduates have had the opportunity to work in the U.S. federal government in various prominent roles, including as Assistant U.S. Attorney General, Solicitor General of the United States, Assistant Secretary of State, U.S. ambassador, United States Attorney, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, cabinet undersecretaries, Chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and members of the United States Congress. Moreover, Berkeley Law has also produced a substantial number of graduates who have served as state attorneys general, state cabinet officers, members of state legislatures, mayors, and city attorneys across the United States.

Berkeley Law has also produced various international leaders, including Nuremberg Trials prosecutor Whitney Robson Harris and Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Wissanu Krea-ngam.

On the judicial bench, Berkeley Law has produced a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Earl Warren, and scores of federal appellate and district judges, state supreme court justices, and international arbitrators. These graduates encompass current influential federal judges Miranda Du, Amul Thapar, Vince Chhabria, Marsha S. Berzon, and Evan Wallach. In international courts, alumni include High Court judge Sir Rabinder Singh, the highest-ranking judge of Asian descent in British history, and Reynato S. Puno, the former Chief Justice of the Philippines.

Among dozens of prominent Berkeley Law graduates in academia are international arbitrator David Caron, William and Mary Law School professor Nancy Combs, and Upendra Baxi, who has served as a dean or professor at over nine law schools in India, the United Kingdom and the United States.

And within the business, journalism and nonprofit sectors, Berkeley Law has taught significant numbers of students who have gone on to become CEOs and general counsels for Fortune 500 companies and other businesses, executives and founders of NGOs, and award-winning journalists. Included are Paula Boggs, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Starbucks Corporation, Jess Bravin of The Wall Street Journal, Mitchell Baker, current CEO and Executive Chair of the Mozilla Corporation, and James Cavallaro, who served as President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.


Goodwin Liu, Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court and Berkeley Law professor

In popular culture[edit]

  • Billy McBride, the attorney protagonist of the Amazon series Goliath played by Billy Bob Thornton (and which Thornton won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama for portraying) is a Berkeley Law alumnus. In Season 3, Episode 4, "Full Circle", McBride goes through a box of law school mementos that include a page-flagged Constitutional Law casebook and a folded-up piece of paper with the words "Boalt Hall" on it. Also in Season 2, Episode 1, "La Mano", a "University of California" diploma can be seen hanging from the wall of McBride's makeshift office (that operates out of a room in the Ocean Lodge Hotel). By the process of elimination, this is a law degree diploma because in the pilot (Season 1, Episode 1, "Of Mice and Men"), McBride mentions he "went to college" at, and graduated with an undergraduate degree from Indiana University (where he also played baseball). The series creator Jonathan Shapiro is a Berkeley Law alumnus as well.
  • Sandy Cohen, a character on the popular television series The O.C., is a lawyer and Berkeley Law alumnus. "The O.C. at Boalt" is a student group that, in addition to screening episodes of The O.C. during the lunch period, offers the Sandy Cohen Fellowship, a summer grant for students who plan to work as public defenders (on The O.C., Sandy Cohen worked as a public defender while living in Orange County). In recent years, "The O.C. at Boalt" has also managed to bring Peter Gallagher, the actor who plays Sandy Cohen, to UC Berkeley School of Law to speak on an annual basis.
  • Matthew Perry played a Republican graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law on multiple episodes of The West Wing.
  • Kelly Rutherford played lawyer Samantha "Sonny" Liston, a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law, on E-Ring.
  • Joanie Caucus, a character in Garry Trudeau's comic strip Doonesbury, attended UC Berkeley School of Law.
  • In Catch Me If You Can, Martin Sheen plays Roger Strong, the District Attorney of New Orleans and a UC Berkeley School of Law alumnus.
  • In the movie Intolerable Cruelty, a copy of the California Law Review is featured prominently on a table in the senior partner's office.
  • Judy Carrier, a major continuing character in Lisa Scottoline's novels about Rosato & Associates— an all-woman law firm in Philadelphia, received her degree from UC Berkeley School of Law.
  • Pete Harrison, played by Bradley Whitford, was the leading role in the hit show "Trophy Wife", and was a Berkeley Law graduate. He dons a Berkeley Law sweatshirt in the first season.


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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°52′11″N 122°15′12″W / 37.86986°N 122.25339°W / 37.86986; -122.25339