UCLA Law School was established in the 1940s as a more affordable alternative to the costly private law school at USC. Since accepting its first intake of 44 students in 1949, it’s grown to encompass a student body of other 1000, along with a faculty of over 100. Today, it’s widely regarded as one of the top law schools in the US, with an 18000 strong alumni that includes some of the best and brightest minds in the legal profession. Here are 20 things you might not know about UCLA Law School.
1. It’s one of the youngest law schools in America
The UCLA School of Law might be the third oldest of the five law schools in the University of California system, but it’s still one of the youngest law schools in the US. As law-school.laws.com explains, its relative youth (the school was founded as recently as the 1940s) has helped shape the school’s mode of education, with many faculty members and students finding the absence of deep-rooted traditions beneficial to a progressive and contemporary approach to education.
2. It was a fight to found
The UCLA School of Law might be one of the most prestigious professional schools in the country today, but 70 years ago, it took a major fight to turn it from an idea into a reality. Its story started in the 1930s, when a push to start a law school at UCLA was thwarted by then UC President Robert Gordon Sprout. A decade later, Assemblyman William Rosenthal of Boyle Heights pushed through a motion to launch a public law school in Southern California that could provide a more affordable and egalitarian alternative to the private, prohibitively expensive law school at USC. His first attempt failed, but after his second attempt drew support from the State Bar of California, California Gov. Earl Warren authorized a bill for $1 million to build a new law school on the UCLA campus.
3. It opened its doors in 1949
After the UCLA School of Law was authorized in 1947, it took another two years for it to start admitting students (largely as a result of the problems it had in finding a dean). It finally managed to resolve its teething problems in time to admit its first intake of students in 1949. The first class, which included five women and several military veterans, was held in temporary barracks behind Royce Hall while construction of the main law school building was still in progress. The university building was finally completed in 1951, with the 44 members of the inaugural class graduating the following year.
4. It’s located on the UCLA campus
The UCLA School of Law may have got its start in what basically amounted to a shed at the back of Royce Hall, but these days, it occupies a much grander setting. Located in the Westwood area of Los Angeles, it’s spread over a three-story brick building on the UCLA campus. Its impressive library is housed in a four-story tower, while a few administrative offices, including the Office of Graduate Studies and International Programs, the Office of Career Services, and the Office of Admissions, can be found in Dodd Hall next to the main building.
5. Finding its first dean proved a challenge
Getting the go-ahead to build a public law school in California proved difficult enough, but even after the measure had been approved, there were still several difficulties to overcome. The main challenge turned out to be finding the first dean, which, according to Wikipedia, ended up delaying the school’s opening by a year. The problem, as it so often does, came down to a simple difference in opinion. The Regents of the University of California was primarily concerned with how the new dean voted; the UCLA’s Law School Planning Committee was more concerned with their accomplishments. In the end, they settled on L Dale Coffman, the then dean of Vanderbilt University Law School. Coffman satisfied UCLA’s Law School Planning Committee merit-based criteria, while also relieving the Regents of the University of California’s concerns about the school being taken over by a bunch of communists.
6. It got off to a bumpy start
After a year-long search to find a dean, everyone thought they’d found their man in L Dale Coffman. As it turned out, they’d just found a major pain in the proverbial. it started out well enough, with Coffman using his contacts in the education sector to hire several highly regarded faculty members. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before his ‘challenging’ personality started to make its presence felt. By 1955, the faculty had had enough, resulting in a memorandum being sent to Chancellor Raymond B. Allen claiming that Coffman’s refusal to hire Jewish faculty or anyone he perceived as having leftist tendencies, combined with his vindictive and abrasive nature, was having a detrimental impact on the school’s reputation. The Chancellor agreed and Coffman was stripped of his deanship.
7. It’s one of twelve professional schools at UCLA
UCLA has 12 professional schools, including the UCLA School of Law. Six of the schools (the School of the Arts and Architecture, Samueli School of Engineering, Herb Alpert School of Music, School of Nursing, Luskin School of Public Affairs, and School of Theater, Film, and Television) all offer undergraduate degree programs. The other schools include the David Geffen School of Medicine, School of Dentistry, and Fielding School of Public Health, all of which offer professional health science graduate degree programs, and The School of Education & Information Studies and Anderson School of Management.
8. It’s one of the top law schools in the country
Ever since the U.S. News & World Report started ranking law schools in 1987, UCLA Law School has consistently ranked among the top 20 law schools in the US. According to the latest ranking from 2021, the school is currently the 14th highest rating law school in the US, ranking 4th for environmental law, 7th in trial advocacy, 8th in corporate law, 8th in tax law, and 10th in criminal law. According to the Hollywood Reporter, it also ranks as the top school in the country for entertainment law.
9. The current dean is Jennifer L. Mnookin
UCLA School of Law’s current dean is Jennifer L. Mnookin. Mnookin joined the UCLA Law faculty in 2005 and was awarded the status of dean in 2015. She is the school’s third female dean, and ninth dean in total. Mnookin earned a Ph.D. in History and Social Study of Science and Technology from M.I.T, her J.D. from Yale Law School, and her A.B. from Harvard University. Before joining UCLA Law School, Mnookin served as professor of law and Barron F. Black Research Professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. She has published numerous articles on forensic science and co-authored the evidence treatises, The New Wigmore, A Treatise on Evidence: Expert Evidence and Modern Scientific Evidence: The Law and Science of Expert Testimony.
10. It publishes several journals and law reviews
The UCLA School of Law publishes several reviews and journals, including the top-ranked UCLA Law Review, a bi-monthly publication founded in 1953. Other publications include UCLA Asian/Pacific American Law Journal; UCLA Chicanx-Latinx Law Review; UCLA Criminal Justice Law Review; UCLA Disability Law Journal; UCLA Dukeminier Awards Journal of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Lawl UCLA Entertainment Law Review; UCLA Indigenous Peoples’ Journal of Law, Culture & Resistance; UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy; UCLA Journal of International Law & Foreign Affairs; UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law; UCLA Journal of Law & Technology; UCLA National Black Law Journal; UCLA Pacific Basin Law Journal; and UCLA Women’s Law Journal.
11. It believes in learning by doing
Although theory does, of course, have a place in the UCLA School of Law’s curriculum, the school has a very experiential approach to education. As a big believer in the concept of learning by doing, it offers students the chance to hone their skills by offering direct representation to clients who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford legal services, including veterans, the homeless, and indigent people. It also provides representation to up-and-coming performers and journalists via the Documentary Film Legal Clinic and Music Industry Clinic.
12. It offers several joint degree programs
Students at the UCLA School of Law can choose to focus on one of several legal specialisms, including Business Law and Policy, Entertainment Law, Environmental Law, Public Interest Law, Critical Race Studies, and Law and Philosophy. Students who wish to combine their legal studies with another discipline have the option to take one of the school’s joint degree programs. The programs involve four years of study and result in a Juris Doctor along with a master’s degree in the student’s other choice of subject, which can be Afro-American Studies, American Indian Studies, Law and Management, Public Health, Public Policy, Philosophy, Social Welfare, and Urban Planning.
13. It offers a J.D program and an L.L.M. program
The majority of students at UCLA School of Law are enrolled in its Juris Doctor (J.D.) program, but the school also offers several other programs to choose between. While the J.D. program is designed for students who wish to launch careers as lawyer or advocates, the Master of Laws (LL.M.) program is ideal for existing lawyers who wish to take their studies further, as well as lawyers who’ve obtained their qualification abroad but who wish to take the California Bar Exam. The Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) program is designed for students who’ve already earned their J.D. and wish to become law professors, while the Master of Legal Studies is designed for students who don’t wish to gain a full law degree but whose professions require some form of legal education.
14. Most of its students are residents of California
UCLA School of Law has around 1000 students studying for a J.D. Another 200 students are enrolled in its Master of Laws program. As of 2021, the student body is 56% female and 44% male. 55% are residents of California and 49% are students of color. 10% majored in engineering, technology, science, or math, and another 15% are the first members of their family to graduate college.
15. It appointed its first female dean in 1982
In 1982, UCLA Law School appointed its first female dean, Susan Westerberg Prager. Not only was Prager the first female dean at the school, but she was also the first UCLA graduate to serve in the post, and one of only two female deans across the entire country. She served as dean until 1998 – the longest tenure of a law dean in UCLA history. The school has appointed two further female deans since – Rachel Moran, who served from 2010 to 2015, and the current dean Jennifer Mnookin, who was appointed as Moran’s successor in 2015.
16. It hosts an annual awards ceremony
Each year since 1962, UCLA School of Law has honored UCLA graduates who’ve made significant contributions to their professions and communities via the UCLA School of Law Awards. The school also hosts various other events and programs for alumni, including reunions, student mentoring schemes, an alumni ambassador program, and various other programs designed to encourage lifelong participation and engagement with the school.
17. It has numerous notable alumni
The UCLA School of Law has been producing a steady stream of talent for years. Some of its most famous alumni include Kelly Perdew, who won the second series of the TV series “The Apprentice,” and Henry Waxman, a U.S. Representative from California.
18. It’s expensive
The UCLA School of Law was originally designed to serve as an affordable alternative to Southern California’s private law school at USC. But times change and prices rise – these days, the cost of getting an education at the UCLA School of Law will set you back $50,624 (in-state) and $56,223 (out-of-state).
19. Nearly 8000 students applied in 2021
As the UCLA School of Law’s reputation has grown, so has the number of students applying to get a place. In 2021, 7,976 students applied, only 366 of whom got in. Although the enrollment number seems very low, it’s actually on a par with other law schools of similar status – according to collegegazette.com, for example, Northwestern University’s Pritzker Law School has a tiny 22.58% acceptance rate while Georgetown University’s Law Center’s rate is even lower at just 21.2%.
20. Only the smartest students get in
Considering the UCLA School of Law is one of the top law schools in the country, it can afford to be picky. Any student who dreams of studying there will need to hit the books – in 2021, the average LSAT score for members of the entering class was 170 and the average GPA was 3.82.