California Western School of Law: Law School in San Diego


California Western School of Law is committed to using the law to solve human and societal problems. Our mission is to train ethical, competent and compassionate lawyers, representative of our diverse society, who can use the law effectively and creatively.

We recognize that, in the 21st century, the rapid rate of change will accelerate and create further problems. We also recognize the pervasive perception, and partial reality, that the legal system and lawyers have helped to create, rather than solve, the problems our evolving society confronts.

California Western School of Law
California Western School of Law Library

While continuing to graduate lawyers well-equipped to practice law, we also seek to graduate creative problem solvers committed to the improvement of our legal system and society. Our graduates will not merely react to problems, but will anticipate them and be ready to devise innovative and responsible solutions to serve the needs of their clients and the broader community.

Further, by contributing to legal scholarship, participating in public deliberations about legal matters and serving as a community legal education resource, California Western School of Law will make significant, measurable contributions to the solution of problems in our community, our society and our world.


California Western School of Law, located in downtown San Diego, is among the few independent, nonprofit law schools in the country.

Chartered in 1924, California Western was accredited by the American Bar Association in 1962 and became a member of the Association of American Law Schools in 1967.

In 1968, California Western University, which included undergraduate studies, changed its name to the United States International University. The law school retained the name California Western School of Law.

In 1973, the law school relocated from its Point Loma location to the first of its three downtown campus buildings at 350 Cedar St. In 1975, California Western ended its affiliation with USIU and became an independent law school.

In 1980, the new trimester system was announced, allowing two entering classes in one academic year, reducing individual class size and further increasing the quality of education.

In 1993, the law school opened a new administrative and campus center, housing faculty and administration offices, including student affairs, admissions, and financial aid.

In 1999, the law school launched the California Innocence Project, dedicated to the release of the wrongfully convicted.

In 2000, the law school created Proyecto ACCESO, a nonprofit legal think tank that trains lawyers and educates the public in Latin America about legal reform and the rule of law.

In January 2000, California Western proudly opened its new, state-of-the-art Law Library, which was dedicated by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

From 2009-the present, California Western has been the only law school named to President Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, in recognition of the school’s strong history of community engagement.

In 2010, the State Bar of California presented California Western with the President’s Pro Bono Service Award, the first pro bono award presented to a law school by the State Bar.

In 2012, President and Dean Niels B. Schaumann took office.

In 2014, we celebrated our 90-year history in San Diego. Learn more about our remarkable journey and our nine decades of successful alumni outcomes.

Deans's Message

As you consider which law school offers you the right mix of programs and experiences, thank you for considering California Western School of Law.

Choosing a law school is a highly personal decision. I encourage you to determine your goals in pursuing a career in the law, and consider which elements of the law school experience are most important to you. Comparing the schools you are considering in those categories will help you determine which school is right for you.

We pride ourselves on welcoming students who share our view of the law as a tool to help solve societal problems, who share our commitment to community engagement - through such programs as the California Innocence Project and Community Law Project - and who will benefit from our focus on the development of both textbook knowledge and practical skills.

Get Ready for Practice

At California Western your journey to practice begins in the first year, through the traditional core classes that build a strong foundation upon which you build skill and experience.

Our nationally-recognized STEPPS class adds a complete year of first-hand experience as you join your peers in a "mock law firm" environment, working through the ethical and practical requirements many students must face after they begin their careers.

Third-year internships - working side-by-side with attorneys and professionals in San Diego and around the world - and pro bono work further develop the skills new attorneys need to build successful careers.

San Diego's oldest law school offers the right climate for a career in the law, and I don’t just mean the year-round temperate weather or access to abundant recreational and cultural offerings. Our academic programs, diverse student body, and engagement with high-quality faculty and staff provide a range of individual approaches to the profession that together reflect our broad view of the law.

I encourage you to reach out to our experienced and knowledgeable Admissions staff. They are happy to answer your questions and help you determine whether California Western is the right school for you.

I look forward to welcoming you to our community of scholars as you begin to find your place in the profession.

Niels B. Schaumann
President & Dean

Fast Facts

  • San Diego’s oldest law school, established in 1924
  • Independent, with the flexibility to adapt curriculum to meet the needs of the profession
  • Focused on preparing graduates for success on the bar exam and in practice
  • 7 clinics where students represent actual clients in criminal, immigration, trademark, legal aid, and internet law
  • More than 40 simulation and experiential courses offer hands-on learning
  • Financially stable, with no deferred maintenance and more than $100 million in assets
  • Located at the heart of San Diego’s legal and political community
  • Approximately 650 JD students

Degrees Offered

Accomplishments and Accolades

  • Clinical education program cited by Chronicle of Higher Education and ABA Journal
  • California Innocence Project helped free eight wrongly convicted people from prison since 2000, including Brian Banks, the aspiring NFL star featured on “60 Minutes”
  • President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, 2009-2014 Numerous other awards recognizing commitment to pro bono service

Student and Alumni Achievement

  • More than 130 members of the judiciary in California and elsewhere
  • Leaders in government, education, and business, including the California State Assembly, Clark County (Nev.) District Attorney, and more
  • Successful client advocates in the private and public sector
  • First-time bar passage rates exceeding the statewide average for graduates of ABA-approved law schools on 13 of the past 15 exams
  • Student writing cited by US Supreme Court, published by national law journals

Faculty Recognition

  • Leaders of national and international legal organizations including the American Law Institute, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, and the American Branch of the International Law Association
  • Internationally recognized experts in areas including international law, gender and the law, and legal ethics




  • Our downtown campus in the center of San Diego's legal and cultural communities
  • 225 Cedar Street
    San Diego, CA 92101
    (619) 525-1401


  • Established in 1924; oldest law school in San Diego
  • ABA accreditation in 1962
  • AALS accreditation in 1967
  • State-of-the-art Law Library opened in 2000
  • See more about California Western's history.

Student, Alumni, and Faculty Profiles

  • Approximately 900 students (also see Entering Class Profile)
  • Average age of student population is 27
  • Multicultural student body with minorities representing one-third of the student population
  • Women represent 52 percent of the student population
  • Alumni in 49 states and 35 foreign countries
  • Alumni include more than 100 federal and state court judges
  • Faculty of 43 full-time professors

Degrees Offered

  • Juris Doctor (see the J.D. curriculum)
  • Juris Doctor/Master of Business Administration (with San Diego State University)
  • Juris Doctor/Master of Social Work (with San Diego State University)
  • Juris Doctor/Ph.D. in Political Science or History (with University of California, San Diego)
  • LL.M. in Trial Advocacy Specializing in Federal Criminal Law
  • M.C.L./LL.M for Foreign Law Graduates

Academic Schedule

  • Two entering classes per year - Spring and Fall
  • Trimester academic calendar (see the current Trimester Calendar)
  • Full-time and part-time (day) programs
  • Two-year option

Research Centers and Institutes

Clinical Internship Program

Places students in organizations that include:

  • U.S. Courts of Appeal
  • U.S. District Courts
  • U.S. Attorney's Offices
  • See more about the Clinical Internship Program


  • California Western Law Review
  • California Western International Law Journal
  • Learn more about the Law Review and International Law Journal