University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, which used to also be known as Boalt Hall, was founded in 1894. The school has created a less competitive environment where students are not ranked among their peers and do not receive letter grades or GPAs. This tactic seems to work for the just over 1,000 students enrolled. Student classes remain small.
There are programs for JD, LL.M., and J.S.D. degrees and a small Ph.D. program in Jurisprudence and Social Policy. Berkeley Law also offers programs in Business, Law, and Economics; Comparative Legal Studies; Environmental Law; International Legal Studies; and Social Justice. Over the years, the school has helped launch well-respected curricula in intellectual property law and technology-related law. Course studies are unique because students are encouraged (after their first semester) to create their own study plans and develop their own electives. Students can receive course credit for working in one of the four clinical programs on campus. Examples of clinics include working for the East Bay Community Law Center (where indigent clients are provided with legal counsel); the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic; the International Human Rights Law Clinic; and the Death Penalty Clinic.
Along with clinical programs, students are often encouraged to gain real-life experience by enrolling in Berkeley’s Field Placement program. Boalt Hall Students can practice law in organizations like the Federal Trade Commission and the Sierra Club Environmental Law Program. There is also an externship program where students can earn credits by working with judges, government agencies, or public interest firms. There are also study abroad programs located in Europe or Asia and an exchange program with Harvard Law School. Berkeley Law also publishes ten legal journals, including the “California Law Review” (one of the most prestigious in the country). A writing competition is held to select which students can contribute; individuals can also earn course credit for being an editor or assistant editor of the publication.
Although there are serious aspects of the Berkeley Law education, the flexibility provided to students allows them to chart their own course studies. Likewise, students can take a break from studying to travel into San Francisco; students have the option of living in university-affiliated housing, but many choose to live a bit closer to the bay. Dedicated faculty, who encourage each student’s growth, are just part of the reason Berkeley Law turns out so many successful lawyers.