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U.C. Irvine Law School Granted Full Accreditation

U.C. Irvine
The law school at U.C. Irvine has received full ABA accreditation, joining Westside law schools at UCLA and Pepperdine as nationally recognized. (U.C. Irvine School of Law)

Though the UCLA School of Law is in the Westside’s backyard and USC’s Gould School of Law, Loyola Law School, Southwestern University School of Law, and Pepperdine University School of Law are all nearby, prospective Juris Doctorate students now have another place to pursue their respective legal educations as the School of Law at University of California, Irvine, announced it was granted full accreditation by the American Bar Assoc. (ABA).

Earning full ABA accreditation is the final hurdle a law school in gaining national recognition. Only graduates of ABA accredited schools are permitted to seek licenses to practice from any state in the nation.

Prior to ABA accrediting U.C. Irvine School of Law, only eight law schools in the Los Angeles region were fully accredited by the national organization. Those ABA accredited law schools were at UCLA, USC, Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount, Southwestern, Chapman University, Whittier College, and Western State University.

U.C. Irvine School of Law launched in 2009. Prior to the arrival of the inaugural class of students, the school had hired Erwin Chemerinsky, a nationally recognized constitutional law scholar who also served as a regular television analyst during the O.J. Simpson murder trial, as its dean.

Chemerinsky’s offer was briefly revoked when a state judge reportedly questioned his interpretations of the death penalty. It was also reported a Los Angeles County supervisor and the Orange County Republicans also opposed the appointment. However, Chemerinsky, who was a law professor at USC prior to in the running for dean at U.C. Irvine School of Law, and the university reached an accord and was ultimately hired.

When the first class arrived at U.C. Irvine School of Law, it was offered free tuition through graduation. The free tuition offer – which applied only to the inaugural class – was part of a strategy devised by Chemerinsky to draw highly qualified students who would help the school achieve a Top 20 ranking among the nation’s 200-some ABA accredited law schools.

According to one news report, the faculty at U.C. Irvine School of Law was ranked seventh in the country by a study analyzing “scholarly impact.” The six schools ahead of U.C. Irvine School of Law were Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, NYU, Stanford, and Yale.

U.C. Irvine School of Law was the first public law school to open in California in about 40 years.

In 2013, 90 percent of U.C. Irvine School of Law’s graduates that year reportedly passed the California Exam, the second highest passing rate in the State.

While the school has touted a high bar passage rate and the placing of all of its graduates into jobs, a few critics have questioned the opening of a new law school within California, citing a weakened job market for attorneys.

Also questioned was the school’s tuition and fees. While the inaugural class in August 2009 was given a free ride, California-based students entering the law school in August 2013 paid more than $47,000 annually, according to the school’s website; non-resident tuition and fees were north of $53,000 annually for the most recent school year.

The University of California system is home to five law schools: Berkeley; Davis; Hastings (San Francisco); Los Angeles; and, Irvine.

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