University of California Berkeley School of Law

Yesterday, I visited UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall. In actuality, it was the third time this summer that I’ve been, with the kids at the camp I’m teaching. This time, I took notes, making UC Berkeley the first law school I’ve officially visited.

UC Berkeley, or “Cal,” is a public school in Berkeley, California, just in sight of San Francisco Bay.

Professor Bernstein, the Cal alum I’m working for this summer, describes the campus as one that is “uniquely representative of California” in that it is incredibly diverse. There are green, rolling hills and a creek through the center of campus, but one also finds stately, classical architecture mixed with more modern buildings. It is an incredibly beautiful campus. Berkeley is famously known for its strong activist community, and the law school carries on this tradition by being at the forefront of public interest law. The most famous grads of UC Berkeley include Chief Justice Earl Warren of Brown v. Board fame and Barry Scheck, one of OJ’s defense attorneys but also a co-founder of the Innocence Project, a national project to liberate those who are falsely imprisoned using primarily DNA evidence.

One of many (recently-renovated) study corners

The law school itself is top notch. Recently renovated, the library has received national acclaim, receiving second place in the nation among all new library projects completed between 2007 and 2011 according to the Library Journal. (I’m sure you have a subscription.)  I had a chance to visit the library as well as a couple of classrooms and their moot court practice room and take some pictures. Naturally, I also checked out the bathrooms, which passed muster.

Moot court and mock trial room

Berkeley is an amazing option for a few reasons. First, as skeptical as I have been about the fact that physical buildings and renovations factor so heavily into law school ranking, Boalt Hall really is exceptional, not to mention the surrounding campus. The view from the Campanille is almost as good as the view from the west landing of Boalt Hall, where on a clear day, you can see the bridges that cross the bay. Cal Berkeley is also known for public interest law, a field that interests me a great deal, and offers related specializations like law and economics or social justice. The admissions website also mentions access to other schools at Berkeley as one great reason to choose Berkeley Law. The law school offers joint degrees in public policy, social welfare, and journalism, just to name a few of interest.

The Campanille

Naturally, one of the chief drawbacks is distance. Plane tickets to and from Tennessee and Florida are currently around $500, and since Berkeley law comes with a price tag of $52,000/year, that’s not pocket change. However, 90% of law school students receive some form of financial aid, with the median award is around $14,000.

The sweet (undergraduate) library

I read an interesting article in US News and World Report about Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs) for those pursuing public interest careers, but a lot of it is over my head and a quick search on Berkeley’s site doesn’t make the different programs any easier to understand at a glance.

Another immediate improvement that could be made to my search efforts is to talk with students and faculty about the school, but I imagine this is pretty hard to do in the summer and might pose some problems on the next couple of visits I have planned.

Finally, a look at some stats:

US News and World Report Ranking 7
LSAT – 75th percentile 169
GPA – 75th percentile 3.88
LSAC GPALSAT calculation 73.85%*
Acceptance rate (offers/applications, [admitted]) 920/7000, 270
Population (J.D., M.A., Ph.D., LL.M.) 1000
Tuition $52,000
Receiving financial aid 90%
Median aid $14,000

*Unofficial: Berkeley is one of a handful of schools that has opted out of LSAC’s UGPA/LSAT score search.

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