The Best Law Schools in San Francisco

One of Northern California’s largest and most important hubs for financial, commercial, cultural, and political activity, San Francisco is one of the biggest cities on the Pacific Coast. In fact, it is the seventeenth largest city in the United States in terms of population. 

Although a large number of people call San Francisco home, the city is actually quite small. With its nearly 890,000 residents spread across just under 50 square miles, San Francisco ranks fourth in the country in terms of population density.

Lots of people mean lots of opportunities, and for this reason, it is an excellent idea for prospective law students to look into attending a law school in San Francisco. 

According to Niche, San Francisco is the second-best city for young professionals in the US, also ranking fourteenth in the nation for people of all ages. 

The city offers close proximity to the beautiful Pacific Ocean, Silicon Valley, the state’s capital city, and all the many other fantastic opportunities the Bay Area has to offer. 

As a result, many significant employers choose to have their headquarters in San Francisco. In fact, at present, there are at least 38 Fortune 500 companies in the city, not to mention numerous prominent law firms.

If you like the sound of living and attending a law school in San Francisco, then the following article is for you. Read on to see our picks for the best law schools in the city and learn a little about each of these excellent schools. 

Here are a handful of the best law schools in the San Francisco Bay Area.

University of San Francisco School of Law

University of San Francisco
Jallen8307, January Sunset 4, CC BY-SA 4.0

The University of San Francisco originally started out as a one-room schoolhouse built in 1855. Throughout its extended history, USF has blossomed into San Francisco’s single-largest independent university.  

Despite the many changes the college has gone through over time, USF has maintained its longstanding commitment to upholding Jesuit values and traditions.  

The USF School of Law, too, shares this commitment, encouraging law students to become sharp critical thinkers who employ strong ethical standards in their professional and personal lives. 

According to US News and World Report, the University of San Francisco School of Law is ranked sixth in the nation in terms of most culturally diverse law schools. A 55.8% majority of the 1L class of 2022 is made up of women, and 56.5% are students of color.

In addition to a rigorous legal education by an incredibly well-educated faculty, USF offers students access to numerous valuable resources. For example, the USF campus is home to the vast Dorraine Zeif Law Library, which contains a remarkable number of stellar resources for legal research.

In addition to the wide array of learning materials, the Zeif Library also has numerous private study rooms that students can reserve, a fully equipped computer lab specifically intended for legal research, and various audio-visual equipment for communal use.

University of California Hastings College of the Law

University of California Hastings School of Law
FirstPrezzzz1776, UCH Roof View, CC BY-SA 4.0

Originally founded in 1878 as the legal studies department of the University of California, the UC Hastings College of the Law is the oldest law school in the state of California. 

One defining characteristic of the UC Hastings approach to legal education is the significant emphasis placed on experiential learning opportunities. 

The school offers a wide selection of clinical programs, externships, and simulation courses, with more than 100 students a year participating in judicial externships in the Bay Area at some point before graduating.

The UC Hastings law curriculum also heavily focuses on legal writing, compared to other similarly ranked law schools. For one, all law students at Hastings are required to take at least one small-group writing class during their first year at the school. 

Writing an original, substantial legal paper is a requirement for graduation, serving in part as a way for students to demonstrate all that they have learned from the numerous opportunities to strengthen the writing skills they will have received.

Unlike most law schools, Hastings allows 1L students to take elective courses during the spring semester.

Students can choose from several concentration areas, including social justice law, healthcare law, intellectual property law, and numerous others.

Stanford University Law School

Stanford University School of Law
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes referred to as the “Harvard of the West” or as a “Public Ivy,” Stanford University is home to one of the most prestigious law schools in the country. 

The degree programs, academic courses, facilities, and clinics offered at the amazing Stanford Law School are nearly unparalleled. 

Without fail, Stanford Law School is consistently named within the top five law schools in the country by multiple major publications, including annual law school rankings by QS World University Rankings and US News and World Report.

Each year, Stanford Law School receives more than 4,500 applications for the incoming 1L class, admitting only around 180 students from the applicant pool.

With the school’s admission process being as highly selective as it is, Stanford is able to maintain an incredibly low student-to-faculty ratio of 4.5:1 consistently.

One area in which Stanford Law is known to excel is in intellectual property law. In fact, the school’s extensive IP law offerings have earned Stanford second place in the rankings for programs of this kind across the US.

Other specialty areas in which Stanford Law is especially highly ranked include criminal, commercial, and constitutional law, ranking third, fourth, and fifth in the nation in these fields, respectively. 

Santa Clara University School of Law

Santa Clara University School of Law
Dabtwiki, Charney Hall , CC BY-SA 4.0

Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University is a private Jesuit university that is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, a global hub for the technology industry. 

Since 1911, the college has been home to an excellent law school known simply as the Santa Clara University School of Law.

At the Santa Clara School of Law, there are various law degree programs from the juris doctorate level up to the postgraduate level. The handful of law degrees offered at the SCU Law include the JD, the LLM, and a number of combined JD/MBA and JD/MSIS programs.

In addition to standard full-time JD degree programs, the SCU School of Law also allows students to earn their JD part-time through the flex JD program

Santa Clara Law’s highly rated programs of study range from technology to public interest, privacy, social justice, international law, and beyond.

Two parts in-person instruction and one part virtual learning, the flex JD option allows students greater control in determining not just the location of their legal studies, but also the pace. 

Most students complete the flex JD within four years, but students are permitted to take more or less time as needed.

University of California Berkeley School of Law

Like the aforementioned UC Hastings, UC Berkeley is one of the nine public, land-grant research universities comprising the esteemed University of California system. 

In fact, Berkeley is perhaps the most highly-revered college in the UC system, with “Berkeley” being a household name almost synonymous with excellence.

The UC Berkeley School of Law was established in 1894, and over the course of its centuries-long history, it has come to be one of California’s top law schools. 

According to the 2023 law school rankings published by US News and World Report, the Berkeley School of Law is the ninth-best law school in the United States. 

UC Berkeley is unique among law schools in that they do not use conventional letter grades to evaluate students, nor does the school rank students against one another.

Many of Berkeley’s academic program offerings are ranked among the top ten in the nation, with the school’s programs in corporate law, intellectual property law, and environmental law being #1 in the country.

Other remarkably well-ranked areas of study at the School of Law include criminal law, in which Berkeley is ranked second nationwide. 

The school’s commercial law and international law programs are ranked seventh, with the constitutional law program following close behind in the #8 spot. 

Golden Gate University School of Law

Established at the turn of the twentieth century in 1901, the Golden Gate University School of Law is one of the university’s three graduate schools.

The Golden Gate School of Law has a total full-time enrollment of around 300 students, which means that its students can benefit from the intimate, tight-knit community atmosphere that comes with attending a relatively small school like GGU Law. 

At GGU Law, there are just over six students per faculty member. As a result, students at this school receive ample academic support from instructors and valuable professional mentorship.

One exciting piece of information about the GGU Law student body is that just over 60.7% percent of students self-identify as female, making women students the majority.

The Golden Gate University School of Law offers two different law degree options: the juris doctorate and the master of law. There are six different LLM programs to choose from, plus a plethora of JD program options.

Students pursuing either of these two degrees have the opportunity to individualize their legal education experience by curating a unique plan of study that is well-suited to their own preferences, academic needs, and professional aspirations.

GGU Law offers an extensive range of areas of concentration for those students who want to specialize in a certain area of law.