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Whittier Law School

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Whittier Law School
Parent school Whittier College
Established 1966
School type Private non-profit
Location Costa Mesa, CA, US
Faculty 49 (See List)
Bar pass rate 11%
Annual tuition
Outlines 0 (See List)
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Whittier Law School is located in Costa Mesa, CA

Whittier Law School was a law school in Costa Mesa, California founded in 1966. The law school was part of Whittier College, a private institution. After several years of being ranked among the poorest performing law schools in the country based on bar passage rate and job placement,[1] on April 15, 2017, Whittier Law School announced it would no longer be admitting students and would discontinue its legal program.[2] The closure of Whittier Law School will make it the first law school with full accreditation by the American Bar Association (ABA) to shut down in at least 30 years.[3]


The school was founded as the Beverly College of Law in 1966,[4] and was originally located in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles' Westside. It was a private, nonprofit educational institution intended to meet the growing need for a law school in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

In 1974, the Whittier College Board of Trustees voted to merge the Beverly College of Law into Whittier College. In 1975, the Law School became known as the Whittier College School of Law and later as Whittier Law School. In response to a significant gift to the Law School, the Hancock Park building was dedicated as the Ross McCollum Law Center during a ceremony at which Supreme Court Associate Justice Byron R. White presented the major address.

During the 1990s, the Law School, along with leaders at Whittier College, decided to relocate the campus to Orange County in order to satisfy space needs and in response to requests by the community for an ABA law school in Orange County.[5] In 1996, the college acquired the present 14-acre campus in Costa Mesa, remodeled the buildings on the site to accommodate the needs of the Law School, and moved the faculty and students over a period of three years.[6] In 1997, the move was completed and Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy gave the major address at the opening ceremony.[6]

In 2013, Chief Justice of California Tani Cantil-Sakauye spoke at the grand opening of the law school's 4400 sqft court room. A substantial amount of the funds to build the new $2 million facility was donated by Paul Kiesel, a Whittier alumnus and partner at Kiesel Law, LLP.[7] Over 150 contributors, including alumni, faculty, judges, law firms, members of the Orange County community, and Whittier Law School student groups, were responsible for the remainder. [8]

In April 2017, the school announced that it would admit no more first-year students and would work with the 400 current students to complete their degree. No firm closing date has been announced. It became the first fully accredited law school in the country to announce closure in a time of challenge for legal education institutions.[9] The school plans to cease all operations in July 2020.[10]


Whittier Law School offers both full and part-time J.D. programs. The full-time program takes three years to complete, while the part-time program takes four years to complete.[11]


In 1978, the American Bar Association (ABA) granted Whittier Law School provisional accreditation.[12] In 1985, Whittier Law School was fully accredited by the ABA[13] and in 1987 it became a member of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS).[14]

On August 9, 2005, the ABA, concerned about Whittier Law School's low bar passage rates, placed the law school's accreditation on probationary status for two years. On August 10, 2007, the ABA extended the probation until February 15, 2009. Under the ABA's rules, the law school remained fully accredited during the probation period, and all students who entered and graduated during this period are deemed to have graduated from an ABA accredited law school.[15]

On April 17, 2008, the ABA Accreditation Committee recommended to the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar that Whittier Law School be removed from probation.[16] Dean Cogan reported:

The Law School requested this action on February 14, 2008, because the bar passage rates of our graduates for the five-year period, 2003-07, show compliance with the ABA bar passage rule, Interpretation 301-6. We fully expect that the Council will accept the Committee's recommendation at its meeting on June 6 and remove the Law School from its probationary status.

On June 7, 2008, the ABA officially removed Whittier Law School from its probationary status.[17]

According to the ABA Section on Legal Education & Admissions to the Bar, Section 301-6(a)(1)(b) states that graduating law students within the last five calendar years must pass a state bar examination at a minimum of 75% in at least three of the five calendar years.[18]

Bar passage rates

Whittier Law School had the lowest bar exam pass rate of all California ABA-accredited law schools for first-time takers for the July 2016 exam at 22%;[19] for first-time takers for the July 2015 exam at 38%;[20] for first-time takers for the February 2015 exam at 30%;[21] and for first-time takers for the July 2014 exam at 43%.[22]

Whittier Law All CA ABA accredited, first-timers
July 2019[23] 11% 71%
July 2018[24] 26% 64%
July 2017[25] n/a 70%
July 2016[26] 22% 62%
July 2015[27] 38% 68.2%
July 2014[28] 43% 69.4%
July 2013[29] 64.7% 75.9%
July 2012[30] 70% 67.3%
July 2011[31] 56% 76%
July 2010[32] 53% 75%
July 2009[33] 62% 71%


In 2010, The Princeton Review featured Whittier Law School in its 2011 edition of "The 172 Best Law Schools", highlighting the school's emphasis on small class sizes, an active student body, and practical externship opportunities in intellectual property, criminal, family, business law.[34] In January 2011, Whitter scored a "B-" among "Best Public Interest Law Schools" listing by The National Jurist: The Magazine for Law Students.[35]

On March 22, 2012 U.S. News & World Report included Whittier Law School in its list of "10 Law Schools That Lead to the Most Debt".[36]

In 2015, Whittier was recognized by U.S. News and World Report as the country's fourth most ethnically diverse law school. The website reported that 23% of Whittier students were Hispanic, the school's largest minority.[37] The Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO) selected Whittier to host two seminars for students from diverse backgrounds over the weekend of June 27–28, 2015. The program's stated goal was "to prepare talented, motivated, yet underrepresented students with guidance in becoming successful law students."[38] On November 14, 2015, the law school planned to host a day-long law school assessment conference, called "Building an Assessment Plan from the Ground Up," designed to help law schools comply with the assessment requirements recently added by the American Bar Association for accreditation.

Admission statistics

For the Class of 2013:

  • Number of applications: 2,165
  • Number of students enrolled: 303
  • Number of non-white students: 134
  • Median range of LSAT: 150-154
  • Median range of GPA: 2.75-3.28
  • Median age: 27

For the Class of 2016:

  • Number of applications: 1,579
  • Number of students Enrolled: 221
  • Number of non-white students: 116
  • Median range of LSAT: 145-152
  • Median range of GPA: 2.61-3.26
  • Median age: 25


Graduation rates

Class of 2013

  • Full-time: 67.97%

(256 students matriculated in 2010; 174 students graduated in 2013)

  • Part-time: 49.18%

(61 students matriculated in 2009; 30 students graduated in 2013)


The full-time tuition for the 2014-2015 school year was $42,400.[40]


In a 2012 article, the average debt of Whittier Law School graduates was $138,961.[36] Average debt was $154,267 for 2013 grads. For 2011 it was the 11th highest of 201 ABA accredited law schools.[41] Of 2013 grads who were employed (approximately half were unemployed), nine months after graduation they had a median starting salary of $62,400.[42] In 2017, it was reported that in the previous year graduates "had an average of $179,000 in pre-interest debt, the second-highest total among all law schools in the country", citing Law School Transparency.[9]


Whittier Law School had two scholarly publications: the Whittier Law Review[43] and the Whittier Journal of Child and Family Advocacy,[44] and one student-run newspaper, the Zealous Advocate.

According to a ranking conducted by the Washington and Lee University School of Law, the Whittier Law Review is ranked 109th out of 192 law reviews evaluated.[45] According to a ranking of law reviews on the basis of the prominence of the lead article authors, conducted in 2007 by two professors at the Shepard Broad Law Center, the Whittier Law Review was ranked 121st out of 171 law reviews evaluated.[46] The Law Review was a student-run organization publishing a collection of articles of legal scholarship four times annually. The Law Review is currently in its 36th year of publication.[43]


Whittier Law School has centers in children's rights, intellectual property law, and international and comparative law. These centers host fellows, offer externships, and sponsor symposia and workshops. The law school also offers concentrations in criminal law, business law, and environmental law for students who wished to take additional, specialized courses in those areas.

Whittier Law School offers students the opportunity to study abroad. For summer 2015, the law school offered summer programs accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) in China]], Israel, and Spain.[47]

Whittier Law School regularly hosts symposiums and expert panels for academic discussion of contemporary issues. In September 2014, in conjunction with Orange County Coastkeeper, the school hosted an all-day symposium with a continuing-education component, called "Our Coast To Keep: Environmental Law Enforcement in Southern California."[48] In April 2015, the school hosted a symposium on assisted reproductive technology.


The total cost of attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses) at Whittier Law School for the 2013-2014 academic year was $72,780.[49] The Law School Transparency estimated debt-financed cost of attendance for three years is $261,501.[50]

Employment status

Legal employment prospects of matriculating students

According to Whittier's consumer information page and class of 2013 employment status as reported to the ABA, of the 317 entering students only 210 students graduated and were awarded a degree by Whittier. Of the entering Class of 2013 (matriculated in 2010 as full-time and 2009 as part-time) only 64.3% graduated with a degree from Whittier; however, excluding transfers (29 students transferred), 72.9% of the entering class graduated from Whittier.[51] Otherwise, of the 2013 Class, 46 students were academically disqualified involuntarily and 13 voluntarily withdrew.[51]

Accordingly, for the 2013 class, excluding transfers of 29 students, only 210 of 288 students graduated, meaning the employment rate in full-time long term jobs requiring bar passage (e.g. attorney) who were practicing law nine months after graduation of the 2013 entering class was only 19.44%.[51] Disregarding transfers, of the Class of 2013, approximately only one out of five students who entered Whittier graduated and became a lawyer in a full-time long term position within nine months of graduation.

Employment status of graduates

In 2015, National Jurist magazine ranked Whittier Law School 12th in the nation for improved employment. Graduates with full-time jobs increased 13.8% from the Class of 2013 to the Class of 2014.[52] Of the jobs as lawyers, 23.9% reported working in law firms, 1.9% in government, and 0.4% in both federal clerkship and public interest. Of graduates, 85 students (40.9%) reported themselves as "unemployed-seeking" nine months after graduation. The same number, 85 students of the 2013 graduating class, did not pass the California bar exam.[53] Of those in the Class of 2013 who graduated, passed the bar, and became licensed (126 students), 69 (54.7%) were practicing law nine months after graduation and only 54 (44.8%) were able to find full-time long term employment as lawyers (two reported full-time and short-term). No one reported being a solo practitioner. Within the 2013 graduating class not "bar passage required" (practicing law as an attorney) or "JD advantage" type of job, 30 were employed "professionally" or in a "non-professional" position nine months after graduation. The same number of students also graduated from the part-time program.[53]

In 2015, National Jurist magazine ranked Whittier Law School 12th in the nation for improved employment. The school's employed increased 13.8% from the Class of 2013 to the Class of 2014.[54]

In 2015 Whittier co-launched a program with the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, whereby a limited number of graduates who commit to perform at least 300 hours of free legal service have access to subsidized office space in the Legal Aid Society's office. The program includes training in marketing, managing office overhead and tax risks. The majority of the funding for the 2014-2015 class came from a grant obtained by the legal aid society.[55] Martin Pritikin, Whittier's associate dean, said, "Law schools need to view themselves as having responsibility to their students even after they graduate to help them transition."[56]

Notable people


  • Raphael Lapin, adjunct professor, author, and founder of Lapin Negotiation Strategies
  • I. Nelson Rose, full professor with tenure, author of Gambling and the Law



  • Florence-Marie Cooper (1975): Judge, United States District Court for the Central District of California
  • Roosevelt F. Dorn (1969): Judge, Los Angeles County Superior Court
  • Mablean Ephriam (1978): host, Divorce Court
  • Cristina Pérez (1994): Judge, Cristina's Court, La Corte del Pueblo, La Corte de Familia, Justice for All with Judge Cristina Perez

Other appointments and vocations

  • Carol Ann Abrams: television and film producer; graduated first in her class at Whittier[57]
  • Keith M. Davidson: Former attorney for Stormy Daniels [58]
  • Chuck Essegian: Former major league baseball player [59]
  • Bryan Glazer: Co-Chairman [60] and co-owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Director (retired) of the Harbinger Group
  • Bill Handel (1979):[61] morning drive talk show host on KFI-AM in Los Angeles
  • Paul D. Irving:Sergeant at Arms of the United States House of Representatives
  • Christine N. Jones (1997): candidate, Arizona gubernatorial election, 2014, former Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary of Go Daddy[62]
  • Debra Opri: celebrity attorney
  • Diane Tebelius (1979): Chairman of the Washington State Republican Party (2006–2007); candidate, Washington's 8th congressional district, 2004


  1.  Whittier Law School grads among most challenged in finding workOrange County Register  (2015-01-06)
  2.  A Message from the Whittier College Board of Trustees,
  3.  Whittier Law School is closing, due in part to low student achievementLos Angeles Times  (2017-04-20)
  4. WLS Foundation
  5.  Whittier Law School Moving to Costa Mesa,  (16 July 1996)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Canalis, John Justice Kennedy Will Lecture at Law School, (11 March 1998)
  7.  Campus courtroom offered up: Whittier Law School says its new 4,400-square-foot space could be used for real cases, alleviating pressure on state system,  (27 April 2013)
  8. Whittier Law Courtroom / List of Donors,
  9. 9.0 9.1 Olson, Elizabeth, "Whittier Law School Says It Will Shut Down", April 19, 2017. The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  10. Former Whittier Law School | Whittier College,
  11. Degree Requirements,
  12. ABA-Approved Law Schools by Year, ABA website
  13. WLS Accreditation
  14. Member Schools - Association of American Law Schools,
  15. Whittier Law School Accreditation Archived from the original on September 22, 2007
  16. Dean's Letter to Community,
  17. Dean's Letter to Community (2) Archived from the original on 2008-10-12
  18. ABA Accreditation Standards
  19. Zaretsky, Staci California Bar Exam Results By Law School (2016)Above the Law
  20. American Bar Association Statistics,
  21. American Bar Association Statistics,
  22. American Bar Association Statistics,
  23. General Statistics Report July 2019 California Bar Examination,
  24. General Statistics Report July 2018 California Bar Examination,
  26. Zaretsky, Staci, "California Bar Exam Results By Law School (2016)", Above the Law, December 13, 2016.
  27. General Statistics Report: July 2015 California Bar Examination, (December 17, 2015)
  28. General Statistics Report: July 2014 California Bar Examination,
  29. General Statistics Report: July 2013 California Bar Examination,
  30. General Statistics Report: July 2012 California Bar Examination,
  31. General Statistics Report: July 2011 California Bar Examination,
  32. General Statistics Report: July 2010 California Bar Examination,
  33. General Statistics Report: July 2009 California Bar Examination,
  34. Whittier Law School, quoting Princeton Review, Best 172 Law Schools: 2011 Edition quotes
  35.  Best Law Schools for Public InterestThe National Jurist  (January 2011)
  36. 36.0 36.1 Which law school graduates have the most debt?,
  37. Law School Diversity Index,
  38.  Whittier Law School Chosen to Host National Diversity Seminars,  (19 May 2015)
  39. Consumer Information,
  40. Tuition and Aid,
  41. Dybbuk123,  Outside the Law School Scam: The two faces of Whittier Law Dean Penelope Bryan., (26 April 2013)
  42. Admissions FAQ,
  43. 43.0 43.1 Whittier Law Review,
  44. A Southern California ABA Accredited Law School,
  45. Law Journals: Submissions and Ranking,
  46. Ranking Law Reviewing by Author Prominence - Ten Years Later,
  47. Study Abroad,
  48. FULL - Our Coast To Keep: Environmental Law Enforcement in Southern California,
  49. Tuition and Aid,
  50. Whittier Profile,
  51. 51.0 51.1 51.2 Retrieved on May 18, 2014
  52. Rosin, Gary. "Full Rankings: Bar Admission Required, Full-Time, Long Term", The Faculty Lounge, March 30, 2013. "Employment Summary Reports" from the American Bar Association, Section of Legal Education. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
  53. 53.0 53.1 Consumer Information,
  54.  Wake Forest, Wash U. among schools that improved employment rate the most,  (1 May 2015)
  55.  Law schools fund firms to train recent graduates,  (14 June 2015)
  56.  Law Schools Create 'Minor League' To Train Recent Graduates,  (15 June 2015)
  57.  Carol Ann Abrams dies, Producer, author was mother of J.J. AbramsVariety  (2012-06-05)
  58. Finnegan, Michael Trump sex scandals turn a harsh spotlight on this Beverly Hills lawyerLos Angeles Times  (April 20, 2018)
  60. Ownership,
  61. California, The State Bar of State Bar of CA :: William Wolf Handel,
  62. Christine Jones '97 Runs for Governor of Arizona,

External links