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Whittier Law School, Whittier, California
by Felicia Dominguez
For the better part of this decade, Whittier has been ranked as one of the most diverse law schools in the nation, placing in the fourth tier of ABA-accredited law schools each year from 2003 through 2006, according to U.S. News & World Report. With a network of more than 4,000 alumni practicing in 48 states and 14 countries, Whittier's mission is to serve the underrepresented community by providing access to a legal education and preparing ethical, quality lawyers for practice across the nation.
With nationally recognized instruction in children's rights, intellectual property law, and international and comparative law, Whittier provides an extensive externship program with numerous clinical legal education options. Its clinics serve the public while providing students opportunities to gain key skills pertaining to children's rights, special education, family violence, healthcare access, and legal policy.
Offering concentrations in business law and criminal law, Whittier also has courses in health law, public interest law, and trial and appellate practice. Sponsoring wide-ranging symposia and law-oriented workshops, two institutes for academic support and legal writing have been established, in addition to study-abroad programs in China, France, Spain, Israel, and the Netherlands.
With a current enrollment of 273 students, Whittier Law School's small student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1 provides personal interaction with distinguished professors, many of whom are nationally and internationally recognized as experts in their fields. Tuition is $29,190; graduates' average starting salary is $65,000.
Whittier's lagging first-time California bar passage rate at the start of the new century led to the American Bar Association's placement of the school under two years' probation, beginning August 8, 2005. The National Jurist (vol. 15, no. 5) reported that in imposing Whittier's probation the ABA cited substantial and persistent noncompliance with two sections of its standards. The ABA noted the first-time California bar passage rate for Whittier graduates below 50% on each exam since July 2000, limited academic support programs for students with low entering credentials, and a failure in its upper-class writing requirement.
Whittier has since taken decisive steps to protect its accreditation; as a result, the school has shown a 19% increased rate of success. At this time the school retains its accreditation as the ABA monitors its efforts toward compliance with unpublished standards regarding bar passage.
Whittier Law School cites other California law schools with bar passage rates below 50% since July 2000, as well as other ABA law schools falling within this category in other states. (The overall bar passage rate was approximately 80% in California during the time in question, while first-time bar passage rates in states outside of California averaged 85%.)
Whittier claims that the ABA lacked diligence when reporting that the school lacked academic support and legal writing requirements, with the school pointing to an extensive voluntary academic support program in addition to an above-average number of legal writing graduation requirements. College President Sharon Herzberger said that first-time bar passage rates at Whittier increased by 10.5 points between July 2003 and 2004 and by nine points from February 2004 to 2005. The school's bar passage rate showed improvement for the February 2006 bar, while results for the July 2006 bar showed a passage rate of 59%.
Whittier Law School is cradled in a sunny, coastal section of Southern California, minutes from the beach, one hour from the mountains, and centered among modern concert halls, fine galleries, and world-class museums, arenas, ballparks, stadiums, restaurants, and shopping areas. With a distinguished history, a challenging curriculum, and a determination for continued excellence, Whittier Law School retains its commitment to its mission for its students, the community, and the nation.
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