Non-ABA-Accredited Law Schools in California Show Low Bar Pass Rate

Struggling California Law School Will Discontinue J.D. Program

San Francisco-based Golden Gate University is discontinuing its law degree program in May.

The school’s officials cite enrollment declines, a difficult employment market, and low bar exam pass rates as the main reasons behind the closure of its J.D. program. Current J.D. students at Golden Gate Law will have the option to transfer to another law school or complete their degree at Golden Gate, Reuters reports.

“Given the realities of the marketplace, our law school’s place in it and a host of related trends and data, we determined it is no longer viable to offer this degree program,” Golden Gate President David Finke and Board of Trustees Chair Barbara Mendelson say in a press release.


For years, Golden Gate University School of Law has struggled to meet the ABA’s accreditation requirement that at least 75% of law schools graduates pass the bar exam within two years. The school’s first-time pass rate on California’s July 2021 exam was just 38%s—the lowest among all 18 of California’s ABA-accredited law schools.

According to ABA data, the two-year pass rate for Golden Gate University’s class of 2019 was 67%, slightly surpassing the 63% pass rate recorded for the class of 2020. Additionally, 27% of the law school’s class of 2022 were unemployed and seeking work 10 months after graduation.

The COVID pandemic only worsened matters for the already struggling law school. Downtown San Francisco’s deteriorating economic conditions added to the law school’s real estate troubles and financial stability.

“In sum, a perfect storm has impacted GGU Law,” the university said in a letter to the law school community earlier this year. “The University cannot continue to sustain an operating deficit from the Law School. And we must maintain sufficiently high admissions standards in order to comply with [American Bar Association] bar passage requirements.”

School officials noted that despite the closure of its J.D. program, the law school will continue offering non-J.D. graduate and undergraduate degrees.

“We plan to build on areas of greatest potential in the legal profession, including interdisciplinary, cross-University offerings,” officials say in the press release. “This work will complement what is happening in our Business School, where we are developing high-demand programs for local, national, and international professionals seeking to advance their careers. All of this positions us to do what Golden Gate University does best: anticipate changing market needs, innovate with quality programs, and create opportunities for our students to advance their careers.”

Sources: Reuters, Golden Gate University, Tipping the Scales

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