As the 2021-22 school year got underway, UCLA School of Law welcomed a class of new students who are among the most accomplished ever to join the law school.
Representing a collective wealth of experience and diverse backgrounds, the incoming class includes 366 students who are pursuing a J.D. degree, 233 lawyers who are earning a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree, and 53 professionals who are working toward a Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.) degree. In addition, UCLA Law welcomed 27 transfer students who are starting their 2L years and six visiting students who are completing their 3L years. One lawyer who is pursuing a Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) degree also joined the law school.
The new school year also brought a return to the classroom for most members of the UCLA Law community, after more than a year of almost exclusively remote education and events.
To mark the start of the new school year, the law school hosted its annual convocation ceremony, outdoors on UCLA’s Dickson Court and under strict health protocols, on Aug. 20. Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin, Student Bar Association President Jessie Chen ’22, and distinguished alumna Rasha Gerges Shields ’01 welcomed students with speeches that stressed the importance of community, connection, and being open to the endless possibilities that law school provides in forging a legal career.
“This is an incredibly exciting time to be studying the law. … You are part of a community at UCLA Law that’s more diverse than ever,” Chen said. “Each individual walking these halls is invested in ensuring that everyone else can make the most of the opportunities in front of them.”
Gerges Shields, a partner at Jones Day, administered the Oath of Professionalism to the students. “Remember that relationships matter. You cannot do it alone, so take time to develop those relationships,” she said. “Being kind and reasonable is not a sign of weakness. These are hallmarks of confident and effective lawyering.”
The new J.D. students were selected from nearly 8,000 applicants. The Class of 2024’s median LSAT score of 170 is the highest in UCLA Law history, while the 25th percentile mark of 166 is up two points from last year, and the 75th percentile score held steady at a school record of 171. The median grade-point average of incoming J.D. students is now at an all-time best of 3.82.
Students of color are 49% of the incoming class. At least 15% are first-generation students who are the first in their families to have earned a college degree, a detail that continues to distinguish UCLA Law among all top-20 law schools in the country. Seven members of the class graduated from the UCLA Law Fellows Program. New J.D. students range in age from 20 to 44, and their median age is 24. Women comprise 56% of the class, 55% are California residents, and students come from 34 states, the District of Columbia, and seven foreign countries. All told, they are fluent in at least 15 languages.
The class includes many undergraduate leaders, patent holders, elite athletes, teachers, Peace Corps volunteers, engineers, journalists, popular musicians and artists, and veterans of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Many members are committed to public-interest work, including past positions with the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, and the Connecticut Bail Fund. Incoming students have also worked at the highest levels of the U.S. government, such as at the White House and in the office of the Speaker of the House. In the private sphere, 1Ls have worked at Google, Goldman Sachs, Nike, Warner Bros., Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, the BBC, and many top law firms.
Lawyers joining as LL.M. students hail from 39 countries on six continents and range in age from 21 to 46. Fifty-three percent are women. They hold degrees from the University of Cambridge, the Sorbonne, the University of Tokyo, the London School of Economics, Renmin University, the University of Vienna, Tel Aviv University, the University of Melbourne, and other renowned international institutions. Already accomplished legal professionals, they have worked at leading international law firms; organizations including Credit Suisse, Samsung, and the U.S. Small Business Administration; and foreign government bodies such as the Indian Environmental Ministry, the National Television Authority of Colombia, the Australian Tax Office, and the Supreme Court of Mexico. Three students are Fulbright scholars.
While they continue their studies at UCLA Law, 46% are specializing in business law; 29% in media, entertainment, and technology law and policy; 6% in international and comparative law; 6% in environmental law; 4% in law and sexuality; 4% in human rights; 2% in individualized programs of study; and 1% in each of public interest law and policy, critical race studies, and law and philosophy. The law school’s new S.J.D. student is a leading scholar who is pursuing a legal doctorate that aims to critically assess the nexus between military intervention and displacement as accounted for in asylum decisions and by refugees.
UCLA Law’s second-ever class of M.L.S. students is made up of exceptional and mostly mid-career professionals pursuing a degree that offers a deep education in the law but does not lead to a career in the practice of law. They total 53 students, with 40 attending classes part time. Sixty-two percent of the students identify as female, 53% are members of historically underrepresented groups, and they range in age from 20 to 59. Nearly 35% of the students hold advanced degrees in medicine, public administration, journalism, international affairs, and more, and they received undergraduate degrees from Emory, Georgetown, Harvard, New York University, the University of Chicago, and UCLA, among other universities.
A large majority are accomplished executives and professionals: 68% are chief executives, vice presidents, directors, or managers, and 74% of the part-time students have 10 or more years of professional experience. Incoming M.L.S. students work for Deloitte Tax, Red Bull, ViacomCBS, NASA, the Los Angeles Times, and other leading organizations. Thirty-eight percent of the class is pursuing work or specializing in public interest. Additionally, 21% is specializing in business law, 19% in entertainment and media law, and 17% in employment and human resources law, among other specializations.