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Empowering law’s next generation

How San Francisco Law School’s San Diego campus is making legal education accessible

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During the depths of our economic recession, at a time when the legal sector, like so many others, experienced turbulent upheaval, many questions were asked about the value of a legal education. While much of the legal community focused upon the lack of jobs available for law school graduates at many of the sector’s largest firms, often overlooked was the enormous number of students whose goals were not necessarily to become board room power brokers, but rather to affect real and positive change right in their own local communities.

Enter the San Diego campus extension of San Francisco Law School, the oldest evening law school in California. What has made San Francisco Law School, with now both its San Diego and San Francisco locations, so unique is its deep roots in public service, which has served as a guiding principal for its graduates since its founding. Its alumni include such luminaries such as former Gov. Pat Brown and former California State Assembly Speaker Leo McCarthy.

The San Diego campus of San Francisco Law School continues this tradition by seeking to provide legal education to communities often overlooked and undervalued by larger law schools. For the residents of these communities, the lack of access to affordable legal advice and advocacy can often act as obstacles to starting a small business, purchasing a first home, or finding the justice they deserve.

“We have always understood that our programs do not just empower students. Equally, we are empowering communities that are in desperate need of professional legal skill,” said San Francisco Law School Dean Jane Gamp. “With our decision to expand our presence to our Alliant campus in San Diego, we are advancing our vision for the legal community by addressing the need for qualified lawyers interested in serving historically underserved communities.”

Although relatively new to the region, the San Diego campus of San Francisco Law School is attracting students through its doors and is optimistic that the school and its unique focus is beginning to get serious traction.

“As we expected, it has been challenging to attract students to what they perceive as a new law school, but we have used that as an opportunity to build strong personal relationships with prospects and really outline our unique vision,” said George Dezes, director of the school’s San Diego campus. “This grassroots approach has attracted a core group of students that are committed to growing as part of our program and bringing their legal skills back to their communities to help families and make lasting positive change.”

With such a high level of need in the region, the school sees huge potential growth opportunity. Over the next several years, the school aims to further strengthen its relationship within the region as a whole and, in particular, the underserved communities in and around San Diego where affordable legal advice is most needed.

- Submitted by Jane Gamp, dean of San Francisco Law School.

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