When the San Luis Obispo College of Law first opened its doors a little more than three years ago, its classes were held in the basement of a downtown office building. Founding administrators wondered if they'd be able to attract the students and retain the faculty to thrive as a community-based law school.
This June, the law school proved how far it's come since those humble beginnings. In a ceremony held at Dallidet Adobe on June 9, the college's inaugural class of nine graduated with juris doctorate (JD) degrees in hand. Four of those graduates recently passed the BAR exam. Many alumi have since received multiple job offers in the area.
"It's been a real success," college Dean Jan Marx told New Times. "There are jobs waiting for people."
The SLO College of Law is an accredited branch of the Monterey College of Law, and the only institution in the county to offer a doctorate degree. It does so while charging relatively affordable tuition, as it targets local, working people of all ages, professional interests, and educational backgrounds. The school does not require a bachelor's degree for admission—only a certain number of academic credits.
"Most of our students are early- to mid-30s, people who in some way feel they have more potential," Marx explained. "They want to jump-start their careers, but also their intellectual development."
Many students juggle their evening law classes with full-time jobs and family responsibilities.
"Our students are all hard working," Marx said. "Really, they're my heroes. They're incredible."
The law school's grads are leveraging their new law degrees in diverse ways. One started work at a professor's law practice. Another is a city employee who received a promotion with her newly acquired expertise. One is a tech business owner whose JD has empowered her to "rise in an international context," Marx said.
"Doors open," she said about the power of a degree. "It's a real asset."
While not every College of Law student wants to become a practicing attorney, private and public law practices up and down the Central Coast are eager for recruits.
"The legal community has trouble hiring people from out of the region, just like any other business," Marx said.
The college thrived in its beginning years in no small part because of the enthusiastic support from the local legal community. That's the main source for the school's reliable team of faculty members.
"Because there's so much support out there, we've had tremendous success with the faculty," Marx said.
After its opening year, the college relocated to a larger campus on Broad Street. It's increased its enrollment with the incoming 2019-20 class.
Marx said the school has plans to offer specialized master's degrees (it already offers a general Master of Legal Studies)—leveraging online courses through Monterey College of Law's other branches to expand course offerings.
For prospective students interested in the college, there are opportunities to apply and enroll three times throughout the academic year: the fall, spring, and summer. The SLO College of Law holds regular information sessions on its campus at 4119 Broad St., suite 200, SLO; the next session is Sept. 19 at 5:30 p.m.
"It's a tremendous asset for our region," Marx said of the college. "Until this law school was established, if people wanted to go to law school, they'd either have to move or do punishing commutes. It's opened up a window of opportunity for people."
• Realtor Nancy Puder is hosting a series of monthly seminars aimed at helping local seniors navigate late-life housing issues. The Sea Coast Seniors Empowerment Series debuts Aug. 29 with "Aging in Place: Staying Put" at the Hilton Garden Inn in Pismo Beach. Adults age 55 and older are invited to "learn the actual facts about issues related to home ownership and post-retirement downsizing on the Central Coast." Call (805) 710-2415 to reserve space. Pre-registration is required. Registration for professionals is $25. Δ
Assistant Editor Peter Johnson wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to email@example.com.