Western State offers certificate programs in five practice areas, which provide students the opportunity to take electives and complete an internship or externship around a specific area of emphasis within the formal J.D. degree. The areas of concentration available in the certificate program include:
- Business Law: This program emphasizes transactional and client-centered skills for law students interested in representing small businesses and entrepreneurs. Students who complete this program graduate with skills specific to business law, including accounting, finance, tax, decision-making, game modeling and economics. They also gain the ability to negotiate, structure and document complex business transactions. By blending legal theory with practical experiences, students will be ready to act as an effective counselor, decision maker and leader in nearly any business setting post-graduation.
- Family Law: Family law is one of the fastest growing areas of practice and encompasses marital agreements, divorce, custody disputes, adoption and more. This program provides students an opportunity to work side-by-side with family law attorneys and learn firsthand how the family court system operates.
- Criminal Law: Those interested in a career in criminal law work directly with prosecutors, public defenders and private defense attorneys on real cases to learn how the criminal justice system operates. In addition, the certificate program offers students various opportunities to gain exposure to the field, including opportunities to tour criminal justice facilities in Orange County, Calif., including the crime labs, juvenile hall, the coroner’s office and the court of appeals.
- Immigration Law: Immigration law provides students a well-rounded experience incorporating coursework and internship or externship opportunities to learn how immigration lawyers make a difference in people’s lives. Within this certificate program, students are exposed to real cases; learn how the immigration system operates; and are shown the human side of the law.
- Real Estate Law: Real estate lawyers are among the top six earners in comparison to all attorneys nationwide. Upon graduation, real estate attorneys can practice in a variety of settings: in law firms, government agencies, non-profits, businesses, title companies or banks. In this certificate program, students learn the intricacies of California’s real estate system and are equipped to pursue careers in real estate and related fields.
Benefits of a law certificate program
While certificate programs have varying criteria for completion, they often require a number of electives focused on their area of interest and some call for an externship in that field as well. Therefore, graduating with a certificate signifies that they are serious about this area of law and it also shows that they have firsthand experience in that area of practice. This can help set them apart when applying for jobs as well as open up doors to network with those already practicing in the field. To learn more about these programs, we have answered some of the most common questions.
- How is a certificate program different from a clinic?
Both opportunities allow students to gain real-world experience within specific practice areas. However, clinics are on campus and offer students limited choices in pre-selected areas of law. With a certificate program, students have flexibility in selecting to extern at an agency or organization in an area of law that interests them.
- How do you apply?
Students interested in a certificate program must complete a statement of intent. The advisors of the program examine these, along with the student’s current transcript to determine whether they are on track to earn a certificate. Students can enroll any time after their first year. However, because some courses are not offered every semester, it is recommended that students apply as soon as they have determined their interest to ensure they can meet all certificate program requirements.
- What does a certificate program entail?
Students interested in graduating with a certificate in a certain practice area have to complete a minimum number of electives around that subject matter. In addition, they are required to do an externship. Beyond that, they need to maintain a cumulative GPA throughout their law school journey. Students with a GPA of 3.0 or above in these courses receive a certificate with the notation, “With Distinction” at graduation.
- How are students supported in the program?
Each certificate program has an advisor to ensure the student completes the required classes and electives to fulfill the certificate. At the end of the semester, advisors review transcripts of each student participating in the certificate programs to ensure they are on track to fully complete the program. Advisors can also serve as a soundboard for students to explore internship and externship opportunities. There is also a career department office that assists in coordinating the internship and externship opportunities for students.
- Is a certificate necessary?
No, it is not required to get a certificate. Although if students are passionate about a specific area, this distinction can demonstrate their dedicated interest and core knowledge. If a student is not interested in the certificate program, there are other opportunities to get involved. Students can participate in internships and externships outside of a certificate program to gain experience in a particular practice setting. In addition, students can join student organizations that can open the door to networking with attorneys or aspiring lawyers focused on the same legal field.
To learn more about the certificate programs and connect with the appropriate advisor, visit: Law Certificate Programs