The University of California's fifth law school will open its doors in 2009 and make an immediate impact on the state's 20 ABA-approved schools. UC Irvine will expand its campus and host the new Donald Bren School of Law, joining 12 other Southern California ABA-blessed schools. With limited state funds to spread throughout the subsidized UC system, having another mouth to feed isn't going to combat the rising cost of tuition.
Will California's newest law school impact the job prospects of current 1Ls when we graduate in 2010? The impact will not be immediate, because the first UCI Law graduating class isn't expected until 2012. The Donald Bren School of Law will not affect the legal market until there are warm bodies walking the halls. Those seeking jobs for the summer of 2010 will notice UCI Law's inaugural class, but current 1Ls will have graduated and care more about passing the bar than anything else.
Future students will be the ones directly competing with an additional 200 freshly minted JDs once UCI Law grads hit the pavement in 2012. It's the graduating classes of 2011 and beyond that must contend with an increase in native California law school graduates, a daunting thought considering that the California legal market is already quite competitive.
Additionally, an increase in California job seekers is only part of the picture. If UCI law is on par with the four existing UC law schools—a 'top tier' school—then its existence will ease admissions at schools across the United States. Think about it. There will be more available seats accommodating the same number of total applications throughout the country. UCI Law won't only effect California. Schools across the nation will lose 200 prospective students, and it'll force them to dig deeper into their application pool.