SCALE® - Two-Year J.D. Program
In addition to the three traditional courses of study, Southwestern offers the oldest two-year J.D. program in the country. Known as SCALE, the program features an accelerated law school curriculum that challenges students to master analytical reasoning and legal writing skills while remaining sensitive to ethical obligations and client needs. A trailblazer since 1974, the SCALE Program has focused on integrating substantive knowledge and professional skills instruction, a model that is just now being incorporated into curricular reforms at many other law schools in response to the call for more practical skills training in legal education. By introducing additional innovations in recent years, SCALE has also kept pace with the growing demand of law students for both structure and flexibility in a two-year immersion program. Because of the unique curriculum and accelerated pace of the program, the SCALE admissions process includes a personal interview with each applicant.
What is it like to earn a JD in two years?
Watch this video to get the student perspective
on the unique accelerated program from
graduates and current students of SCALE.
SCALE Program Structure
The SCALE academic calendar typically begins in the second week of June. Between the first and second years, students participate in a mandatory ten week Summer Session. Following a ten day break, students return in early August to begin their second year of SCALE. The SCALE students graduate with their traditional counterparts in May. The program is divided into eight "periods" along with the mandatory Summer Session. The first four periods constitute SCALE I and the remaining four periods constitute SCALE II.
SCALE incorporates legal theory and practical skills training
in a structured yet flexible 2-year curriculum.
SCALE I Curriculum
The first year of SCALE provides students with a solid grounding in the substantive coverage typically found in first- and some second-year traditional courses, exposure to the interrelationship among legal concepts, and instruction in the development of legal writing and beginning lawyering skills. The SCALE I curriculum utilizes a variety of skills exercises in multiple courses both to teach lawyering skills and to reinforce substantive content. For example, in Evidence Law and Practice, students participate in small groups and apply recently learned rules of evidence. Through these exercises, SCALE students become more familiar with each other as they work together, have the benefit of feedback from numerous faculty members, and gain a deeper understanding of concepts as they develop comfort and experience in oral advocacy. SCALE I students are tested at the end of each period. Frequent testing and feedback on oral and written exercises allow for enhanced learning and academic support intervention when necessary.
From the outset, SCALE students develop
essential lawyering skills such as oral and written
communication, fact-gathering, case planning,
counseling, negotiating, litigating and problem solving.
SCALE II Curriculum
The SCALE II curriculum focuses on more advanced substantive courses and transactions similar to those conducted by attorneys. Through a "hands-on" approach, students build on concepts learned during the first year and are able to acquire and practice additional lawyering skills. SCALE II courses cover skills such as interviewing, counseling and negotiation; preparation of a client opinion letter, evidentiary motions and other legal memoranda; trial preparation and conducting a trial. Externships are available in government, public interest, judicial, in-house legal departments and entertainment studio settings as an option during Summer Session and are mandatory for Period 8 which may include, in addition to the summer options, a private firm placement.
SCALE 2.5 Year Program
The SCALE Program provides a required modified curriculum to those students whose GPA (grade point average) is 2.7 or below at the end of the first year of SCALE. Under the modified curriculum, students will have fewer units during each period in their second year of SCALE and will have additional academic support courses to strengthen their skill set. Students will complete the program following an additional semester of Fall classes and will be eligible to graduate in December resulting in a 2.5 year program. Additional tuition will not be charged to accommodate the modified curriculum. Any SCALE student at the end of the first year of SCALE may request to participate in the 2.5 year program.
SCALE Mandatory Summer Session
During the Summer Session, SCALE students choose from three summer scheduling options: (1) participation in a summer externship; (2) enrollment in one or two summer school electives; or (3) participation in a summer abroad program. In addition, all SCALE students are required to write an independent paper based on one of the topics developed during the SCALE Lecture Series. SCALE students may also work, volunteer or aid a professor as a research assistant during the Summer Session.
Focus Areas and Honors Programs
While SCALE students typically graduate as well-trained generalists, the program allows for a specific "mini" focus area through selections made during the Summer Session, the choice of traditional "add-on" electives during SCALE II, and the Period 8 externship. Students have typically created focus areas in entertainment, criminal, international or public interest law, among others.
SCALE students are also eligible to be considered for positions in Southwestern's honors programs (Moot Court, Negotiation and Trial Advocacy Honors Programs; Law Review or Law Journal). Approximately 25-40% of SCALE students participate in honors programs.
Please note: For students interested in business and management, an accelerated 3-year concurrent J.D./M.B.A. degree program for SCALE students is offered in partnership with the Drucker Graduate School of Management.
SCALE is ideal for intellectually mature individuals who
are "self-starters," who thrive under intensive study,
and who enjoy working in small groups.
Every applicant to the SCALE Program must engage in a personal interview to determine if the SCALE Program is the right fit. Recent SCALE classes have varied in size from about 40 to 60 students; the average age is 28, with a range from 20 to over 50, and typically equal in numbers of male and female students. Approximately 20 percent of the incoming students enter SCALE directly from college, and it is not uncommon for entering SCALE students to have graduate degrees in a variety of disciplines. A typical class includes graduates of more than 30 undergraduate institutions around the country, with each class also diversified in areas of interest, foreign languages spoken and work backgrounds. Recent graduates have included a research scientist from the Mayo Clinic, a patent agent and former director of intellectual property, a former U.N. Human Rights activist, an assistant to a U.S. congresswoman and a Tony Award-winning performer.
Despite the diversity in the typical SCALE class, there is tremendous cohesiveness among the students - they often form study groups and work closely with each other on small group projects. In addition, the students grow close as they share the pressures of an intense small accelerated program on the campus of a much larger law school. Students and alumni often describe the significant and lifelong friendships made during the SCALE Program. Camaraderie among students and faculty is also promoted by the numerous events and programs offered to the students during their course of study including: Admission events, Orientation, Student/Alumni Networking Receptions and Presentations, and the SCALE end-of-year Champagne Toast.
Currently, there are over 1,000 SCALE graduates who practice in more than 40 states and internationally, with approximately 700 in California. SCALE alumni represent a wide array of positions in law and business, including about 20 judicial officers; partners and associates in major law firms around the country; executives at 20th Century Fox, Yahoo and Walt Disney; federal, state and local prosecutors; a CEO and general counsel for major investment and multimedia companies; a former Treasurer of the State of California; and a former mayor and city councilpersons of municipalities in Southern California.