The State Bar of California Committee of Bar Examiners and the Board of Trustees of Monterey College of Law have approved the opening of Kern County College of Law as an accredited branch of Monterey College of Law. The new Bakersfield, California law school is scheduled to open in Summer 2017.

“We are delighted to extend our family of non-profit, accredited law school locations to serve the communities of Kern County,” announced Mitchel Winick, President and Dean of Monterey College of Law. “Kern County represents one of the largest regions in California that does not have local access to an accredited law school program. With a regional population of almost a million people and an economy fueled by the energy, agriculture, and ranching industries, we see this as an important opportunity to respond to the education needs of a large underserved population. As a part-time, evening program, our law school provides traditional and non-traditional students the opportunity to pursue a valuable legal education.”

“Over the past several months, we have been meeting with local lawyers, judges, community leaders, and higher education representatives to discuss whether the community thinks that an accredited non-profit law school will be successful,” said Fred Herro, Chair of the MCL Board of Trustees. “The response was positive across the board.”

“Unlike many for-profit schools, our program focus is on providing community education, not corporate profit,” said Winick. “We think that this distinction makes a real difference in the quality of education that we provide and our interest in building a long-term relationship with the community.”
Monterey College of Law was founded more than 44 years ago by a group of local lawyers and judges who wanted to bring legal education to the California Central Coast. Similar to the current situation in Kern County, there was not an option for attending an accredited law school program without moving out of the area. MCL was the answer, utilizing local lawyers and judges to teach evening courses so that students would not have to give up their day jobs in order to attend law school. The law school continues to use the same model to this very day.

In 2015, the school expanded by opening San Luis Obispo College of Law as an accredited branch of MCL under new accreditation rules approved by the State Bar of California. “San Luis Obispo represents a region with an extraordinary higher education community centered around the 20,000 students at Cal Poly, and yet had no local accredited law school program,” said Winick. Opening in Summer 2015, the program quickly grew beyond its initial downtown location and recently took over the former University of LaVerne campus located in the growing business district surrounding the San Luis Obispo airport.
“We anticipate a similar positive response in Kern County. As we met with local higher education leaders, we discovered that CSU Bakersfield and Bakersfield College both have very strong pre-law programs. By working collaboratively with these schools, we expect to develop strong local feeder-programs for students who wish to complete a legal graduate education program without having to move out of the region,” said Winick.

“Our school is also unique because under California law, as a state-accredited law school, applicants are not required to have a bachelor’s degree. This means that high-achieving students from CSU Bakersfield and Bakersfield College who have successfully completed their A.A., or at least 60-units of undergraduate studies, are eligible to apply,” said Dean of Admissions Wendy LaRiviere. “It is also important to know that because we are an accredited law school, our students are not required to take and pass the First Year Law Student Exam, otherwise known as the ‘Baby Bar.’ This is an important distinction between accredited and unaccredited law schools, because students who fail the Baby Bar after the first year of law school are dismissed and are ineligible to re-enroll in any other law school for at least two years,” cautioned LaRiviere.

“We also believe strongly that the quality of a law school program should be measured by the experience and reputation of its administration and faculty,” said Winick. “We are pleased and excited that C.M. ‘Bud’ Starr has agreed to serve as our founding Campus Dean for the KCCL campus. Mr. Starr recently retired after 29 years as Deputy District Attorney in Kern County and also has over eight years of previous experience as a law professor. We have already identified a number of highly qualified lawyers and judges who are interested in serving on the KCCL faculty, many of whom have previous teaching experience,” said Winick.

“Ultimately, the success of a law school is measured by its reputation for student success on the incredibly challenging California Bar Exam,” said Dean of Student Success Elizabeth Xyr. “With 44 years of history behind us, our law school is well-known for its unique emphasis on bar exam preparation. Our bar prep program is integrated into the curriculum and included in the cost of tuition, a benefit offered by very few law schools.”

Although courses will not start until Summer 2017, Kern County College of Law will begin accepting applications November 1, 2016.

For more information about KCCL, contact Assistant Dean of Admissions and Recruitment, Dena Dowsett, at