Certificate in Legal Studies Program Overview

Pardee RAND Graduate School and the Southwestern Law School offer reciprocal certificate programs in Public Policy and Law

Southwestern and the Pardee RAND Graduate School have established two exciting certificate programs to provide law students and public policy Ph.D. students the opportunity to complement their degree programs with a unique understanding of the interplay between the law and public policy.

Through these certificate programs, qualified Southwestern students can take courses in public policy at Pardee RAND, leading to a Certificate in Public Policy, and qualified students at Pardee RAND can take courses at Southwestern, leading to a Certificate in Legal Studies. These are not joint degree programs; instead, they are intended to provide participating students with a basic knowledge of law and public policy and an understanding of the tools and frameworks relevant to each field.

"There are virtually no programs available to meet the needs of policy Ph.D. students who wish to gain substantial exposure to law school course work or law students seeking to gain an understanding of public policy without the requirement of an additional degree. Our new certificate programs provide a very practical solution."

Dean Austen Parrish, Southwestern Law School

Graduates who hold either the Certificate in Legal Studies or the Certificate in Public Policy will acquire skills and knowledge that should allow them to rise to leadership roles in a number of policymaking and legal organizations including government agencies, nonprofit groups, law firms and private-sector corporations.

The certificate programs will be small and highly competitive with approximately two to four students from each school each year. The schools will select candidates for the program from among their student bodies. The hosting school will make final admission decisions, however, students will generally be from the top 20% of their graduate school/law school class at the end of their first year of study. Southwestern students will have up to two years to complete the policy certificate program, and Pardee RAND students must complete the law certificate program within three years.

"Our nation's public policies are largely contained in legislation and regulations grounded in the law and impact nearly every aspect of the public, commercial and private sectors. Both law and public policy students can therefore benefit tremendously from a more holistic understanding of the interconnectivity of law and public policy."

Dean Susan Marquis, Pardee RAND Graduate School


Students will be selected on a case-by-case basis from the top 20% of their class or cohort. Each school will select their applicants for the appropriate certificate program and the hosting school will then evaluate those applications to determine admissions.

students in front of Pardee RAND

Southwestern students will be eligible to enter the certificate program after completion of their first or second year of law school. To enroll in any quantitative courses at Pardee RAND, students will have to demonstrate competency in math through college transcripts or GRE scores at a level similar to Pardee RAND students, or by taking the Pardee RAND Mathematics for Policy Analysis course.

Pardee RAND students may enter the certificate program after completion of their first or second year of the Ph.D. program and must successfully complete their qualifying exams prior to commencing the program.

Academic Credit

Students will need to complete 12 Southwestern units for the Legal Studies Certificate or 6 Pardee RAND (PR) units for the Public Policy Certificate. All students participating in the certificate programs will be required to take a foundational course, History of Contemporary Law and Public Policy, included in the unit count for both certificates (1 PR unit, 2 SW units). This course, as well as two others (in most cases), will also count toward the students' degrees at their home institutions. Southwestern students will also be required to take the introductory course, Perspectives on Public Policy Analysis (1 PR unit, 2 SW units). The remaining required units will be electives that will count only toward the certificate.


All approved units taken at one school will transfer to the other school as credit/no credit using the equivalencies in the table below. Students must earn a grade of C+ or better to receive course credit. Southwestern students must complete the certificate program requirements within two years. Pardee RAND students must complete the certificate program requirements within three years. Other than Perspectives on Public Policy Analysis and Mathematics for Policy Analysis, students may take required and elective courses at their own pace and in order of preference or convenience.

Certificate Requirements

Program Required Credits for Certificate Credits Counting Toward Degree
Public Policy Certificate 6 units at Pardee RAND (generally 6-8 classes at 0.5-1.0 unit each)* 3 PR units may be counted toward the Southwestern J.D.*
Legal Studies Certificate 12 units at Southwestern
(generally 6-8 classes at 1.0-4.0 units each)*
6 Southwestern units may be counted towards the Pardee RAND Ph.D.*

Unit Conversion (SW = PR)

  • 1.0 = 0.5
  • 2.0 = 1.0
  • 3.0 = 1.5
  • 4.0 = 2.0

*The units for the required foundational course are included in the counts above.


certificate students

Students accepted into the certificate program may choose from a wide variety of courses eligible for credit at both schools, such as Principles in Client-Oriented Policy Analysis, Organizational Culture of Government Institutions, and Cost Benefit and Cost Effectiveness Analysis (Pardee RAND courses), and Children and the Law, Environmental Law, and International Dispute Resolution (Southwestern courses).

Click here for a list of courses that count toward the Certificate in Legal Studies. A list of courses for the Certificate in Public Policy can be found on the Pardee RAND website here.

Application Process

The Southwestern–Pardee RAND Certificate Programs are only open to current Southwestern and Pardee RAND students. Students interested in admission to the Southwestern–Pardee RAND Certificate Programs must complete an application form and submit it along with the following materials:

  • a current resume
  • one letter of recommendation from a Southwestern or Pardee RAND professor addressing the student's interest in and fitness for the Certificate in Legal Studies (for Pardee RAND applicants) or the Certificate in Public Policy (for Southwestern applicants)
  • an essay on the applicant's motivation and qualifications for pursuing the certificate.

The original file submitted by the applicant for admission to the Southwestern J.D. or the Pardee RAND Ph.D. will be reviewed by each institution.

Application Form

Application Deadline: April 15

Applicants should submit the required materials to the representative at their current school (see below). Applicants will be notified of their admission status by early July.

Tuition and Academic Calendar

Students accepted into the certificate program will pay no additional tuition to the partner institution provided that they complete the certificate requirements concurrent with earning their J.D. or Ph.D. degree.

Pardee RAND is on the quarter system. Fall quarter runs late September to mid-December; winter quarter runs early January to mid-March; spring quarter runs early April to mid-June. No classes are offered in the summer, although Math for Policy Analysis is offered two-weeks prior to the start of the fall quarter.

Southwestern is on the semester system and includes summer courses. The Fall Semester runs mid-August to mid-December; the Spring Semester runs early January to mid-May; and the Summer Session runs from early June to late July.

About Southwestern Law School

Southwestern Law School

One of the most diverse law schools in the country, Southwestern has an enrollment of 1,000 students in full-time and part-time JD degree courses of study, including the first two-year JD program at an American law school. Masters of Laws (LLM) programs for law graduates are also offered in entertainment law or individualized studies. The school's 10,000 alumni are members of the legal profession in virtually every state and more than a dozen foreign countries and include members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, governors, the longest serving mayor of Los Angeles, over 200 judicial officers, founders of prominent law firms, and general counsels of multinational corporations. Southwestern has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for curricular innovation and the focus on professionalism and practical lawyering skills. The law school's campus—a vibrant, student-centered environment—includes the internationally acclaimed art deco BullocksWilshire landmark, featuring the second largest academic law library facility in California, and the Julian C. Dixon Courtroom and Advocacy Center, the most technologically advanced center of its kind. Taking advantage of its location in the center of Los Angeles, Southwestern offers one of the largest externship programs in the country and is the home of the Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute. Founded in 1911, Southwestern is a nonprofit, nonsectarian independent law school approved by the American Bar Association and a member of the Association of American Law Schools.