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A Select Chronology of the GW School of Law


Columbian College in the District of Columbia was chartered by an Act of Congress. The Board of Trustees expressed the hope that "the day is not distant when the Trustees will organize a Law Department."

The Rev. William Staughton was elected first President of Columbian College.


The Board of Trustees approved the Law Department organization and adopted the bylaws of the Law Department. The first two professors elected by the Trustees were Judge William Cranch, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia and William Thomas Carroll. After the opening of the Law Department the law library began with a fee levied on all students who enrolled in the Law School.


Law classes at Columbian College were discontinued due to insufficient student enrollment and a lack of financial support. The Law School did not reopen until 1865.


The first Doctor of Laws (Honorary) Degree was conferred.


A committee was appointed by the Trustees to consider renewing the Law Department, and a few months later the committee submitted its reasons for reestablishing the Law Department.


The Trustee Committee's recommendation for the reestablishment of the Law School was accepted, and the Board of Trustees appointed the Honorable Samuel Tyler Professor of Law.


The Law Department, the oldest law school in the District of Columbia, was established with a formal program of two years of study.

Law School classes began in the Old Trinity Episcopal Church on Fifth Street between D and E Streets.

The Honorable James M. Wayne, then an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, was appointed to the occasional faculty of the Law School.


The advantages of teaching Patent Law at the Law School were discussed for the first time by the Trustees of the College.

As a prelude to admission the College Catalog stated that "As the course of study demands maturity of the mind, it is adapted either to graduates of Colleges, or to those who have attained by study thorough discipline of their mental powers. Any, however, who desire, are admitted to the Recitations and Lectures of the School; their graduation depending upon their success in mastering the daily exercises and in passing the final examinations."

The Law School was divided into two classes--Junior and Senior. The Course of Recitations embraced the important departments of Common Law and its Commentaries; of Criminal, Commercial, and Admiralty Jurisprudence; and of Evidence and Pleading. The Lectures related to special topics, such as Medical Jurisprudence, bearing directly on the studies in the classroom.


An outline of the permanent organization of the Law Department, including professorships, rules on income, dates of term, etc., was submitted to the Trustees and accepted.

During the first Law School Graduation, sixty graduates from twenty-two of the then thirty-seven states received degrees.

Judge Tyler, who was elected Professor of Law in 1864, finally joined the faculty.


The Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees reported that a building that had been personally purchased by President Samson was bought by the College. Afterward the College assumed responsibility for the property (which housed the Law Department).


A Trustee’s Committee was appointed to confer with the District of Columbia in order to modify a rule for the admission of Columbia Law School Graduates to the District's Bar.


National University and Georgetown University Law Schools were opened.

The case method of instruction was introduced to Columbian Law School.


The first student protest was recorded in the Law School. The protest was over the diploma fee.


The name of the College was changed by Act of Congress to "The Columbian University."

A resolution was adopted by the Board of Trustees establishing a one-year postgraduate course in legal practice. The professor of the postgraduate course also presided over the Moot Court.

Lydia S. Hall and Belva Ann Lockwood graduated from the National University Law School, becoming the school's first female graduates.


Walter S. Cox, a judge in the local courts, joined the faculty.

Upon the recommendation of Columbian College's President Welling, the postgraduate law course was reduced to a four month period, meeting twice a week. This replaced a one-year program that met once a week.

The postgraduate law course was discontinued due to lack of students.


The enrollment declined at the Columbian College Law School. Although consideration was given to adding patent law to the curriculum, no action was taken.


The Board of Trustees announced that it may be necessary to readjust the curriculum of the Law School. Formerly, Law graduates were admitted to the bar without examination upon presentation of their diplomas. The rule changed to require candidates for the bar to have three years of legal training.


At the June 20th Trustees meeting President Welling proposed the establishment of a third year of legal training, to be considered a post-graduate course. This program, adopted one year after the first such program was adopted, qualified students for the degree of Master of Laws.

Candidates for admission to the postgraduate course were required to furnish evidence that they had been diligent and successful students of law for the term of two years.


The American Bar Association was organized.


The Law School moved to the University Building at Fifteenth and H Streets, sharing the facility with the Scientific School.


After his retirement from the Supreme Court, Justice William Strong joined the faculty of the Law School.


The Law School moved from the old church on Judiciary Square to a new building erected at the southeast corner of Fifteenth and H Streets, NW. The new university building was called University Hall, with a lecture room in the building serving as the Law School from 1884 until 1899.


Through President Welling's efforts, the Trustees of the University made what was then a very substantial appropriation toward the revival of the law library and the purchase of books.


In 1889 and 1890, John Marshall Harlan and Justice David Josiah Brewer (Justices of the Supreme Court) were appointed to the faculty. Each Justice served the University for almost twenty years.


The Trustees authorized the course on "Law of Corporations," taught by Mr. Justice Brewer.

The proposal was made to establish a School of Jurisprudence.


The Intellectual Property and Patent Law Program was initiated.


In 1894 the Law School moved into an adjoining building, but five years later the property was sold and the Law School found quarters on the upper floors of the Masonic Temple at Thirteenth Street, H Street and New York Avenue.


The requirements for the Bachelor of Laws degree were extended from a two-year to a three-year program. The Master of Laws degree became a four-year program.

Walter S. Cox became the first Dean of the Law School.

The graduate program in Patent Law began.


Because other law schools in the city would not agree to extend the period of study for the Bachelor of Laws degree to three years, the proposed change was withdrawn from the catalogue.

Professor William Arden Maury writes Illustrative Cases Upon Equity Jurisprudence, and the casebook makes its first recorded appearance in the bibliographies of faculty publications.


President Whitman announced that Georgetown University was willing to approve the proposed extension of the Law School program. The Board of Trustees approved the plans for the extension.

The Board of Trustees ruled that any person could attend the class on Patent Law by paying regular tuition.


The Board of Trustees approved the requirement that examinations be required in all Law School courses.

The School of Comparative Jurisprudence and Diplomacy was created.

The three-year legal program took effect with the 1898-1899 first-year class.

A new Law School building was erected adjacent to the College Building at Fifteenth and H Streets NW.


The Law Lecture Hall in the Law Office Building (Columbian Building) opened on January 3rd. This new building, located at 1420 H Street, NW, was erected solely for legal education.

A special course in Patent Law and Patent Law Practice began in the Law School. Only members of the Bar or graduates in Law were eligible for the degree of Master of Laws.


The Columbian College Law School took part in the organization and establishment of the Association of American Law Schools.

Law Candidates "must be at least 18 years of age, and must have had an education equivalent to a high school course."

Women were first admitted to the Law School to study for the Master of Laws degree.


Henry St. George Tucker became the third Dean of the Law School. He also became the President of the American Bar Association.


The first woman to receive an earned law degree from Columbian University was Emma Reba Bailey, who received the Master of Laws degree in 1902.

Charles W. Needham served as Dean of the Law School from 1902 to 1903.

The course leading to the Doctor of Civil Law in the School of Comparative Jurisprudence and Diplomacy was extended to three years.


Columbian University became The George Washington University by an Act of Congress.

Henry St. George Tucker became the Dean of the Law School.

Although primarily an evening or part-time school, morning classes were instituted.

The Department of Law and the Department of Comparative Jurisprudence were changed to the Department of Law and Jurisprudence and the Department of Politics and Diplomacy.


William Reynolds Vance became Dean of the Law School.

The name of the Department of Law and Jurisprudence was changed to Department of Law.


The requirements for the LL.B were increased to 14 hours per week for full-day work; after 1909-10, candidates must have had two years of college for admission to the Law Department.


The John Ordronaux Prizes were established at George Washington University.


The Law School faculty requested permission to make a separate incorporation of the Law School as a Corporation under the University Charter. This request was refused by the Board.

Dean Ernest G. Lorenzen became Dean of the Law School.

The Law School was moved into rented quarters in the Masonic Temple located at Thirteenth Street, New York Avenue, and H Street, NW. It would remain there until 1920.

Under the leadership of Admiral Stockton, the Law School was saved from becoming a proprietary school and remained as a part of the George Washington University.

The Degree of Doctor of Jurisprudence was suspended.


Charles Noble Gregory became Dean of the Law School.

The Degree of Master of Patent Law was abolished and a certificate substituted for it.

Women were admitted to the professional schools of law and medicine on the condition that each person be acted upon favorably by the Executive Committee.


The George Washington Law Alumni Association was formed.


Women were integrated into the classroom in the Department of Law.

The Honor system of the Department of Law was approved by the Board of Trustees.


The Department of Law was renamed the Law School.

A Legal Aid Society was organized under the supervision of the Faculty of Law.

Charles N. Gregory resigned as Dean and Professor of Law.

Professor Everett Fraser was elected Dean of the Law School.


The Law School celebrated its semi-centennial (dating from its refounding in 1865).

In 1915 only four law schools in the United States had a larger number of college graduates among their student body: Harvard, Columbia, Chicago and Pennsylvania.


Plans were enacted by the Board of Trustees to finance and build a building for the Law School.

The first woman to receive the LL.B. Degree was Marion Clark.


Merton L. Ferson became Dean of the Law School


The property at 1435 K Street was purchased in order to temporarily house the Law School.


The National University Law Review was founded.

GW celebrated the centennial of the original founding of the Columbian College.


Law School candidates were required to have completed at least one year of college work.


Dean Merton L. Ferson resigned from the faculty. William C. Van Vleck, a graduate of GW's Law School was appointed acting dean during a one year leave of absence by Ferson. William C. Van Vleck succeeded Ferson as Dean of the Law School in 1924. Van Vleck continued as Dean until 1948.

A new Law School was constructed on the corner of 20th Street between G and H Streets and named Stockton Hall. The cornerstone was laid on December 15th.


The classrooms and offices of Stockton Hall were occupied and the building dedicated on November 14th.

The Law School library was named the Maury Memorial Law Library.

The American Bar Association accorded the GW Law School a class "A" status.


A chapter of the Order of the Coif was established at George Washington.


The George Washington Law Review began publication.


The first Student Bar Association was established in the Law School.


As of September, admission to the GW Law School was based upon a Baccalaureate Degree.

The GW Law School was made a graduate school and the Degree of Juris Doctor established.


The GW Law Review was now issued eight times per year.


The degree of Doctor of Juridical Science was established.


As its contribution to the war effort, the third floor of Stockton Hall was maintained for the use of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps to test fabrics for tropical use.

The GW Board of Trustees issued a formal presentation honoring the Law School for seventy-five years of work.


When the Patent Office was moved to Richmond, authorization was given for a cooperative plan between the T.C. Williams School of Law at Richmond University and George Washington in order to teach Patent Law.

To meet the demands of the Second World War, the Law School expanded its work to three semesters--fall, winter, and summer terms--and candidates for the Bachelor of Laws degree were admitted after completing only half their work for their Bachelor’s Degree.

A resolution was adopted establishing The Law School Expansion Fund.


The Trusteed approved the Degree of Master of Comparative Law and a supporting curriculum.

The Law School began accepting foreign attorneys into specially designated programs.

The Law School was authorized to establish the degree of Master of Comparative Law and corresponding courses.


The Charles Worthington Dorsey Memorial Scholarship was established. All LL.B. candidates were required to complete their Bachelor's degrees before being eligible for admission to the Law School.


During the decade of the 1940's the enrollment at the GW Law School surpassed the one thousand mark.

William Van Vleck retired as Dean of the Law School.


A Special Committee nominated O.S. Colclough as Dean of the Law School.


In the early 1950's, two row houses were combined to form the Harlan-Brewer House. This house was made available to the Law School faculty and other school activities.

Seven Law School Scholarships were established to strengthen the program.


The Degree of Master of Comparative Law (American Practice) was established.

A resolution was adopted by the Trustees authorizing the President to proceed with a plan for the establishment of a Law Center.


The newspaper Amicus Curiae began publication as the first regular student law publication. The Amicus Curiae ceased publication in 1969.


GW Trustee Newell Ellison accepted the post of National Chairman of the Law Center Drive. Alumni were also organized to help with the campaign under the leadership of Vernon Romney.

John Theodore Rey was appointed Dean of the Law School.


The merger between the National University Law School and George Washington University was approved by the GW Trustees to take effect on August 31st. National University, founded in 1869, had a long history of legal education in the District.

George Washington University abolished all restrictions on minority students who applied to the University. The new policy was to be instituted by 1955.


The GW Trustees announced that the Law Alumni had raised $235,147.40 for the Law Center Drive. The Board asked that an expression of appreciation be sent to Trustee Newell Ellison and other officers of the Drive.

The Charles Glover Prize was established.


GW established the Kappa Beta Pi Legal Sorority prize for legal publication.

Louis Harkey May served as acting Dean of the Law School.


Approval was given by the Trustees to establish the National Law Center. This included the Law School, a Graduate School of Public Law and related educational, research and publication activities.

Charles B. Nutting was appointed Dean of the National Law Center.


Louis H. Mayo was appointed Dean of the Graduate School of Public Law.

The Juris Doctor Degree was discontinued as a first degree in Law. This applied to students who entered the Law School in 1961.


Oswald S. Colclough, Professor of Law, Dean of Faculties and Provost, retired at the close of the 1964 academic year.

The Consortium of Universities was chartered.


The GW Board of Trustees approved the recommendation that October 11th be recognized as Founder's Day for the Law School. A special University Convocation was held to recognize the event.


The Trustees adopted a recommendation to initiate the construction of the Law Library.

Robert Kramer was appointed Professor of Law and Dean of the National Law Center.

The Consortium of Universities was incorporated.

Studies in Law and Economic Development began publication.


The main reading room of the new National Law Center was named in honor of Newell Ellison.

The Jacob Burns Law Library was completed.


The GW Trustees voted that the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree would be substituted for the Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree in the National Law Center.


The National Law Center instituted the Community Legal Clinics Program. In October the Advocate began publication.

A law suit was filed by GW Law Students over union fees.

By 1969 ten percent of GW law students were taking courses at other consortium law schools.


The Environmental Law Program of the National Law Center was begun in September. The program was initiated by Professor Arnold W. Reitze, Jr.


The lecture hall in Stockton Hall was named "The Sally Shenkman Lecture Hall" in memory of the late daughter of Mr. Jacob Burns.

George Washington defeated Georgetown University in Moot Court Regional Finals.

Studies in Law and Economic Development became the Journal of International Law and Economics.


The first Multi-State Bar Examination was given.

A local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild was organized at the National Law Center.


The National Law Center lost the Harlan-Brewer House.

The Center for Administrative Justice affiliated with the National Law Center.


Vice President Alpert announced the establishment of the S. Chesterfield Oppenheim Chair.


Dean Kramer was elected Dean Emeritus as well as Professor Emeritus.

Jerome A. Barron became Dean of the National Law Center.

A new clinical course entitled the Immigration Practice Clinic (Law 346) began.


Hugh Bernard, Professor and Head Librarian of the Jacob Burns Law Library, retired.

The Michael D. Cooley Award was first presented at NLC Commencement in May of 1981.

The Jewish Law Students' Association was organized.

The National Law Center established the Enrichment Program to enhance the extracurricular intellectual life of the Law School.


The National Law Center expansion program began with the renovation of the Jacob Burns Law Library and Stockton Hall. Bacon Hall was replaced by a new classroom building.

The GW National Law Center building fund received memorial gifts totaling $100,000 from the Joseph B. Danzansky Commemoration Committee and the Joseph B. Danzansky family.

The street law program started in January through the D.C. Adopt-a-School Program.

A summer law program was instituted in London. The program focused on private international law and comparative law.


The National Law Center established the Jacob Burns Fellows Program. The program provided annual awards of $5,000 each to the five highest achieving applicants to the National Law Center.

Construction on the new National Law Center classroom, library, student support and administrative facilities began in December.

The Honorable J. William Fulbright and Eugene C. Carusi served as co-chairs for the law Class of 1934's 50th class reunion.


The Lerner Law Building was completed and opened to student use. The new building was officially dedicated on January 23rd in a ceremony in the Jacob Burns Moot Court of Lerner Hall.

The Committee on the Eighties drafted a proposal to discontinue the National Law Center's evening law program.

250 law students met in opposition to the draft proposal to eliminate the evening JD program.


President Elliott and the Law School faculty approved the proposal to end the night law school.

On June 21st, the GW Board of Trustees voted unanimously that the National Law Center should become a single law school, eliminating separate daytime and evening divisions.

The Jacob Burns Law Library was dedicated on Thursday, October 18th.

The Danzansky Amphitheater Classroom of the National Law Center was dedicated on November 1st.

Brigadier General Richard J. Bednar was appointed as director of the Government Contracts Program.


The Robert Netherland Miller Scholarship Fund was established at the National Law Center.


The Glen A. Wilkinson Scholarship Fund was created.


The Jacob Burns Merit Scholarship Fund was established.

On April 10th, Steve Carlisle and Dave Bertoni became the first team from George Washington to win the National Moot Court Competition.


Jack H. Friedenthal was named Dean of the National Law Center and assumed the post in Summer 1988. Before coming to GW, Dr. Friedenthal was the Osborne Professor of Law at Stanford University. 

1989 - 1996

The National Law Center continued to excel and grow as a national center for legal education, making great strides in its academic, research and alumni relations. Under the guidance of Dean Friedenthal, the faculty increased, the use of technology through computer applications developed, and the Center pioneered bringing Eastern Bloc students to the National Law Center to study law. The Center served as a leader in the fields of Intellectual Property and Patent Law, Environmental Law, Governmental Contracts and International Law. 

1998 – 2007

In 1998 Jack Harlan Friedenthal retired as Dean of the Law School. Michael K. Young became Dean in 1998 and served until 2004 when Roger Trangsrud was appointed Interim Dean. Frederick M. Lawrence succeeded Interim Dean Roger Trangsrud after an extensive search, assuming his post on August 1, 2007. Dr. Trangsrud returned to the classroom as the Oswald Symister Colclough Research Professor of Law.