A division of Libraries and Academic Innovation

Gelman Hours for GWorld Holders
Open Until 11:00pm
8:00am to 11:00pm
8:00am to 11:00pm
7:00am to 11:00pm
7:00am to 12:00am
24 hours
24 hours
GELMAN Open Until 11:00pm

A Select Chronology of the GW School of Law

1821 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.

1826 The Board of Trustees approved the Law Department organization and adopted the By-Laws 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.

1827 Law classes at Columbian College were discontinued due to insufficient student enrollment and a lack of financial support. The Law School would not reopen until 1865.

1846 The first Doctor of Laws (Honorary) Degree was conferred.

1862 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.

1864 The Trustee Committee's recommendation for the reestablishment of the Law School was accepted and the Board of Trustees appointed the Hon. Samuel Tyler Professor of Law.

1865 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.

1866 The advantages of Patent Law being taught at the Law School was 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; of Evidence and Pleading. The Lectures related to special topics, such as Medical Jurisprudence, bearing directly on the studies in the classroom.

1867 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 22 of the then 37 states, received degrees.
  • Judge Tyler, who was elected Professor of Law in 1864 finally joined the faculty.

1868 The Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees reported that a building, which was personally purchased by President Samson was bought by the College. Afterward the College assumed responsibility for the property (which housed the Law Department).

1869 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.

1870 National University and Georgetown University Law Schools were opened.

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

1872 The first student protest was recorded in the Law School. The protest was over the diploma fee.

1873 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 -- the school's first female graduates.

1874 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 which met once a week.
  • The postgraduate law course was discontinued for lack of students.

1875 The enrollment declines at the Columbian College Law School. Consideration is given to adding patent law to the curriculum. However, no action is taken.

1876 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. Now the rule had changed and candidates for the bar must have had three years of legal training.

1877 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, would qualify students for the degree of Master of Laws.

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

1878 The American Bar Association was organized.

1879 The Law School moved to the University Building at Fifteenth and H Streets, sharing the building with the Scientific School.

1881 After his retirement from the Supreme Court, Justice William Strong joined the faculty of the Law School.

1884 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 (1884 until 1899).

1887 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.

1889 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.

1890 The Trustees authorized the course on "Law of Corporations" to be taught by Mr. Justice Brewer.

  • The proposal was made to establish a School of Jurisprudence.

1891 The Intellectual Property and Patent Law Program was initiated.

1894 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.

1895 The requirements for the Bachelor of Laws degree were extended from two 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.

1896 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.

1897 President Whitman announced that Georgetown University now 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.

1898The Board of Trustees approved the requirement that examinations be required in all Law School courses.

  • The School of Comparative Jurisprudence and Diplomacy is 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 15th and H Streets NW.

1899The Law Lecture Hall in the Law Office Building (Columbian Building) was opened 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.

1900 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.

1901 Henry St. George Tucker became the third Dean of the Law School. He also became the President of the American Bar Association.

1902 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.

1904 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 Department of Comparative Jurisprudence were changed to the Department of Law and Jurisprudence, and Department of Politics and Diplomacy.

1907 William Reynolds Vance became Dean of the Law School.

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

1908 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.

1909 The John Ordronaux Prizes were established at George Washington University.

1910 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. It would remain as a part of the George Washington University.
  • The Degree of Doctor of Jurisprudence was suspended.

1911 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.

1912 The George Washington Law Alumni Association was formed.

1913 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.

1914 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.

1915 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. The schools were Harvard, Columbia, Chicago and Pennsylvania.

1916 Plans are set forth 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.

1917 Merton L. Ferson became Dean of the Law School

1920 The property at 1435 K Street was purchased in order to temporarily house the Law School.

1921 The National University Law Review was founded.

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

1923 Law School candidates were required to have completed at least one year of college work.

1924 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 and named Stockton Hall. The cornerstone was laid on December 15th.

1925 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 GW Law School was accorded a class "A" status by the American Bar Association.

1926 A chapter of the Order of the Coif was established at George Washington.

1932 The George Washington Law Review began publication.

1934 The first Student Bar Association was established in the Law School.

1936 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.

1938 The GW Law Review was now issued eight times per year.

1940 The degree of Doctor of Juridical Science was established.

1941 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 for the testing of fabrics for tropical use.

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

1942 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.

1946 The Degree Master of Comparative Law with supporting curriculum was approved by the Trustees.

  • 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.

1947 The Charles Worthington Dorsey Memorial Scholarship was established. All LL.B. candidates now had to complete their Bachelor's degrees before being eligible for admission to the Law School.

1948 During the decade of the 40's the enrollment at the GW Law School surpassed the one thousand mark.

  • William Van Vleck retires as Dean of the Law School.

1949 A Special Committee nominated O.S. Colclough as Dean of the Law School.

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

  • Seven Law School Scholarships were established to strengthen the program.

1951 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.

1952 Not until 1952, when the newspaper Amicus Curiae began publication, was there a regular student law publication. The Amicus Curiae ceased publication in 1969.

1953 GW Trustee Newell Ellison accepted the post of National Chairman of the Law Center Drive. Alumni, under the leadership of Vernon Romney, were also organized to help with the campaign.

  • John Theodore Rey was appointed Dean of the Law School.

1954 The merger between the National University Law School and George Washington University was approved by the GW Trustees to be effective August 31st. National University, founded in 1869, had a long history concerned with 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 in effect by 1955.

1957 The GW Trustees announced that the Law Alumni had raised $235,147.40 for the Law Center Drive. The Board asked that expression of appreciation be sent to Trustee Newell Ellison and other officers of the Drive.

  • The Charles Glover Prize was established.

1958 The Kappa Beta Pi Legal Sorority prize for legal publication was established at GW.

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

1959 Approval was given by the Trustees for the establishment of 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 as Dean of the National Law Center.

1960 Louis H. Mayo was appointed as 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.

1964 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.

1965 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 to be held to recognize the event.

1966The Trustees adopted a recommendation to initiate construction of the Law Library.

  • Robert Kramer was appointed Professor of Law and Dean of the National Law Center.
  • The Consortium of Universities is incorporated.
  • Studies in Law and Economic Development began publication.

1967 The main reading room of the new National Law Center was named in honor of Newell Ellison.

  • The Jacob Burns Law Library was completed.

1968 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.

1969 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.

1970 The Environmental Law Program of the National Law Center was begun in September. The program was initiated by Professor Arnold W. Reitze, Jr.

1971 The Lecture Hall in Stockton Hall was named "The Sally Shenkman Lecture Hall" in memory of the deceased daughter of Mr. Jacob Burns.

  • George Washington defeats Georgetown University in Moot Court Regional Finals.
  • Studies in Law and Economic Development is changed to the Journal of International Law and Economics.

1972 The first Multi-State Bar Examination was given.

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

1973 The National Law Center loses the Harlan-Brewer House.

  • The Center for Administrative Justice affiliates with the National Law Center.

1977 Vice President Alpert announced the establishment of the S. Chesterfield Oppenheim Chair.

1979 Dean Kramer was elected Dean Emeritus as well as Professor Emeritus.

  • Dean Jerome A. Barron became Dean of the National Law Center.
  • A new clinical course entitled the Immigration Practice Clinic (Law 346) began.

1981 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.

1982 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 from the Joseph B. Danzansky Commemoration Committee and the Joseph B. Danzansky family totaling $100,000.
  • A summer law program was instituted in London. The program focused on private international law and comparative law.
  • The street law program was started in January through the D.C. Adopt-a-School Program.

1983 The National Law Center established the Jacob Burns Fellows Program. The program provided for 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 50th class reunion.

1984 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 evening law program.
  • 250 law students meet in opposition to the draft proposal to eliminate the NLC's evening JD program.

1984 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. There would not be any separate daytime or 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 1, 1984.
  • Brigadier General Richard J. Bednar was appointed as director of the Government Contracts Program.

1985 The Robert Netherland Miller Scholarship Fund was established at the National Law Center.

1896 The Glen A. Wilkinson Scholarship Fund is created.

1987 The Jacob Burns Merit Scholarship Fund is established.

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

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

1989 - 1996 In the last few years the National Law Center continued to excel and grow as a national center for legal education. Under the guidance of Dean Friedenthal the faculty of the NLC has increased, the use of technology through computer applications has developed, the Center has become a pioneer in bringing Eastern Bloc students to the NLC to study law. The NLC continues to be a leader in the fields of Intellectual Property and Patent Law, Environmental Law, Governmental Contracts and International Law. The Center continues to make great strides in its academic, research and alumni relations.

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. Dean Frederick M. Lawrence was selected after an extensive search and assumed his post August 1, 2007. He succeeded Interim Dean Roger Trangsrud who returned to the classroom as the Oswald Symister Colclough Research Professor of Law.

Mobile | Desktop