|Dean David Van Zandt, University president Morton Schapiro, and alumnus Marc S. Schulman, JD ‘79, cut a cake in honor of Northwestern Law's 150th anniversary as part of the Alumni Community Day festivities on October 2. Schulman, who is president of Eli’s Cheesecake Company, donated the cake for the event.|
September 21, 1859
The Law School is founded as the Union College of Law, a department of the now defunct Chicago University. It is the first law school established in Chicago. Twenty-three students enroll the first year and tuition costs $100 per year.
Classes are suspended for a week in order for students to see one of Illinois’s best litigators, Abraham Lincoln, argue a case before the appellate court. At this time, Lincoln serves as counsel to the Illinois Central Railroad. The case is decided in his favor.
Northwestern University assumes joint control of the Union College of Law with Chicago University.
An alumni association is formed -- the organization numbers 867 members.
The Law School is completely and formally integrated into Northwestern University.
The Northwestern Law Review, the Law School’s first legal publication, produces its first edition in January 1893.
The Law School adopts a three-year curriculum for the Bachelor in Laws degree (LLB) – an increase of one year.
The Law School is located on the top floor of the YMCA Building, 153 LaSalle Street.
John Henry Wigmore, a faculty member since 1893, becomes the first full-time dean of the Law School. Wigmore, a prolific scholar who penned the seminal Treatise on Evidence, serves as dean until 1929. After retiring as dean, he continues as a professor of law at the Law School, becoming emeritus in 1934. He remains at the school until his death following an automobile accident in 1943.
The Law School moves into its new residence, the old Tremont Hotel Building at the corner of Lake and Dearborn. The School occupies the third floor of the building, sharing the location with the dental and pharmacy schools. Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Oliver Wendell Holmes gives the keynote speech at the building’s dedication, paying tribute to both Northwestern and Dean Wigmore.
The Law School faculty votes to found the Illinois Law Review (now the Northwestern University Law Review) in February 1906. At the time, there were only a few such journals published by law schools.
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A time honored tradition, the student-faculty softball game takes its first pitch.
Northwestern Law holds the first ever National Conference on Criminal Law and Criminology. As a result of the conference, the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology is founded. The Law School publishes a journal for the organization.
Qualifications for admittance to the Law School in 1914 include one year of college and 20 years of age.
The minimum age for admittance to the Law School is raised to 21.
The Law School adopts a four-year curriculum and raises entrance requirements from one to three years of undergraduate work.
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Clinical education makes its formal debut, when Wigmore insists that all students be exposed to the practical side of the law through work at Chicago’s free legal services agencies.
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The Julius Rosenthal Foundation is established in 1919 in memory of Julius Rosenthal (1827-1905), an eminent and beloved member of the Chicago Bar. The Foundation supports the Rosenthal lecture series, a distinguished lecture program which has assumed a preeminent position in the legal world.
The Law School adopts its seal, which uses the emblem of St. Ives, patron saint of the legal profession, and the slogan
“bon droit et raison” (with good law and justice).
Levy Mayer Hall and the Elbert H. Gary Library are completed. The buildings receive funding from Rachel Mayer, wife of prominent Chicago attorney Levy Mayer, and Elbert H. Gary LLB 1868, founder of U.S. Steel and namesake of Gary, Indiana.
Leon Green, a leading scholar in torts law, succeeds Wigmore as dean. During his tenure, the Law School expands the scope of its curriculum, changing from its traditional concentration on the judicial process of the courts to the study and analysis of the relationship between the law and a whole range of governmental and business agencies. Green serves in this post for eighteen years, retiring in 1947.
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In the wake of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the Scientific Crime Detection Lab, affiliated with Northwestern Law, begins operation in July 1929. The lab carries on an extensive research program, renders important services to various police departments throughout the United States, and develops a number of valuable investigative devices, including the lie detector. The lab was transferred to the Chicago city government in 1938.
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The Air Law Institute, conceived by Wigmore, is established in August 1929. The institute focuses on laws and regulations affecting air transportation throughout the world.
The Junior Bar Association (precursor to the Student Bar Association) is organized. The association assumes responsibility for the promotion of student activities and for obtaining unity and cooperation among the student body.
The Law School introduces a Bachelor of Law degree for candidates who complete a six-year course which combines three years of undergraduate work and three years of law school.
Abbott Hall opens as a dormitory for law students.
Due to World War II, enrollment at the Law School drops from 261 in 1939-1940 to just fifty-seven in 1943-44. Faculty declines from thirty-eight to four. In an effort to maintain enrollment, the administration lowers the admission requirement from three years of college to two and adopts an accelerated schedule of three full terms within a calendar year.
The Law School begins using the Law School Admission Test for admittance.
Harold Havighurst, a member of the Law School faculty since 1938, becomes dean in March 1948. As dean, Havighurst spearheads the addition of more elective courses, strengthens the school’s seminar program, and stresses the need for new buildings for the library and for student housing. He retires in 1956.
John Ritchie III succeeds Harold Havinghurst as dean.
Beginning in academic year 1956-57, students are required to obtain an undergraduate degree in order for admittance to the Law School.
The Law School celebrates its centennial. The first major event is the laying of the cornerstone for Robert R. McCormick Hall on May 7. Supreme Court Justice John M. Harlan is the principal speaker at the dedication. The Centennial Convocation in September includes the dedication of the Owen L. Coon Library and the awarding of honorary Doctor of Laws degrees to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren and Associate Justices Tom C. Clark and John M. Harlan, in addition to other prominent legal professionals.
The three-story, L-shaped McCormick Hall opens in 1962 thanks in large part to a substantial grant from the Robert R. McCormick Trust. Colonel McCormick, a member of the class of 1906 (though he did not graduate), was a famed editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune.
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The U.S. Supreme Court names Arthur J. Goldberg JD’ 30 to the bench.
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Approximately 300 lawyers attend the first Corporate Counsel Institute.
Mrs. Julius H. Miner and John G. Crown make gifts totaling $50,000 to the Law School to endow the Julius H. Miner Moot Court Competition. Miner LLM ’45 was a Cook County Circuit Court Judge and a U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois.
The Law School undertakes a thorough evaluation of its curriculum, which results in several significant changes. For instance, curriculum for the first year is now completely prescribed, and the second and third years are open for electives. Another important innovation is the Senior Research Program (now the Owen L. Coon/James A. Rahl Senior Research Program) for third year students. This program allows students to pursue individual research under close supervision of a faculty member on a subject matter that interests them both.
Dawn Clark Netsch JD ‘52 becomes Northwestern Law’s first female faculty member.
Students approach faculty with the idea of opening an in-house clinic at the Law School. One year later, the clinic opens its doors in the basement of Thorne Hall, its first home. In 2000, the clinic is formally named the Bluhm Legal Clinic, in part to honor a $7 million gift from Neil G. Bluhm JD ’62, and in 2007 it moves to a new, state-of-the-art, 22,000-square-foot home on the 8th floor of the Rubloff building. The clinic, one of the best in the nation, today houses twelve programs and centers.
Northwestern Law joins other major law schools in substituting the JD for the LLB. Faculty and trustees agree that the JD should be retroactively awarded to holders of the LLB.
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The Law School establishes a joint JD-PhD program in 1969. Today, the program is the most integrated one of its kind with the most generous funding in the nation.
Northwestern Law partners with the Kellogg School of Management to offer a joint JD-MBA degree. In 2000, Northwestern becomes the first university to offer an accelerated, three year JD-MBA program. Today, JD-MBA students account for approximately 10 percent of the total JD student body.
The only Northwestern graduate to serve as dean, James A. Rahl JD ’42, Bachelor’s ’39, attains the position in 1972. An authority in antitrust law, Rahl is the driving force behind the implementation of the Law School’s unique senior research program. He serves as dean until 1977.
The U.S. Supreme Court names John Paul Stevens JD ‘47 to the bench.
David Ruder, a leading expert in corporate and securities law, becomes dean. Under Dean Ruder’s leadership, the Law School cements its ties to the business community. Eight years later, Ruder leaves Northwestern to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 1989, he returns to the Northwestern Law faculty, where he currently is a professor emeritus.
Northwestern Law conducts a major capital campaign that funds the construction of an addition to the Law School facilities. Named for Arthur Rubloff, a legendary Chicago real estate magnate who made a major contribution to the campaign, the Rubloff building helps transform Northwestern Law into one of the finest facilities of any major urban law school.
Robert Bennett, a scholar in the field of constitutional law and a member of the faculty since 1969, becomes dean. Under Bennett’s leadership, the Law School expands and strengthens its faculty, adding a number of endowed chairs and research and teaching professorships. Bennett serves in the position for ten years. Today, he is the school’s Nathaniel L. Nathanson Professor of Law.
Partners of Sidley and Austin establish the Howard J. Trienens Visiting Judicial Scholar Program at Northwestern Law in 1989 to honor Mr. Trienens' service to the firm and to Northwestern. Trienens received a Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern in 1945 and a JD in 1949.
The Chicago firm of Pope & John Ltd. establishes a lecture series at Northwestern Law. The Pope & John Lecture on Professionalism focuses on the many dimensions of a lawyer's professional responsibility, including legal ethics, public service, professional civility, pro bono representation, and standards of conduct.
Current Dean David Van Zandt begins his position at the helm of the Law School. A scholar in the fields of corporate law and international finance, Van Zandt releases a Strategic Plan in 1998 for building “the great law school for the changing world.” The Plan provides a realistic assessment of trends in the legal profession, a critical analysis of the Law School’s strengths and weaknesses, and a blueprint for leveraging the strengths of Northwestern Law and distinguishing it from the competition.
The first class of students in the Graduate Program in Law and Business (LLM/Kellogg) begin their studies. The program offers international students the rare opportunity to study both business law and management techniques.
The Law School hosts the first National Conference on Wrongful Convictions and the Death Penalty, which features a moving appearance by more than thirty men and women who have been on death row, but were subsequently exonerated. The conference leads to the creation of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2008.
A campaign to fund the Strategic Plan starts in 1999. The campaign receives a jump start with a gift of $10 million from the Pritzker family, one of Chicago’s most successful and charitable families. In part, the donation honors Law School graduate Jay Pritzker JD’47, the chairman and founder of Hyatt Corporation. The family’s gift is commemorated by naming the Law School’s library and legal research facility the Pritzker Legal Research Center.
The Law School partners with the Kellogg School of Management to offer the first integrated, three-year JD-MBA program in the nation.
Northwestern Law welcomes the inaugural class of the LLM Tax Program. The class includes twenty-two full time and eleven part-time LLM Tax students, as well as eight joint JD-LLM Tax students. The program has held the No. 4 spot in the U.S. News and World Report rankings since 2005.
After two years of research and analysis, the Law School releases Plan 2008: Preparing Great Leaders for the Changing World. The Plan updates, expands, and improves upon portions of the 1998 Strategic Plan. The proposals of Plan 2008 aim to ensure that Northwestern Law prepares its graduates for success in multi-job careers better than any other law school.
Northwestern Law becomes the first top tier law school to offer an Accelerated JD program. Students in the program take the same number of credit hours as traditional JD students, but in a condensed timeframe – five semesters instead of six – and graduate two calendar years after they begin.