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Northwestern Law Marks 150 Years

September 30, 2009 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel
EVANSTON, Ill. --- At 150 years of age, Northwestern University School of Law has plenty to celebrate. "In this sesquicentennial year, we invite you to walk down memory lane and learn more about the school that began as the Union College of Law and today ranks among the very top law schools in the nation," said Northwestern Law Dean David Van Zandt.

For a more complete timeline, visit: http://www.law.northwestern.edu/news/150anniversary/.

1859: The School of Law is founded as the Union College of Law, a department of the now defunct Chicago University, and is the first law school established in Chicago. Twenty-three students enrolled, and tuition cost $100 per year.

1859: Classes are suspended for a week so students can see one of Illinois's best litigators, Abraham Lincoln, argue a case before the appellate court.

1891: Kenesaw Mountain Landis graduates. In 1920, Landis is named the first commissioner of Major League Baseball in an effort to restore the sport's reputation after the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

1896: Northwestern Law adopts a three-year curriculum for the Bachelor in Laws degree (LLB) -- an increase of one year.

1899 to 1902: The Law School is located on the top floor of the YMCA building, 153 LaSalle St., Chicago.

1901: John Henry Wigmore is named dean. He gained an international reputation for his "Treatise on the Anglo-American System of Evidence in Trials at Common Law" (1904), an encyclopedic survey of the development of the law of evidence.

1914: Applicants for admittance to the law school are required to have one year of college and be 20 years of age. The minimum age is raised to 21 a year later.

1919: The law school adopts a four-year curriculum and raises entrance requirements from one to three years of undergraduate work.

1926: Levy Mayer Hall becomes the first permanent home of Northwestern Law. Its signature is Lincoln Hall, modeled on the English House of Commons and still used for special events and classes. The building is named after prominent Chicago lawyer Levy Mayer, a founder of the law firm Mayer Brown LLP.

1930: Arthur Goldberg graduates. He is appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President John F. Kennedy and later becomes U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

1935: The Law School introduces a Bachelor of Law degree, a six-year course combining three years of undergraduate work and three years of law school.

1947: John Paul Stevens graduates. In 1975, he becomes a Supreme Court associate justice, replacing William O. Douglas, and today is considered one of the bench's more liberal voices.

1952: Harold Washington graduates. In 1980, he becomes Chicago's first African American mayor.  

1959: McCormick Hall is constructed to meet the school's growing needs. It is named in honor of Col. Robert R. McCormick, the famed editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune and a member of the class of 1906.

1965: Dawn Clark Netsch becomes Northwestern Law's first female faculty member. She is a former Illinois comptroller and first woman to be nominated by a major political party to run for governor of Illinois.

1968: An in-house clinic opens and in 2000 is named the Bluhm Legal Clinic to recognize a $7 million gift from Neil G. Bluhm (JD '62). Home of the internationally recognized Center on Wrongful Convictions, the clinic recently moved to expansive space overlooking Lake Michigan in the Arthur Rubloff building.  

1977: David Ruder is named dean. He is the William W. Gurley Memorial Professor of Law Emeritus and a former chair of the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission.   

1984: The Arthur Rubloff building, named after Chicago's legendary real estate magnate, is dedicated. Today its spacious atrium buzzes with student activity, reflecting the school's congenial atmosphere.
1989: Partners of Sidley and Austin establish the Howard J. Trienens Visiting Judicial Scholar Program to honor Trienens (JD '49) and his service to the firm and Northwestern. The most recent Trienens scholar from the U.S. Supreme Court is Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

1995: David Van Zandt is named dean and soon afterward launches a model of education that is based on recruiting students whose communication and interpersonal skills are as excellent as their LSAT scores and who have substantial post-college work experience.

1998: The law school hosts the first National Conference on Wrongful Convictions and the Death Penalty, leading to the creation of the Center on Wrongful Convictions. The center has been instrumental in 37 exonerations since its founding.

2000: Northwestern becomes the first university to offer an accelerated three-year JD-MBA program, reflecting the school's increasing integration of the fields of business and law.

 After two years of research and analysis, the Law School releases Plan 2008: Preparing Great Leaders for the Changing World. Core competencies -- including communication, strategic understanding, basic quantitative skills, cross-cultural work, project management and leadership -- now are stressed more than ever.

Northwestern Law becomes the first top-tier law school to offer an Accelerated JD (AJD) program. A central component of Plan 2008, the AJD program allows students with resumes that already sing to interrupt their careers for only two years, rather than three, to get a JD. With strong academic qualifications and impressive work and life experience, the first ADJ group of 27 students represents the nonprofit sector, finance, banking, consulting and technology and science arenas.

To get first-hand accounts of how the school has evolved from alumni who come from families with two or more generations of Northwestern Law graduates, go to:
Topics: University News