George Washington University Law School is the oldest law school in the District of Columbia. It is a prestigious law school with a rich history and a past that extends to a time when the formal study of the law was still in its infancy stages of development. Much has changed over the years, but the law school’s commitment and dedication to providing students of the law with a stringent and thorough education. The result of this commitment is graduates who go into the world in their chosen professions and achieve success. If you’re not yet familiar with George Washington University Law School, here are twenty things you probably didn’t know about the institution to bring you up to speed.
1. George Washington Law School is a part of George Washington University
Wikipedia confirms that the George Washington Law School is affiliated with George Washington University in Washington, DC. The parent company has an endowment of $2.41 billion. It is a private school that serves the District of Columbia. It welcomes students from across the United States and the globe,
2. George Washington Law School is the oldest law school in the District of Columbia
George Washington Law School became established in 1865. As of 2022, the school has been in operation for 157 years. It has grown into a prestigious law school that is known for excellence throughout the world. Here is a little-known fact about GWULS. The school predates its official launch date by forty years. The first school opened for business in the 1820s. Enrollment was low and it forced the school to close in 1826. Its roots go back further than the established founding date. The school was the first law school in DC when it was reestablished in 1865.
3. George Washington University Law School’s first professors were William Cranch and William Thomas Carroll
GWU Law School’s first two professors were notable figures in the history of the law and judicial system in the United States. William Thomas Carroll was a clerk of the US Supreme Court who served from 1827 through 1863. He served on the court until the year of his death. He was also a descendant of Charles Carroll the Settler. William Cranch was the second reporter of the United States Supreme Court and served as chief justice of the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia.
4. The George Washington University Law School started in an old church
The first law classes held for the George Washington University Law School were held in the Old Trinity Episcopal Church. The school was founded long before dedicated buildings were constructed to house the school. The first class of law students graduated in 1867 with sixty members achieving completion of the curriculum to receive their law degrees.
5. The George Washington University Law School is a founder of the Association of American Law Schools
George Washington University Law School played an essential role in the development of the higher education system for legal studies. It was one of the founding members of the Association of American Laws Schools in 1900 and remains a charter member of the association. The AALS is a nonprofit association with 176 members which enrolls most US law students, producing most of the lawyers, judges, and lawmakers in the United States. Its mission is to advance excellence in legal education, promoting core values of excellence in diversity, academic freedom, teaching, and scholarship. It seeks to improve the legal profession while serving communities through local, national, and international interests and fostering justice. The organization connects the legal community and provides current news on issues in legal education while highlighting outstanding programs and faculty.
6. The George Washington University Law School has an impressive list of alumni
GWU Law is the holder of the oldest intellectual property program in the United States. Some of the most famous innovators and inventors of our time are graduates of the school. Many alumni left the school and went on to secure patents for the most innovative technological accomplishments in the more than 150-year history of the school. One of the most notable is the Wright brothers’ flying machine, which was granted a patent on May 22, 1906.
7. GWU Law School predates the American Bar Association
GW Libraries reports that GWU Law School was founded before the American Bar Association was organized. GW Law officially reopened its campus in 1865. The American Bar Association became an organization in 1878. GWU Law predates the American Bar Association by thirteen years.
8. George Washington University Law School was chartered under a different name
When the idea to form a law school was first conceived, the founders established the institution under a different name. In 1821, Columbian College was chartered by an Act of Congress in the District of Columbia. Before the law component came into existence the Board of Trustees for Columbian College shared their hope that they could organize a law department shortly. This was when the first elected President of Columbian College was the Reverend William Staughton. The Board of Trustees gave their approval to the organization of the first Law Department in 1926 and adopted its bylaws. The first students were charged fees to open the law library shortly after the first law department opened. The school was the Columbia School law department originally.
9. The first Doctor of Laws Degree was conferred in 1846
The Law School issued its first honorary Doctor of Laws Degree in 1846. It happened before the law school reopened. The first formal program of study was launched through the Law Department in 1865 in a two-year law program. The Honorable Samuel Tylor was named professor of law in 1864, one year before the program started. The school appointed the Honorable James M. Wayne, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court occasional faculty of the Law School. It is a position that is now considered adjunct faculty. Looking back over its progression through time, we can see how the school has evolved into its current status with many changes through the years.
10. Programs were different in the early years of the law school
In its early years, programs at the Law School were structurally different from the modern curriculum format. Those admitted to the school were required to master daily exercises. They enrolled in the Recitations and Lectures of the school and were required to pass final examinations. The school consisted of Junior and Senior classes. Students completed The Course of Recitations, which delved into Common Law and Commentaries of Criminal, Commercial, Evidence, Pleading, and Admiralty Jurisprudence. Lectures focused on various topics. Medical Jurisprudence and other subjects in the classroom.
11. The Law School hit a pivotal point in 1870
Columbian Law School received the case method of instruction in 1870. The same year that Georgetown University and National University Law Schools opened. The previous year, the school applied with the District of Columbia to provide admission for its graduates to the District’s Bar. This event happened before the American Bar Association formed.
12. The 1870s era was a time of change and evolution
The Law School continued evolving with several changes in the 1870s. The first student protest in the school’s history took place over the diploma fee in 1872. An Acto of Congress changed the name of the College to “The Columbian University” in 1873. The school launched a one-year postgraduate course in legal practice. They discontinued the postgraduate law course because of a lack of interest in 1874. The following year the law school saw a decline in enrollment and considered adding patent law. In 1876, graduates faced changing rules requiring three years of legal training to qualify for bar admission. Changes to the curriculum added prep courses to pass the bar examination. The Board of Trustees discussed a Master of Laws degree. They prepared for the new postgraduate program. Students were required to show evidence of two years of successful and diligent school attendance for admission. The American Bar Association was organized in 1878, and the school moved to a joint facility with the Scientific School at the University Building at Fifteenth and H Streets in 1879.
13. The Law of Corporations course was added in 1890
In 1890, the Law of Corporations course was added to the curriculum of the Law School. The course was taught by Justice David Josia Brewer. he was faculty who also served as Justice of the Supreme Court. he served as an instructor at the university for nearly twenty years. John Marshall Harlan, also a Justice of the Supreme Court served as faculty for nearly two decades.
14. New requirements extended the length of programs in 1895
In 1895, the Law School extended the length of its degree programs to ensure that students were adequately prepared to take and pass the Bar Exam. The Bachelor of Laws degree was previously a two-year program. It became a three-year program. The Master of Laws degree was extended to a four-year program of study. The same year, the Law School welcomed its first Dean when Walter S. Cox was appointed. It is also the year that the Patent Law Program officially launched.
15. Women were first admitted to the Master of Laws degree program in 1900
1900 was another pivotal year for the evolution of the Law School. It is the first year that the institution allowed women to be admitted to the Master of Laws degree program. It was also the year that the school required law candidates to be at least eighteen years of age and they were also required to have an education that was equal to a high school course. The law school was tightening its requirements to ensure that all graduates achieved excellence.
16. The School became the George Washington University in 1904
1904 is the year that the parent institution changed its name from Columbia University to George Washington University. The name was changed by an Act of Congress. The first Deam of the Law School under its new name was Henry St. George Tucker. It’s also the year that morning classes were instituted for the first time in the history of the institution. They were previously held in the evening or on a part-time basis.
17. George Washington University Law School offers ten specializations of LLM degrees
LSAC confirms that law students have the option of pursuing a general degree in law, but they may also specialize in ten categories. GWUL offers Business and Finance Law, Energy and Environmental Law, and Environmental Law specializations. Other concentrations are Intellectual Property Law, International and Comparative Law, International Environmental Law, Litigation and Dispute Resolution, National Security and US Foreign Relations Law, Government Procurement Law, and Government Procurement and Environmental Law.
18. The George Washington University Law School provides medical care for students
Students at the George Washington University Law School have access to student health services. The school’s SHS provides an outpatient clinic that is staffed by physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, and physicians. Students can receive evaluation and treatment for most medical issues. Psychological services are also available with licensed psychiatrists on staff for evaluation, crisis intervention, and referrals. The University also offers health coverage options for its students.
19. George Washington University Law School is second best in the nation
US News reports that the George Washington University Law School has achieved the number two position as the best part-time law school in the United States. It is tied for the 25th best Law School in America for 2023. Rankings are based on several indicators of excellence.
20. George Washington University Law School has fifty-three Law Student Organizations
Students at George Washington University Law School gain support through Law Student Organizations. Fifty-three currently function as recognized student organizations at the school. Examples include Active Minds, American Civil Liberties Union, American Constitution Society, Anarchist Collective, Arab Student law Association, banking Law Society, Black Law Students Association, Christian Law Society, Criminal Law Society, and dozens more.