20 Things You Didn’t Know about The Notre Dame Law School

Notre Dame

Father Edward Sorin founded the University of Notre Dame in 1842. He was also the first president. Bishop of Vincennes donated the land where the college stands. One of the things that first made the college stand out was its football team, the Fighting Irish in the 1900s. They gained prominence under former head coach Knute Rockne. Aside from all the school spirit within the walls of the university, there is another portion of it that functions within its walls and has its long-standing traditions and stories. Notre Dame Law School opened over 20 years later and has gained a reputation of its own. Today it is ranked number 22 of 100 among the nation’s top law schools. When looking at lists of graduates who make it to the Federal Courts, it sits at number 8. The school offers several different types of degrees including a JD-MBA and a J.D. Additionally, there are options to study abroad to get an even more well-rounded education. Throughout its time as a school, there have been changes to the exterior of the school and revolutions within its walls. Students have walked away with degrees and also used the campus as a place to stage protests. There is a rich history to the University of Notre Dame Law School full of people and stories. Looking through all the data, there was still so much to learn. Nonetheless, these are 20 things You didn’t know about the Notre Dame Law School.

20. Colonel William J. Hoynes

He was the first dean of the law school from 1889 to 1919. During that time he lived at the college. Even then, there were college pranks and Dean Hoynes was the victim of a water bucket on his head; or as the legend goes. Whether you believe it or not, the Dean had a porch installed on the front of Sorin Hall where he lived. Today, it’s one of the distinguishing features of the building.

19. Hoynes Hall

The Dean was so popular, that after the building which housed the University of Technology was damaged in 1916, they rebuilt it and named it Hoynes in the Dean’s honor. After completion, it was expressly for law students. The name changed to Crowley Hall in 1974 and since 1976, it’s been used for the music department.

18. Before The Legend

William J. Hoynes remains one of the biggest names at the school. Before he was making an impact as a Dean he was a student at the college. He graduated in 1867. He used his education to obtain a job at the Daily Times in Brunswick New Jersey. Aside from his impressive education he also had a military record. Hoynes served with the Union Army during the American Civil War.

17. Making History

Notre Dame Law School holds the distinction of being the oldest continually operating Catholic law school in the United States. However, it was the second one open. Many law schools are apt to make these types of distinctions. Some may question whether or not the real distinction belongs to St. Louis since they opened their door 20 years before Notre Dame. However, since they closed almost fifty years after only five years, Notre Dame Law School firmly holds that distinction.

16. First Graduating Class

One of the things that made Notre Dame Law School stand out from the beginning is its requirements. Unlike other schools at the time, they wanted students to have another degree in liberal arts. One of the reasons this was so uncommon was that at other schools around the country in 1869 you only needed to be 18 to enter law school. Perhaps it was because of the strict requirements, but the first graduating class only had three students.

15. Kresge Law Library

Sebastian Sperling Kresge was an American entrepreneur born in Allentown Pennsylvania in 1867. Throughout his life, he started numerous businesses as well as a nonprofit foundation. One of its contributions was the Kresge Law Library which opened in 1930. In 2004, t was one of the only law libraries with over half a million books. This feat is thanks to the many librarians including the second, Lora Lashbrook, and third Marie Lawrence who increased the volume of books exponentially. However, it was the first librarian Roger Jacobs who brought it to the current number. He also served as head librarian for the Library of the United States Supreme Court.

14. Expansion

In 2013, Notre Dame added spaces in other locations across the country to help other students who wanted to get their law degrees. One of these is y in Chicago at an urban campus known as the loop. It’s located on Michigan Avenue near the Art Institute of Chicago.

13. Further Growth

A Chicago Law Firm, Kirkland and Ellis LLP founded in 1909 helped bring Notre Dame Law School further east. In 2015, the firm started a program called the Notre Dame Law n DC Program which gave students the option to choose Washington DC for their studies. However, this is not the only location students have as an option to study.

12. Bon Voyage

According to The New York Times, William B. Lawless Jr. was a Supreme Court State Justice before he was the Dean of Notre Dame. While at the school he started the first program for students wishing to study abroad. It was one of the first times a school in the country offered something like this.

11. Everything You Touch

There’s no question that if you go to Notre Dame Law School you will receive one of the best education. One building near the law school will rain gold on you. On the main building of the campus, there is a prominent golden dome that is covered in 24K gold leaf. Each year, when they rebuild it students on the campus will find gold on the ground for a while afterward.

10. Football

No one can deny the fighting Irish Spirit. Many student websites list it as one of the best things about attending college. And, the football players can expect a little of the gilded luck. Each time the shavings come off some is used for the striking Norte Dame football helmets.

9. The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes

All-nighters can be difficult and sometimes you find yourself needing a place for a little solace. One place near the law building is the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. Although being a practicing Catholic is not a requirement for the school, it is steeped in the Catholic tradition, and this is one of the prettiest spots on campus.

8. South Dining Hall

This location opened in 1927 and is considered one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in the United States. Today, many students think it looks like the dining hall in the Harry Potter movies. Some even go so far as to say it was what inspired the location. Trying to capitalize on this, the Notre Dame Food Service hosted a Harry Potter-themed dinner in 2009. Don’t worry the former coat and tie required when the school first opened isn’t required dress anymore than robes.

7. Sorin Hall Once Campus

In 1969, during the height of the Vietnam War, one portion of the campus pulled away from the rest in protest of the war. According to The Observer, when the hall decided to protest, they brought in other professors to conduct the classes. Today, are two signs in the hall; Sorin College “College of the Year – 1969” and “Hall of the Year – 1888.”

6. Study Break

Notre Dame is known for being one of the prettiest college campuses in the country. It might also be one of the most romantic. If you can get away from studying for your law degree and hope that your study partner might be your only try a walk around the lake. There is a college rumor that if you walk around the two lakes on campus in the shape of an infinity symbol, you; ‘ll wind up together.

5. Will I Graduate?

Where the superstition before this is a lovely sentiment that many will hope might come true there is one thing you don’t want to do on campus; walk up the steps of the Main Building. It has spread virtually across the campus so much that it is set in stone. Students who do graduate have made it a tradition to take pictures on the stairs they avoided while working on their degrees.

4. Couch Tour

Even before the pandemic, Notre Dame had campus tours set up virtually. In 2008 the Notre Dame Law School began its Virtual Open House. Using this technology allowed students to have a full portrait of the campus even if they weren’t able to walk the grounds themselves. There are also students available who will give the prospective applicant a full portrait of what to expect. Unfortunately, you won’t get many of the upsides of a traditional tour. If they are gilding the dome you won’t be able to hunt for gold. Additionally, there isn’t a virtual way to truly drink in the splendor of the fountain.

3. Religious Freedom

One of the things that may stop students from applying to the school is the heavy Catholic influence. However, in 2020 the Notre Dame Law School started the Religious Liberty Initiative which provides scholarships for people of all faiths and denominations. Stephanie Barclay, a First Amendment expert is spearheading the project. Matt and Lindsay Moroun provide the funding to put this into action. In addition to the initiative, there is also a Religious Liberty Clinic. It is designed to help lawyers who want to make it their life’s work to defend our religious freedoms to the supreme court.

2. Graciela Olivarez

One of the most notable graduates from Notre Dame Law School was Graciela Olivarez. She was not only the first woman to graduate but also the first Latina person. Olivarez was born on March 9 1928 in Phoenix Arizona. Initially, she dropped out of high school and went on to work as a women’s program director at KIFN. 18 years after she started she decided to go back when she was offered a scholarship from the Arizona branch of Economic Opportunity even without her diploma. In 1977, Jimmy Carter appointed her the director of the Community Services Administration after she stood out for her work with impoverished individuals. Now, there is a Notre Dame Hispanic Law Students Associations award presented in her honor.

1. Notre Dame Hispanic Law Students Associations Award

Throughout her career, Olivarez was a powerhouse always fighting for the rights of those less fortunate. Additionally, she overcame some intense challenges to get where she did in life. The award that the Notre Dame Law School gives out annually celebrates Hispanic women who carry on their life’s work. She is certainly an alum worth honoring. Additionally, it’s a testament to how the college wants to award the best in their fields while recognizing the alumni who passed through their hallowed doors.

Final Words

Lou Holtz once said, “you don’t go to Notre Dame to learn something; you go to Notre Dame to be somebody.” He added, “I truly believe in the things that Notre Dame stands for.” The university has had a formidable presence since it opened its doors in 1889. Over a century later, many traditions have lasted as long as the school. The Notre Dame Law School has also produced many key players in today’s judicial system; too many to list here. As the school enters its second century, especially in a time with so much social upheaval there are sure to be many new stories added to the growing chronicle of history that is Notre Dame Law School.

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