University of Wisconsin–Madison

Events in the History of the UW Law School

For 150 years, the UW Law School has been at the forefront of legal innovation. As a nationally acclaimed, intellectually exciting law school, UW Law attracts students nationally and internationally.

While much has changed over the last 150 years, the hallmarks of the University of Wisconsin’s law training remain steadfast:

  • Rigorous analytical education, with a significant focus on how the theories and doctrines of law express themselves in the real world
  • An extraordinary range of opportunities for experiential learning
  • Continued commitment to a diverse community in which to learn
  • Student-centered focus on preparing our graduates for the real world of law practice
1848 Law department authorized in University charter
1868 Law department opens with the admission of 15 students for a one-year course of study (12 graduated)
1875 First African-American student, William Noland
1885 First female graduate, Belle Case LaFollette
1889 Law department becomes the College of Law and a second year added to the curriculum
1892 First African-American graduate, William Green
1893 First Law building built on Bascom Hill
1895 Third year added to curriculum
1896 Entrance requirements increased to coincide with those for undergraduates
1900 Law School becomes a Charter Member of the Association of American Law Schools
1903 Dean Harry S. Richards installed and begins transforming the Law School
1905 Entrance requirements increased to require completion of at least one year of college
1907 Prof. Eugene Gilmore drafts the Public Utilities Bill for the Wisconsin Legislature, perhaps the first piece of Progressive legislation. School requires two years of college for entrance. Summer School established
1908 Order of Coif chapter established
1909 College of Law becomes the Law School
1911 Prof. Oliver Rundell undertakes a study of the administration of criminal justice, one of the first "law in action" studies
1914 Dean Harry Richards elected president of the Association of American Law Schools
1920 Wisconsin Law Review established
1920s Six months practice experience required for graduation
1922 Prof. William Rice offers one of the first labor law courses in the country.
1928 Prof. Ray Brown completes a ground-breaking study of the problems of Native Americans
1929 Three years of college now required for admission to Law School. Dean Harry Richards dies
1930s "Law and Society" courses appear, evidence of the School's interpretation of the Wisconsin Idea
1930s Law faculty and Economics faculty cooperate to create the first workers compensation system in the nation
1930s Prof. J. Willard Hurst begins research and teaching in Legal History
1930 Law School takes over the Legal Aid Society from the Dane Co. Bar Association, begins dispensing legal services to low income consumers
1932 Dean Lloyd Garrison arrives, grandson of William Lloyd Garrison, the abolitionist
1933 Wisconsin Law Alumni Association formed
1939 Library wing added to the original Law building
1942 John Stuart Curry, UW Artist-in-Residence, paints the "Freeing the Slaves" mural in the Law library
1950 Prof. Charles Bunn is principal draftsperson of the Uniform Commerical Code, eventually adopted by all states
1950s Continuing Legal Education in Wisconsin established to provide continued instruction to the practicing bar
1950s-1960s Prof. Jacob Beuscher conducts his groundbreaking research and legislative drafting in the area of Water Law and land-use in small Wisconsin communities. This work grows into the first environmental law studies
1959 First female professor, Margo Melli
1959 After Feb., applicants must have taken LSAT (although it was apparently not used in making the determination for a number of years)
1962 Gargoyle survives demolition of original Law building and is elevated to icon-status by Dean George Young.
1963 Second Law building completed on Bascom Hill
1966 First Hispanic professor, Joseph Thome
1967 Legal Education Opportunities Program (LEO) is established to enhance diversity in the legal profession
1968 Stuart Gullickson arrives to direct the General Practice Course, successor to the Summer Problems Course. Course becomes the principal method of teaching students the practical skills necessary for careers in law
1969 First African-American faculty member, Prof. James E. Jones, Jr.
1969 Law faculty serves on the "Committee of '30'", serving as fact-finders during the student unrest of the period
1970s William Hastie Fellowship program established to encourage minority lawyers to become law school faculty members.
1970s Clinical legal education blossoms: clinics evolve from ad hoc arrangements to formal programs, often connected to specific academic courses, with full time supervising lawyers
1978 Modest addition to the Law Library: not built with sufficient load capacity for books, not air conditioned, and scaled back from five levels to four
1980s Institute for Legal Studies (research) and East Asian Legal Studies Center (international law) come to fruition
1984 First Native American faculty, Robert Williams
1989 First African-American female professor, Linda Greene
1990 First African-American Dean, Daniel O. Bernstine
1990s Senior faculty luminaries including J. Willard Hurst, Frank Remington, Robert Skilton, John Stedman and Abner Brodie pass away. Bright young faculty recruited to fill the void but, with decreasing public support and an increasingly competitive market for law faculty, challenges arise in retaining the best faculty.
1994 Construction begins on $16.5 million addition and remodeling project. Completed in the fall of 1996, wins Honors Award for design from the AIA, Wisconsin Chapter
2000 First Hispanic female professor, Pilar Ossorio
2011 Dean Margaret Raymond becomes the 13th Dean of the Law School
Raymond is the first female dean of the Law School

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