You are here

Law School History and Milestones


1868-1890 - William G. Hammond

1890-1901 - Emlin McLean

1901-1911 - Charles Gregory

1911-1914 - Temporary deans

1914-1915 - Charles Gregory

1916-1921 - Dudley Odell McGoveny

1921-1929 - Henry Craig Jones

1929-1935 - Eugene Gilmore

1935-1939 - Wiley Rutledge

1939-1966 - Mason Ladd

1966 - 1971 David Vernon

1971-1976 - Lawrence Blades

1976-2004 - N. William Hines

2004-2010 - Carolyn C. Jones

2010 - Gail Agrawal

Founding of the College of Law

1839 – Iowa Territorial Supreme Court rules that Ralph, a slave brought into free territory, must be released from slavery.

1845 – Territorial Legislature authorizes creation of the Board of Regents of the University of Iowa, and grants them the power to “connect to this University a Law School, and also a Medical School, or either of them, in such a manner as will in their view tend to promote the interests of the University and sound learning in these professions.”

1846 – Iowa is admitted to the Union as a “Free State.”

1847 – University of Iowa is founded in Iowa City, with Old Capitol serving as its central building.  UI is one of the few universities, public or private, never to have limited enrollment based on gender, race, ethnicity or religion.

1865 – Justice George W. Wright founds the Iowa Law School in Des Moines. Justice Chester Cole is the only other faculty member.

1866 – First Iowa Law class graduates: 12 graduates, one-year course of study, no entrance requirements.

1868 – In Clark v. Board of Directors the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the Iowa Constitution guarantees the right to public education to all citizens. The plaintiff parent was Alexander Clark, Sr., who later graduated from the Iowa Law School. Click here to see the IPTV documentary about the case and Alexander Clark, Sr.

Old Capitol Years

1868 – Law school moves to the University of Iowa. At its new law department, Prof. William G. Hammond is first Dean, Justices Wright and Cole continue as faculty part time. Hammond is a pioneer in the use of the case method to teach law students. Law department is housed in Old Capitol. There are 25 students in first year and three faculty members (two only part time). The law library housed 1,100 books; 500 were purchased in Chicago for $2,000, 600 were loaned by Dean Hammond.

1869 – Arabella Babb Mansfield is admitted to the Iowa Bar, after reading law for two years in the law office of her brother in Mt. Pleasant. Mrs. Mansfield was the first woman admitted to practice law in the United States. This was the same year in which the US Supreme Court upheld an Illinois statute limiting law licenses to white males.

1870 – Iowa legislature changes state law on licensing lawyers, dropping the requirement that to qualify for law practice lawyer must be “white male.”

1873 – First woman Iowa Law School graduate, Mary Beth Hickey, is thought to be the first woman to graduate from a public law school in the US. Hickey was chosen to be the student speaker at her commencement ceremony.

1874 – The Iowa State Bar Association is founded in Des Moines.

1874-1884 – “Advanced Course-Second Year” is offered free to Iowa Law grads and anyone else who could pass an entrance test. This experimental program created by Dean Hammond was offered for 10 years before it was dropped for lack of interest in the bar. It is cited by some as the first continuing legal education offering in the US.

1875 – Second woman Iowa Law grad, Mary Humphrey Haddock, later became the first woman ever admitted to practice before the US District and Circuit Courts. Haddock received a certificate for completing the Advanced Course-Second Year program, and gave the student address at the closing ceremonies.

1875 – Justice Cole resigns from Iowa faculty in pay dispute. He then opens the “Iowa College of Law” in Des Moines as an offshoot of Simpson College. Cole is replaced on the faculty by US District Judge James M. Love.

1879 – First African-American Iowa Law School grad, Alexander Clark, Jr., is thought to be only the second African-American to graduate from a public law school in the US.

1880 – The Iowa Constitution is amended to remove the qualification “free white” for election to public office.

1884 – Second African-American Iowa Law School grad, Alexander Clark, Sr., the father of Alexander Clark, Jr., graduated at 57 years of age and became one of the school's most prominent graduates, ultimately serving as US Ambassador to Liberia. Before attending law school, Clark, Sr. had already achieved a special place in Iowa legal history in 1868 by winning the law suit, Clark v. Board of Directors, confirming his daughter’s right to attend public school in Muscatine.

1884 – Iowa legislature requires two years for law degree. Enrollment plummets from 80 to 22 the next year. Dean Hammond led the push for this reform.

1889 – The case method becomes firmly embraced at Iowa. Professor Eugene Wambaugh, who studied at Harvard under Langdell, published the first Iowa casebook, "The Study of Cases." It was the first such casebook published outside of Harvard.

1890 – Hammond leaves for the deanship at Washington University. Emlin McClain becomes Dean. McClain, an 1873 Iowa Law grad, had joined the faculty in 1881 and went on to become Iowa’s most famous turn-of-the century academic lawyer and administrator.

1891 – American Bar Association recommends a law school degree require three years, but it takes several decades before this requirement becomes the norm across the country.

1891 – Iowa Law Library employs its first full-time director. Jennie Wilson, Iowa LLB, '91, is named law library director.

1894 – Dean Hammond dies and bequeaths to Iowa Law School his large personal collection of law books, doubling the size of the Iowa Law Library overnight from 2,000 to 4,000 volumes.

1900 – The Association of American Law Schools is established. Iowa is a charter member.

1901 – The Law Department becomes the College of Law and the Iowa legislature raises the time required for a law degree to three years. Dean McClain led the effort for this reform.

1901 – McClain is elected to the Iowa Supreme Court and Charles Gregory is the new Dean. In this same year McClain is elected as the second president of the fledgling Association of American Law Schools, the first of four Iowa faculty members to be so honored.

Gilmore Hall

1910 – The new law building, now Gilmore Hall, is opened to great fanfare. The new building is a tribute to the persistence of Dean Gregory who lobbied for it for nine years. When the new building opened there were 245 students, five faculty members (including new Professor Percy Bordwell), and the law library held 10,000 volumes.

1911 – Iowa’s Order of the Coif chapter was founded.

1911-1914 – After Dean Gregory resigned, there were a series of “temporary” deans, including in 1911-1912 Austin Wakeman Scott, who was to achieve fame as Harvard’s giant figure in trusts and estates law.

1914 – Emlin McClain returned for another tour as Dean and the College received its first endowed scholarship from the estate of Justice John F. Dillon in the amount of $10,000.

1915 – McClain died, but not before establishing the Iowa Law Review (along with Professor Herbert F. Goodrich), making the Review one of the oldest student-edited journals in the nation.

1916 – Dudley McGoveny is named Dean, but almost immediately the nation entered World War I and the student body dropped to 18 in 1917.

1921 – Dean McGovney resigns and returns to the faculty as a professor, after holding the school together during the war. He is succeeded by Dean Henry Craig Jones, who is nationally recognized as an innovative legal educator. At this point the student body has recovered to 200, there were six faculty members and the law library held 30,000 volumes.

1923 – Dean Jones is the second Iowa faculty member elected president of the AALS.

1923-1930 – A primitive type of clinical legal education is offered to upper-level students by the College during special summer sessions to which members of the bar were also admitted for continuing legal education.

1927 – Law Jubilee is banned after too much controversy over student skits mocking faculty and public figures of the day. Jubilee, which lasted for eight years, is replaced in 1928 by a new tradition – Iowa Supreme Court Day.

1929 – Dean Jones dies and is replaced by Dean Eugene Gilmore, who is Iowa’s most prominent law faculty member in the first half of the 20th century. Gilmore was a leading figure in the “Wisconsin idea,” an innovative form of jurisprudence based on social realism.

1930-1935 – Dean Gilmore presides over the school during the Great Depression. As still happens, the demand for graduate and professional education actually rises during economic hard times. The law school enrollment at Iowa rose to 250 students, but supporting resources declined dramatically. Not only were there no funds to hire more faculty, but salaries of the existing faculty were regularly cut, as much as 30 percent.

1933 – The Iowa Law Review publishes the first symposium in US legal scholarship. Holmes and Wigmore are among the contributors.

1935 – The Law Commons is opened for law student occupancy. The dormitory was a WPA project during the Great Depression.

1935 – Gilmore is named University of Iowa President and Wiley Rutledge is new law dean. A controversial person on the national scene, Rutledge is nevertheless a respected and, for many, a beloved constitutional law teacher and Dean. In 1937 Rutledge authored a national report recommending government sponsored legal assistance for indigent persons, anticipating President Kennedy’s legal services program by 25 years. He also championed the Roosevelt “court packing” plan. Rutledge left Iowa to become Dean at Washington University, and later was a US Circuit judge before he was appointed to the US Supreme Court in 1943.

1939 – The legendary Mason Ladd was named Dean, and began a 27-year tenure, which was interrupted for five years by his public service in Washington, DC during World War II. At the time Ladd became dean the enrollment stood at 272, there were nine faculty members, and the law library held 52,000 volumes. Ladd was clearly the most nationally prominent member of the Iowa faculty during the middle of the 20th century, serving on many national commissions, authoring books on evidence, and becoming the primary drafter of the original Federal Rules of Evidence.

1941-1945 – Again student enrollment dropped dramatically during WWII. While Professor Percy Bordwell filled in for Ladd as acting Dean, the enrollment dropped to a low of 23 in 1943. Law students and most faculty left to serve in the war and some students, like Nile Kinnick, who died in 1942, did not return.

1946-1950 – Thanks largely to the GI Bill, law enrollments swelled to record levels. Nearly 500 students were enrolled in 1947 and the school adopted special acceleration programs to move the bulge through as quickly as possible. By 1950, enrollments had stabilized at around 400 and the school had adopted a seven-semester program requirement that meant most students had to attend two summer sessions to graduate. This student boom created an opportunity to replenish and expand the law faculty with Professors Vestal, Levin, Fahr, Davidson, and O’Byrne.

1952 – The Iowa Law School Foundation was established by members of the class of 1952, with initial assets of roughly $1,000.

1953 – Agricultural Law Center established. The Center was to last for 20 years and attract national and international attention to Iowa for its research publications and overseas programs.

Law Center

1961 – The new building, called the Law Center, is opened and dedicated by Chief Justice Earl Warren. Dean Ladd waged a long campaign to secure better housing for the law college, but a totally new building was precluded by a shortage of capital funding. The College’s new home was created by attaching a major library and classroom addition to the Law Commons. Although relatively spacious at first, it soon filled up with students, faculty, and books.

1964 – Selective admission started. New admission rules required a minimum 2.3 grade point average and completion of the standardized law school admissions test (LSAT).

1964 – Willard L. Boyd is appointed University’s First Vice President for Academic Affairs. Boyd was thought by many to be Ladd’s likely successor as law Dean. Instead, Boyd began an administrative odyssey that included 12 years as University of Iowa President, followed by 15 years as President of the Field Museum in Chicago. Boyd returned to the law faculty in 1996.

1966 – Mason Ladd retires to Florida State University, and David H. Vernon becomes Dean. Vernon stirred things up at Iowa. He stimulated the faculty to make major reforms in the curriculum, some of them lasting (the first-year small section program and a more “grad school” style of legal education), and some of them not (conflict resolution and international law in the first year). He doubled the faculty size from 14 to 28, invested heavily in the law library and in student recruitment, began placing greater attention on attracting private support, but somehow he managed to alienate a substantial segment of the Iowa bar. When Vernon became Dean the student enrollment was 500, and the library contained 200,000 volumes.

1967 – First-year small section program started. At the time, only Iowa and Yale offered first-year classes in small sections. Over the years many law schools followed suit, although not all followed Iowa’s lead in committing full-time faculty to the instruction in basic skills in analysis, research, and legal writing.

1967 – Iowa begins aggressive recruitment of students and faculty who will bring diversity to the law school. This early commitment to the positive educational benefits of a diverse law school community continued unabated throughout the next four decades.

1969 – Willard L. (Sandy) Boyd is named University of Iowa President, a position he would hold for 12 years, during a critical era of growth for both the University and the College of Law.

1971 – Dean Vernon resigns and is replaced by Dean Lawrence E. Blades. Blades' five years as Dean saw almost as many changes as the preceding five years. Some of the changes were counter-reforms, but many represented new directions, such as invigorating the moot court program, expanding the size of the student body, placing heavier emphasis on CLE and getting serious about private fundraising. The Iowa Law School Foundation endowment stood at $170,000 when Blades took office. When he left it was more than $1 million thanks to the 2nd Century campaign that he engineered. Blades also made great strides in regaining the loyalty and support of Iowa Law grads and the Iowa bar, generally.

1972 – The summer entrant/accelerated program is begun, as a mechanism to increase the student body by starting 45 students in May, many of who would graduate in 27 months by attending law school straight through. This change raised the expected entering class from 180 to 225 students, and the total student body to 650.

1973 – Professor Josephine Gittler is appointed, making her the first woman law Professor at the Iowa Law School.

1974 – Professor Barry Matsumoto is appointed, making him (an Asian-American) the first minority law Professor at the Iowa Law School.

1975 – The Journal of Corporation Law is founded as the law school’s second student-edited law journal.

1976 – Dean Blades resigns, N. William Hines is appointed Dean and begins a record-setting tenure. When Hines became Dean, the student body had been capped at 650, the faculty size was 32, the law library stood at 250,000 and the ILSF endowment stood at slightly more than $1 million.

1976 – George A. Strait is hired away from Harvard as Law Librarian, making him the first African-American Senior Administrator at the Iowa Law School.

1977 – Professor Gregory H. Williams is appointed, making him the first African-American professor at the Iowa Law School.

1983 – Professor and Dean Emeritus David H. Vernon is the third Iowa faculty member to serve as President of the AALS.

1984 – London Law Consortium is created with seven other law schools to offer a semester abroad program in London. The stateside administration of the program is run from Iowa.

1985 – Professor Arthur E. Bonfield is named Associate Dean for Research and begins directing the Iowa Law Library. The library’s collection size accelerated and its reputation grew rapidly under Bonfield’s leadership.

Boyd Law Building

1986 – After a 10-year struggle, the new law building is opened in May and dedicated on October 17, 1986 by Justice Harry A. Blackmun.

1986 – The new building is named in honor of former University of Iowa President Willard L. Boyd on November 20th. The classic Rodin statue “Jean de Fiennes” is installed in the building courtyard in 1987.

1988 – James S. Anaya is appointed as the College’s first Native American faculty member.

1988 – Faculty fellows program established to expand pool of prospective minority law teachers. For the ten years the program was in place, it attracted seven talented faculty fellows, six of whom entered law teaching and received tenure at their respective institutions.

1989 – The International and Comparative Law program commences under the leadership of Professor Burns H. Weston, who is subsequently named Associate Dean for International Studies.

1989 – The overseas summer program in Arcachon, France, is established by Professor Stephen Sass.

1989 – The Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems journal begins publication as the College’s third student-edited law journal.

1990 – Enrique Carrasco is appointed as the College’s first Latino faculty member. At this point, Iowa was one of only three law schools in the nation to have faculty members from each of the four major racial/ethnic minority groups.

1991 – A new LLM degree in international and comparative law is offered by the College, aimed primarily at foreign-educated lawyers.

1991 – U.S. News and World Report begins law rankings.

1991 – Same-sex couple Patricia Cain and Jean Love are given lateral tenured appointments to the faculty, a joint hire that focused national attention on Iowa as a law school community that welcomed diversity.

1995 – The Levitt Lecture series created, thanks to a generous endowment gift from Richard S. and Jeanne Levitt. The first Levitt Lecture was given in 1997, and over the following years seventeen Levitt Lecture events have been held, featuring six Nobel Peace Prize winners, a Supreme Court Justice, two former U.S. Attorney Generals, and a number of prominent legal scholars and journalists.

1996 – A fourth student-edited law journal begins--the Journal of Gender, Race and Justice.

2002 –The Law Library collection tops one million volumes, making Iowa’s library the largest in the US at a public law school.

2003 – The law school Endowment Campaign for the 21st Century is completed after seven years. The campaign far exceeded its original $25 million goal, raising over more than $35 million.

2004 – Hines retires as Dean and is replaced by Carolyn C. Jones, a 1979 Iowa Law graduate. Jones is the first female Dean of the Iowa Law School. When Hines stepped down the faculty size was 52, 35 percent of whom were women and 12 percent were minorities. Over the years he had hired a total of 65 faculty. The student body remained stable at 650, the Law Library collection exceeded one million and was ranked 2nd in the nation, behind only Harvard, and the ILSF endowment stood at $66 million, thanks largely to the highly successful “Twenty-First Century” capital campaign.

2005 – Professor and Dean Emeritus Hines is elected President of AALS, becoming the fourth Iowa faculty member to serve in this prestigious post. Impressively,13 other AALS presidents have strong Iowa connections, either as former administrators, former faculty members, or as graduates of the law school.

2005 – The College's tradition 90-point numerical grading system is replaced with the more conventional 4-point grading system used at the University of Iowa.

2006 – The law school’s first-year “small section” program is replaced with a new four-credit “LAWR” (legal analysis, writing, and research) course taught by five full-time professional instructors. To accommodate this reform, the first-year curriculum was changed, eliminating Contracts II and Property II as required first-year courses and creating an elective course opportunity in the spring semester. After a three-year trial period, the four-credit LAWR course was made a permanent component of the required first-year program in 2009.

2007 – The law school’s summer entrant program is discontinued after 28 years of existence. The last summer entrants graduated in 2009.

2007 – Thanks to a one million dollar bequest from the Scott Estate, the Legal Clinic Suite is scheduled for renovations.

2009 – Dean Jones announces her intention to step down as Dean at the end of the 2009-2010 academic year, and a 13-person Dean Search Committee is appointed in June 2009.

2010 – Iowa Law Library is named best in nation by ABA Law Student Journal in February 2010.

2010 – Dean Gail Agrawal who was Dean at the University of Kansas School of Law, is named as the 17th Iowa Law School Dean in January 2010. Dean Agrawal’s tenure as Iowa Law Dean began on July 1, 2010.

2010 – An “other professional skills” (other than basic skills of analysis, research, argumentation, and legal writing) graduation requirement is adopted by the faculty to meet a new ABA accreditation standard.

2010 - Professor William G. Buss retired after 43 years of law teaching at Iowa.

2011 - Professor Larry D. Ward retired after 39 years of law teaching at Iowa.

2011 – The Boyd Law Building celebrated its 25th year by undergoing substantial external repairs (funestration) and internal renovations(HVAC) and refurbishing of classrooms and public spaces.

2012 - Comprehensive Collegiate Self Study Process commenced in August 2012.

2012 - Fifty Million Dollar Iowa Inspired campaign kicks off September 28, 2012.

2013 - Professor Barry Matsomoto retired after 39 years of teaching at Iowa.

2013 – Two New Degrees Created -- a two-year JD for foreign lawyers, and a MSL for non-lawyers. In addition, innovative 3 plus 3 relationships are created with U of I departments and a number of Iowa colleges.

2013 - The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights moves its academic home to the College of Law.

First prepared for presentation to the US District Court, Northern District of Iowa Historical Society, April 11, 2008. Most recently updated Fall 2012 by N. William Hines