Law School History and Milestones


  1. 1865-1868: Justice George W. Wright (founded with Justice Chester Cole in the Iowa Supreme Court)
  2. 1868-1881: William G. Hammond (first dean when the College of Law joins the University of Iowa)
  3. 1881 - 1887: Professor Lewis R. Ross
  4. 1887 - 1890: Dr. James M. Love
  5. 1890-1901: Emlin McClain
  6. 1901-1911: Charles Gregory
  7. 1911-12: Austin Scott (temporary dean)
  8. 1912-14: Henry Wesley Dunn (temporary dean)
  9. 1914-1915: Charles Gregory
  10. 1916-1921: Dudley Odell McGoveny
  11. 1921-1929: Henry Craig Jones
  12. 1929-1935: Eugene Gilmore
  13. 1935-1939: Wiley Rutledge
  14. 1939-1966: Mason Ladd
  15. 1966 - 1971: David Vernon
  16. 1971-1976: Lawrence Blades
  17. 1976-2004: N. William Hines
  18. 2004-2010: Carolyn C. Jones
  19. 2010-2018: Gail B. Agrawal
  20. 2018- present: Kevin K. Washburn

Founding of the College of Law

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

1845 – Territorial Legislature authorized 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 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 – In the wake of the Civil War, Iowa Supreme Court Justices Justice George W. Wright and Chester Cole founded what is now considered the oldest law school west of the Mississippi.

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. Justice Chester C. Cole wrote the opinion for the case.

Old Capitol Years

1868 – The Law School became part of the University of Iowa and moved to Iowa City.  There were 25 students, 3 faculty and 1,100 volumes in the law library. Classes were held in Old Capitol until 1910. Prof. William G. Hammond is its first Dean.

1869 – Arabella Babb Mansfield was admitted to the Iowa Bar, after reading law for two years in her brother's law office in Mt. Pleasant. She was the first woman admitted to practice law in the United States.

1870 – Iowa legislature changed state law on licensing lawyers, dropping the requirement of “white male.”

1873 – Mary Beth Hickey, Iowa's first woman graduate.

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

1874-1884 – “Advanced Course-Second Year” was offered free to Iowa Law grads and anyone else who could pass an entrance test. This experimental program created by Dean Hammond was dropped for lack of interest. It may have been the first continuing legal education offering in the U.S.

1875 – Justice Cole resigned and returned to Des Moines. He opened the law department of Simpson Centenary College in September. In 1881, Cole's college became affiliated with Drake University.

1879 – Alexander Clark, Jr. was Iowa Law's first African-American graduate. Moung Edwin, from Burma, was the Law School's and UI's first graduate from another country.

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

1884 – Alexander Clark, Sr., the father of Alexander Clark, Jr., graduated at 57 and went on to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Liberia.

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

1889 – Professor Eugene Wambaugh arrived at Iowa from Harvard.  He was a proponent of the "case method" that is generally credited to Harvard's Christopher Langdell.

1890 – Chancellor Hammond left for the deanship at Washington University. Emlin McClain, Iowa LLB, '73, becomes Dean .

1890 – Kizo Ishikawa was the first Japanese student to graduate from Iowa Law. He returned to Japan and succumbed to tuberculosis in 1892.

1891 – American Bar Association recommended a law school degree require three years. It took decades before this requirement became the norm.

1891 –  First full-time director, Jennie Wilson, Iowa LLB, '91, was hired for the law library.

1894 – Dean Hammond died and left the Law School his collection of law books–the law library doubled from 2,000 to 4,000 volumes.

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

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

1901 – McClain elected to the Iowa Supreme Court. In this same year, he was also elected as the second president of the fledgling Association of American Law Schools (AALS).

Gilmore Hall

1910 – The new law building, Gilmore Hall, opened. The Law School remained in this building until 1962. It took Dean Gregory nine years of lobbying. When the new building opened there were 245 students, five faculty members, and 10,000 volumes in the law library.

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

1915 – Emlin McClain and Professor Herbert F. Goodrich established the Iowa Law Review, now one of the oldest student-edited journals in the nation.

1916 – Dudley McGoveny was named Dean.

1917 – Student body dropped to 18 due to World War I.

1921 – Student body at 200, six faculty, and 30,000 volumes in law library. McGovney returns to the faculty as a professor, succeeded by Dean Henry Craig Jones.

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

1927 – After eight years, Law Jubilee was banned after too much controversy over student skits mocking faculty and public figures of the day.

1928 – Law Jubilee replaced with Iowa Supreme Court Day.

1929 – Dean Jones died and was replaced by Dean Eugene Gilmore.

1930 – Enrollment grew to 250 students, but resources were limited due to the Great Depression. Faculty salaries were regularly cut.

1933 – The Iowa Law Review published the first symposium in U.S. 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 was named University of Iowa President and Wiley Rutledge was named law dean.

1937 – Rutledge authored a national report recommending government sponsored legal assistance for indigent persons, anticipating President Kennedy’s legal services program by 25 years.

1939 – The legendary Mason Ladd was named Dean, and began a 27-year tenure. He would serve on many national commissions, author books on evidence, and become the primary drafter of the original Federal Rules of Evidence.

1939 – Enrollment at 272, nine faculty members, 52,000 volumes in the law library.

1940 – Nile Kinnick chose to attend Iowa Law School instead of playing in the NFL. He left law school after one year and enlisted in the Naval Air Reserve. His plane went down on June 2, 1943 during a training flight off the coast of Venezuela.

1943 – Wiley Rutledge was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

1943 – Enrollment dropped to 23 due to World War II. Law students and faculty left to serve in the war.

1946 – Thanks to the GI Bill, law enrollments began to swell to record levels.

1947 – Enrollment at 500 students and the school adopted a special acceleration program to move the large number of students through as quickly as possible.

1949 – Institute of Public Affairs created with a mission to improve the functioning of government agencies.

1950 – Enrollment stabilized at 400. Law School had adopted a seven-semester requirement which meant most students had to attend two summer sessions to graduate. Law faculty expanded with the hiring of five new professors.

1952 – The Iowa Law School Foundation established by the Class of 1952 with initial assets of $1,000.

1953 – Agricultural Law Center established. Lasted for 20 years and attracted national and international attention to Iowa for its research publications and overseas programs.

Law Center

1961 – The new building, called the Law Center, was opened and dedicated by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren. It was created by attaching a library and classroom addition to the Law Commons.

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.

1966 – Mason Ladd retired to Florida State University. David H. Vernon becomes Dean. Student enrollment was 500, the faculty doubled from 14 to 28, and 200,000 volumes were held by the law library.

1967 – First-year small section program started. Only Iowa and Yale offered first-year classes in small sections. Over the years many law schools followed suit. Iowa committed full-time faculty to the instruction in basic skills in analysis, research, and legal writing. Iowa began aggressive recruitment of students and faculty who would bring diversity to the school.

1969 – Willard L. (Sandy) Boyd is named University of Iowa President, a title he would hold for 12 years.

1971 – Dean Vernon resigned and was replaced by Dean Lawrence E. Blades.

1971 – Moot Court program was invigorated and greater emphasis placed on providing Continuing Legal Education programming. The college's in-house legal clinic was organized. In addition to supervising students on actual cases, it offered externships for academic credit.

1972 – Summer entrant/accelerated program started, as a mechanism to increase the student body. Forty-five students began 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. The total student body was 650. A formal Moot Court Board established to manage appellate advocacy training and competitions for academic credit.

1973 – Professor Josephine Gittler was the first woman law professor at Iowa Law.

1974 – Professor Barry Matsumoto was the first minority law professor at Iowa Law.

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

1976 – Iowa Law School Foundation endowment stood at $1 million thanks to Dean Blades' 2nd Century campaign.

1976 – Dean Blades resigns, N. William Hines is named Dean. When Hines became Dean.

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 was appointed, making him the first African-American professor at the Iowa Law School.

1980 – Willard L. (Sandy) Boyd was Chair of the American Bar Association's Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar.

1981 – The National Health Law and Policy (NHLP) Resource Center was founded.

1981 – Willard L. (Sandy) Boyd was named President of the Field Museum in Chicago, a title he would hold for 15 years.

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

1984 – London Law Consortium, created by Iowa and seven other law schools, began to offer a semester abroad program in London.

1985 – Professor Arthur E. Bonfield named Associate Dean for Research and began directing the Iowa Law Library.

Boyd Law Building

1986 – The new Boyd Law Building opened in May and was dedicated on October 17th by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun. The new building was named in honor of former University of Iowa President Willard L. (Sandy) Boyd on November 20th.

1986 – The classic Rodin statue “Jean de Fiennes,” the attorney in the Burghers of Calais, was installed in the building courtyard. It was given by Orville and Paula Grahame.

1988 – Professor James S. Anaya was the first Native American faculty member at Iowa Law. Faculty fellows program established to expand pool of prospective minority law teachers. Discontinued 10 years later, the program attracted seven fellows, six of whom entered law teaching.

1989 – The International and Comparative Law program commenced, led by Professor Burns H. Weston. The overseas summer program in Arcachon, France, was established by Professor Stephen Sass. The Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems journal began publication as the College’s third student-edited law journal. The Writing Center opened, providing feedback and instruction to students on legal writing.

1990 – Professor Enrique Carrasco was Iowa Law's first Latino faculty member. At this time, 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 – New LLM degree in international and comparative law was offered by the College, aimed primarily at foreign-educated lawyers. Same-sex couple Patricia Cain and Jean Love were given lateral tenured appointments to the faculty.

1991 – U.S. News and World Report began ranking law schools.

1995 – The Levitt Lecture series was 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 the Levitt Lecture has become an annual event, featuring Nobel Peace Prize winners, a Supreme Court Justice, former U.S. Attorneys General, and prominent legal scholars and journalists.

1996 – The Journal of Gender, Race and Justice was founded, the fourth student-edited law journal at the College.

1996 – Willard L. (Sandy) Boyd returned to the law faculty.

2000 – Larned A. Waterman Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center was founded by UI College of Law Professor and UI President Emeritus Willard L. (Sandy) Boyd.

2002 –The Law Library collection topped one million volumes, making it the largest in the U.S. in a public law school.

2003 – Law School Endowment Campaign for the 21st Century was completed, raising over $40 million.

2004 – Hines retired as Dean and was replaced by Carolyn C. Jones, Iowa JD, '79. Jones is the first woman Dean of the Iowa Law School. 52 faculty, 650 students, over 1 million volumes held in Law Library.

2005 – Professor and Dean Emeritus Hines was elected President of AALS, the fourth Iowa faculty member to serve in this post. The Larned A. Waterman Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center and the Institute of Public Affairs combined in a joint venture.

2005 – The College's traditional 90-point numerical grading system was replaced with a more conventional four-point grading system.

2006 – The law school’s signature first-year “small section” program ended and was replaced with a new four-credit “LAWR” (legal analysis, writing, and research) course. To accommodate this, Contracts II and Property II were eliminated as first-year requirements, and an elective course opportunity was offered in the spring.

2007 – The summer entrant program was discontinued after 28 years of existence. The last summer entrants graduated in 2009.

2010 – Iowa Law Library was named best in nation by ABA Law Student Journal in February 2010. An "other professional skills" graduation requirement was adopted to meet a new ABA accreditation standard.

2010 – Jones completes her deanship and was succeeded by Dean Gail Agrawal.

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

2013 – The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights moved its academic home to the College.

2014 – Iowa Law partnered with colleges in Iowa and established a "3+3" program, allowing undergraduates to begin law school after three years.

2015 – The College of Law celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding.

2015 – The Iowa Law Review celebrated 100 years.

2016 – The Iowa Inspired: Campaign for Iowa Law was completed, raising $53 million.

2017 – The first floor of the Boyd Law Building was renovated.  The Lauridsen Family Commons, including the Orville W. and Loanne Bloethe Seminar Room, and Ted M. Seldin Portico, was opened.


First prepared for presentation to the US District Court, Northern District of Iowa Historical Society, April 11, 2008. Most recently updated May 2017.