The Early History of Columbia College Law School
Columbia Law School was one of the few law schools established in this country before the Civil War. During the 18th and 19th centuries, most legal education took place in law offices, where young men, serving as apprentices or clerks,were set to copying documents and filling out legal forms under the supervision of an established attorney. For example, in New York John Jay, revolutionary founding father and first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, read law with Benjamin Kissam, whose busy practice kept his clerks occupied in transcribing records, pleadings, and opinions. Jay was fortunate to have attentive supervision because the quality and time of learning the law varied greatly within the profession. Theodore Dwight, who had been head of the law department of Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, believed formal legal education, conducted in the classroom with regular lectures, was far superior to casual law office instruction. In this article, Dwight shows his methods of legal education were successful as he traces the growth of Columbia College Law School from 1858 to 1889.



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After 31 years as Professor and Warden of the law school he established, Theodore W. Dwight wrote a history of Columbia Law School from its foundation in 1858 with 35 students to its state in 1889 with 491 students on the Columbia campus, then located at Madison Avenue and 49th Street. The complete article, from which the following texts are taken, can be read in

[1 Green Bag 141-160 (1889)]

Links to three law journal articles in this website are made possible with the kind permission of Hein Online.

Illustrative material comes from Special Collections in the Diamond Law Library.