History of the School of Law

As America expanded westward, the need for institutionalized schooling for lawyers became apparent. The traditional, early means of self-study and apprenticeship were no longer sufficient to adequately train aspiring lawyers for admission to the bar.

In 1867, MU Curators voted to establish a law department. The department formally opened in October, 1872. Judge Bliss, a Missouri Supreme Court justice, was appointed dean. Twenty-five law students started classes in Academic Hall that year. In order to enter the program, students were to be college graduates, or at least 19 years old, and of sound moral character. The school has always welcomed women, but few enrolled until the 1960s. However, a female student graduated first in her class as early as 1899.

After Academic Hall was destroyed by fire in 1892, plans for a law building went into the works. The “Law Barn,” as it was called, was completed in 1893. Due to increasing success of the school, it quickly outgrew these facilities. Today the building houses the Sociology Department. A new building, Tate Hall, was completed in 1927 to accommodate the growth. It remained the school's home for six decades before becoming the English Department building. In 1988, John K. Hulston Hall was constructed, and the school became one of the most state-of-the-art law schools in the nation.