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University of Chicago Law School

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The University of Chicago Law School
Lawschool 2008-09 2008-10-09 0017.jpg
Parent school University of Chicago
Established 1902
School type Private
Dean Thomas J. Miles
Location Chicago, Illinois, United States
Enrollment 604[1]
Faculty 140[2]
USNWR ranking 4[2]
Bar pass rate 98.58%[2]
ABA profile The University of Chicago Law School

The University of Chicago Law School is a professional graduate school of the University of Chicago. It was founded in 1902 by a coalition of donors led by John D. Rockefeller.[3]

The law school is ranked first of all law schools in the United States by Above the Law[4] and fourth by U.S. News & World Report.[5] It is ranked fourth in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities[6] and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.[7] The law school has the third-highest gross and per capita placement of alumni in Supreme Court of the United States clerkships.[8] In 2018, it was ranked first by the National Law Journal for placing the highest percentage of recent graduates in federal clerkships and law firms of 100 or more lawyers,[9] and first for overall employment outcomes.[10]

The law school has produced many distinguished alumni in the judiciary, academia, government, politics and business. Its alumni include the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, the President of the Supreme Court of Israel, Chief Judges and Judges of United States courts of appeals, several Attorneys General and Solicitors General of the United States, members of Congress and the Senate, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, university Presidents and faculty Deans, and CEOs and chairpersons of multinational corporations. The law school's full-time faculty has included the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama, Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia, John Paul Stevens and Elena Kagan, and legal scholars Karl Llewellyn and Cass Sunstein.[11]

The law school is renowned for its interdisciplinary approach towards legal education.[12] It is also noted for its influence on law and economics and for the contribution of its faculty to the Chicago school of economics and to the Chicago school approach to antitrust law.[13] Since the early 1930s, it has offered courses and run programs on law and economics, having counted among its faculty prominent figures in the area such as Aaron Director, Nobel laureate Ronald Coase, federal appellate judges Richard A. Posner and Frank H. Easterbrook, and legal scholars Richard A. Epstein and William Landes.[14] Its current faculty includes philosopher and Kyoto Prize winner Martha Nussbaum, who is jointly appointed in the law school and the university's philosophy department.


View of the University of Chicago from the Midway Plaisance

In 1902, the President of the University of Chicago, William Rainey Harper, requested assistance from the faculty of Harvard Law School in establishing a law school at Chicago. Joseph Henry Beale, then a professor at Harvard, was granted a two-year leave of absence to serve as the first Dean of the law school. Beale and Harper assembled the faculty and designed the curriculum, which was inspired by jurist and professor Ernst Freund. Freund had suggested that the law school embrace an interdisciplinary perspective towards the study of law. This included offering non-legal subjects, such history, finance, comparative politics and sociology, as electives.[15] By the end of his tenure, Beale left the fledgling school "one of the best in the country".[16]

In 1903, the law school opened for classes in the University Press Building (currently the Bookstore Building). John D. Rockefeller financed the cost of the new building at $250,000, and its cornerstone was laid by President Theodore Roosevelt.[17] At the time of its opening, the law school consisted of five faculty members and 78 students. In 1904, the law school moved to Stuart Hall on the main University campus. In the same year, Sophonisba Breckinridge became the first woman to graduate from the law school. "My record there was not distinguished," she later wrote in her autobiography, "but the faculty and students were kind, and the fact that the law school, like the rest of the University ... accepted men and women students on equal terms publicly".[18] The law school also established its first alumni association.

There was considerable change in the law school in the years leading up to World War I and shortly thereafter. The law school established a chapter of the Order of the Coif in 1911. It established the Moot Court program in 1914. During World War I, enrolment at the law school declined: in Spring 1917, 241 students were enrolled; this number dropped to 46 by Fall 1918. In 1920, Earl B. Dickerson became the first African-American to graduate from the law school.[19] In 1926, enrolment reached 500 students for the first time and, in 1927, the law school began to offer its first seminars.

Nobel laureate Ronald Coase, who jointed the law school in the 1960s, working at the law school in 2003

In the 1930s, the law school's curriculum transformed to reflect the emerging influence of the law and economics movement. In 1933, Aaron Director and Henry Simons offered the first courses in economics at the law school.[20] Economics was also introduced in the antitrust course where, as Cass Sunstein recounts, the famous American statesman and scholar Edward Levi allowed every fifth class to be taught by Director.[21] The first volume of the University of Chicago Law Review was also published in 1933.[22] The law school established a legal writing program in 1938 and the Law and Economics Program in 1939. The LL.M. program was established in 1942, while Harry A. Bigelow Teaching Fellowships were established in 1947. As was the case during World War I, enrolment at the law school, like at many of the other top law schools in the country, declined and its academic calendar was adjusted to meet military needs.[23]

In the 1950s and 1960s, the law school experienced a period of profound growth and expansion under the leadership of Edward Levi, who was appointed Dean in 1950. In 1951, Karl Llewellyn and Soia Mentschikoff joined the law school, the latter being the first woman on the faculty. In 1958, Director founded the Journal of Law and Economics. In 1959, the law school moved to its current building on 60th Street, designed by Eero Saarinen, with Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and Lord Chancellor of Great Britain Lord Kilmuir laying the cornerstone and Vice-President Richard Nixon presiding at the opening ceremony. In 1960, constitutional law scholar Philip Kurland founded the Supreme Court Review. Levi later served as the Provost (1962–1968) and the President (1968–1975) of the University of Chicago, before becoming the United States Attorney General under President Gerald Ford. During his time at the law school, Levi also supported the Committee on Social Thought graduate program.[24]

By the 1970s and 1980s, the law school had established its reputation as one of the premier law schools in the country. The law and economics movement had attracted a series of scholars with strong connections to the social sciences, such as Nobel laureates Ronald Coase and Gary Becker and scholars Richard A. Posner and William M. Landes. In 1972, Posner founded the Journal of Legal Studies. The law school also established joint degree programs with the Committee on Public Policy Studies and the Department of Economics, complementing Max Rheinstein's Foreign Law Program, which was established in the 1950s with a bequest from the Ford Foundation. The Legal History Program was established in 1981.[25] In 1982, the Federalist Society was established by a group of students at the law school, together with students from Harvard Law School and Yale Law School.


The law school currently employs more than 200 full-time and part-time faculty members and enrolls approximately 600 students in its Juris Doctor (J.D.) program.[26] It also offers advanced legal degrees such as the Master of Laws (LL.M.), the Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.) and the Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.S.D.).


Saieh Hall for Economics, housing the Department of Economics and the Becker Friedman Institute.

The law school's clinical programs operate through seven distinct, autonomous units, each with its own faculty and support staff. The clinics include:

  • Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, which includes clinics on civil justice, criminal law, employment law, housing initiatives and mental health advocacy
  • Exoneration Project Clinic
  • Innovation Clinic
  • Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship
  • Jenner & Block Supreme Court and Appellate Clinic
  • Kirkland & Ellis Corporate Lab Clinic
  • Young Center Immigrant Child Advocacy Clinic

In addition, there are two other clinics in which students work on behalf of clients in a supervised field placement at an outside agency and take a companion seminar at the law school:

  • Poverty and Housing Law Clinic
  • Prosecution and Defense Clinic

D'Angelo Law Library

Laird Bell quadrangle fountain in front of the D'Angelo Law Library.

The D'Angelo Law Library is part of the greater University of Chicago library system. Renovated in 2006, it features a second-story reading room. The Law Library is open 90 hours per week and employs 11 full-time librarians and 11 additional managers and staff members. It has study space for approximately 500 people, a wireless network and 26 networked computers. It contains over 700,000 volumes of books, with approximately 6,000 added each year, including materials in over 25 languages, and primary law from foreign countries and international organizations.[27]

Admissions and cost

Admission to the J.D. program is highly selective: in 2017, the law school enrolled 179 students from an applicant pool of 4,459.[28] For the entering class of 2017, the 25th and 75th LSAT percentiles were 166 and 172, respectively, with a median of 170.[28] The 25th and 75th GPA percentiles were 3.73 and 3.95, respectively, with a median of 3.90.[29]

Admission into the LL.M. program is also selective: in 2017, the law school reported that it had received approximately 1,000 applications for 75 positions.[30]

The total cost of attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees and living expenses) at the law school for the 2017–18 academic year was $93,414.[29]


The law school employs a grading system that places students on a scale of 155–186. The scale was 55–86 prior to 2003, but since then the law school has used a prefix of "1" to eliminate confusion with the traditional 100 point grading scale. These numerical grades convert to the more familiar alphabetical scale roughly as follows: 155–159 = F, 160–167 = D, 168–173 = C, 174–179 = B, 180–186 = A. For classes of more than 10 students, professors are required to set the median grade at 177, with the number of grades above a 180 approximately equaling the number of grades below a 173.[31]

In an article published in The New York Times in 2010, business writer Catherine Rampell criticized other schools' problems with grade inflation, but commended Chicago's system, saying "[Chicago] has managed to maintain the integrity of its grades."[32]

A student graduates "with honors" if he or she attains a final average of 179, "with high honors" upon attaining a final average of 180.5, and "with highest honors" upon attaining a final average of 182. The last of these achievements is rare; typically only one student every few years will attain the requisite 182 average. Additionally, the law school awards two honors at graduation that are based on class rank. Of the students who earned at the law school at least 79 of the 105 credits required to graduate, the top 10% are elected to the "Order of the Coif."[33] Students finishing their first or second years in the top 5% of their class, or graduating in the top 10%, are honored as "Kirkland and Ellis Scholars"[33] (a designation created in 2006 by a $7 million donation from the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis).[34]


In 2017, the law school was ranked first of all law schools by Above the Law for employment outcomes.[10] According to the law school's official 2017 ABA-required disclosures, more than 98% of the Class of 2017 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment within ten months of graduation.[29] The law school has the third-highest gross and third-highest per capita placement of alumni in Supreme Court of the United States clerkships.[35] Between 1992 and 2017, it placed 88 alumni in Supreme Court of the United States clerkships. In the Class of 2017, 21.4% of its graduates secured federal clerkships, while 63% of its graduates secured positions at law firms with more than 500 lawyers.[29]

The median salary for its graduates in the Classes of 2016 and 2017 was $180,000, and 75% of graduates earned starting salaries of $180,000 or greater upon graduation.[29] In 2018, the law school was ranked first in the United States by the National Law Journal for placing the highest percentage of recent graduates in federal clerkships and law firms of 100 or more lawyers.[9] It also had the highest first-time Bar pass rate (98.58%) of all law schools in the United States.[29]

Publications and organizations


The law school produces six professional journals. Three of those journals are student-run: the University of Chicago Law Review, the Chicago Journal of International Law, and the University of Chicago Legal Forum. The other three are overseen by faculty: the Supreme Court Review, the Journal of Law and Economics and the Journal of Legal Studies.

In 2018, the University of Chicago Law Review was ranked by HeinOnline as one of the most frequently cited law journals in the world.[36] In 2017, it had an impact factor of 2.272.[37] The Supreme Court Review is the most cited legal journal internationally with respect to commentary on the Supreme Court of the United States.[38] The Journal of Law and Economics and the Journal of Legal Studies were founded by Aaron Director and Richard A. Posner, respectively.[25]

Academic paper series

The law school produces several series of academic papers, including the Kreisman Working Papers Series in Housing Law and Policy, the Coase-Sandor Working Paper Series in Law and Economics, the Fulton Lectures, and the Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers, in addition to a series of occasional papers.[39]

Blogs and columns

In 2018, the law school reported that it hosted and contributed to several blogs and columns, including William Baude at The Volokh Conspiracy, Omri Ben-Shahar at Forbes, Richard A. Epstein at Defining Ideas (published by the Hoover Institution, Brian Leiter's Law School Reports, a website in the name of Eric Posner, and Geoffrey R. Stone at The Huffington Post.[40]


There are approximately 60 student-run organizations at the law school which fall under the umbrella of the Law Students Association. It is home to one of the three founding chapters of the Federalist Society. As a professor, former Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia helped to organize the Chicago chapter of the society.[41] Chicago is also home to a large chapter of the progressive American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.


The Laird Bell Quadrangle

The law school was originally housed in Stuart Hall, a Gothic-style limestone building on the campus's main quadrangles. Needing more library and student space, the law school moved across the Midway Plaisance to its current, Eero Saarinen-designed building (next to what was then the headquarters of the American Bar Association) in October 1959. The building contains classrooms, the D'Angelo Law Library, faculty offices, and an auditorium and courtroom, arranged in a quadrangle around a fountain (mimicking the college Gothic architecture of the campus's main quadrangles). The year saw a number of celebrations of the law school's new home, including a filming of the Today Show (then hosted by Barbara Walters) and appearances by Chief Justice Earl Warren, Governor (and later Vice President) Nelson Rockefeller and Secretary-General of the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld.[42]

In 1987, and over the objections of the Saarinen family, the building was expanded to add office and library space (and the library renamed in honor of alumnus Dino D'Angelo). In 1998, a dedicated space for the law school's clinics, the Arthur Kane Center for Clinical Legal Education, as well as numerous additional classrooms, were constructed.[42] The library, classrooms, offices, and fountain received an acclaimed and award-winning renovation, completed in 2008, notable for the preservation of most of Saarinen's structure at a time when many modernist buildings faced demolition.[43][44]


Notable faculty



Notable alumni


Business and private practice

Government and politics

Judiciary and public service



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  34. ^ (Press Release) Kirkland & Ellis gives $7 million to University of Chicago Law School. Retrieved on August 15, 2013.
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  44. ^ Cityscapes: New luster for a Saarinen gem: Once-threatened U. of C. Law School building is expertly recycled by OWP/P. (July 1, 2008). Retrieved on 2013-08-15.
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  46. ^ 'Illinois Blue Book 1963-1964,' Biographical Sketch of Lycurgus Conner, pg. 248

External links

  • The University of Chicago Law School

Coordinates: 41°47′09″N 87°35′55″W / 41.78583°N 87.59861°W / 41.78583; -87.59861

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