Loyola University New Orleans College of Law opened for law classes on the evening of Monday, October 5, 1914 at the Jesuit’s School of the Immaculate Conception on the corner of Common and Baronne. The Honorable John St. Paul, then a judge on the New Orleans Civil District Court, persuaded other leaders of the bar to donate their time to the fledgling law school, designed as a school of access to the legal profession to workers who could not afford to attend full-time day programs. Before retiring as Dean of the law school and going on to become an Associate Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, Judge St. Paul had the pleasure of awarding his son a diploma as one of the school’s first graduating class.
In its early years, the law school, like many other law schools, offered law as part of its undergraduate offerings, and many of its students entered at very young ages. The Honorable Herbert Christenberry, who graduated in 1924, began law studies as an adolescent, like many of his colleagues. Many of the law school’s most distinguished alumni, including the Honorable James Skelly Wright, graduated from Loyola’s night program. However, in the 1930’s, Loyola’s effort to secure national accreditation transformed the law school from a night school staffed by volunteers, to a full-time day and evening program, staffed by a combination of full-time legal educators and part-time volunteer professionals. The law school was approved by the American Bar Association in 1931. The Honorable William H. Byrnes, then Dean and founding law faculty member, oversaw this transformation, and paved the way for the first full-time dean of the law school, Paul Macarias Hebert, in 1932, to secure membership for the school in the Association of American Law Schools in 1934. In 1968, in response to a national trend, the law school began to award graduates the juris doctor degree, instead of the bachelor of laws degree. In 2007, L.L.M. in U.S. law for foreign lawyers became the latest degree offering approved at the College of Law.
The law school was one of the first Loyola schools to admit women and Alice Allen was the first woman to graduate from the law program in 1921. It was decades, however, before women were admitted in significant numbers. In 1956, the law school hired its first woman law professor, Loyola law graduate and former law librarian, Janet Mary Riley. In 1972, law students established the Association for Women Law Students, now known as the Association of Women Law Students. In 2010-2011, Kathryn Venturatos Lorio Served as Interim Dean, becoming the first woman to hold this position at a Louisiana Law school. The following year, María Pabón López became the first woman to be selected permanent dean of a law school in Louisiana.
The law school was the first Loyola school to admit African Americans in 1952. The school’s graduates played leadership roles in the desegregation of New Orleans, especially the Honorable Moon Landrieu as mayor, and the Honorable James Skelly Wright as a federal district judge. The law school hired its first African American dean, Louis Westerfield, a Loyola law graduate and former Loyola law faculty member. In 1969, law students established the A.P. Tureaud Chapter of the Black Law Student Association, now knows as the Black Law Student Association. In 1986, law students formed the Spanish American Law Students Association, now known as the Hispanic Law Student Association. In 1994, law students established the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association.
The law school began publication of the second law review in the state in 1920. Discontinued in 1932, it was reintroduced in 1940. The school became the first of the Loyola law schools in the United States to publish a quarterly law review, and, thus, secured the “Loyola Law Review” title. In 1993, the law faculty established the Poverty Law Journal, now known as the Journal of Public Interest Law. The Journal is addresses social justice issues. The school also publishes a Maritime Law Journal, started in 2002 by interested law students who wanted to revive the scholarly work of a previous publication entitled The American Mariner.
Traditionally, the law school has been committed to graduating lawyers ready for practice. In its early years, this commitment was evidenced through offerings in “practice court” as early as 1920, moot court, as early as 1930, and an early form of clinical education in 1953, working with through the Legal Aid Bureau of New Orleans. The law school sent its first moot court team to the National Moot Court Competition in 1954. The Moot Court Board was established in 1973, and in 1974, Loyola’s team won the national championship in the National Moot Court Competition. In 1985, the school adopted as part of its curriculum a formal program of practice skills.
In 1971, with funding from the Ford Foundation, Loyola’s law school introduced Louisiana to clinical legal education. Then Dean Marcel Garsaud, Jr., Professor Arthur “Buddy” Lemmon, and Professor Keith Vetter, petitioned the Louisiana Supreme Court to change its rules to allow student practitioners to practice under the supervision of professors. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted the petition in 1971 and Loyola established the first program of clinical education in the state in academic year 1971-1972.
With the initiation of the first summer abroad program in Mexico, directed by Professor Keith Vetter, Loyola Law School embarked on an international law program which has resulted in many Loyola students studying abroad. Loyola programs locations include Austria, Brazil, Costa Rica, Greece, Hungary, Japan Panama, and Russia.
In 1985, the law school established the Gillis W. Long Poverty Law Center with funding provided by the United States Congress. That Center today provides funding support for law students interested in pursuing public interest opportunities, a distinguished lecture series, and public service awards. The school moved into the building it presently occupies on Pine Street, subsequently expanded through the donations of two of its alumni, Wendell H. Gauthier. In 2011, the College of Law opened its newest building, located on 540 Broadway Street. The building now houses the Office of Skills and Experiential Learning, the Career Development and Law Practice Center and the Stuart H. Smith Clinic Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice.
In 1992, distinguished federal judge and Loyola graduate, the Honorable Adrian G, Duplantier made a significant donation to Loyola Law School, which, combined with funding from the Louisiana State Board of Regents, served to establish the Leon Sarpy Professorship of Law, the first named professorship at Loyola University professorship in the university. Today there are 25 professorships and one chair in the law school, providing funding for faculty members to attend legal conferences, enhance their scholarship and otherwise enrich their scholarly and teaching agendas.
The law school today attracts students from all over the country, including a strong contingent from New Orleans and Louisiana. It offers part-time day and evening programs and full-time day program. The school also attracts lawyers from other countries who are pursuing their L.L. M. degrees. These have come from Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. The College of Law’s Jesuit mission is reflected in its commitment to academic rigor, the pursuit of justice and service to others for the past 100 years.
Loyola Law Day