History of the Law School

Historical rendering of the Law Building, Pearce Hall

The University of Texas School of Law began as The University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Law when the university was founded in 1883. The law school started with two professors and 52 students in the basement of the university’s Old Main Building. The school has since grown to more than 1,200 students and offers the Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) and the Master of Laws (LL.M.).

On June 1, 2012, Ward Farnsworth became Dean. The Department of Law appointed its first dean, John C. Townes, in 1901, and moved out of the basement and into its own building in 1908. The Department of Law became The University of Texas School of Law in 1920. By 1935, it had become one of the largest law schools in the United States, and required a new building. In 1952 construction began on Townes Hall. Two additional buildings were later added: Jones Hall, completed in 1981, which became home to the Tarlton Law Library; and the Connally Center, dedicated in 2001, which houses the Eidman Courtroom, the Advocacy Program and Clinical Legal Education.

The school’s first course on oil and gas law was held in 1914, and in 2008 it became the first law school to offer a course on wind energy law, a growing field as the search for alternate energy sources intensifies. Texas Law Review was founded in 1922, and many more journals followed. Currently, students publish 12 different scholarly journals.

Clinical legal education at the School of Law began in 1974, and has steadily expanded. Today, there are seventeen different legal clinics as well as numerous internship programs that provide extensive opportunities to work on legal issues in real-world settings. Clinics have allowed students to travel to the United States Supreme Court to hear cases they worked on argued in front of the highest court in the land, draft legislation that improves the lives of average Texans, prove the innocence of the wrongfully convicted and see them released from prison, and end imprisonment of families seeking asylum, to name only a few examples.

The Trial Advocacy Program was founded in 1978 to facilitate the teaching of advocacy and dispute resolution. University of Texas teams have won a total of seventeen national advocacy championships in the last eleven years. Notable recent victories include the 2012 Conrad B. Duberstein National Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition, (in 2010 Texas Law teams won both first and second place in this competition); and in 2011, first place finishes at the John L. Costello National Criminal Law Trial Advocacy Competition, and the Uvaldo Herrera National Moot Court Competition.

The law school has approximately 23,500 living alumni who have forged distinguished careers in government, public-service organizations, corporations, and law firms throughout Texas, the nation, and the world. Well-known graduates include former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III; former U.S. Ambassador Robert S. Strauss; former Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr.; Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diane Wood; Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Reynaldo Garza; U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison; Secretary of Energy Federico Peña; former Dallas Mayor and current U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk; presidential advisor Paul Begala; litigator Joe Jamail; criminal defense attorney Dick DeGuerin; and cartoonist Sam Hurt.

The School of Law is a member of the Association of American Law Schools and is approved by the American Bar Association.  Contact the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Association, 321 N. Clark Street, 21st Floor, Chicago, IL, 60654 or call 312.988.6738 for questions regarding the Law School’s accreditation.

Related Links

The Tarlton Law Library has created a series of digital resources that provide additional information about the University of Texas School of Law.