Georgetown Law began modestly in the 19th century when the directors of Georgetown University recommended the establishment of a separate department to train lawyers. It was the first law school created by a Jesuit institution of higher learning in the United States.
In the fall of 1870, with high expectations and a tenuous financial structure, Georgetown’s law school enrolled 25 students from 12 states and Cuba. The course of study required two years of evening classes. Though the law school weathered heavy financial storms and other worries, the vision of its early leaders, the reputation of the faculty, and the record of the first graduating class helped to build a strong foundation that would see it through the next century and beyond.
In 1890, construction began on a new law school building at 506 E Street, N.W. After 80 years in its Victorian quarters, the Law Center moved to 600 New Jersey Avenue following the construction of Bernard P. McDonough Hall in 1971. The Edward Bennett Williams Law Library, built in 1989, provided seating for 1,270 users. The 1993 dedication of the Bernard S. and Sarah M. Gewirz Student Center added a residence hall to the campus along with a childcare facility.
McDonough Hall was expanded by the spring of 1997 and the fall of 2004 saw the opening of two new buildings on campus: the Eric E. Hotung International Law Building — housing the John Wolff International and Comparative Law Library, state-of-the-art classrooms, offices and a Supreme Court Moot Court Room — and the Sport and Fitness Center, including basketball and racquetball courts, a swimming pool, and the Courtside Cafe.
Today, the Law Center boasts the nation’s top-ranked clinical program, joint degree and advanced degree programs, world-renowned centers and institutes, an Office of Public Interest and Community Service, and a diverse curriculum rivaling that of any major law school. Although the majority of students study full-time for their J.D. degree, the Law Center has retained the evening division with its outstanding reputation for academic excellence. The tradition of Georgetown’s first graduating class is echoed today in our approximately 40,000 alumni around the world.