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Georgetown Law Beginnings

The first law class is held October 5, 1870.

In March, a law school for Georgetown University is approved by the University’s Board of Directors. The first public announcement of the new school is made at Commencement that June. Since the Law Center has no charter separate from the University’s, the date of its first classes is celebrated as its founding date.

Global, Diversity & Access, Historical Highlights Global from Day One Twenty-five students enrolled in Georgetown’s new law school. This inaugural class included students from 13 of the 37 states then in existence, the District of Columbia, and Cuba.
Campus Development First Campus The school occupies its first campus, the American Colonization Society building at Pennsylvania Avenue and 4 ½ Streets, NW. The site is now home to the National Gallery of Art.
Leadership, Historical Highlights First Leader Charles Pinckney James (H’1870) serves as Vice President of Georgetown Law, the school’s first leader. The office of the Dean had yet to be established, and the terms of the law school’s founding stipulated that the University’s President technically served as President of the law school.
Historical Highlights First Graduates The Class of 1872 comprises the first 10 graduates the Law School.
Campus Development F Street Campus The Law School moves into Washington Seminary’s Gonzaga Hall at 915 F Street, NW. It will remain there for 10 years.
Global, Diversity & Access

Yasimori Asada becomes the first Japanese student to enroll in the Law School.

Historical Highlights

One-year LL.M. program is established. Eight students enroll.

Academic Excellence

Law Library opens. It will grow to house a collection of 1.7 million items.

About the Library
Diversity & Access

Simon R. Walkingstick, a member of the Cherokee Nation, becomes the Law School's first Indigenous American student.


National law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta establishes its Taft Chapter at the Law School.

Historical Highlights, Academic Excellence Law Journal Georgetown Law Journal begins publication.
Historical Highlights, Service & Social Justice World War I The United States enters World War I. A large contingent of Georgetown Law students leave to fight in the war. In December, Georgetown Law Journal notes: “The Law men are in this grim business because of a high purpose forced by a deep conviction, that they, in particular, as students of the law can have no respect for the principles of justice if they do not lend themselves to the utmost in their defense.”
Historical Highlights, Service & Social Justice Student Coins Georgetown Law Motto During the Law School’s Jubilee celebration of its 50th Anniversary, student Joseph Cantrell (L’22) offers stirring remarks. He includes words that will go on to become Georgetown Law’s motto, “Law is but a means, justice is the end.”
Historical Highlights

Establishment of three-year day program, predecessor of the J.D. program

Academic Excellence, Historical Highlights

Law School is first accredited by the American Bar Association.

Leadership Regent Thomas Bradbury Chetwood, S.J. Thomas B. Chetwood, S.J.(H’28) is appointed the Law School’s first regent. During this era of the University’s history, Jesuit priests served as regents and outranked academic deans as primary leaders of their academic schools.
Leadership Regent Francis E. Lucey, S.J. In 1931, Francis E. Lucey, S.J. (C’32, L’41, H’49) becomes the second Regent to lead the Law School. He will hold the post for the next 30 years. When Father Lucey’s career comes to an end, the era of regent leadership does as well.
Historical Highlights

S.J.D. degree is established.

Historical Highlights, Service & Social Justice

At the height of World War II, many students have gone off to serve, and tuition revenue has declined by 32 percent. The Law School building on E Street, NW is temporarily leased to the War Production Board.

Academic Excellence

Georgetown wins the inaugural National Moot Court Competition, foretelling many years of success.

Historical Highlights

Student Bar Association is established.

Diversity & Access First Women Admitted The first seven women students are admitted to the Law School. Pictured (l. to r.) are Patricia Collier Frank (L’53), Helen E. Steinbinder (L’55, L’56), and Agnes Neill Williams (L’54). Not pictured: Renee Grosshandler Baum (L’53), Helen Marie Chambers, Mary Gertrude Henseler, and Katherine Keener Yatsko (L’55). Ruth Marshall Paven, a transfer student from Harvard, becomes the first woman to graduate from the Law School in June, 1953. Agnes Neill Williams wins the inaugural Beaudry Cup, a moot court competition for first-year students. Helen Steinbinder becomes the first woman on the full-time faculty, as well as the first to receive tenure.

First Research Center

The first of Georgetown Law’s academic research centers is established. Eventually 21 centers and institutes will be housed at the Law Center.

They will tackle critical global challenges with innovative legal and policy solutions, frequently offering students opportunities to work closely with the top legal practitioners and policy makers of the day.

The first center is the Institute for Foreign and International Trade Law, founded by Prof. Heinrich Kronstein (SJD’40, H’67).

Leadership Deanship of Paul R. Dean Paul R. Dean (L’46, L’52, H’69) is appointed Dean of the Law School. He strengthens the evening division, institutes faculty governance, and grows the school’s reputation as an elite institution, eventually rebranding it as Georgetown University Law Center. During his tenure, construction begins on McDonough Hall, the first building of a new campus on New Jersey Avenue, NW. Dean will go on to be regarded as the founding Dean of the modern Law Center. Learn More.
Launch of Prettyman Fellowships The E. Barrett Prettyman Fellowships support recent graduates in assisting indigent defendants. It is an early example of the experiential programming and educational initiatives that will become a hallmark of Georgetown Law. The program is founded by Prof. Kenneth Pye (L’54, L’55, H’78) and will be directed by Prof. Bill Greenhalgh until 1994. In a 1961 telegram to the Law Center, President John F. Kennedy sends congratulations on the program’s inaugural year.
Diversity & Access Norma Holloway Johnson Norma Holloway Johnson (L’62) is the first African American woman to graduate from the Law Center. She will go on to become the first African American woman to serve as Chief Judge of a United States District Court.

Student-run newspaper Georgetown Law Weekly begins publication.

Academic Excellence

The University's Board of Directors approves the Law Center’s proposal to begin awarding J.D. degrees, rather than LL.B's, beginning with the class of 1967. Graduates from prior years may petition the Law Center to receive J.D.'s.

Campus Development McDonough Hall Groundbreaking Groundbreaking takes place for Bernard P. McDonough Hall, to be located at Massachusetts and New Jersey Avenues, NW. The vision of Dean Paul R. Dean, it becomes the centerpiece of the modern Law campus. Edward Durrell Stone, architect of the Kennedy Center, designs the building.
April 4, 1968

King Assassination and Civil Unrest

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated. Following Dr. King’s death, there are riots in D.C. Students, faculty, and staff provide assistance to local courts in dealing with the results of the civil disturbances.

For period of time lasting through 1973, the Law Center’s E. Barrett Prettyman Fellowship Program becomes a central pathway for many protestors arrested during civil rights protests and antiwar demonstrations to receive defense representation.

Diversity & Access

Black Law Student Association is established.

Leadership Deanship of Adrian S. Fisher (H'77) Dean Fisher increases diversity among students and faculty members, offers students a greater role in institutional decision making, and raises significant funding to support the launch of the clinical programs. During his tenure, the University’s Board of Directors grants the Law Center greater control over its own finances and strategic direction, while designating it as one of Georgetown’s three campuses.

Law Students in Court

The Law Center joins other D.C. area law schools in participating in its first clinical program, Law Students in Court.

The program, later renamed Rising for Justice, enables students to provide quality legal representation, assistance, and counseling to low-income clients in the District of Columbia.

Diversity & Access

Women's Rights Collective launches. In 1990, it becomes the Women's Legal Alliance.


Top-Ranked Clinical Program Begins

Georgetown Law begins building a clinical training program. Starting this year, a group of professors including Judith Areen, Addison Bowman (L’64), William Greenhalgh, Victor Kramer, and Wallace Mlyniec (L’70) launch and grow a number of clinics. Eventually, over 300 students will participate annually in a clinical program that has become the nation’s most varied and highly ranked.

Georgetown Law’s first in-house clinic, the Criminal Justice Clinic, is established this year by Prof. Addison Bowman.

Soon after, Prof. Victor Kramer launches INSPIRE, predecessor to today’s Institute for Public Representation. This public interest firm and clinic now offers counsel for those unable to obtain effective representation in cases of media and technology law, and environmental law.

Because of 50 years of sustained leadership from Clinical Associate Deans William Greenhalgh, John Kramer, Wallace Mlyniec, Deborah Epstein, Jane Aiken, and Kristin Henning, Georgetown Law now offers 18 Clinics.

The Clinics provide hands-on legal training for students and outstanding representation to individual clients and non-profit organizations. Alongside 22 full-time faculty supervisors and 30 graduate fellows, students pursue justice for their underserved clients, while learning the theory and practice of the legal profession.


Diversity & Access, Historical Highlights First African American leaders of Admissions Office Jerome A. Patterson (L’72, pictured left) becomes the first African American to lead the Office of Admissions. David W. Wilmot (L’73) follows him as Dean of Admissions.
Gilbert and Sullivan Society Georgetown becomes the only law school in America with its own theatre group – the Georgetown Gilbert and Sullivan Society. Its inaugural production is Trial by Jury, and 45 seasons follow comprising 114 shows.
Leadership Deanship of David J. McCarthy, Jr. (L'60, L'62, H'83) Dean McCarthy oversees considerable growth of the student body, broadens the recruitment of women and minorities, and significantly expands the faculty body with notable scholar-teachers of academic excellence. An early proponent of experiential legal education, he prioritizes funding for clinics, while granting faculty status and long-term contracts to all clinical directors. His management of clinics becomes a model for other law schools, and Georgetown Law’s clinical programs go on to become among the most renowned in the world.
Diversity & Access

Asian Pacific American Law Students is established.

Service & Social Justice

Equal Justice Foundation Chapter is established.

Diversity & Access

Jewish Law Students Association is formed.

Leadership Deanship of Robert L. Pitofsky During Pitofsky’s tenure, the Office of Development is established, enabling decades of growth through alumni support. He ensures the long-term sustainability of the Clinics by including them in the overall Law Center budget. His additional accomplishments include construction of the Edward Bennett Williams Law Library, establishment of a summer program in Florence, Italy, and fortifying the Law Center’s relationships with its diverse constituencies.

Federalist Society is established.

Academic Excellence Martin D. Ginsburg Chair in Taxation H. Ross Perot funds a chair in tax law in honor of Martin Ginsburg, longtime faculty member and husband of future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Law Alumni Board meets for the first time.

Academic Excellence, Global

Georgetown team wins Moot Court World Championship.

Diversity & Access

OutLaw, the Law Center's LGBTQ+ student organization, gains official recognition from the University.

Service & Social Justice

Public Interest Law Scholars program is established. In 2018, it will be renamed the Blume Public Interest Scholars program.


Home Court

Faculty and staff members play against members of Congress and Hill staffers in the first Home Court charity basketball game.

Planned by a group of students, the event will become an annual fundraiser raising over $8 million for charities, such as the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.

Leadership Deanship of Judith C. Areen Judith Areen becomes the first woman to serve as Dean. During her tenure, Gewirz Student Center is built, McDonough Hall undergoes a 40,000-square-foot expansion, and she oversees construction of Hotung International Law Building, Ginsburg Sport & Fitness Center, and the iconic clock tower. Her accomplishments include hiring 45 faculty members; establishment of the Women’s Forum, Board of Visitors, and Office of Public Interest and Community Service; a climb in national rankings; and securing the future of the clinical programs she helped launch as a young professor. In 2010, she will return as Interim Dean.

Board of Visitors is established.


International Summer Internship Program

For the first time, eight students participate in legal summer internships abroad.

Coordinated by Marilyn Tucker, the International Internship Program will eventually provide practical, global experience to hundreds of students.

D.C. Difference, Historical Highlights U.S. Supreme Court Justice Appearances Above: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks at the National Organization for Women’s Leadership Summit in 1995. The occasion is the first of what will be her numerous speaking engagements at the Law Center. Through the years, Georgetown Law’s preeminence and proximity to the Supreme Court have given rise to a long association with the institution. In the past 50 years, in addition to Justice Ginsburg, the following justices have appeared at Georgetown Law: Samuel Alito, Harry Blackmun, Stephen Breyer, Warren Burger, Elena Kagan, Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor, William Rehnquist, John Roberts, Jr., Antonin Scalia, Sonia Sotomayor, David Souter, and Clarence Thomas.
Academic Excellence

Georgetown Law moves to using tenure-track positions to hire and retain Clinical faculty members. The approach gives academic equality to a Clinical Program that is increasingly well regarded.


OPICS Established

The Law Center establishes the Office of Public Interest and Community Service.

Led by Director Barbara Moulton, OPICS‘ stated goal is to foster in all law students a commitment to service that will continue through their legal careers.


Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center

Two students, Chan Park (L’98) and Charan Johl Sandhu (L’98), assist in founding D.C.’s Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center.

It houses branches of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association and the Indian American Bar Association. It also offers a hotline for legal assistance, as well as referrals to attorneys offering pro bono help.

Academic Excellence, Service & Social Justice

Domestic Violence Clinic is launched.

Learn More

Supreme Court Institute

The Supreme Court Institute is established. It will eventually conduct moot courts for advocates in close to 100 percent of cases that appear before the U.S. Supreme Court each year.

The brainchild of Prof. Richard Lazarus, the Institute’s early years are co-directed by him and Prof. Steven Goldblatt (L’70). Its Moot Court Program and other activities promote improved advocacy before the Court, advance Supreme Court scholarship by faculty, and offer students the educational opportunity of witnessing Court preparations in person. Learn More

Leadership Deanship of T. Alexander Aleinikoff During Aleinikoff’s tenure the nonpartisan Georgetown Climate Center is launched. He will expand the experiential education curriculum to include practicums as an alternative to traditional clinical education programs. Aleinikoff will also oversee considerable growth in the Law Center’s global programs, including the establishment of the Center for Transnational Legal Studies in London, the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, and alumni advisory boards based in Asia and Europe.
Diversity & Access, Academic Excellence Opportunity Scholarship Program The Office of Admissions launches the Opportunity Scholarship Program, offering extraordinary students with significant financial need the ability to pursue a Georgetown legal education.
Service & Social Justice

Human Rights Institute hosts inaugural Samuel Dash Conference on Human Rights.

Human Rights Institute

O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law

The Linda and Timothy O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law launches. It is founded by a gift of $10 million from alumni Linda (NHS’77) and Timothy O’Neill (L’77).

The Institute’s inaugural Faculty Director and the founding O’Neill Chair in Global Health Law is Lawrence Gostin. The O’Neill Institute responds to the need for innovative solutions to the most pressing national and international health concerns.

Global, Leadership

European Law Alumni Advisory Board is established.

Global, Leadership

Asian Law Alumni Advisory Board is established.


Center for Transnational Legal Studies is established in London.

Learn More

Georgetown Climate Center

State-federal Climate Resource Center opens. It will become the Georgetown Climate Center.    

Led by Executive Director Vicki Arroyo, the non-partisan center works with government officials, academics, and an array of stakeholders to advance effective climate and energy policies in the United States. It serves as a resource for state and local communities working to cut carbon pollution and prepare for climate change.

Academic Excellence

Center on Privacy and Technology is launched.

Learn More

Business Skills Program

The Business Skills Program, made possible by Sara Star (L’85), is announced.

Directed by Prof. Stephen P. Hills, the program’s Business Law Scholars will receive practical training, mentoring, connections to top business executives and corporate attorneys, and dedicated coursework in business essentials and leadership.

Global, Leadership

Latin American and Caribbean Law Alumni Advisory Board is established.

Service & Social Justice, D.C. Difference D.C. Affordable Law Firm Georgetown Law, Arent Fox, and DLA Piper launch the D.C. Affordable Law Firm. A “low bono” law firm, DCALF provides affordable, high quality legal services to D.C. residents who do not qualify for free legal aid, as well as to small businesses and nonprofits in the District.
Academic Excellence

Institute for Technology Law and Policy is established.

Learn more
Academic Excellence, Service & Social Justice

The Georgetown University Health Justice Alliance is launched.

Learn More
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Service & Social Justice, D.C. Difference Innovative Policing The Police for Tomorrow Fellowship launches as a partnership between Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department and Georgetown Law’s Innovative Policing Program. The brainchild of Prof. Rosa Brooks, it is led by Law Center professors with nationally-recognized expertise in constitutional policing, criminal justice reform, juvenile justice, and race and policing.  The fellowship is designed to serve as a national model to seed lasting police reform from the ground up and quickly attracts interest from police departments and advocates around the country.
Diversity & Access RISE Program is Launched It helps students from historically underrepresented backgrounds build relationships and cultivate skills to thrive in law school and the profession. Learn More
Service & Social Justice, Academic Excellence Blume Public Interest Scholars Program Philanthropists Bruce (L’80) and Ann Blume donate $10 million to create the Blume Public Leadership Institute and fund full-tuition scholarships for Blume Public Interest Scholars. Originally established as the Public Interest Law Scholars program, the Blume Scholars program allows participants to engage in both traditional and experiential legal studies — while training for lives as public officials, policy makers, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and visionaries.

International Competition Renamed for Prof. John H. Jackson

European Law Students’ Association renames its international Moot Court Competition in World Trade Organization Law for the late Georgetown Law Professor John H. Jackson.

Jackson conceived the global multilateral trading system, helped envision the World Trade Organization, and founded the Law Center’s Institute for International Economic Law in 1999.


Intellectual Property and Information Policy Clinic

The Intellectual Property and Information Policy Clinic is launched.

Directed by Amanda Levendowski, the clinic exposes students to substantive intellectual property law and information policy through a social justice lens. It offers strategic counseling for individuals, non-profit organizations, and consumer groups engaged with intellectual property and information policy matters from a public interest perspective.


500 1st Street, NW

A $10.5 million gift from Scott K. Ginsburg (L’78) — the largest in Law Center history — makes possible the purchase of 500 1st Street, NW, located at the southeast corner of the Law Campus.

Many Georgetown Law centers and institutes will relocate to the building. They will be joined by several McCourt School of Public Policy centers and institutes, as well as the University’s recently created Capitol Applied Learning Lab and Center for Security and Emerging Technology. The new opportunities for multi-disciplinary collaboration are expected to produce innovative solutions across such disparate fields as health, technology, climate, education, and human rights.

October 16, 2019
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Leadership, Academic Excellence Dean William M. Treanor Installed as Paul Regis Dean Leadership Chair
Historical Highlights

The Law Center responds to the COVID-19 pandemic with a world-class remote learning plan, innovative work from its centers and institutes, and a renewed emphasis on the Jesuit principles of public service, and cura personalis, care of the whole person.

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First African American Editor of Georgetown Law Journal

Toni Deane (L’21) is elected Editor-in-Chief of Georgetown Law Journal.

She succeeds Grace Paras (L’20), who served during a historic year when the 16 top-ranked law schools in America elect women to serve as their journals’ editors.

Academic Excellence

Two new degree programs are announced: the LL.M in Technology Law and Policy and the Master of Law and Technology (M.L.T.), a program for non-lawyers that is the first of its kind in the nation.

Learn More
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Campus Development, Historical Highlights Georgetown Law – Through the Years Watch our campus evolve in the heart of the Capital City.
October 5, 2020
Historical Highlights 150th Anniversary Exactly 150 years to the day after the first law classes were held, Georgetown Law recognizes its landmark Anniversary with a 150th Anniversary Week. Programming on the Anniversary Day includes remarks from Law Center Dean William M. Treanor, the premiere of a 150th Anniversary Video, a user-generated photo-mosaic, a video compilation of alumni congratulations from around the world, and the premiere of a Community Memories webpage.