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History and Traditions

About This Site

This website tells the story of the University of Michigan Law School: its students, faculty, architecture, curriculum, and library; and the Law School’s influence on the development of law and legal education. A timeline of events at Michigan Law along with major events in national and world history provides context.

This project began in 2008 as part of the celebration of Michigan Law’s Sesquicentennial in 2009. It is an ongoing project of the Law Library.

Coverage: 1859-2009

Updates: Coverage ends with 2009, but we continue to add material indefinitely.

Traditions: The University of Michigan Law School Is —


*   Top-ranked in legal education and scholarship.

*   A national law school: Michigan Law has from its founding attracted students from around the country, and sent alumni out to practice law in every state.

*   An international law school:  In 1878, the first Japanese students graduated. During Cooley’s deanship, the School took pride in being open to all persons literate in English, including over 80 subjects of the Emperor of Japan, who were sent to Ann Arbor as a part of the opening of that empire to external influence.

*   A diverse law school:  In 1871 Michigan graduated the first woman to then be admitted to the bar, Sarah Killgore Wertman. The year before, Gabriel Hargo was the first African American to graduate from Michigan Law.  He went on to practice law in Ohio.

*   An interdisciplinary law school:  Many members of the faculty hold joint appointments in other schools and colleges at Michigan, and many possess doctorates in other disciplines.

*   A large law school:  Michigan today has over 1100 students, and has historically been one of the dozen largest schools measured by full-time students. By the end of the Civil War, there were 385 students; by 1892, 651, and close to 1,000 or more post-World War II. By 2004, Michigan was 21st with 1,149 students. In 2008, Michigan Law had 20,076 living graduates.

*   A public law school:  The University of Michigan is one of the world’s largest and finest public universities. Generous support from the people of Michigan over many years was essential to creating this outstanding institution, though the Law School is now funded almost entirely through tuition and private giving.

*   A school that relies on private support:  Michigan Law’s thousands of graduates have supported the School since the early 20th Century, when President Harry Hutchins developed a national alumni network.

Useful Links:

About the Law School

*      Elizabeth Gaspar Brown, Legal Education at Michigan, 1859-1959. Thorough history of the Michigan Law School, 940 pages. Open in New Window 

*      Complete digital file of Law Quad Notes: Michigan Law's alumni magazine. Open in New Window

*      Finding aid for the Bentley Library's Collection of Law School Papers Open in New Window

*      Links to more sources about the Law Quad are here Open in New Window

MLaw People

*      Gabriel Franklin Hargo: the first African-American to graduate from the University of Michigan Law School. PDF file Open in New Window 

*      William W. Cook website: Learn about the School’s major donor. Open in New Window 

*      William W. Cook and the University of Michigan Law School: Remarks at the Sesquicentennial Lunch. PDF file Open in New Window 

*      Sarah Killgore Wertman: the first woman to graduate from the school. PDF file Open in New Window 

*      John C.H. Wu: a major legal scholar on Post-Imperial Chinese Law who graduated from the University of Michigan Law School. PDF file Open in New Window 

About the University

*      Link to general history of the University of Michigan Open in New Window

University Image Sources

*      Images of the U of M (University Library site) Open in New Window

*      UM Public Art images (University Architecture and Engineering site) Open in New Window 

*      Richard Rummel lithograph of the University of Michigan Campus in 1907 Open in New Window

*      1940 Aerial Photograph of the University of Michigan Campus Open in New Window

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