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History and Traditions


The Law School’s curriculum has evolved over the last 150 years into one of the most diverse, interdisciplinary, and transnational in the country, reflecting both the scholarly interests of our faculty and the needs of the profession.

The curriculum in 1859-60 covered only a dozen general topics: equity, criminal law, evidence, contracts, personal property, commercial law, real property, wills, easements, domestic relations, and pleading and practice.  The 90 students were taught by three part time professors:  James V. Campbell, Thomas M. Cooley, and Charles I. Walker.

Michigan, and all law schools back then, used only lectures.  The case law based Socratic method developed by Langdell at Harvard was not yet on the scene.  Lectures were interspersed with quizzes.  We have a fair record of the content of the lecture-based curriculum in the form of student notebooks in the Michigan Historical Collections at the Bentley Library.  These notebooks can be found using the Bentley’s catalog , and in the Faculty section of this website.

The curriculum has matched Michigan Law’s growth, and in 2007-2008 our full time equivalent of 110 faculty (most full time) taught 1,200 students, who could choose from 142 courses, 63 seminars, and 9 clinics.

This section of the website tries to re-create what was taught by regular Law School faculty for each year of the School’s history.  The source used to compile the "courses taught" lists was our incomplete run of the University of Michigan Law School Bulletin . Because of the gaps in our collection and the unavailability of alternate copies we had to make educated estimations of courses for some years. 

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