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William & Mary School of Law

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William & Mary School of Law
Established 1779
School type Public
Dean Davison M. Douglas
Location Williamsburg, VA, US
Faculty (See List)
Annual tuition
Outlines 0 (See List)
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William & Mary School of Law is located in Williamsburg, VA

William & Mary Law School, located in Williamsburg, Virginia, is the oldest law school in the United States. William & Mary Law School is a part of the College of William & Mary, the second oldest college in the United States.[1] The Law School maintains an enrollment of about six hundred students seeking the juris doctorate, the fundamental legal degree in the United States today. Admission to the Law School is highly selective and the faculty is well regarded, according to Brian Leiter's law school rankings.

William & Mary Law School is ranked 27th in the latest 2012 U.S. News rankings of the nation's law schools, placing it above nationally-regarded peers Washington and Lee University, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Emory University Law School.

For the Class of 2013, the median undergraduate GPA was 3.70 and the median LSAT score was 165.[1]

As a public university, William & Mary charges relatively low tuition compared to many other "Top 30" law schools. Among public law schools, it is the tenth-highest ranked public university law program in the survey conducted by U.S. News & World Report (the undergraduate institution is the highest ranked small public university, according to a similar survey by the same periodical).

W. Taylor Reveley III, formerly managing partner of the law firm of Hunton & Williams, was dean of the Law School until Davison Douglas (J.D., Ph.D., M.Phil., M.A., M.A.R.), a nationally renowned legal historian, was appointed to the position in the spring of 2009. [2]

The chancellor of William & Mary, Sandra Day O'Connor, delivered commencement remarks to the graduating class of the Law School in 2006, 2008 and 2010. [3]


William & Mary Law School was founded in 1779 at the impetus of the governor of Virginia Thomas Jefferson, an alumnus of the College, during the reorganization of the originally royal institution, transforming the College of William & Mary into the first university in the nascent United States. At Jefferson's urging, the governing board of visitors of the College established a chair of law and appointed George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, delegate to the Philadelphia Convention, and Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, its first holder. (In the English-speaking world, the only older law professorships are the chair at Oxford University, first held by William Blackstone and the Chair at Edinburgh University's School of Law (1709).

Before filling the chair of law at William & Mary, Wythe tutored numerous students in the subject, Henry Clay, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe among them. John Marshall, who became Chief Justice of the United States in 1801, received his only formal legal education when he attended Wythe's lectures at the College in 1780. St. George Tucker, who succeeded Wythe as Professor of Law and edited the seminal early American edition of Blackstone's Commentaries, also was one of Wythe's students.

The growth of the Law School was halted abruptly by the beginning of the American Civil War. The start of military campaigns on the Virginia Peninsula compelled the College to close its doors. It would be another sixty years before the historical priority in law could be revived in a modern program that is now nearly ninety years old.

After William & Mary Law School was reopened early in the twentieth century, it was moved around the main campus of the College to several different buildings in succession. In 1980, the School was moved to its current location on the outskirts of Colonial Williamsburg, a short distance from the main campus. The building has been renovated several times since 1980, with the addition of a new wing of classrooms and renovation of older classrooms in 2000, the overhaul of the Henry C. Wolf Law Library, and the construction of a new admission suite.


  • The annual Supreme Court Preview of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law brings courtwatching journalists and academics together for a lively analysis of key cases on the Court's docket for the new term. The Preview provides in-depth education for journalists on the underlying constitutional issues involved in the cases.
  • Lewis Burwell Puller, Jr. Veteran's Benefit Clinic provides students (under the supervision of staff attorneys) with the opportunity to ensure that veterans of America's wars receive the benefits which they are entitled to as a matter of law and service.
  • The William & Mary Law Review consistently ranks among the best twenty in circulation and citation of law reviews. The Bill of Rights Journal, Environmental Law and Policy Review, and Journal of Women and the Law also consistently rank among the best ten within their respective fields constitutional law, environmental law, and gender, sexuality and family law.
  • The McGlothlin Courtroom at the School is home to the prize-winning Center for Legal and Court Technology, a joint program of the School and the National Center for State Courts. The mission of the Project is to use technology to improve the administration of justice and the legal systems of the world.
  • Created in 2005 as a joint venture of the National Center for State Courts and the Law School, the Election Law Program was intended to provide practical assistance to state court judges in the United States who are called upon to resolve difficult election law disputes. It has since been expanded to include a vibrant student Election Law Program. The Program annually hosts an election law conference featuring the top attorneys in the field, including White House Counsel Bob Bauer and Republican strategist Ben Ginsburg, and each semester it enables outstanding election-law professionals, such as former FEC Chairman Michael Toner, to teach courses in the School.
  • The George Wythe Society of Citizen Lawyers is a civic leadership program, formed in the fall of 2005, to recognize and encourage community service and civic participation by members of the student body.
  • The Human Rights and National Security Law Program focuses on the interplay between national defense and the protection of civil rights. The Program's Distinguished Lecture Series and co-sponsored symposia bring leading experts to campus each semester to foster discussion and debate about on-going and emerging issues.
  • The Institute of Bill of Rights Law engages in study of the Bill of Rights and sponsors a variety of lectures, conferences, and publications to examine important Constitutional issues.
  • The William & Mary Property Rights Project encourages scholarly study of the role that property rights play in society. The Project's annual Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference explores recent developments in areas such as takings litigation and takings law.
  • Devoted to the study of law as a therapeutic agent, the Therapeutic Jurisprudence Program focusses on so improving the administration of justice that it has a positive effect on individuals, their families, and the community.

Notable alumni

Main Article: List of College of William & Mary alumni
  • William H. Cabell (law class of 1793), received first baccalaureate in law granted in America, governor of Virginia (1805–1808), justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia (1811–1851)
  • Henry St. George Tucker (William & Mary class of 1798, law class of 1801), professor of law at William & Mary (1801–1804), justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia (1824–1831), remembered for editing the seminal American edition of Blackstone's Commentaries and for composing the University of Virginia's honor pledge (the model for numerous universities) in 1842 [4]
  • James Murray Mason (law class of 1820), member of the U.S. House of Representatives ((1837–1839); United States Senator from Virginia (1847–1861)
  • Henry C. Wolf (William & Mary class of 1964, law class of 1966), chief financial officer and vice chairman of Norfolk Southern Corporation, benefactor of the Henry C. Wolf Law Library at the Law School
  • Robert E. Scott (law class of 1968), law professor and notable contract law scholar at Columbia Law School, dean of University of Virginia Law School (1991–2001), Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1999)
  • Dennis L. Beck (William & Mary class of 1969, law class of 1972), magistrate judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California (1990–present)
  • Haldane Robert Mayer (law class of 1971), judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (1987–present; chief judge of the Federal Circuit, 1997–2004)
  • Tommy Miller (law class of 1973), magistrate judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
  • Lewis Burwell Puller, Jr. (William & Mary class of 1967, law class of 1974), Vietnam veteran (Lt., USMC (Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry) and Pulitzer Prize winning author. The William & Mary School of Law's Veteran's Benefit Clinic is named after Lewis Puller.[2]
  • Jerry W. Kilgore (law class of 1986), attorney general of Virginia (2001–2005)
  • Eric Cantor (law class of 1988), U.S. House of Representatives, Virginia (2001–present); House Majority Leader of 112th Congress, 2011
  • Michele Bachmann (LL.M., 1988), U.S. House of Representatives, Minnesota (2007–present)
  • John L. Brownlee (law class of 1994), former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia
  • Doug Miller (law class of 1995), magistrate judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

Prominent faculty members

Law journals

  • William & Mary Law Review, nineteenth-ranked general law journal in the United States, based on citations.
  • William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, third-ranked Constitutional law journal in the United States, based on citations.
  • William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review, first-ranked law journal in the United States in energy law, eleventh-ranked journal in the United States in environmental law, based on citations.
  • William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, fifth-ranked law journal in the United States among family, gender, women, and sexuality law journals.
  • William & Mary Business Law Review


External links

See also