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News & Features

Law School Celebrates 225th Anniversary; Receives $1 Million Grant from the Clark Foundation
Posted by avwadh, 10 Nov 2004.

As William & Mary Law School prepares to commemorate the 225th anniversary of its founding this Friday, America’s first law school will also celebrate a $1 million grant from the Clark Foundation. Author: Staff
Source: W&M News
Date: Nov 09, 2004

As William & Mary Law School prepares to commemorate the 225th anniversary of its founding this Friday, America’s first law school will also celebrate a $1 million grant from the Clark Foundation.

Law School Dean Taylor Reveley announced the grant from the Gladys and Franklin Clark Foundation in conjunction with the kick off on Nov. 12 of the Law School’s year-long 225th anniversary celebration.

“Marshall-Wythe is thriving as it celebrates its 225th birthday,” Reveley said. “Our capacity to continue advancing is greatly enhanced by the Clark Foundation's marvelous support of the new law library - - a project flatly essential to the Law School’s future.”

Reveley added, “We are enormously grateful to the Clark Foundation, one of William & Mary's and Williamsburg's most generous benefactors.”

The Clark Foundation was established in Virginia in 1992 and supports a wide variety of charitable organizations primarily in the Williamsburg area. Franklin Clark was a librarian and both he and his wife Gladys were long-time members of the President’s Council at William & Mary and strong supporters of the College.

“It’s a great pleasure for the Clark Foundation to assist the Law School in this endeavor,” said Joe Montgomery, a member of the board of directors of the Clark Foundation and a member of the William & Mary Class of 1974. “The Clarks had a great interest in supporting libraries and they had a long association with William & Mary. This is a natural extension of that relationship.”

The Law School expects to break ground for the $16.8 million project in May 2005 and complete work by 2007, said James S. Heller, Director of the Law Library and Professor of Law. The project involves the complete renovation of the existing library, which was originally constructed in the late 1970s, and the building of an addition to create a technologically advanced library nearly two-thirds larger than now exists.

“William & Mary relishes its place in history as the first law school in America --but we also understand the challenges of remaining a first-class institution through the 21st century,” Reveley said. “The expansion and renovation of the Law Library is vital and it is going to happen thanks to Virginians’ support of the bond referendum and the generosity of alumni and friends of the Law School such as the Clark Foundation.”

In late 1779, Governor Thomas Jefferson, a College alumnus and member of its Board of Visitors, guided the creation of a law school at the College. In contrast to the practice of the day that aspiring lawyers serve as apprentices to members of the bar, Jefferson felt that legal education would best be accomplished in a university setting where students would study law amid the liberal arts.

On December 4, 1779, the College’s Board of Visitors appointed George Wythe, in whose office Jefferson had apprenticed, as the College’s -- and nation’s -- first professor of law. Wythe was Jefferson’s beloved mentor and an enormously distinguished figure of the era. A member of the Second Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Wythe had begun his career in public service as a member and later clerk in the Virginia House of Burgesses. A distinguished lawyer and legal scholar, he would later serve on the Virginia bench and, as a member of the Constitutional Convention, became one of the architects of the federal Constitution, championing its ratification in his home state.

Wythe’s students at William & Mary attended lectures twice a week where they might discuss the common law, American constitutional law, or the work of political theorists or classical authors. Wythe honed students’ advocacy skills through moot court arguments and also convened mock legislatures where students gained rich experience writing, debating, and revising legislation, taking as their model legislation pending before the General Assembly.

Davison M. Douglas, Arthur B. Hanson Professor of Law at the Law School, noted in a 2001 article in the Journal of Legal Education that “Wythe’s legal program proved immensely popular with both students and faculty. During his first year half of the college’s students (about forty) enrolled in his classes.”

Among those first students was John Marshall, who went on to become the fourth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and whose 34-year tenure in that post left a profound mark on the high court and the country.

Statues of Wythe and Marshall stand at the Law School’s entrance commemorating the founding of the nation’s first law school at William & Mary.

Led by Reveley, who has served as dean since 1998, the Law School is now home to about 600 law students and has a faculty of 32 full-time professors and more than 60 adjunct professors. The faculty roster includes some of the nation’s top legal scholars in areas such as constitutional and criminal law. The School offers the J.D., LL.M. (Master of Laws in the American Legal System) and three joint degree programs including the J.D./Master of Arts in American Studies, J.D./Master of Business Administration, and the J.D./Master of Public Policy.
keywords: Marshall-Wythe, Alumni, Foundation Grant

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