Michigan State University College of Law

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Michigan State University College of Law
Michigan State College of Law seal.png
Parent schoolMichigan State University
Established1891; 128 years ago (1891)
School typeIndependent, non-profit corporation
Parent endowmentUS $3 billion[1]
DeanLawrence Ponoroff
LocationEast Lansing, Michigan, United States
Faculty136 full time, 63 part time
USNWR ranking91st[3]
Bar pass rate81% (MI)[2]
Michigan State University College of Law Logo

The Michigan State University College of Law (Michigan State Law or MSU Law) is a private law school in East Lansing, Michigan and affiliated with Michigan State University. Established in 1891 as the Detroit College of Law, it was the first law school in the Detroit, Michigan area and the second in the state of Michigan. In October 2018, the college began a year-and-a-half process of becoming fully integrated into Michigan State University, changing from a private to a public law school.

The college is nationally ranked within the Best Law Schools in U.S. News and World Report, landing in the 91st spot in the 2020 rankings.[3] The Michigan State Law Review, a legal journal published by MSU Law students, was ranked 57th best in the 2018 Washington & Lee University School of Law ranking, which is the leading source for law journal rankings.[4]

Notable alumni include current Governor of Michigan Gretchen Whitmer, current Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth T. Clement, former Michigan Supreme Court Justice and mayor of Detroit Dennis Archer, former Michigan Supreme Court Justice and United States federal judge George Clifton Edwards Jr., former Michigan gubernatorial candidate Geoffrey Fieger, former Michigan Senate majority leader and former U.S. Representative Mike Bishop, and current mayor of East Lansing Mark Meadows.


Etching of Detroit College of Law, Elizabeth Street Building, Detroit 1937–1997

Detroit College of Law opened in 1891 with 69 students and was incorporated in 1893. Among the first class of 69 students to graduate were a future circuit judge and an ambassador.[citation needed] It was the oldest continuously operating independent law school in the United States until it was assimilated by MSU in 1997.[5][6]

In 1937, the college broke ground and relocated itself in a new building at 130 East Elizabeth Street in Detroit, where it stayed until 1997. The Building was designed by architect George DeWitt Mason. It had been located at the former Detroit College of Medicine building on St. Antoine Street from 1892 to 1913; and the Detroit "YMCA" building from 1913 to 1924; the ground on which the building stood was under a 99 year lease from the YMCA.[6][7] The last location of the Detroit College of Law in Downtown Detroit is commemorated by a plaque at Comerica Park, the home stadium of the Detroit Tigers baseball team, which now occupies the site.[8][9]

The college became affiliated with Michigan State University in 1995 to enhance that school's curriculum and reputation.[10] It relocated to East Lansing in 1997, when its 99-year lease with the Detroit YMCA expired, and the original building was demolished to make way for Comerica Park. The newly located college was called "Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University".[10] The affiliation was celebrated at a function where former President Gerald Ford joined more than 2,500 guests at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts Great Hall. Ford characterized the affiliation between Michigan State University and the Detroit College of Law "a bold new venture" that presents "a singular opportunity to help shape the changing face of American legal education well into the next century."[10] In April 2004, the school changed its name to the MSU College of Law, becoming more closely aligned academically with MSU.[10] Although it operates as a constituent college of the university, the college of law remains financially independent and receives no state or university funding.[11]

View of the MSU Law building from the southeast.

Joan Howarth began her deanship at Michigan State University College of Law on July 1, 2008 and was the first female dean in MSU Law’s 117-year history. Beforehand, she was a professor at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, since 2001.[12] She retired at the end of the 2015-16 school year.[13] Lawrence Ponoroff became the Dean in the fall of 2016.

On October 26, 2018, MSU's board of directors voted to fully integrate the College of Law into the university, thereby converting it from a private to a public law school. Dean Lawrence Ponoroff said, "Since the original affiliation in 1995, the relationship between the university and the law college has grown increasingly closer and, at each stage, resounded in benefits to both institutions." This move was intended to facilitate collaboration between the law school and other divisions of MSU, opening up development in fields such as autonomous vehicles, the food industry, and health law. Additionally, this decision was stated to be a way for the law college to better leverage its close geographic connection with the Michigan State Capitol to further impact the state's legislative, executive, and judiciary branches of government. The integration is expected to take a year and a half to finalize.[14]


View of the MSU Law building from the north.

The school also currently houses the Center for Legal Services Innovation (LegalRnD), which was introduced in 2015.[15]

Academic journals and publications[edit]

Law journals at the law school are nationally ranked and include:

Additionally, the school also publishes Spartan Lawyer, the law college's bi-annual magazine.[20]

Notable faculty[edit]



Notable alumni[edit]



Public figures[edit]

  • Ivan Boesky, former American stock trader notable for his prominent role in an insider trading scandal that occurred in the United States during the mid-1980s.
  • Ella Bully-Cummings, chief of police of Detroit, Michigan from 2003 to 2008
  • John Z. DeLorean, automobile engineer and executive; attended, but dropped out
  • Clifton E. Haley, former CEO of Budget Rent a Car
  • Lowell W. Perry, government official, businessman, broadcaster, and the first African-American assistant coach in the National Football League
  • W. Clement Stone, businessman, philanthropist and author; dropped out after a year



  1. ^ "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2014 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2013 to FY 2014" (PDF). 2015 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Michigan State University College of Law: 2014 Standard 509 Information Report" (PDF). American Bar Association. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Best Law Schools - Michigan State University". US News & World Report. Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  4. ^ Newell, Bryce. "Law Journal Ranking, Summer 2018". University of Kentucky. Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  5. ^ "History". Michigan State University College of Law. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Detroit College of Law Informational Site" (PDF). City of Detroit Planning and Development Department. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  7. ^ "Detroit College of Law moves to Elizabeth Street 1937". Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  8. ^ "Detroit College of Law Elizabeth Street Building historical picture". Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  9. ^ "Detroit College of Law Historical Marker, 130 Elizabeth Street on the exterior wall of Comerica Park behind right field". Detroit, the History and Future of the Motor City. 1701.org. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d Tetens, Kristan (Fall 1998). "The Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University: Two Institutions One Vision". MSU Alumni Magazine. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  11. ^ "MSU law school name change reflects integration and collaboration" (Press release). Michigan State University. 2004. Retrieved February 20, 2010.
  12. ^ "Joan W. Howarth". MSU College of Law. 2007. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  13. ^ "New Deans". LSJ. 2015. Retrieved September 23, 2015.
  14. ^ Wolcott, RJ (October 26, 2018). "MSU College of Law, previously private and independent, to become a part of the university". Lansing State Journal. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  15. ^ "New center aims to improve practice of law through science". MSUToday. Retrieved November 27, 2015.
  16. ^ Newell, Bryce. "Law Journal Ranking, Summer 2018". University of Kentucky. Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  17. ^ "Michigan State International Law Review". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  18. ^ "Journal of Business & Securities Law". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  19. ^ "Journal of Animal and Natural Resource Law". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  20. ^ "Spartan Lawyer". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  21. ^ "Professors Emeriti". Stetson University College of Law. Retrieved May 31, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Guiffre, Donna J (December 31, 2011). A Centennial History of the Detroit College of Law.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°43′32.6″N 84°28′24.2″W / 42.725722°N 84.473389°W / 42.725722; -84.473389