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Willamette University College of Law

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Willamette University College of Law
Motto The First University in the West
Parent school Willamette University
Established 1883; 133 years ago (1883)
School type Private
Parent endowment US$285 million[1]
Dean Curtis Bridgeman
Location Salem, Oregon, USA
44°56′13″N 123°02′01″W / 44.936932°N 123.03357°W / 44.936932; -123.03357Coordinates: 44°56′13″N 123°02′01″W / 44.936932°N 123.03357°W / 44.936932; -123.03357
Enrollment 312 FT, 6 PT (2015)[2]
Faculty 52 (2014)[3]
USNWR ranking 118[2]
Bar pass rate 72.3%[3]
ABA profile Willamette University College of Law Profile

Willamette University College of Law is a private law school located in Salem, Oregon, United States. Founded in 1842, Willamette University is the oldest university in the Western United States. The College of Law, which was founded in 1883 and is the oldest law school in the Pacific Northwest, has approximately 30 law professors and enrolls about 300 students, with about 125 of those of students enrolled in their first year of law school. The campus is located across the street from the Oregon State Capitol and the Oregon Supreme Court Building.

Housed in the Truman Wesley Collins Legal Center, Willamette's College of Law offers both full-time and part-time enrollment for the juris doctorate (JD) degree, joint-degree programs, and a Master of Laws (LL.M.) program. The joint-degree programs allow students to earn both a JD and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) concurrently in a four-year program, or complete a bachelor and JD in six years. Willamette Law's oldest legal journal is the Willamette Law Review, which started in 1960 and is housed in the Oregon Civic Justice Center. The center is a community outreach center housed in a renovated library that Willamette opened in 2008. According to Willamette's 2013 ABA-required disclosures, 61.7% of the Class of 2013 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation.[4]


Main entrance to Collins Legal Center

In July 1866, Willamette University's trustees formed a committee to explore the possibility of a legal department.[5] At that time, legal education was traditionally taught as an apprenticeship in which those wishing to be lawyers would study under an existing attorney for several years before being allowed to pass the bar.[5] Although the school did not begin a legal department in 1866, Willamette did confer a Doctor of Laws degree on Matthew P. Deady, who later helped establish the University of Oregon School of Law, Oregon’s second law school.[5]

The College of Law was founded in 1883, and is the oldest law school in the Pacific Northwest.[6] In April 1884, the Board of Trustees officially approved the new legal department; tuition for the two-year course was $50 per year.[5] William Marion Ramsey served as the school's first dean.[7] He was dean from 1883 until 1888, and led a faculty of three.[7] The three professors were George H. Burnett, who taught contracts, commercial law, and torts; J. T. Gregg, who taught evidence and common law; and William H. Holmes, who was the instructor for admiralty and criminal law.[5]

The school's first entering class had three students; with Charles A. Packenham as the first graduate in 1886.[5] In addition to being the oldest law school in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, Willamette College of Law was the 75th law school founded in the United States, and is the second oldest in the Western U.S., behind Hastings College of Law in California.[5] From its founding until 1923, the law school was located in Waller Hall.[5]

During the early years of the law school, enrollment fluctuated from as many as 17 graduates in 1898 to as few as zero graduates in 1903 and 1905.[5] Dean Ramsey resigned in 1888 and was replaced by George G. Bingham, who served until 1891 when replaced by his pupil Samuel T. Richardson.[5] Women were allowed to enroll beginning in 1892; in 1898, the first women, Olive S. England and Gabrielle Clark, graduated. The third female graduate, in 1899, was Anna Carson, who was part of the Carson legal family of Salem that includes Wallace P. Carson (1923 graduate) a state legislator and Wallace P. Carson, Jr. (1962 graduate) a state legislator and longtime chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court.[5]

In 1902, Dean Richardson left the school and was replaced by John W. Reynolds who served until 1907.[5] In 1908, Charles L. McNary was appointed dean, serving until 1913, when Willamette selected future Oregon Attorney General Isaac Homer Van Winkle.[5] Van Winkle was an alumnus of both Willamette and the law school, serving as dean until 1927.[5]

From 1923 until 1938, the school was located in Eaton Hall.[8] Roy R. Hewitt was dean from 1927 to 1932, followed by Roy Lockenour, who served until 1939.[5] Willamette University College of Law was first accredited by the American Bar Association in 1938, and in 1946 it became a member of the Association of American Law Schools.[6] In 1938 the school moved to Gatke Hall, a former United States Post Office.[9] The law school was housed there until 1967.[10]

During this time deans of the law school included George M. McLeod (1940–1942), Ray L. Smith (1942–1946), and Seward P. Reese (1946–1968).[5] During World War II, enrollment declined to only five graduates between 1943 and 1945, and classes were moved to the undergraduate library as the United States Navy used the Gatke Hall.[5] In 1946, enrollment rebounded with a total of 92 students, the largest student body of the law school up to that date.[5]

Charles L. McNary, dean from 1908 to 1913.

After 1952, Willamette’s law school received a large Lady Justice statue when the Marion County Courthouse was demolished to make way for a new one.[9] In 1959, the school started a law review, while enrollment increased to 185 by the mid-1960s.[5] Because of the increased enrollment, the College of Law Foundation was created by the university's trustees in 1959 to explore the construction of a new facility.[5] Willamette switched to the awarding of the Juris Doctor from the bachelor of laws, phased in beginning in 1965.[11]

In 1967, a new $1.1 million facility, the Truman Wesley Collins Legal Center, opened in September.[5] The College of Law moved across campus to the Collins Legal Center along with Lady Justice, a 12-foot (3.7 m)-tall, 300-pound (140 kg) statue, which was formerly located on the roof of the Marion County Courthouse.[5][9] In 1968, Arthur B. Custy became dean and served until 1971, during which time the admissions standards changed at Willamette to require a bachelor's degree and taking the Law School Admission Test.[5] Later deans of the school include Larry K. Harvey (1971–1977) and Leroy Tornquist (1979–1987).[5]

In 1984 the law school established the Center for Dispute Resolution, an alternative dispute resolution program.[5] In 1992, the Collins Legal Center went through an award-winning renovation[12] and expansion that ended with a dedication ceremony with a speech by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.[13][14] In her dedication speech, O'Connor advocated for civility among those in the legal profession and for avoiding personal attacks among lawyers.[15] In December 2005, the school's moot courtroom was used for a real civil trial after the Marion County Courthouse was damaged the previous month.[16]

Deans of the school in recent years include David R. Kenagy (1994–1996 interim), Robert M. Ackerman (1996–1999), and Symeon Symeonides (1999 to 2011).[17] In 2008, the school opened the Oregon Civic Justice Center to house programs including the Oregon Law Commission, the Center for Dispute Resolution, the Clinical Law Program, Center for Law and Government, and the Willamette Law Review.[18] The dedication ceremony featured U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and was part of the school's celebration of their 125th anniversary.[19] Willamette admitted part-time students for the first time for Fall 2012, and added a joint degree program with Oregon State University.[20][21]


Willamette's law library


The College of Law offers full-time enrollment exclusively for its JD program, with an admissions deadline of March 1 for the JD program.[3] In 2013, the school accepted 63% of all applicants who applied to the school.[3] Enrolled students from that entering class had Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores in the range of 151 to 156 (25th–75th percentile) and a median score of 153.[3] In 2007 and 2010, U.S. News & World Report ranked the school in their Third Tier,[22][23] while in 2008 the school was ranked sixth by The Princeton Review in the "Most Welcoming of Older Students" category.[24] As of 2015, Willamette was ranked as the 118th best law school by U.S. News & World Report,[2] an improvement from 121st in 2014.[25]


The JD program has both a traditional three-year, full-time curriculum or a part-time day program that can take a maximum of six years.[21] Students' initial enrollment can only begin with the fall term each year. Through a partnership between the College of Law and Willamette's Atkinson Graduate School of Management, a joint degree program is offered to students interested in earning both a JD and an MBA concurrently.[26] The program allows students to earn both degrees in four years instead of five years if completed separately.[26] The business portion of the program is accredited through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, while the law portion, along with the entire law school, is accredited by the American Bar Association.[3][26]

Willamette also offers two three-plus-three programs to allow students to earn both an undergraduate degree and law degree in a total of six years.[20] Through partnerships with Willamette's College of Liberal Arts, Oregon State University, and University of Alaska Anchorage, students can earn a bachelor's degree in three years and a law degree in three years, amounting to a decrease of one year from the standard seven years combined to earn both a bachelor and law degree.[20][27] Both JD and joint-degree students have the option of enrolling in the certificate programs, studying abroad, working at the Clinical Law Program, and taking classes from the Center for Dispute Resolution.

The Center for Dispute Resolution, founded in 1983, was one of the first in the western United States to offer coursework in the areas of arbitration, negotiation and mediation. Focusing on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), its program is a national model, and the center is annually recognized as one of the top ten programs in the nation.[28] In 2006, the Dispute Resolution program was ranked 7th by U.S. News & World Report.[28]

Willamette's College of Law also offers a Clinical Law Program that gives law students hands-on professional experience in law offices and courtrooms across the country. The program consists of two main components, the Externship Program and the Civil Practice Clinic. Both parts allow students to participate in real-life legal work.[29]

Students have the opportunity to participate in study abroad programs in Germany, Ecuador and China.[30] The China program began in 1984, followed by the Ecuador program in 1995, and in 2002 Germany was added.[30]


The LL.M. in Transnational Law educates law students on a variety of international law topics such as international business transactions, comparative law, as well as private international law. The program also covers dispute resolution and allows students to enroll in classes at the Atkinson Graduate School of Management.[6] LL.M. students can attend either full-time or part-time, but must complete the ten-credit-hour program within two academic years.[6]

Certificate programs[edit]

The law school offers five certificate programs for students in both the JD program and the joint degree program: Dispute Resolution, Law and Business, International and Comparative Law, Sustainability Law, and Law and Government.[31] The business law, law and government, and international and comparative law certificate programs were introduced to the curriculum in 2002.[32] These programs allow students to specialize in those areas of study and earn a certificate demonstrating that specialization.[32]

Law journals[edit]

Collins Legal Center

The College of Law produces five publications, including three law reviews.[33] In 1992, the Willamette Journal of International Law and Dispute Resolution began publication with a focus on dispute resolution and the law on the international level.[33][34]

Willamette Law Review began in 1959, with four editions each year.[33][35] This general interest legal review also sponsors an annual symposium at the school. The first journal on sports law in the Pacific Northwest was the Willamette Sports Law Journal.[36] The official Bluebook abbreviations used for citations are "Willamette J. Int'l L. & Disp. Resol." for the Journal of International Law and Dispute Resolution and "Willamette L. Rev." for the Willamette Law Review.[37]

Willamette's College of Law also produces Willamette Lawyer and Willamette Law Online. Willamette Lawyer is the school’s alumni magazine, published twice annually with one edition in the spring and the second in the fall.[38] Produced primarily by students, Willamette Law Online is a subscription service that provides case summaries free to legal professionals in the Pacific Northwest.[39]


Willamette’s College of Law is primarily housed in the Truman Wesley Collins Legal Center (Collins Legal Center). Students have 24-hour secure access to the 75,000+ square foot building, which was renovated in 1992. The building is located on Winter Street in Salem, just south of the Oregon State Capitol.[6] In addition to classrooms, the building houses the law library, administrative offices, and faculty offices.[40] The building also contains a fully functioning trial courtroom used for moot court.[40]

Oregon Civic Justice Center[edit]

Opened in 2008, the Oregon Civic Justice Center is one block north of the Collins Legal Center.[19] Built within Salem's 1912 Carnegie library building, the school remodeled the structure at a cost of $4 million.[19] The building is home to the Willamette Law Review; the Oregon Law Commission; Willamette's Center for Democracy, Religion and Law; the Center for Dispute Resolution; the law school's clinical program; and the Center for Law and Government.[41] These programs were chosen due to their community outreach programs, as the school plans to create a community atmosphere between students, faculty, and the general community.[41]


Inside the J. W. Long Law Library

The J. W. Long Law Library has 296,000 volumes and microform equivalents, which include both state and federal primary law sources, as well as treatises, periodicals and other secondary legal sources.[40] The three-story structure is attached to the Collins Legal Center and contains study rooms, video rooms, conference rooms, computer labs, and is staffed by reference librarians.[40] Additionally, it has special collections in tax law, public international law, labor law, and is a Selective Federal Government Documents Depository.[40] Members of the public may access the library when the library is staffed by librarians, while students and faculty have 24-hour access to the library.[42] Law students also have access to Willamette University's Mark O. Hatfield Library, the Oregon Supreme Court Law Library, the Oregon State Library, and the Oregon State Archives.


According to Willamette's official 2013 ABA-required disclosures, 61.7% of the Class of 2013 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation.[43] Willamette's Law School Transparency under-employment score is 17.1%, indicating the percentage of the Class of 2013 unemployed, pursuing an additional degree, or working in a non-professional, short-term, or part-time job nine months after graduation.[44]


The total cost of attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses) at Willamette for the 2014-2015 academic year is $56,713.[45] The Law School Transparency estimated debt-financed cost of attendance for three years is $210,586.[46]

Distinguished faculty[edit]

Distinguished alumni[edit]


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External links[edit]