William & Mary Law School

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William & Mary Law School
William and Mary Law School seal.png
Seal of the school
Parent schoolCollege of William & Mary
Established1779; 242 years ago (1779)
School typePublic
Endowment$79.8 million
Parent endowment$1.023 billion
DeanA. Benjamin Spencer
LocationWilliamsburg, Virginia, U.S.
37°15′55″N 76°42′18″W / 37.26528°N 76.70500°W / 37.26528; -76.70500Coordinates: 37°15′55″N 76°42′18″W / 37.26528°N 76.70500°W / 37.26528; -76.70500
USNWR ranking35th (2022)[1]
ABA profileABA Profile
William and Mary Law School Logo.png

The William & Mary Law School is the professional graduate law school of the College of William & Mary. Located in Williamsburg, Virginia, the school was founded in 1779 at the urging of alumnus Thomas Jefferson, and is the oldest extant law school in the United States.[a][2][3] It has an enrollment of 645 full-time students (in 2018–19) seeking a Juris Doctor (J.D.) or an Master of Laws (LL.M.) in the American Legal System, a two or three semester program for lawyers trained outside the United States.[4]


William & Mary Law School was founded in 1779 at the impetus of Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson, an alumnus of the university, during the reorganization of the originally royal institution, transforming the college of William and Mary into the first university in the United States. At Jefferson's urging, the governing board of visitors of William & Mary 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, older law professorships include the chair at Oxford University, first held by William Blackstone, the chair at Edinburgh University's School of Law (1709), and the Regius Chair of Law at Glasgow University).

The Hixon Center at William & Mary Law School

Before filling the chair of law at William & Mary, Wythe tutored numerous students in the subject, including Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. 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 William & Mary 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 William & Mary 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 (1921), it was moved around the main campus of the university 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 opening of the Henry C. Wolf Law Library, the construction of a new admission suite, and the addition of the James A. and Robin L. Hixon Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership (dedicated in 2017).

W. Taylor Reveley III, formerly managing partner of the law firm of Hunton & Williams, is a former dean of the Law School. He served as the 27th president of William & Mary from September 5, 2008 to June 30, 2018, after serving as interim president since February 2008. Davison M. Douglas (J.D., Ph.D., M.Phil., M.A., M.A.R.), a nationally renowned legal historian, served as dean from July 2009 through June 30, 2020. [A. Benjamin Spencer], a nationally renowned civil procedure and federal courts expert and former professor of law at the University of Virginia, became dean and Chancellor Professor at William & Mary Law School on July 1, 2020. He is William & Mary’s first African-American dean of any school at the university, including the law school.[5]

The former chancellor of William & Mary, Sandra Day O'Connor, delivered commencement remarks to the graduating class of the Law School in 2006, 2008 and 2010.[6]

Cost of attendance[edit]

Tuition at William & Mary for the 2021-22 academic year is $30,600 for Virginia residents and $44,600 for non-residents.[7] Approximately 97% of students received financial aid (2020). Law School Transparency estimated debt-financed cost of attendance for three years, based on data from the 2018-2019 academic year, is $197,520 for residents; the estimated cost for non-residents is $229,557.[8]


According to William & Mary's official 2019 ABA-required disclosures, 95% of the Class of 2019 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required or JD-advantaged, non-school funded employment nine months after graduation.[9]

William & Mary's Law School Transparency under-employment score is 10%, indicating the percentage of the Class of 2018 unemployed, pursuing an additional degree, or working in a non-professional, short-term, or part-time job nine months after graduation, with 0% of the class in school-funded jobs.[10]


W&M Law was ranked 24th on the Above the Law ranking in 2019. U.S. News ranked W&M Law as tied for the 35th place in their latest 2022 rankings of the nation's law schools.[11] For the Class of 2022 (enrolled as of August 19, 2019), the median undergraduate GPA was 3.76 and the median LSAT score was 163.[12]


  • William & Mary Law School offers institutes and programs such as the Center for Racial & Social Justice, the Coastal Policy Center, the Center for Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, the Center for Legal and Court Technology, the Center for the Study of Law and Markets, the Dunn Civil Liberties Project, the Election Law Program, the Human Security Law Center, the Institute of Bill of Rights Law, and the Property Rights Project.
  • The annual Supreme Court Preview of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law brings journalists and academics together each fall for an analysis of key cases on the Court's docket for the new term.
  • William & Mary Law School has several Clinics for students to work under the supervision of attorneys, ranging in areas of practice. The Clinics offered include the Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic, Domestic Violence Clinic, Elder Law and Disability Clinic, Federal Tax Clinic, Immigration Clinic, Innocence Project Clinic, Lewis J. Puller Veterans' Benefits Clinic, and Special Education Advocacy Clinic.[13] The Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veteran's Benefits Clinic provides students (under the supervision of staff attorneys) with the opportunity to ensure that veterans receive the benefits which they are entitled to as a matter of law and service.
  • Journals include the William & Mary Law Review, the Bill of Rights Journal, William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review, William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice, and Business Law Review.
  • The school's McGlothlin Courtroom is home to the 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 student Election Law Society.
  • 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 experts to campus each semester to foster discussion and debate about on-going and emerging issues.
  • The Center for the Study of Law and Markets seeks to advance the understanding of the role of legal institutions in promoting well-functioning markets in a free society.
  • The Center for Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding bridges the gap between resources available at academic institutions and the need for them in the field by rule of law actors engaged in post-conflict reconstruction efforts. The Center serves as a focal point for the law school’s international and comparative legal and policy research and programming and sponsors summer international internships in developing and post-conflict countries around the world.[14]
  • 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 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.

Notable alumni[edit]

Notable faculty members[edit]

Law journals[edit]

  • William & Mary Law Review, twenty-fourth-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, thirteenth-ranked law journal in the United States in energy law based on citations.
  • William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice (previously titled the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law), fifth-ranked law journal in the United States among gender, women, and sexuality law journals.
  • William & Mary Business Law Review, sixth-ranked law journal in the United States among corporate law journals.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "William & Mary Law School". U.S. News & World Report – Best Law Schools. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  2. ^ BLONDEL-LIBARDI, CATHERINE R. (2007). "Rediscovering the Litchfield Law School Notebooks". Connecticut History Review. 46 (1): 70–82. ISSN 0884-7177.
  3. ^ Lee, Edward T. (1938–1939). "The Litchfield Law School - First Law School in America". Women Lawyers' Journal. 25: 8.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  4. ^ "At a Glance". law.wm.edu. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  5. ^ Staff, Wm (2020-05-20). "Professor A. Benjamin Spencer selected as Dean of William & Mary Law School". Wm.edu. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  6. ^ Peebles, Katie (2010-04-16). "William & Mary Law - O'Connor to Deliver Commencement Address; Will Also Receive Marshall-Wythe Medallion". Law.wm.edu. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  7. ^ "Cost of Law School".
  8. ^ "William and Mary Profile".
  9. ^ "Employment Summary for 2019 Graduates" (PDF).
  10. ^ "William and Mary Profile".
  11. ^ "Best Law School Rankings | Law Program Rankings | US News". Grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  12. ^ "Class of 2020, William & Mary Law School".
  13. ^ William & Mary Law School. "Clinics".
  14. ^ William & Mary Law School. "Center for Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding". Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  15. ^ "Michele Bachmann". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 8 June 2021.
  16. ^ "Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Beck (DLB)". United States District Court. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  17. ^ "John L. Brownlee Partner". Holland & Knight. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  18. ^ "William H. Cabell". National Governors Association. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  19. ^ "Eric Cantor". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  20. ^ "Biography - Congressman Matt Gaetz". Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  21. ^ "Kilgore, Jerry W." Our Campaigns. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  22. ^ Virginia Lawyers Weekly, "FELA record of $12M Set In Portsmouth", March 17, 1997. <ref>https://valawyersweekly.com/1997/03/17/fela-record-of-12m-set-in-portsmouth/<nowiki>
  23. ^ The Daily Record, Injured Railroad Wins $750,000, case in Railroad-Friendly Western Md. May Set Record, October 27, 1997
  24. ^ Richmond Times Dispatch, from trials to trial lawyer, tenacity helped him persevere, July 24, 2001
  25. ^ "James Murray Mason". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  26. ^ "Haldane Robert Mayer". Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  27. ^ "John Thomas Miller Jr". Troutman Sanders. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  28. ^ "William & Mary Law - Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic". Law.wm.edu. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  29. ^ "Steve Salbu Cecil B. Day Chair in Business Ethics, Professor". Scheller College of Business. Georgia Institute of Technology. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  30. ^ "Robert E. Scott". the University of Virginia. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  31. ^ "Henry St. George Tucker". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  32. ^ "About - Representative Jennifer Wexton". Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  33. ^ "Susan D. Wigenton". Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  34. ^ "Henry C. Wolf '64, J.D. '66 elected Rector of W&M". The College of William & MaryWilliamsburg, VA. Retrieved January 9, 2013.


  1. ^ Litchfield Law School in Litchfield, Connecticut began offering formal legal education five years prior to William & Mary.

External links[edit]