First Catholic Law School


The Notre Dame Law School opened in February 1869, the first Catholic institution of its kind in the country. At the time, many lawyers doubted the viability of training for the bar exam at a university rather than in a law office. From the start, the Law School required its students to have completed previous education in the liberal arts, an uncommon requirement at a time when applicants only had to be 18. The faculty started with only four professors, and the first class graduated in 1871 with just three students.

Fr. William Corby, the university president, argued in the announcement of the new law school that its campus isolation was an advantage: “Being entirely separated from the distraction incident to cities and to large communities, the student is free to devote his time and energies to the solid attainment of the knowledge of the profession which while it is the most honorable is also in point of study the most exacting into which a young man can enter.”

Early classes were held in the Main Building. By 1889, Sorin Hall housed the law department on the first floor. The program gradually expanded and in 1919 the Hoynes College of Law, now Crowley Hall, was opened.