Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843: Recruiting Students

“Advertisement.” In Catalogue of the Litchfield Law School, from 1793 to 1827 inclusive (Litchfield, Conn.: S. S. Smith, 1828). [Image cropped.] Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

For the most part, Connecticut law schools attracted students through the reputation of their instructors and the recommendations of former students. As indicated here, they also relied on circulars and advertisements. Several were published in prominent regional and national periodicals. Litchfield’s course was completed in fourteen months, but students were welcome to attend for briefer periods. The other three schools adopted Litchfield’s schedule (and charged similar fees).

John C. Calhoun, Letter of introduction to Tapping Reeve, 1810 Feb. 10. Courtesy of the Litchfield Historical Society.

The reputation of the Connecticut schools attracted students from nearby states and, over time, other regions of the country. John C. Calhoun, a future U.S. Senator, cabinet secretary, and Vice President trained at Litchfield, is a distinguished example. In this letter he introduces William Martin, a fellow South Carolinian who will be attending Litchfield. Martin did not choose Litchfield due to a lack of options in the South; by 1810 there were good law schools in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Certificate of Charles Adams’s attendance at Litchfield Law School lectures in the summer of 1812, signed by Tapping Reeve, 1812 Aug. 2. [Image cropped.] Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Certificate of Elijah P. Grant’s studies at Yale Law School from August 1831 to April 1832, signed by David Daggett and Samuel J. Hitchcock, 1832 Dec. 22. [Image cropped.] Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

In most cases, bar associations would not admit a candidate to his examination unless he submitted a testimonial letter that confirmed his satisfactory completion of an apprenticeship. Applicants trained at law schools were not excluded from this requirement.

– Notes by Michael von der Linn

“From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843,” curated by Michael von der Linn and Michael Widener, is on display through May 30, 2013, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

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