Sunny photograph of the Law School courtyard

Bicentennial Timeline

This historical timeline highlights major milestones in the life of Yale Law School over the past 200 years. The materials were collected through archival research conducted by the Lillian Goldman Law Library. Read more about the bicentennial on the commemorative website.

Scan of page 4 of the 1824 Yale University catalogue containing the names of the first law students mentioned

The Beginning: 1824-1869

Yale Law School began with humble origins when attorney Seth P. Staples started teaching students out of his law office in New Haven. He continued the nascent legal education tradition in New England started by the Litchfield Law School, the first law school in the country, located about an hour north. As time progressed, the school grew and began to associate with Yale College. Although becoming officially associated with Yale during this time, difficulty in securing resources and students would nearly lead to it closing. 

Black and white side profile of a woman with her wrapped up

Fresh Start: 1873-1896

After nearly closing its doors, a group of pioneers and scholars revitalized the School, leading the way with the appointment of the first Dean and a new era of legal education.

Photograph of Jasper Alston Atkins, Charles A. Chandler, Mifflin Gibbs, Leroy Pierce.

Solidifying Stature: 1903-1930

At the dawn of the 20th century, Yale Law School was growing at a prodigious rate, already moving locations twice in the past 30 years. The Law School's educational outlook would develop in this time, fostering more interdisciplinary work and opening its halls to a more inclusive legal community. 

Legal Aid Association

Changing the Landscape: 1930-1955

The mid-20th century continued to increase the standing of the Yale Law School in no small part as the base of the Legal Realism movement. YLS professors went to Washington to serve in the New Deal and one even became a Supreme Court Justice. This period also saw the Law School move into the beloved building it is in today.

Black and white photograph of a crowd of students in the law school hallway.

The Modern Law School: 1955-1979

The post WWII period saw the pieces of Yale Law School we are all deeply familiar with today be placed. Seminal works were written within its halls and longstanding organizations were formed.

Jean Koh Peters

Adjusting to Change: 1980-2000

The late 20th century was a time of immense change, socio-politically and technologically. In such an environment, Yale Law School adapted as well, becoming more digitized, welcoming a more diversified faculty, and undergoing renovations.

Students from WIRAC held a press conference last year after a DACA hearing in New York.

New Millennium: 2000-Present

In the 21st century, Yale Law School continues to lead the charge in legal education with an unparalleled curriculum, cutting-edge clinics, and innovative programming to prepare future generations of lawyers and leaders.