More than 150 years of growth and change have shaped the character and reputation of Indiana Law.
Indiana Law opened in 1842 as the first state university law school in the Midwest. Upon founding the Law School, university trustees stated their intention to create a school that would be "inferior to none west of the mountains" that would prepare students to combine superior scholarship with ethics.
On Dec. 5, 1842, Professor David McDonald gave his first lecture to the class of the new Law Department of Indiana University, the ninth law school in the nation and first state law school in the Midwest. There is no record of how many students were in that first class, but there were five in first graduating class in 1844.
Through the early years, the Law Department flourished under the direction of McDonald and other distinguished jurists, and following the Civil War enrollment soared, graduating 32 in 1871, more than half of the total graduates of the university.
In 1889, the trustees reestablished the law department as a Law School, naming David D. Banta as its first dean. The Association of American Law Schools was formed in 1900, and Indiana Law was one of the 25 charter members of this group. The Law School enrollment stood at 125 students in 1900, and there were three faculty and a Law Library of 4,000 volumes. In 1908, Indiana Law moved to Maxwell Hall, where it would remain until the mid-1950s.
Progressive from the outset, Indiana Law graduated its first woman, Tamar Althouse, in 1892, its first Asian-American, Masuji Miyakawa, in 1905, and Sam Dargan, its first African-American graduated in 1909. Indiana Law’s international program began with numerous students from the Philippines graduating in 1907, and its LLM degree was established in 1919.
In late 1925 the Law School launched the Indiana Law Journal, and the first student editorial board included Pearl Lee Vernon, Indiana Law’s only woman at that time, who graduated first in her class.
During the 1930s and 40s, under the deanship of Bernard Gavit, Indiana Law rose to be among the finest law schools in the nation, with legendary faculty including Jerome Hall, Fowler Harper, Ralph Fuchs, Frank Horack, and Austin Clifford. When World War II broke out, enrollment dipped to the lowest since the 1870s, with only 23 students enrolled in 1943-44. Following the war, the Law School's enrollment exploded reaching 416 in 1948-49, and in response to the increased enrollment, the Law School added 13 distinguished teachers and scholars.
By the 1950s, Maxwell Hall was not large enough to hold the growing school. Dean Gavit began planning a new building, but poor health forced him to resign the deanship. Leon Wallace, professor since 1939, was named dean in 1952 and took up the plans. "The Mad Monks of Maxwell" as the law students had become known, would begin their classes in the new Law School building in the fall of 1956.
During the 1960s and 70s Indiana Law was lead by Deans W. Burnett Harvey and Douglass Boshkoff. Admissions criteria became more selective, and the Law School increased its emphasis on excellence, appointing a large number of young faculty with top credentials. In 1972, the enrollment stood at 617.
In 1977, the university administration renewed its commitment to the Law School, promising Dean Plager a broad package of improvements including additional faculty positions, higher faculty salaries, improved funding for the Law Library, and a $12.6 million building addition and renovation project.
In the 1990s, Dean Alfred C. Aman broadened Indiana Law’s perspective bringing a more global approach to its teaching and scholarship. The Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies was started, and the Law School took over the editorial responsibilities for the Federal Communications Bar Journal.
An impressive roster of faculty and students continue to place Indiana Law as one of America’s leading public law schools. In 2006, Indiana Law set out on a strategic plan set to advance the School and its students through commitment to excellence in teaching, scholarship, and public service, and a mutually supportive relationship with an outstanding research university.
The Law Library still claims billing as one of the nation’s premier legal research facilities, recently tying with Harvard among the top law school libraries in the nation. The clinical program and interdisciplinary research centers such as the Center on the Global Legal Profession, the Center for Intellectual Property Research, the Center for Constitutional Democracy and the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research are charting new ground for the Indiana Law tradition.
An overhaul of the Law School’s facilities began in spring 2006 with construction of the Lewis Building, owned and developed by alumnus Elliot R. Lewis, JD’87, and specifically designed to house Indiana Law’s clinics and the Legal Research and Writing program. Renovation of the main Law School building was completed in fall 2007, adding high-tech classrooms, offices, and updates to the Moot Court Room and large classrooms.
As the Indiana Law and the profession confront new challenges, our strategic vision is to become even more visible and influential, with faculty, students, and graduates who advance justice and the public good in the nation and around the world.
Under the direction of Dean Lauren Robel, a $25 million grant from the Lilly Endowment in 2007 is enabling Indiana Law to attract and retain exceptional teachers and scholars and to establish the School as one of the very best public universities in the country. “[The gift] will help us position our School of Law at the forefront of legal education by enabling the School to vigorously compete for the very best faculty and students from around the globe,” said IU President Michael McRobbie. Said Sara B. Cobb, the Endowment’s vice president for education: “We are enthused about Dean Robel’s vision for the Law School to achieve even higher levels of excellence and solidify its reputation among the finest law schools in the country.” In 2012, Dean Robel was named interim provost of IU's Bloomington campus.
In December 2008, McRobbie announced a $35 million gift to the Law School from alumnus Michael S. Maurer, JD'67, and his wife, Janie. The School was renamed the Michael Maurer School of Law in recognition of Maurer's longtime support for the School and his gift for law student scholarships. The scholarships will be known as the Michael and Janie Maurer Scholarships.
Maurer related the significance of his donation to his relationship with Indiana Law. "This gift is special for me because it is an opportunity to say thank you to an institution that made possible the success I have enjoyed in my legal and business career, the IU School of Law in Bloomington," he said. "Janie and I make this contribution to the Law School with confidence in Lauren Robel, who has served our School so well. We fully expect under Dean Robel's guidance that this School will be recognized as an elite institution and assuredly one of the finest public law schools in the nation."