The Gonzaga School of Law opens with 19 students on October 1, 1912.

  • By Jim Kershner
  • Posted 2/27/2007
  • Essay 8104
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On October 1, 1912, Gonzaga University ushers in a new era on its Spokane campus when it opens the Gonzaga School of Law in two hastily adapted classrooms. The law school is strictly a night school and the faculty consists of local lawyers and judges. The school is granted state accreditation in 1915 and graduates its first class that same year.

The Jesuit fathers who ran Gonzaga College and members of the local bar in Spokane had been advocating a law school since the turn of the century. In order for Gonzaga to consider such a move, it first had to gain university status from the state. Gonzaga College officially became Gonzaga University on June 21, 1912, clearing the way for the law school plans.

The school's leaders had originally dreamed of launching the school in a new law school building. Those plans were quickly modified, however, and when the school opened it functioned in only two classrooms in the existing college building.

The law school was organized strictly as a night school, for two reasons: Many of the students had jobs during the day and the faculty members all had law practices or judgeships to attend to during the day. The original plan was for a three-year law course, in session every weeknight at 7 p.m.

Attendance grew so quickly that by September 1913, enrollment was up to 43. The school remained strictly a night school, unusual among the nation's law schools, until 1970. Today, the Gonzaga School of Law is still the only law school in Eastern Washington and one of only three law schools in the state.

Sources: Wilfred P. Schoenberg, S.J., Gonzaga University: Seventy-five Years, 1887-1962 (Spokane: Gonzaga University, 1963).

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