UND School of Law History

Founded in 1899, the School of Law was the first professional school to begin operation within the University of North Dakota. Guy H. Corliss, a Grand Forks lawyer and the first Chief Justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court, was selected as the first dean of the law school. The only full-time instructor during the early years of the program, John E. Blair, a Harvard Law graduate, served as the secretary of the law school and directed the curriculum and operations. In 1904, when Andrew Bruce accepted the deanship, admission standards were lowered to require only two years of high school; nearly all students passed their courses and enrollment grew.

In 1905, the School of Law graduated its first woman, Helen Hamilton. In honor of the accomplishments of Hamilton and other women graduates of the School of Law, an annual Helen Hamilton Day is hosted by the Law Women's Caucus student organization. When Frank McVey became President of UND in 1909, incoming law students were required to possess a high school certificate and the program of legal education was lengthened to three years. By 1917, incoming students were required to have completed two years of collegiate study, and the School of Law instituted new program and degree options. The School of Law's first publication, the Law Bulletin, was introduced in 1914, and later evolved to become the North Dakota Law Review.

The UND School of Law is approved by the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Association, 321 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60654, 312-988-6738, and has been continuously accredited since its initial approval in 1923. The School of Law was granted membership in the Association of American Law Schools in 1911, and it has been a member of the Order of the Coif since 1925.

The School of Law has been located in the heart of the main campus of the University almost since its establishment at the turn of the century. Until the mid-1960s, the School of Law shared space in its building with the School of Commerce and occasionally other departments. In 1973, the School of Law nearly doubled its space with the addition of a four-floor library annex, home to the Thormodsgard Law Library, named for Olaf H. Thormodsgard, Dean of the School of Law from 1931 to 1962. At the same time, the main law school building was renovated. In recent years, additional office space and student workspace has been added, and two of the largest classrooms have been remodeled and renamed the Molbert Room and Swanke Family Room. Thanks to a special gifts from the family of Ralph Molbert, a 1941 graduate, and C. Francis Swanke, a 1940 graduate, both are state-of-the-art classrooms equipped with high-tech instructional technology.

At the UND School of Law, we are proud of the tradition of success of our graduates. As the only law school in North Dakota, we have a valued tradition of educating many of the state's leaders. Our alumni include a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 3 of 5 of the North Dakota Supreme Court justices, federal appellate and district court judges, including the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the state's Attorney General, a former University of North Dakota President, 25 percent of the State Board of Higher Education, and nearly three quarters of the attorneys licensed to practice in North Dakota.

Our graduates also are successful in a variety of professions and industries in the Midwest and on both coasts, including banking, aerospace, and real estate development, and as corporate attorneys, as well as those in private practice. For example, we are proud to count among our alumni the CEO and Chairman of the Board for the American Heritage National Bank in Minnesota, the Chief Executive Officer of TMI Hospitality, a tax attorney for PricewaterhouseCoopers, a Partner in DLA Piper in New York City, and the Chairman of True North Sports and Entertainment in Winnipeg, MB. Our alumni are influential in tribal government as well, and include the former treasurer for the National Indian Gaming Association, along with tribal prosecutors, tribal judges, and tribal business leaders. A sense of pride among our alumni creates a strong alumni network that spreads across the country and around the world.

The University of North Dakota is one of about 40 public universities with both a law school and medical school. Professional education plays an important role at UND. The School of Law offers our students a "best value" legal education within a personalized setting emphasizing a practice ready application of the law.