the story of the university’s school of law
BASED ON A HISTORY WRITTEN
BY JOSEPH LaPLANTE, ASSOCIATE
PROFESSOR OF LAW
The dedication of the University of Connecticut’s new School of Law Building is, in a sense, a tribute to the people of Greater Hartford. The interest and support of the citizens of this area brought the School into being and sustained it during its early years and has continued on since it became part of the State University.
George W. Lillard, a Hartford businessman and lawyer, founded the school in 1921 for the training of young men in the insurance business who sought legal knowledge to help them in their work or to groom them for their own law practice. The first class of 50, including seven women, met in a rented room at 94 Allyn St. at the corner of Allyn and Ann Sts.
Initially, classes were held five evenings a week, taught by prominent Hartford lawyers. The full course study took three school years of about eight months each. Applicants for admission were required to furnish satisfactory proof of a high school education or equivalent.
In 1923, the Hartford College of Law, as it was named, moved its quarters to rented rooms in the old Hartford-Connecticut Trust Co. building at the corner of Main and Pearl Sts. In June of the following year the College graduated its first class of students. Noting that the class had dwindled from 50 to six, the administration concluded that the volume of work necessary for graduation required more than three years’ work for most students and consequently changed the curriculum to cover four eight-month years.
The subsequent years brought about increased enrollments, expansion, and two more moves. In 1926, quarters were moved to 51 Chapel St. and later in 1931 to 44 Niles St. 1931 also found the College preparing to meet the standards for membership in the American Bar Association. Entrance requirements had to be changed; applicants had to have completed at least one-half the work acceptable for a bachelor’s degree. The library had to be increased to no fewer than 7,500 volumes.
Also, it was necessary for the school to cease existing as a private corporation. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Lillard, transferred their stock to a newly created board of trustees. In September 1933, the board appointed Thomas A. Larremore, formerly a law professor at Washburn College in Kansas, as the College’s first full-time Dean. Shortly thereafter, the College received the American Bar Assn.’s approval.
With accreditation by the American Bar Assn., the College became a truly professional school. Until that time, graduates simply received a certificate of law study and could not take the examinations for entrance to the Bar. Upon accreditation, the College could award a degree of law which would admit a graduate to the Bar examinations in most states.
In the fall of 1935, several impressive appointments to the teaching staff were made. William F. Starr, formerly a Sterling Fellow at Yale Law School, was appointed a full-time instructor. (Professor Starr retired in 1962, becoming the first Professor Emeritus of Law of the University of Connecticut.) George Lillard, founder and former trustee, began his first year as a full-time instructor. Appointed as part-time instructors were Judge Thomas J. Malloy of the Common Pleas Court, and Saul Berman, Referee in Bankruptcy.
The day division program was established in 1935, and during the following year a department of insurance was created. This department was separated from the College of Law in 1939 and became the College of Insurance. In 1937, the College of Law received accreditation from the Association of American Law Schools.
Increased enrollment and staff resulting from the new day division and College of Insurance meant crowded quarters at 44 Niles St. In 1940, the administration announced plans to raise funds to purchase the Jacobus estate at 39 Woodland St. Six Hartford insurance companies contributed $25,000 to meet the price of the property. The beginning of the 1940-41 academic year found the Colleges in their new building.
During most of the World War II period, only evening classes were conducted by a faculty of two.
On June 1, 1943, the College of Law became the School of Law as part of the University of Connecticut. Serving as Acting Dean was Laurence J. Ackerman, Dean of the University’s School of Business Administration. In February 1946, the day program re-opened with a new Dean of the Law School, Dr. Bert E. Hopkins, formerly professor of law at Indiana University. The School organized an accelerated program for the returning veterans, an uninterrupted course of study from February 1946 to September 1946.
Until 1956, the faculty remained at five members including the Dean. At that time additions were made to the faculty and the staff continues to increase to keep pace with increased enrollments. Next year the School will have 14 faculty members, a librarian, and the Dean and Assistant Dean.
Enlargement of the faculty has also been required as a result of enrichment of the course program, which has necessarily expanded to parallel the increase in the areas of law which must be included in a proper program of law study. There are now 294 students in the School of Law; 281 of these people are Connecticut residents.
The continuing growth of the School has naturally led to the need for a new building. The enlarged and modern facilities will not only permit increased enrollment and better accommodations for faculty and classes, but also provide offices for the Student Bar Association; adequate quarters for the student publication, the LAW REVIEW; a commons room and snack bar; and offices for visiting dignitaries. The present library of 38,000 volumes can be bolstered to 75,000 volumes in the space available in the new library.
The University of Connecticut School of Law has become an important contributor of knowledge and professionally-trained people to the legal world of the State. The citizens of Connecticut can be proud of their part in the development of the School.