Our History

The School of Law is a part of the University of Dayton, which was founded in 1850 and is recognized as a top-tier national university and one of the 10 best Catholic universities in the nation. It is the largest private university in Ohio. As a Catholic, Marianist institution, the University of Dayton is committed to producing graduates who uphold the highest professional standards.

First established as the University of Dayton College of Law, the School of Law opened in 1922 under the guidance of Dean John C. Shea, the former first assistant director of law for the City of Dayton. Reflecting the Catholic Marianist tradition of inclusivity and acceptance, the college’s first class was comprised of a diverse group of students, including two women and one African American.

From its founding, the School of Law was known for its focus on teaching and academic excellence. Every member of the first class passed the bar exam on the first attempt, with bar passage rates remaining extremely high for the next decade. Despite the success of its graduates, the economic turmoil of the Great Depression led the law school to close its doors in 1935 with the expectation of reopening when times improved.

Nearly four decades later, in September 1974, this expectation became a reality, and the school, renamed, the "University of Dayton School of Law" reopened. University of Dayton President Rev. Raymond A. Roesch said at the time: "Our interest is not merely in providing, under private auspices, opportunities for the acquisition of legal expertise, worthy though this goal may be. Rather we see herein an exceptional opportunity to promote Christian justice, social as well as individual, and thus to help humanize society."

Since reopening, the School of Law has become known nationally for innovative programs like its forerunning legal research and writing curriculum, the Legal Profession Program; one of the nation’s first law and technology programs; and an accelerated J.D. program that allows students to graduate in two years.

The School of Law’s Lawyer as Problem Solver curriculum has gained extensive national attention as a model for 21st century legal education. The curriculum has strengthened students’ experiential learning opportunities and more closely aligned the law school with the Catholic and Marianist philosophy of educating the whole person, as well as inspiring students to learn, lead and serve. For instance, members of the Class of 2011 volunteered more than 12,000 hours of free legal and community service to those in need, with more than a third of the graduates earning the school’s Pro Bono Commitment to Community Award.

The University of Dayton School of Law, through its programs, professors and facilities, is dedicated to enhancing its tradition of preparing highly qualified legal professionals.