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ALTERNATIVE MODELS FOR AMERICAN LEGAL EDUCATION

As the Harvard model for legal education spread, so did the number of law schools. But some of the newer law schools were established in reaction to the Harvard model or to serve the legal education needs of those excluded from Harvard and similar mainstream law school programs. For example, when Theodore Dwight's followers resigned in protest from Columbia, they founded a new non-university-affiliated law school in 1891 known as New York Law School, which continued to employ Dwight's lecture-based method of instruction. Similarly, the law school at Boston University was founded in 1876 by those who disagreed with the Harvard case method and sought to establish a more practice-oriented system of instruction. Further, while Harvard and other programs modeled after Harvard served a full-time student body of white males, alternative law school programs serving other groups of potential students including women, minorities, and working immigrants, began appearing in the latter half of the nineteenth century. It is notable that the New York Law School, in addition to offering an alternative to the case approach of studying law, also provided a part-time evening division to cater to the needs of working students.

Part-time legal education expanded rapidly near the end of the nineteenth century, appearing first just after the Civil War in Washington, D.C., and later in major cities across the country. The first part-time law school was founded at Columbian College in 1865 to teach federal employees. Rival programs opened at two other Washington universities soon after, including Georgetown University. The success of the part-time program at Georgetown eventually led to that law school becoming the largest in America, a position it maintains to this day. Part-time law school programs in other cities helped open the doors of legal education to working immigrants who sought entry to the legal profession as a sure way to advance in America. Metropolis Law School (later absorbed by New York University) and Chicago College of Law (later to become Chicago-Kent) both opened successful part-time programs in 1888. Many of these law schools would not have succeeded without part-time programs, and by the end of the nineteenth century, the 7,631 students enrolled in part-time law school programs was nearly double the number of those enrolled in full-time programs.

TheYoung Men's Christian Association (YMCA) entered the field of legal education near the end of the nineteenth century, and by 1920, it was operating law schools in ten American cities. These programs were designed to open the doors of legal education to the worthy poor and were a small part of a much laroer role played by the YMCA in education, courses in law being offered among courses in a variety of other subject areas, from automobile repair to stenography and business. Many of the YMCA law schools were quickly absorbed into other educational institutions, but some continued to operate as distinct YMCA entities well into the latter half of the twentieth century. Today a number of contemporary law schools trace their roots to YMCA evening law schools, including Northeastern University in Boston, which began in 1897 as the Lowell Institute, and the University of Toledo Law School, which began as the Toledo YMCA Law School in 1908.

Women were largely excluded from American law schools and generally from the practice of law until late in the nineteenth century. Langdell opposed the admission of women at Harvard's law school, and like many other law schools that institution did not finally admit women until the middle of the twentieth century. Alice Ruth Jordon was allowed admission to the Yale Law School in 1886 by noting that there was nothing in the Yale catalog barring women, but the following year the Yale Corporation inserted language that specifically excluded women. Prior to the late nineteenth century, the few women who did become lawyers learned the law mostly through the apprenticeship system, often working for a spouse. For example, Ellen Spencer Mussey, a co-founder of the Washington College of Law (now American University's law school) learned law by assisting in her husband s practice when he became ill, and she was admitted to the Washington, DC., bar in 1893 without the benefit of a formal legal education. The notion that women were inherently unfit for the practice of law because of their gender was supported by the U.S. Supreme Court in an 1869 case. That case upheld Myra Bradwell's denial of admission to the Illinois bar despite her stellar reputation in the Illinois legal community, stemming in part from her highly regarded editorship of the Chicago Legal News. The court stated in part that "the natural and proper timidity and delicacy of the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life," such as practicing law. With the growing women's suffrage movement and the agitation for expanded women's rights this ruling did not stand for long, and in 1878 Belva Lockwood was successful in opening the federal courts to women attorneys. Also, the same year that Myra Bradwell lost her battle to join the bar, Arabella Mansfield became the first woman admitted to practice when she was allowed to join the Iowa bar, not so surprising considering that the University of Iowa, established as the first law school west of the Mississippi in 1868, began admitting women students as early as 1869, well before the vast majority of America's other law schools. Howard University's law school, the nation's first law school for African-Americans, was equally progressive, and from the time of its founding in 1868 admitted women. An early woman graduate of Howard's law school, Emma Gillett, later joined Ellen Spencer Mussey, in 1898, to found the Washington College of Law in Washington, DC., the nation's first law school for women.

Although most law schools continued to refuse admission to women during the last part of the nineteenth century, the number of women attorneys expanded substantially. The census reported only five women lawyers in 1870, and seventy-five in 1880, but by 1900 over one thousand women lawyers were listed. There were enough women lawyers in New York City in 1899 to form the Women Lawyers Club of New York. This group began an unsuccessful effort to admit women to the Harvard Law School, and when that failed the nations second women's law school was founded in Boston, in 1908, known as the Portia Law School. Unlike the co-educational Washington College of Law, founded ten years earlier, the Portia Law School initially was intended as a separate but equal institution for aspiring women attorneys; however, probably due to financial considerations, Portia soon opened its doors to male applicants as well. It was only another ten years before women were admitted as members to the American Bar Association, and major law schools like Fordham and Yale began admitting female applicants. But it was not until the 197os that women entered American law schools in force.

Not surprisingly, entrance to the legal profession was even more difficult for African-Americans than it was for women. During the period when apprenticing was the main road to becoming a lawyer, African-Americans faced the challenge of finding a practitioner willing to take on a black person as a student. Not many were willing. And the few law schools that existed in early America were not ready to accept African-Americans as students, perhaps fearing it would drive away their mainstream students, especially those from the South. Even those African-Americans who did manage to gain a legal education privately still had to face the gauntlet of a hostile group of bar examiners. Those who succeeded were few in number, and were usually those whose skin color helped them pass for white.

Maine was possibly the first state to admit a black applicant to its bar when Macon Bolling Alien became a lawyer in 1844. Alien was a native of Indiana, but came to Maine and studied law under the sponsorship of a prominent abolitionist lawyer named General Samuel Fessenden, who was reputedly the most powerful lawyer in the state. Shortly thereafter, Alien also was admitted to practice in Massachusetts, where in 1847 he was appointed to the post of justice of the peace by an anti-slavery governor named George Briggs. Thus, Alien has the dual distinction of being both the first African-American lawyer and the first African-American judge. The number of other African-Americans admitted to law practice prior to the Civil War might easily be counted on one hand. Included in this meager number was another black Massachusetts lawyer named Robert Morris, who was admitted to the bar in 1847 after working for a Boston abolitionist lawyer named Ellis Gray. Obviously ahead of his time, Morris later initiated the first case to challenge public school segregation, in Roberts v. City of Boston. This case made it all the way to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Clerk, where Morris deferred to Charles Sumner, his politically connected white co-counsel, for oral argument. Morris and Sumner lost this early challenge to school segregation, but the arguments they made in their brief were widely circulated in a pamphlet and were successfully made again a century later in Brown v. Board of Education.

Prior to the Civil War, African-Americans who attempted to gain a legal education by attending law school generally were out of luck, unless they could pass for white. This was the experience of John Mercer Langston, a well-qualified aspiring black lawyer who attempted to gain admission to a proprietary law school in Saratoga, New York, shortly after Macon Alien was admitted to the Maine bar. Langston was a graduate of Oberlin College and had worked for an abolitionist lawyer before deciding on pursuing law as a career. The New York law school rejected Alien's application purely on racial grounds, fearing his presence as a black man would offend southern white students; however, Langston was informed that he would be admitted if he would be willing to pass himself off as "a Spaniard or Frenchman from some part of the Americas." Langston refused this humiliation and applied to several other law schools, with similar results. Finally he apprenticed himself to a politically active former Ohio judge named Philemon Bliss. Afterward, Langston reportedly staggered the Ohio bar examiners with his proficiency in the law, but even at that a majority of the examiners opposed his admission to the bar, purely on racial grounds. However, the political power of Bliss was such that with his prodding, the examiners agreed that Langston's skin color was white enough for him to be admitted to practice, and Langston finally became a member of the Ohio bar in 1854.

Langston eventually became the inaugural dean of Howard Law School, which opened in Washington, DC.., in 1868 as the first American law school for African-Americans. For a time, Howard helped increase the numbers of African-American attorneys, and other black law schools soon followed Howard's lead. Several were opened—and most were eventually closed—during the last half of the nineteenth century, including Lincoln University Law School (1870—1873), Shaw University Law School (1878—1916), and Central Tennessee (1879-1921). Howards success was partially due to its location in the nations capital and its ability to draw on the large pool of government employees interested in studying law, but all of these schools lacked resources and funding, and as the standards for legal education increased, marginal schools were pushed out of business. For example, Howard fell on hard times when the District of Columbia moved to increase the training requirements for lawyers from two to three years, while also stipulating that none of Howard s government subsidy could be used to support its professional schools. Howard barely survived this move toward tightened standards, with enrollment dropping to a mere twelve law students in 1887, and other black law schools gradually fell by the wayside. Thus, the growth in black lawyers stalled at the end of the century, with only 728 black lawyers reported in the 1900 census.

 

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TITLE: Law and Legal Services at CitiMall Shopping Mall

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