The School of Law at the University of North Dakota was established in 1899, the first professional school to begin operation within the university. Guy H. Corliss, a Grand Forks lawyer and the first chief justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court, was selected as the first dean. The only full-time instructor during the early years of the program, John E. Blair, a recent 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 relatively strong. Early graduates were admitted to practice law without an equivalent of today's Bar, which was instituted in 1905 on Bruce's recommendation.
When Frank McVey became President of UND in 1909, incoming law students were required to possess a high school certificate and the program was lengthened to three years. Soon after, the program was accredited by the American Association of Law Schools. By McVey's retirement in 1917, incoming students were required to have completed two years of collegiate study and new program and degree options were instituted, most of which could not be implemented until students returned from World War I.
Due to a national movement at the recommendation of the American Bar Association, the UND School of Law changed its degree distinction from a Bachelor of Law (LL.B.) to a Juris Doctor (J.D.) with the graduating class of 1968. Previously the J.D. was awarded only to those law students who had earned an undergraduate degree in addition to their law degree; those that enrolled directly to the School of Law without a Bachelor degree had earned a LL.B. The elimination of the LL.B. was influenced by national trends, but also by increased standards in the UND School of Law: all incoming students were now required to hold an undergraduate degree and a new curriculum was established that required every student to enroll in legal writing and research seminars. In a special commencement ceremony on October 11, 1969 at the Gamble Hall auditorium, 94 alumni-who previously held a LL.B. from the UND School of Law-were retroactively awarded a J.D.; an additional 245 alumni received the retroactive J.D., but were unable to attend the ceremony. Alumni who had previously graduated with the J.D. were retroactively awarded a J.D. "with distinction."
The School of Law building houses the Thormodsgard Law Library, named for Olaf H. Thormodsgard, Dean of the Law School from 1931 to 1962. More than 312,000 volumes are housed in the Law Library. The School of Law's first publication, the Law Bulletin, was introduced in 1914. Today it publishes the North Dakota Law Review, which is the journal of the State Bar Association of North Dakota. Some of the professional development activities in which students participate include Moot Court Board, Student Bar Association, Law Women's Caucus, and the Student Trial Association. Special Programs offered by the School of Law today include the Joint Degree program (M.P.A./J.D.), the Native American Law Project, the Tribal Environmental Law Project, the Tribal Justice Institute, and an exchange program to Norway.
The School of Law at UND is the only law school in the state.
The School of Law Records have been divided into seven series:
Series 1: Administrative
Series 2: Degrees
Series 3: Programs
Series 4: Seminars and Speakers
Series 5: University of North Dakota
Series 6: Organizations
Series 7: Faculty Files