100 Years of Legal Education in Idaho

Wednesday, February 11 2009

Feb. 11, 2009 Written by Joni Kirk MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho College of Law has undergone a great deal of change since 1909, when 18 students enrolled, annual tuition fees were $25 and students only needed four years of high school with proper units for admission. Now, 100 years later, the College of Law is recognized nationally for its distinct programs, including its clinical legal education, pro bono service, diversity initiatives, and cross-disciplinary fields of study, including environmental and natural resources law, business law and entrepreneurship, advocacy and dispute resolution, and Native American law. "The University of Idaho College of Law has been recognized as a remarkable value in American legal education,” said Don Burnett, dean of the college. "This value is a product of cost-effectiveness and quality. As Idaho’s public law school, we provide an affordable professional education enabling our graduates to pursue careers based on their ideals and talents, rather than on the pursuit of salaries needed to pay high educational debts. The quality of the program is reflected in its admissions selectivity, high job placement rate, and intimate teaching and learning environment.” Alumni have compiled distinguished careers throughout the U.S. and numerous foreign countries. They practice in private law firms, public service organizations, prosecutor and criminal defense offices, and corporate law offices. Idaho graduates serve in all branches of local, state and federal government, including state and federal courts throughout the country. More than half of Idaho’s trial and appellate judges are University of Idaho law alumni. Graduates of the College of Law also include past and present CEOs of major regional, national and multinational businesses, such as the Boeing Company, Washington Group International (now URS), United Heritage Insurance, and Coeur: The Precious Metals Company. In addition, alumni include professionals in higher and secondary education, social services, nonprofit organizations and the military. Recent advances in the college also have raised interest in, and put the spotlight on, public service. Three years ago, the college became one of only 10 percent of the nation’s law schools to mandate that each student complete a significant work of lawyer-supervised pro bono service, performed without compensation or credit hours. During academic breaks, students volunteer their time. In New Orleans, La., and Biloxi, Miss., they've helped victims secure and maintain FEMA benefits, and deal with foreclosures, insurance disputes, and disputes with landlords and contractors. In Washington, D.C., students worked with the National Veterans Legal Service Program. In Boise, students worked with Idaho Legal Aid, the ACLU, the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, the State of Idaho Appellate Public Defender, Advocates for the West, and the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. And at home in Moscow, law students have instituted a landlord/tenant aid program for University of Idaho students. "Pro bono service is a universal expectation within the legal profession today,” said Burnett. “At the University of Idaho, our students receive that message early, and their pro bono efforts validate the ideals that brought them to law school in the first place. We believe giving back to the community is part of being an Idaho-educated lawyer.” The concept is working. The pro bono service requirement is piquing student interest in new areas of law, ranging from human rights to helping entrepreneurs start small businesses. In March 2008, the college was listed by National Jurist magazine in the top 20 percent of American law schools for the percentage of graduates going into public interest law. The college also emphasizes diversity efforts, including cultural makeup of the student body and faculty, as well as diversity in legal studies. "In legal education, diversity and excellence go together," said Burnett. “People learn from each other as well as from books.” Burnett notes that former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor once wrote, "[C]lassroom discussion is livelier, more spirited, and simply more enlightening and interesting when the students have the greatest possible variety of backgrounds…" While achieving excellence with diversity has been a challenge at the University of Idaho, given the college's location and the demography of the region, the cultural make-up of the student body has broadened dramatically in the last decade. Women were seldom seen in the classroom for much of the law school’s history, but today the student body is 45 percent female and has an active student organization, the Women’s Law Caucus. Racial and ethnic minorities currently comprise 18 percent of the student body, which is an increase of more than 400 percent from as recently as 2000. Yet, the college still manages to draw 60 percent or more of its students from Idaho residents and children of Idaho families. "An institution making advances in diversity and excellence attracts attention from a broader array of potential students – not only from those in underrepresented groups, but also from 'majority' students who realize, as Justice O’Connor observed, that an education enriched by diversity will enhance their preparation for the legal profession," said Burnett. Representation of ethnic and racial minorities also has grown among faculty and staff. Two members of the teaching faculty and a member of the law library faculty are ethnic or racial minorities. Four women and one minority member, all holding law degrees, also serve in professional staff positions. "The core of the law school, of course, is the faculty,” said Burnett. "It's important that our faculty be excellent classroom teachers, synthesizing and transmitting a fund of knowledge to the students. But it's also important that the faculty be actively engaged in scholarship and outreach themselves, contributing to a growing body of legal doctrine and to the improvement of legal institutions." The Idaho law faculty includes nationally known experts on topics, including water law, endangered and invasive species, domestic relations, Native American law, intellectual property, federal taxation, immigration law, litigation, mediation and other forms of dispute resolution, professional responsibility, constitutional and administrative law. The faculty also features practitioner-teachers in a legal aid clinic where hands-on training has put the college in the top 20 percent of nation’s law schools for student access to clinical opportunities, as reported in the Fall 2008 edition of PreLaw Magazine. With a home campus in Moscow, and an outreach office in Boise, where the Board of Regents recently has authorized the creation of a full third-year program, the College of Law will continue in its second century to fulfill University of Idaho’s statewide mission in legal education. “Idaho is changing, and the challenges during our second century will be great, but this college has a long record of outperforming its resources," Burnett said. "Idahoans are getting a high return on their investment in public legal education. That will continue.” Centennial observances will be conducted throughout 2009. For more information about these events and about the University of Idaho College of Law legacy of legal education, visit www.law.uidaho.edu, e-mail uilaw@uidaho.edu or call (208) 885-4977.
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About the University of Idaho Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 150 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu. Media Contact: Joni Kirk, University Communications, (208) 885-7725, joni@uidaho.edu
Sept. 20, 1909: The University of Idaho law school opens its doors for the fall semester. The school initially is formed as a “department” of the university; in 1910 it is designated as the College of Law. There are 18 full-time, first-year law students, and four additional students from the university are taking one or two courses on an elective basis. Tuition and fees amount to $25 per year. Completion of four years of high school with the proper units is enough for admission. 1910: Impressed by the progress made during the first few months of the law program “department” under Professor John T. MacLane, the Board of Regents appoints MacLane to be the dean of the newly designated “college”. 1914: The college qualifies for, and is admitted to, the Association of American Law Schools and has held its membership continuously since. 1915: The college adopts a requirement that incoming law students must have completed at least one full year of undergraduate study. 1925: The college increases its admission requirement to two years of undergraduate study. 1925: The college is approved as an accredited law school by the American Bar Association – the 46th such law school in the United States. 1932: As the "Great Depression" deepens, full-time enrollment reaches 40 students, with 18 additional students from other colleges on campus receiving instruction in one or more courses. 1944: The effect of World War II has become apparent; only eight students are enrolled and only one student graduates. 1945: Two students graduate, both female. The lack of discrimination on admission for reasons of sex, creed or race – a policy which the College of Law has followed since its establishment – proves the factor that keeps the college open in 1944-45. It is also during this time that the first female law professor, Alberta M. Phillips, a graduate of the college, is appointed. 1952: The college increases its admission requirement to three full years of undergraduate study. 1958: The college moves from the third floor to the first floor and basement of the south wing of the Administration Building. The new quarters provide an office for each faculty member, a courtroom (also used as a classroom), and two classrooms. 1964: The Idaho Law Review is established and has operated continuously to the present. It now publishes three editions per year, including a symposium edition correlated with a live symposium in which selected authors present their papers. In recent years, the symposium has been held in Boise. 1966: With a student body surging to 132 students as the post World War II baby boom comes of age to study law, the college is forced for the first time to deny admission to a few fully qualified students. The library also runs out of space for law books, forcing it to put one volume in storage each time a new volume was added. Accreditation-related pressures for a new physical facility increase. 1967: A committee of the Boise Chamber of Commerce, formed to consider the future of higher education in the Boise area, files a report recommending, among other items, that the College of Law be moved to Boise. A storm of controversy immediately arises, and does abate until ground is broken in 1972 for a new law building on the campus in Moscow. 1969: The Legal Aid Clinic, in which third-year law students, under guidance of faculty, represent actual clients from the surrounding community, is established. 1970: The college having increased the general admissions requirement to completion of a four-year course of undergraduate study, the college discontinues granting the LL.B. degree and converts to the J.D. degrees, consistent with a national trend. The change signifies the transition in legal education to a fully graduate-level program of professional study. 1970: A student moot court team wins the northwestern regional round of the National Moot Court Competition. They travel to New York City for the national finals, where they earn “best brief” honors. 1971: Pressures for admission in the post-Vietnam war era reach a peak, with substantially fewer than half of the applicants being admitted. 1972: The Idaho Legislature appropriates funds for $1.85 million in construction costs for a new law building, falling $250,000 short of the amount needed. Students vote on their own motion to add a construction fee to other fees, in order to finance the new law building. Contracts are signed and construction begins.. 1973: The Legislature appropriates $300,000 for furnishings, library stacks and other equipment for the new law building. The furniture is installed during the fall, and the move into the new quarters is accomplished over the Thanksgiving break. (The basement of the law library, however, is not completely finished until private giving and student fees make it possible more than three decades later, in 2006.) 1980: The Board of Commissioners of the Idaho State Bar and the President of the Idaho Law Foundation begin an annual tradition of composing a visiting committee and making a formal visit to the College of Law to observe the program of education and make recommendations. 1982: Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the U.S. Supreme Court is the featured speaker at the college’s graduation ceremonies. 1984: An ambitious project is implemented to provide a computer for each faculty member and to enhance substantially the technology available to secretarial and library personnel. Within four years, most faculty members become increasingly sophisticated in the use of new technology for legal research and writing. 1997: The first Sherman J. Bellwood Memorial Lecture is held, featuring Professor Charles Wilkinson. The lecture series quickly becomes a university signature event, and presents distinguished speakers including U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former U.S Attorney General Janet Reno, Senators Gary Hart and Alan Simpson and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, among others. The College of Law establishes the Northwest Institute for Dispute Resolution, creating an annual series of week-long training programs in mediation and other dispute resolution processes. 1998: The College of Law Advisory Council, a group of distinguished alumni and friends, is established to provide advice on the educational program, advocacy for college initiatives, and assistance in identifying and acquiring additional resources for the college. 1999: A special panel of consultants is engaged to study the strategic future of the College of Law in relation to growing demand for legal education in Boise. In 2000, following the panel’s report, the law faculty votes to establish an outreach office in Boise, where externships and a new “semester in practice” program are administered. The annual McNichols Moot Court Competition is established. The in-house competition, primarily for second-year law students, is named after a legendary Idaho federal district judge, the late Raymond C. McNichols, and is underwritten by his son, Lewiston attorney Michael E. McNichols. 2000: A College of Law moot court team wins the national championship in the Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition in New York City. 2002: The annual Rosholt Roundtable for Visiting Professionals is established by John and Karen Rosholt in order to distinguished speakers to the College of Law, with emphasis on those who have used their law degrees in careers other than traditional practice. 2003: The college inaugurates an annual International Law Symposium, bringing scholars and policy makers from around the world to a three-day event in Coeur d’Alene, emphasizing a connection between international law and Idaho issues. The college establishes an Indian law conference. The recurring event has since become a key ingredient of the College of Law’s outreach program, serving as a forum for the examination and discussion of legal issues within Indian Country. The college inaugurates an annual “day one” program on professionalism for entering students, featuring small group discussions with judges – including Idaho Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges – and distinguished lawyers from all parts of the state on ethical issues and the meaning of professionalism 2004: Admission to the College of Law grows increasingly competitive. Whereas in the 1999 admis¬sion cycle, the college received 479 applications, in 2004 (only five years later) it receives 948 applications from which to select an entering class of 114 students. The College of Law continues to expand and strengthen its of¬ferings in business and entrepreneurship law by creating the Small Business Legal Clinic at the outreach office in Boise 2005: With the establishment of the Victims’ Rights Clinic and the Domestic Violence Clinic, the college’s Legal Aid Clinic now offers students hands-on experience in seven in-house clinics, two mini-clinics and numerous externship opportunities. The College of Law co-sponsors with the Idaho State Bar a banquet in Boise celebrating Idaho’s “first fifty” women admitted to practice in Idaho. The event reportedly is the largest gathering in state bar history. 2006: In cooperation with six other colleges and 13 departments at the university, the College of Law creates a "Waters of the West" program that combines science and law in examination of water resource issues. The College of Law establishes a pro bono public service program. Effective with the Class of 2009, each law student must complete 40 hours of law-related and professionally supervised pro bono legal service as a condition of graduation. 2008: Following a “second century” strategic planning effort including a three-day “Conclave on Idaho Legal Education” co-sponsored by the College of Law and the Idaho State Bar, the University of Idaho proposes the establishment of a branch extension of the College of Law in Boise. The University of Idaho Board of Regents authorize the College of Law to expand its offerings in Boise to a full third-year curriculum and to include a legislative appropriation in the fiscal year 2010 budget for this purpose. The university is instructed to revisit the issue of funding and support for a full branch extension, including a three-year curriculum in Boise, and to continue collaboration with the Idaho Supreme Court on the Idaho Law Learning Center with respect to those programs to be delivered in Boise. The Regents expressly recognize the statewide mission of the University of Idaho in legal education. The college marks progress in diversity, with women now composing nearly half of the student body, nine full-time faculty, and four J.D.-holding professional staff. Minorities account for approximately 18% of the student body, three full-time teaching and library faculty members, and a member of the J.D.-holding professional staff. The college’s courtroom and its largest classroom (Room 104) are completely remodeled and equipped with digital presentation and instructional technology. The “state of the art” courtroom is equivalent of the most advanced academic and federal courtrooms in the U.S. For the first time, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit hears oral arguments in the college’s courtroom. (The courtroom has been used for many years by the Idaho Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.) 2009: The College celebrates its centennial with a series of statewide events. The College inaugurates a new annual symposium focusing on natural resources and environmental law.

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.