Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Page 7



Starting Date for Law School at UC Berkeley, Now Known as Boalt Hall, Is in Dispute




Just as there are competing notions as to when the USC Law School was founded, and when Stanford began operating a law school, perceptions differ as to when a law school took shape at the University of California at Berkeley.

The “U.S. News & World Report Ultimate Guide to Law Schools” (2008) lists the date of founding as 1894.

A Feb. 24, 1998 press release from UC Berkeley says: “The University of California, Berkeley’s School of Law (Boalt Hall), which has admitted women since its founding in 1894, will hold its first-ever women’s reunion this week,” saying below: “It is unique that the law school has admitted women since its establishment 104 years ago.”

But was there a law school at Berkeley in 1894?

The 1928 book “Present-Day Law Schools” says: “A department of jurisprudence, started in 1894, developed into a professional law school in 1901.”

So, is that the answer—that a law school has functioned there since 1901? No, it was 1902. Bear with me.

The Department of Jurisprudence was founded in 1894 by William Carey Jones, who for the first three years taught all of the courses. The law school’s website says that “Jones wanted something very different” from a “vocational school” for lawyers such as that at Hastings, explaining:

“He envisioned the teaching of law as an academic discipline, one that would be integrated into the intellectual life of the University, both in the humanities and in the sciences.”

This was also the approach at Stanford from 1893 until a conventional law school was inaugurated in 1899.

While legal studies at Berkeley in the early days were no doubt on a far higher academic plane than those at San Francisco’s YMCA Law School or Kent Law School, it remains that the initial purpose of the Department of Jurisprudence was to broaden the general knowledge of the undergraduate; it was not until it adopted the objective of preparing students for the practice of law that it took on the nature of a law school.

The text of an address by Jones on March 9, 1912, in which he recounts the law school’s formation, appears in the University of California Chronicle the following year. In those remarks, made before the Law Association of the University of California, he says that his 1882 course in Roman Law for members of the senior class at Berkeley was “the real germ of the Department of Jurisprudence.”

He gained his first assistant in 1897, Jones recites, going on to say:

“The year 1898-99 saw the beginning of a professional curriculum by the inclusion of courses in torts, crimes, and contracts.”

In 1901, the curriculum was enlarged, as was the faculty. One instructor and two lecturers were hired, bringing the total number of faculty members to six. (One of the lecturers was Warren Olney II, later a member of the California Supreme Court.) Jones says:

“With this increased faculty, we were able to offer two complete years of professional work.”

In 1902, four persons “were added to the corps of lecturers,” he says, noting:

“Three years of professional study were now provided and a fully developed law school, of practically graduate standing, was in operation.”

From that speech, there may be discerned good reason to recognize the founding date of the law school as 1901. But there’s something Jones didn’t mention. In 1901, Berkeley functioned only as the front-end of legal education; it was not until the 1902-03 term that it dropped its reliance on Hastings to finish the job of providing legal education to its students.

The June 26, 1902 issue of the Oakland Tribune carries a story which says:

“Beginning with August next the University [of California] will offer its students at Berkeley a three-year law course, which is intended to prepare them for immediate admission to the bar. Heretofore, the University has recommended its graduates to Hastings Law School, and their final preparation has been made there. During the coming year all this will be changed, and the University authorities will no longer recommend its graduates to attend the San Francisco law school.”

Also on June 26, 1902, that day’s issue of the San Francisco Chronicle provides information on UC Berkeley’s plans.

“[T]he University of California now has a complete law school at Berkeley” in light of three courses “just added,” the article announces.

It goes on to say that in 1898, “the work was enlarged in its scope and the students were given the privilege of taking their first year’s law work in conjunction with their other university studies and of being recommended on graduation for admission into the middle class of the Hastings Law College.”

The article says that it was articulated in 1898 “that this foundation work at Berkeley was designed to supply merely some of the historical and theoretical elements of the lawyer’s education, the fuller professional training being supplied at Hastings in the last two years.”

The piece in the Chronicle reports that “[i]t will be possible, henceforth, to take a complete three years’ course in jurisprudence—the equivalent of the work at Hastings Law College” at Berkeley.”

This explains what Jones meant by saying that it was 1902 when a “fully developed law school” existed at Berkeley. It would thus appear that the Department of Jurisprudence at UC Berkeley took on the form of a law school in 1902, becoming the seventh law school formed in the state and the fifth still in existence, behind Hastings, Stanford, USC, and Golden Gate (previously the YMCA Law school).

A 1933 report by a committee to the State Bar Board of Governors recites:

“The school is part of the University of California and as such was formally established by the Board of Regents in 1912, although prior to that date—as early as 1903—professional degrees had been awarded upon the recommendation of the faculty of Jurisprudence.”

Translation: in 1912, the Department of Jurisprudence became the School of Jurisprudence.

As to the law degrees conferred in 1903: there were three, all conferred on males, one to Motoyuki Negoro, a Japanese who became an investigative reporter and a labor activist in Hawaii. Emmy Marcuse in 1906 became the first female graduate.

The school  became known as “Boalt Hall” in 1911 when it moved into a structure largely financed by Elizabeth Josselyn Boalt, in tribute to her late husband, John Henry Boalt, a San Francisco attorney who had briefly served as a judge in Nevada. New Boalt Hall was opened in 1951. (Though misstated in my Sept. 8 column, the old structure has been renamed Durant Hall, not the new one.)

FOOTNOTE: Jones was also a civic leader, serving as president of the Berkeley Board of Education from 1884-1890 and as a member of the Berkeley City Council from 1894-1896. He was a nephew of John C. Fremont, a military governor of California, one of the first two U.S. senators from California, and, in 1856, the first Republican candidate for president of the United States. Jones was a grandson of U.S. Sen. Thomas Hart Benton, who in 1821 became one of the first two U.S. senators from the state of Missouri. He was a great grandnephew of Benjamin Thompson, whose inventions included the double boiler, the pressure cooker, central heating, thermal underwear, and the closed oven.

‘DIPLOMA PRIVILEGE’ PRIZED—The Tribune and Chronicle articles both mention the expectation that graduates of the UC law school at Berkeley would be accorded the dispensation Hastings students enjoyed of being admitted to the bar without examination. That perk came to Berkeley graduates, but not until 1909.

The “diploma privilege” was accorded USC College of Law graduates in 1907, extended in 1909 not only to those who completed the course at Berkeley but also Stanford; and in 1915 to graduates of the San Francisco Law School and the law schools of the San Francisco YMCA, University of Santa Clara, and Saint Ignatius University.

Alas, John Goss’ Kent Law School did not qualify for the diploma privilege.

The privilege was abolished in 1917.

PAT BROWN’S ALMA MATER—Three of the law schools that were granted the privilege haven’t been mentioned here before…the most interesting of them being the San Francisco Law School, from which Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, California’s governor from 1959-67, would graduate.

San Francisco Law School” is distinct from the “University of San Francisco School of Law.”

The latter was established in 1912 as the Saint Ignatius College’s College of Law. It was founded the same year as the one at the University of Santa Clara. Both gained the diploma privilege at the same time; both were constituents of Jesuit institutions founded in 1855; both law schools held evening sessions, only.

Also holding night sessions, only, was the independent San Francisco Law School. According to the 1933 State Bar report, it “should be classed with the better type of institutions giving evening law school training.”

This rendition is given by that report of the school’s origin:

“At the time of the San Francisco fire in 1906, a small Y. M. C. A. law school lost its quarters and it was decided to abandon it. Its students were desirous of finishing their courses, and upon their request the instructors in the school agreed to carry them through. It was the beginning of the San Francisco Law School which was incorporated on June 28, 1909.”

Well, actually, the YMCA Law School was not abandoned; it continued to hold classes after the fire destroyed its building, at first utilizing tents as classrooms at Market and 11th Streets, then leasing space on Oct. 16, 1906, in a building on Geary and Mission Streets.

Perhaps momentary uncertainty over the fate of the school sparked notions of legal education in an alternative setting. In any event, a teacher at that time at the YMCA Law School was San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Robert W. Harrison, and he provided the impetus for the formation of the San Francisco Law School.

The Tribune’s edition of July 31 relays this item it found in “Town Talk,” a San Francisco weekly:

“One of the most widespread of local delusions is that the legal profession is so crowded as to resemble Virgil’s army, the soldiers of which had not sufficient room to use their weapons. Singularly enough the fact is that we need more law schools to supply the demand, for we are litigious people and clients are everywhere clamoring for counsel. Until the San Francisco Law School came into existence a week or so ago we had nothing but the Hastings College of Law and the Y. M. C. A. Law School to swell the ranks of the most learned of profession. In the circumstances it was obvious to men In touch with the situation that there was urgent need of greater facilities for turning out fledgling lawyers with the elements of education in them, and some of the more altruistic of them got together and instituted what is now known as the San Francisco Law School....”

The school grew with amazing swiftness. The June, 1910 issue of Case and Comment, a national lawyers’ magazine, says: “The San Francisco Law School, although but a year old, has the largest attendance of any evening law school in the West.”


How did Pat Brown, a future state attorney general and governor, come to choose a legal education at a  reputable, but less than first-class, institution?

 The 2006 book, “California Rising: The Life and Times of Pat Brown,” by Ethan Rarick, says:

“A neighbor suggested that he consider San Francisco Law School, where an undergraduate degree was not required. Brown liked the idea. He was a young man of hurried ambition, and a college education meant four years of delay. A bachelor’s degree was still a rarity in American life, and if there was no need of it, better to move ahead.”

Alumni of San Francisco Law School, in addition to Brown, have included Leo McCarthy, lieutenant governor of California from 1983-95, and Milton Marks, a Republican-turned-Democrat who served in the state Senate from 1967-96, both deceased. Former State Bar President  P. Terry Anderlini also matriculated there.

On Oct. 3, the school is staging a wingding at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in Union Square to celebrate its centennial.


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