Our interactive timeline showcases just a few of the history makers — 150 years of people, places and ideas — that distinguish UW Law from all the rest.
George Bunn became UW Law dean in 1972 and, frustrated at the lack of state support for the Law School, he reportedly left the role in protest three years later. But he may have been best known as a leader and an international negotiator in the nuclear disarmament movement. In a public radio interview, Bunn’s son Matthew described the impetus for his father’s life work:
“He thought, ‘Well, if we’re going to have disarmament, we’re going to need treaties. If we’re going to have treaties, we’re going to need lawyers, so I’ll go off to law school.’ So he went off to law school specifically with the idea of controlling the bomb.”
Established in 1973, the Hastie Fellowship Program trains minority lawyers for careers in the legal academy. Fellows complete a two-year program leading to their LL.M. degrees. Along with Nancy Bernstine, Daniel Bernstine was the first Hastie Fellow to graduate from the program. He later became dean of UW Law School.
When it originated in 1974, the Economic Justice Institute was known as the Center for Public Representation, with Professor Louise Trubek as its first director. Now EJI is home to the Law School’s four civil, anti-poverty clinical programs: Consumer Law Clinic, Family Court Clinic, Neighborhood Law Clinic, and Immigrant Justice Clinic.
Orrin Helstad, dean from 1975 to 1983, graduated in UW Law School’s Class of 1950. He would later join with colleague Marygold Melli to produce a new Wisconsin Criminal Code, the first of its kind to be codified in the U.S. The two were recognized for their superior work, which provided much of the conceptual basis for, as well as specific provisions in, the Model Penal Code. Helstad went on to author the State Administrative Code and the Wisconsin version of the Uniform Commercial Code.
“One of my mental stabilizers as a dean has been a constant and simple belief in a society governed by rules. I am aware of the flaws in actual legal systems compared to the ideals heard in Law Day speeches. But I am convinced that overall government by laws has been better for humans than the two main alternatives: dictatorship (from enlightened to ghastly) or rule by ideology (religious to secular). Legal education is crucial to a strong legal system, and this is the environment in which I have been happy to work.”
The Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society, originally the Wisconsin Women’s Law Journal, was founded in 1985. The student-run journal is one of the earliest in the nation devoted to the study of women and the law.
Daniel Bernstine became the Law School’s first dean of color in 1990. He served in that position until 1997. Under challenging financial conditions, he saw the Law School through a $16 million renovation that modernized classrooms, provided space for clinical programs and increased space for the Law Library. At an international conference on legal education in 1996, he said:
“Law schools must continue to identify new financial resources without depending exclusively on tuition increases or state taxpayers to support higher education costs. In most instances, law school alumni must be the primary resource to support the expanding financial costs of legal education.”
The Great Lakes Indigenous Law Center was established in 1992 to improve the practical legal skills of all students interested in federal Indian law while providing legal resources for tribal members. Eleven federally recognized Native Nations are surrounded by the State of Wisconsin, including six bands of Chippewa and Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, Oneida, Menominee, and Mohican (Stockbridge-Munsee) Tribes. Prof. Richard Monette is the center’s director.
The criminal justice clinics at UW Law were formally named after founder Frank Remington in November 1996. But the Law School’s clinical programming got its start much earlier than that. Its beginnings can be traced to 1964, with the launch of the Correctional Internship Program (later renamed the Legal Assistance to Institutionalized Persons Program).
The center now houses one of the oldest, largest and most diverse clinical legal programs in the country. Current programs include: Legal Assistance to Institutionalized Persons, the Oxford Federal Project, the Wisconsin Innocence Project, the Family Law Project, the Restorative Justice Project, the Criminal Appeals Project, and the Federal Appeals Project.
“Our position as the only public law school in a relatively large state is key. While most of our peers were trying to look more like private schools, our niche might best be to instead celebrate our public status and treat it as a source of opportunity to become The Preeminent and Public Law School in the country. We are public, and we are stronger for it.”
In 2000, Professor Meg Gaines founded the Center for Patient Partnerships, transforming her personal experience as a cancer survivor into a model for consumer-centered patient advocacy. Based at UW Law, the center builds relationships among patients, health care providers and policy makers, with the goal of improving health care experiences.
Founded on the principle that law is a service profession, the Pro Bono Program (formerly the University of Wisconsin Law School Pro Bono Partnership Project) launched as a pilot project in 2007. Its original structure involved pairing law students with Dane County attorneys to provide legal assistance in civil matters to persons otherwise unable to secure legal representation. Today, students participate in approximately two dozen projects, or they can create their own project subject to approval by the Pro Bono Program director. The Pro Bono Program oversees our Veterans Law Center (pictured), which opened in 2008.
The Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic opened its doors in 2009 to provide free legal services to entrepreneurs and early stage companies. Law students do the work — under the guidance of clinic faculty and private sector attorneys — and gain transactional legal skills in the process. The clinic has steadily grown, beyond the impacts described in this 2015 video.
Launched in 2011, the Government and Legislative Clinic is one of the Law School’s newest experiential learning programs. The GLC provides students with the unique opportunity to observe and participate in the many facets of governmental law, policy and the legislative process. Working under the direct supervision of clinical faculty and attorneys in legislative, administrative and judicial settings, students gain first-hand experience working with government agencies on legal issues with policy significance.
Margaret Raymond became the first woman to lead UW Law School in 2011, and she remains dean today.
Before that, she was a law professor at the University of Iowa, where she served in a number of campus leadership roles, including president of the University Faculty Senate. Her scholarship focuses on constitutional criminal procedure, substantive criminal law and the professional responsibility of lawyers.