Our 150-Year History

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.



Dean George Bunn

Dean George Bunn

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.”


Hastie Fellowship Program

Hastie Fellowship Program

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. Over the years, the program has prepared more than thirty fellows to join the law professoriate and has produced several law school deans.


Economic Justice Institute founded

Louise Trubek

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.


Dean Orrin Helstad

Dean Orrin Helstad

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 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.


Dean Cliff Thompson

Dean Cliff Thompson

“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.”

Cliff Thompson, dean from 1983 to 1990, in his book chapter “Thoughts and Counsel for a New Dean


Wisconsin Women’s Law Journal Published First Issue

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.


Dean Daniel Bernstine

Dean Daniel Bernstine

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 successfully guided 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.”

East Asian Legal Studies Center

Charles Irish

Established in April 1990, the East Asian Legal Studies Center promotes academic interactions with East and Southeast Asian universities, government ministries and the private sector. Shown is the center’s founder, Professor Charles Irish.


Great Lakes Indigenous Law Center established

Richard Monette

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. Professor Richard Monette is the center’s director.


First Dean’s Cup

Dean Ken Davis accepts Dean's Cup trophy from School of Medicine

The inaugural Dean’s Cup competition between UW’s Law and Medical Schools was held in the fall of 1995, as documented in an ad to alumni in The Gargoyle alumni magazine. While the Medical School won that first year, the Law School has since gone on to win the trophy 10 times.


Frank J. Remington Center formally established

Frank Remington

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, Oxford Federal Project, Wisconsin Innocence Project, Family Law Project, Restorative Justice Project, Criminal Appeals Project, and Federal Appeals Project.



Dean Kenneth Davis

Dean Kenneth Davis

“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.”

Kenneth Davis, dean from 1997 to 2011, quoted in “How I Got Here,” The Gargoyle alumni magazine, Fall 2011


Center for Patient Partnerships formed

Meg Gaines

In 2000, Professor Meg Gaines founded the interdisciplinary 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.


Pro Bono Program launched

Two volunteers offer legal advice to a veteran.

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.


Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic opened

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.


Government and Legislative Clinic began

Launched in 2011, the Government and Legislative Clinic 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.

Dean Margaret Raymond

Dean Margaret Raymond

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.