2009-2010 School of Law Catalog 
    Jul 23, 2024  
2009-2010 School of Law Catalog archived


Washington and Lee University was established in 1749 as Augusta Academy. In 1776 the name was changed to Liberty Hall. After George Washington endowed it with what was then the largest gift to a private educational institution in America, the trustees renamed the school after him.

The Lexington Law School became affiliated with Washington College in 1866, while Robert E. Lee was the college’s president, and was made an integral part of the institution in 1870. After Lee’s death, Washington College was renamed Washington and Lee University.

The School of Law has been a member of the Association of American Law Schools since 1920 and is approved by the American Bar Association.

The School of Law, like the University, has always chosen to be small. It increased its size when it moved into Sydney Lewis Hall, its present building, in 1976, but remains the smallest of the national law schools with an entering class each year of approximately 125 students. Sydney Lewis Hall, funded by a generous gift from Frances and Sydney Lewis of Richmond, Va., contains no classrooms seating more than 81 students, ensuring small classes. A carrel or office space is provided for each student. A computer cluster is available for word processing and legal research. An addition completed in 1992 includes the archives for the Lewis F. Powell, Jr. ’29, ’31L papers, office space for the Legal Practice Clinic, expanded library space, and additional faculty offices and seminar rooms.

The law library contains more than 439,000 volumes, including microform materials, appellate records and briefs, and government documents. It maintains subscriptions to more than 1,250 journals, over 250 looseleaf reporting services, and more than 500 series of documents issued by international organizations and the U.S. government. Lexis and Westlaw terminals are provided. The stacks, carrels and reading areas are available to students and faculty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Frances Lewis Law Center is the research arm of the School of Law. Each year it appoints a Frances Lewis Scholar in Residence who comes for a semester to do his or her own research and to teach a seminar.

In addition, the Frances Lewis Law Center brings visiting judges and lawyers to the campus for varying periods, sometimes as long as a semester. It supports research by Washington and Lee faculty and students, and it convenes scholarly colloquia on topics of current legal interest.

The instructional program is designed to provide students with a legal education in the fullest sense: not only the technical tools needed for the practice of law, but an understanding of how law operates in our society and a sensitivity to the ethical imperatives of the profession. The Law School announced in 2008 its creation of a bold new third year curriculum that is entirely “experiential,” comprised of law practice simulations, real-client experiences, the development of professionalism, and development of law practice skills. The third year program begins each semester with a two week immersion course in practice skills, focusing both on office and transactional practice skills and on litigation and conflict resolution skills. All students participate in a year-long professionalism program that includes the participation of practicing lawyers and judges and assists students in the development of professionalism in all its aspects, including legal ethics, civility in practice, civic engagement and leadership, and pro bono service. The core intellectual experiences in the third year are presented entirely through a mix of “practicum” courses that simulate legal practice environments, legal clinics, and externships. The practicum courses are taught by members of the permanent law faculty, adjunct faculty, and visiting “professors of practice” drawn from the bar and bench. Practicum courses span the array of traditional legal subject matter. Implementation of the new third year program began in the spring of 2008 and will be phased in until fully operational in the academic year 2011-12. The program is optional for members of the Classes of 2010 and 2011 and will be mandatory for the Class of 2012.

Washington and Lee University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Juris Doctor, and Master of Laws. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Washington and Lee University.