Albany Law School

Albany Law School Legacy

Stuck on what to do after college? Learn about Albany Law School history, it just might be the place for you.

This is the last location on our walking tour, and here we are facing a building which many of you may think is insignificant. I want you to image that in 1851 the Albany Law School opened its doors at this very same location. In 1929, the Law School moved to a new headquarters on New Scotland Ave. where it still stands today. Even with a new location Albany Law school still holds the legacy of being one of the oldest independent school of law. In addition to its legacy the law school played an important role in modernizing the legal education of America. This modernization is credited to the ideas of three successful lawyers- Amos Dean, Ira Harris and Amasa Parker. During the mid-18th century, students preparing for the bar exam would participate in an apprenticeship system. In this system an aspiring law student would pay a fee to become an apprentice in a law firm. However, these three lawyers (Dean, Harris and Parker) felt as though the apprentice system did little to prepare students for the bar exam. Together they came up with a new structured educational program that combined students learning the principles of law and applying what they learned to court experiences. Due to the new educational approach the Albany Law School was able to succeed. [4] 

When the Law School first opened its doors in December 1851, 23 student enrolled on the 16-week term. After just one year of operation, enrollment increased to 32 students and two 12-week terms were added to the school year. By 1860’s a decade later the school had a stable class of 146 students and three 12-week terms.[2] Although the enrollment into the Albany Law School steadily increased, minorities and women were excluded. The typical Albany law student was young white males who came from generations of men already in the law field. However, by late 19th century the enrollment demographics of the school began changing as more immigrants migrated to America. In 1877, Myer Nussbaum the first Jew to attend, later became a prominent Albany Judge. Also in the 1870’s, James Campbell Matthews the first African-American to attend decided to fight for the legal rights of black teachers after he graduated. However, it would be 1954 before another African-American, Peter Pryor attended Albany Law School to later become a part of Albany Law’s board of trustees.[1] Unfortunately, if minority male students struggled to enroll, women would face an even greater struggle. The lack of women attending the Law School was due to the social ideas and inequality women faced. In 1898, Katherine G. Stoneman a suffragist and a teacher would be the first women to attend. [3]

Today, Albany Law School has over 400 students and is largely diverse. The Law School also has many distinguished alumnus who achieved great things within the legal system. For example, William McKinley our 25th U.S.A President, David Brewer and Robert H. Jackson both U.S Supreme Court justices. [4]

Cite this Page:

S. Porter, “Albany Law School ,” Albany Walks for Health, accessed July 19, 2019, http://www.albanywalksforhealth.com/items/show/88.

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