Louisiana legal education has combined the finest of the French and Spanish civilian legal traditions with the breadth of the Anglo-American common law — the result is a unique bijural legal heritage that fuses the best of both worlds. This bijural education permeates the entire LSU Law Center curriculum, and at our educational core is the knowledge that learning both legal systems ensures access to national and international markets, an idea particularly pertinent in the current era of globalization.
The LSU Law School opened September 24, 1906 with 26 full-time law students and one faculty member, Joseph Kelly, who also served as dean. Classes were held in Hill Memorial Library on the old downtown campus of LSU, which was at the present site of the state capitol grounds. In 1925, the law school followed the University to the present campus and was housed in Thomas Boyd Hall before moving to its current site on Highland Road. Leon Weiss designed the building in the style of the U.S. Supreme Court and, in late 1937, Dean Paul M. Hebert and his students moved in.
The war years saw a shortage of both students and faculty, but were followed by an enrollment surge as veterans returned to school. As things settled back to normal, the school returned to its average of 50 graduates per year. This was also the era of the lions of LSU Law, the “big names in modern Louisiana jurisprudence.” During this time, the school also brought in a number of distinguished visiting civil law scholars, such as comparative law expert and German refugee Max Rheinstein.
The 1960s were a period of renewed growth for the school, both academically and physically. A number of exceptionally qualified new hires further boosted the school’s academic and scholarly reputation. The Institute of Advanced Civil Law Studies (now the Center of Civil Law Studies) commenced operations in 1965 with the objectives of establishing relations with other civil law countries and promoting the study of civil law and comparative law — with this growth came the need for more space. In 1969, the LSU Law School expanded into a new building added to the back of the original 1936 building.
The 1970s brought a major change when the school became an autonomous campus within the University system and the position of dean became one of full chancellor. The school also realized the expanded concept of a Law Center, locating on its campus the Juris Doctor/Bachelor of Civil Law and post-Juris Doctor programs, foreign and graduate programs, the Center of Civil Law Studies, the Louisiana Law Institute, Mineral Law Institute, and the Louisiana Judicial College.
The 1980s and 1990s presented somewhat bleaker times as a result of the oil bust and troubled public finances. In spite of those troubles, the introduction of skills courses, a modernization of the curriculum to include more diverse practice areas, and greater attention to the relationship of Louisiana’s legal systems to those of other civilian jurisdictions, allowed the Law Center to continue its tradition of academic growth.
In 2002, the Law Center became the sole U.S. law school, and one of only two in the Western Hemisphere, to concurrently award both the Juris Doctor and the Bachelor of Civil Law, recognizing the education that LSU students receive in both the civil law and common law traditions.
October 2003 marked the completion of major renovations to the Law Center campus, which resulted in an expanded, thoroughly modern complex that includes state-of-the-art technology and a Law Library that holds one of the richest comparative law collections in the nation.
September 24, 2006, marked the Centennial anniversary of the Law Center.
In May of 2007, Jack M. Weiss was named Chancellor of the LSU Law Center, only the 10th person to lead the Law Center in its 100-plus year history.
Beginning in fall 2007, the Law Center began implementation of a major expansion of its clinical legal education program through the incorporation of client clinics and externships. A director of the Clinical Legal Education Program was hired.
The LSU Law faculty adopted important changes to the Law Center’s legal program during the 2009-10 academic year. These changes were designed to enhance the competitiveness of our students in an increasingly competitive national legal employment market. The changes provide considerable additional flexibility to our students in planning their studies.
In August 2012, the Louisiana Board of Regents granted formal approval of LSU Law’s Energy Law Center, the first such center in Louisiana and one of a handful operating in law schools nationwide. In October 2012, the LSU Board of Supervisors approved the naming of the Center for John P. Laborde (’49).
Throughout its long history of academic excellence reflecting Louisiana’s rich legal heritage, the LSU Law Center has maintained a strong reputation for legal education that is both demanding and rewarding.