Boalt Hall Turns 100

While Celebrating Its Past, Its Leaders Are Building for the Future

by Gretchen Kell

Boalt Hall, Berkeley's law school, is celebrating its 100th birthday this year and reflecting on a century of newsworthy "firsts" that have made the school a leader in legal education, scholarship, and public service.

These firsts range from cutting-edge curriculum to distinguished and noteworthy graduates and faculty members to programs and activities that other law schools have adopted nationwide.

"Throughout its history, Boalt has thrived on experimentation and intellectual innovation," said Dean Herma Hill Kay. "The firsts illustrate that originality."

A sampling of Boalt firsts:

o The first woman law professor at a major American law school. Barbara Nachtrieb Armstrong, who graduated from Boalt in 1915, joined the faculty in 1919.

o The first Asian-American law professor at a major American law school. Sho Sato, a Japanese-American, joined the faculty in 1955.

o The first environmental law journal in the country, the Ecology Law Quarterly, was established in 1971. In 1990, the journal made the United Nations Environment Programme's Global 500 Roll of Honour for Environmental Achievement. No other law journal has received this award, considered the most prestigious in the international environmental field.

o The first woman appointed chief justice of the California Supreme Court. Rose Bird graduated in 1965 and was appointed to the court in 1977.

o The first comic strip character to enroll in and graduate from an American law school. Joanie Caucus, created by Gary Trudeau for "Doones-bury," first appeared in the strip in 1974. A late-blooming feminist, Caucus "attended" Boalt after leaving her husband and children for a new life. She graduated--with a seat set aside for her at the ceremony and Trudeau as commencement speaker--in 1977.

o The first and still the only undergraduate Legal Studies Program that is under the academic supervision of and taught by law school faculty. The program began in 1978.

o The first student-alumni-faculty public-interest law foundation in the country. The Berkeley Law Foundation was founded in 1976 by Boalt students who agreed to pledge a portion of their income to the foundation to help entry-level lawyers and Boalt students find work in public-interest law. The foundation became a nationwide model that created hundreds of summer and entry- level public-interest jobs and launched public-interest law offices throughout the country.

o The first and only interdisciplinary studies doctoral program at an American university. The Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program began in 1977 and has awarded 33 doctoral degrees to date.

o Diversity Day, the first annual observance of its kind in the country in which law students demonstrate their commitment--through speaker programs, workshops, strikes or teach-ins--to increased diversity among students and faculty. It was started as Diversity Day by Boalt students in 1986; today, hundreds of students throughout the US mark National Diversity Day at their law schools.

o The first and still the only Asian-American director of admissions at an American law school. Edward Tom was hired in 1987.

o One of the nation's first Asian law journals. Both Berkeley and UCLA produced ground-breaking Asian law journals in 1993. Each is dedicated to legal issues affecting Asians worldwide.

Boalt Hall 100 years ago was a Department of Jurisprudence with one room, one small office, and one professor. It had emerged from a Roman Law course, first offered in 1881.

In 1906, Elizabeth Joyce Boalt donated a parcel of land to the Department of Jurisprudence in memory of her husband, John Henry Boalt, an attorney and Berkeley resident. Additional funds solicited by and from California lawyers helped open the Boalt Memorial Hall of Law on Jan. 17, 1911. Berkeley's law school has since been known informally as Boalt Hall, although it now is housed in a larger building on the southeast corner of campus. The first Boalt Hall building, now known as Durant Hall, was the scene of reunion activities earlier this month as members of classes from the '30s and '40s mingled with more recent graduates and reminisced about their student days. The current building was completed in 1951.

Considered one of the nation's top law schools since the 1930s, Boalt has a long list of distinguished alumni. It includes former Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court Earl Warren; Roger Traynor and Rose Bird, both former chief justices of the California Supreme Court; former California Supreme Court Justices Allen Broussard, Cruz Reynoso, Frank Newman, and Raymond Peters; newly appointed California Supreme Court Justice Kay Werdegar; and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito, who currently is presiding over the O.J. Simpson trial.

Today, Boalt is looking to the future as well as the past. Kay said the greatest challenge "is to secure a private endowment that will protect the school against the vagaries of state funding. Great law schools need financial stability in order to concentrate on training excellent lawyers and nurturing path-breaking scholarship."

"We have to be aggressive in recruiting faculty from other schools as well as looking at lateral candidates," said Kay. "I want us targeting the best tenured scholars in the country and bringing them to Berkeley."

To help Boalt survive its financial crisis, Kay has placed an emphasis on private giving and developed a strategy for fund raising now and in the years ahead. A Faculty Retention Fund has been set up to help keep professors at Boalt if they are offered more lucrative jobs elsewhere.

Next summer, Kay said construction is scheduled to begin on a major $13.2 million renovation of the law school building. The money was raised by Boalt alumni who responded to a capital campaign created by former Dean Jesse Choper.

Additional space for the redesigned law school complex will come from adjacent Manvillle Hall, once a dormitory. A new dormitory for law students, which also will be named Manville Hall, will be built on the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Channing Way.

An Emphasis on Public Service

Law study at Berkeley was conceived in an environment of public service.

The academic study of law began on the Berkeley campus in 1881 with the course in Roman Law offered in the Department of History and Political Science. By 1894, the single course offering had been supplemented by six additional courses, and it was recommended by the Regents that the law-related courses be grouped into a separate Department of Jurisprudence embracing Constitutional Law of the United States, International Law, Roman Law, and Jurisprudence.

At the dedication in 1911 of the new law building, President Benjamin Ide Wheeler affirmed the principle that the school "shall be dedicated to those whose lives shall be devoted to the giving of equal chances to all."

The rise in popularity at the beginning of this century of the Progressive Movement in California gave considerable impetus to the furtherance of professional legal studies at Berkeley. With emphasis upon public service, traditional middle-class American values, and an informed approach to government, the Progressives saw the University's law program as a natural ally in furthering their cause.

It was in 1912 that the law program was officially designated the School of Jurisprudence.

Within an environment that was committed to the concept of law as a vehicle of social change, the post-World War I movement called Legal Realism found a positive reception at Boalt Hall. One of its most eloquent spokesmen was Boalt Professor Max Radin, who stressed the training of lawyers so that they "have the kind of general teaching that enables them to speak the language and understand the ideas of those who guide...the community."

The Depression had a significant effect upon the law school at Berkeley. As in the Progressive era, law professors responded to the call to provide expertise in solving the massive problems. Dean O.K. McMurray noted in 1931 that Boalt was confronted with a threefold task.

First, it must train for the practice of the profession, including judges and officials; second, it must advance research in the law and its allied cultures; third, it must contribute directly to enterprises making for social betterment.

It can be seen by examining the career choices of early Boalt Hall students that, while law practice was the choice of the overwhelming number of graduates, positions in the public sector were always broadly represented.

Legal opportunities in government were very limited prior to the Roosevelt Administration. After 1930, the pattern of governmental employment changed as positions at the local level became more difficult to secure and more opportunities opened up at the federal level. Among federal positions were those with crisis-related agencies, such as the National Recovery Administration and the Farm Credit Administration. At the state level, the Board of Equalization was especially open to hiring Boalt graduates.

A 1966 study reported by the American Bar Foundation revealed that of the 3,000 Berkeley law graduates responding, 18.3 percent were employed in the public sector. This percentage was significantly higher than the 11.4 percent for Stanford and 9.2 percent for Harvard.

Because of space limits, this article by Sandra P. Epstein has been greatly condensed from her original that appeared in the spring 1993 Boalt Hall Transcript.


1881 First law course taught on the Berkeley campus.

1894 Department of Jurisprudence established.

1906 First woman graduate in law (Emmy Marcuse).

1912 The Department of Jurisprudence gains autonomous status and is renamed the School of Jurisprudence; California Law Review is founded.

1926 First African-American enters the law school (George Marion Johnson).

1928 The JSD (Juris Scientiae Doctor) degree first offered.

1950 The school is renamed the "School of Law."

1961 The Center for the Study of Law and Society is founded.

1971 The Ecology Law Quarterly first publishes.

1976 The Berkeley Law Foundation is established.

1978 The Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program formed.

1983 The International Tax and Business Lawyer and La Raza Law Journal begin publishing.

1984 The Berkeley Women's Law Journal is established.

1986 The High Technology Law Journal begins publishing.

1988 The Berkeley Community Law Center is founded.

1991 The Asian Law Journal is founded.

1992 The African-American Law and Policy Report is founded.

1994 The Environmental Law Community Clinic is established.

An Emphasis on Public Service

An Emphasis on Public Service


Copyright 1994, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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