Law at 100

How Bergin Hall transformed SCU into “a great Catholic University.”

Law at 100
Beloved Bergin Hall: The law school's home beginning in 1939. A little more than three decades later, Bannan Hall was built to provide more room.

When the School of Law at Santa Clara College opened its doors in September 1911, it was a rather modest affair: There were two lectures a day (at 2:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.), three law classes, and four part-time faculty—three of them judges. The course of study leavened theory with some good-ol’ American emphasis on practice; it was open to college graduates as well as men with at least two years of undergrad schooling, with programs extended to “gifted young men … [in] possession of a legal mind.”

However, this wasn’t the beginning of law being taught at Santa Clara. For a few years already, there had been instruction in elementary law, an area of study seen as a natural fit for a Jesuit college with an emphasis on teaching ethics. But opening the law school was a step toward transforming the college into “a great Catholic University,” as then-President James P. Morrissey, S.J., described the aspirations.

Opening the law school was a step toward transforming the college into
“a great Catholic University.”

As for that beginning: Members of the first class of law school grads included Roy A. Bronson, who co-founded a 200-lawyer San Francisco firm; Frank B. Boone, who served with the Interallied Food Commission in Paris; Christopher A. Degnan and Harry McGowan, both district attorneys; and Dion R. Holm, a San Francisco city attorney. So it’s fair to say that the law school earned early on a slogan it adopted years later, and carries today: lawyers who lead.

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