History of the Law School


University of Miami School of Law's remarkable journey from small beginnings to one of the leading law schools in the country is one of the fascinating stories of legal education. The School of Law began with a small graduating class of fourteen students more than three-quarters of a century ago. But its ambitions have always been large, and its success has matched those ambitions.

Today Miami Law is one of the nation's leading institutions of legal education. Faculty members are leaders in their scholarly and professional fields which benefits the highly talented and diverse student body through a rich and challenging curriculum and a wide variety of professional skills training opportunities. More than 17,000 alumni practicing throughout the United States and in nearly eighty countries around the world – in all fields of practice from corporate to public interest law, in large firms, private practice, government service or as sole practitioners – can attest to the excellence of the education they received.

Miami Law’s success is enhanced by its location in Miami, the gateway to the Americas. The curriculum is enriched by contributions from attorneys engaged in the kind of sophisticated legal practice that a major urban area demands, which provides exciting opportunities for active faculty and student engagement through pro bono activities and clinical placements within the local community. Immigration, business ethics, race relations, and economic development in a global economy are among the contemporary issues UM's faculty works with students to resolve.

In addition, Miami's unique racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity offers additional advantages not available in other areas. The metropolitan area embodies the kind of pluralistic environment likely to characterize much of the U.S. in the coming years. Its local economy and social life are firmly tied to international trade, immigration, and tourism, blurring the line between the local and the international in a manner emblematic of the globalized world. Miami's globalization has a distinct North-South delineation, but its commerce – like that of Latin America and the Caribbean – is linked to the economies of Canada, Europe, and Asia as well.

With an array of social and educational advantages, University of Miami School of Law affords an incomparable setting for students to prepare for professional practice.

 The First Quarter-Century

In 1926, the University of Miami began offering law as a "first professional course." This course of study was a three-year curriculum leading to the degree of bachelor of laws. Two years later, in 1928, the School of Law officially opened its doors as a professional school in the Anastasia Building in Coral Gables. Richmond Rasco, a former dean and professor at Stetson University, was appointed as the first dean and served from 1928 to 1931. The initial library collection had 3,500 books. The Law School's first class of fourteen students graduated in 1929.

Less than a quarter century after its establishment, UM had evolved into a major law school. As Arthur Kent (JD'49) observed in a 1948 issue of The University of Miami Lawyer, "two things that a thoughtful student quickly senses in the School are thoroughness and a refreshing vitality. The School is alive." Attendance surpassed 1,000 students for the first time in 1949, making it the second largest in the South, ranking only behind the University of Texas. The Law School moved to newer quarters in Coral Gables to accommodate the growing faculty and student body. The School's growth was fueled in part by the establishment of an evening division in 1948, which continued to accept entering evening students until 2002. This increase in size made a richer curriculum and a more vital student life possible. It was achieved without sacrificing the intimacy of a smaller community. The school "keep[s] contact between faculty and student body," Kent noted. "Personalities are not lost."

 The Mid-Century to 1973

The mid-century saw the beginning of the School's expansion into post-JD education. The School began offering an LL.M. in Taxation in 1952. Today the program is universally recognized as one of the best in nation. The program's founder was Professor Richard A. Hausler (1949-2000), one of UM's legendary faculty members. A charismatic presence in the classroom, Professor Hausler put students through the paces for fifty-two years as a faculty member with his rigorous Socratic method and utter command of the subjects he taught. Today the tax program is directed by Professor Frances Hill and chaired by Professor Elliott Manning.

Professor Hill is a leading national expert in the taxation of exempt organizations and campaign finance, and specializes in taxation and tax-related fields, including bankruptcy and commercial law. Professor Manning is one of the nation's foremost authorities in the taxation of business entities, and writes and teaches in a variety of related areas including comparative corporate governance and corporate finance.

Like all faculty LL.M. directors, Professors Hill and Manning teach JD courses as well. UM's strength in tax is complemented by a strong business and tax faculty that includes Professors William Blatt (tax), Caroline Bradley (corporate law and international finance), Kenneth Casebeer (labor and employment law), Ben Depoorter (law and economics), Marc Fajer (antitrust), Patrick Gudridge (Business Associations, Agency), Stephen Halpert (securities, bankruptcy, transactions, insurance), Stanley Langbein (tax, banking, commercial law), Lili Levi (corporate law), George Mundstock (tax, corporate finance, accounting for lawyers), Thomas Robinson (tax, commercial law), Robert Rosen (corporate law, law and accounting, sociology of business and law), and William Widen (commercial law, transactions).

UM took another crucial step at mid-century. At Homecoming in 1949, the School announced a fund-raising campaign and decided on a site for a law school building on the main Coral Gables campus of the University. In a real effort of collaboration and unity, students pledged to donate twenty hours as laborers on construction of the building. The following year, in 1950, the Law School made an interim move to the Coral Gables campus, settling in the Merrick building until completion of the new law school complex.

The campaign was an outstanding success. Baron de Hirsch Meyer, a prominent Miami Beach attorney, financier and philanthropist, provided funds in 1956 for a complex of four new buildings, providing the School of Law with its first permanent home. In 1965, and again in 1973, the continued generosity of Mr. de Hirsch Meyer allowed the school to enlarge the library and add a new four-story wing.

In the late 1950s, the Law School established two more graduate programs. The graduate program in Inter-American Law was established in 1957; the Masters of Comparative Law (now an LL.M.) was first offered in 1959. The two programs were founded by Professor Rafael C. Benitez (1918 -1999), a renowned expert in international law. Professor Benitez also established the University of Miami Inter-American Law Review (then known as the Lawyer of the Americas). Today both programs are directed by Professor Keith Rosenn, one of the nation's foremost authorities on Latin American law and comparative law. The LL.M. in Comparative Law draws foreign lawyers from around the world; as students they not only gain exposure to the American legal system, but also enrich the classes they take alongside our JD students.

From 1961-1962, the School of Law was blessed, albeit briefly due to his passing, with the deanship of Wesley A. Sturges. Dean Sturges brought with him the experience, drive and vision which he formed while dean at Yale (1945-1954). Dean Sturges focused particularly on expanding and restructuring the curriculum. In an epitaph for Dean Sturges, William O. Douglas – then Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court – observed that he had "fought the entrenchment of mediocrity so strenuously that he in time tired of being Dean at Yale. Yet at Miami, he returned to the task; and in the last talk I had with him (in the Spring of 1962) he fairly bubbled with excitement over the large design of what he thought would in time be America's finest law school." (University of Miami Law Review, Vol. 18, Fall, 1963, "In the Classroom and the World, a Reach of Far Horizons").

Dean Sturges was followed by another example of excellent leadership in M. Minnette Massey, JD '51, who served as Acting Dean from 1962-1965. One of a handful of women serving as law professors anywhere in the country when she joined UM in 1951, Dean Massey taught a variety of courses, and has been a long-standing advocate for and a significant influence on generations of law students. Her published works are extensive, including thirty-six chapters of the Florida Keystone Lawyer's Desk Library of Practice (1990; 2002 supplement). Professor Massey's committee activities within the School of Law, the University, and the Florida Bar demonstrate her commitment to effect change. An expert in civil procedure, Professor Massey retired in 2008 after 57 years of teaching at the School of Law.

In 1962, the School instituted a new graduate program, the LL.M. in International Law, reflecting its further development in the field of international law. Its current director is Professor Caroline Bradley, who taught law at the London School of Economics before joining UM in 1992. She is an expert in British and European financial law, American business law, and global legal systems. Its former director, Professor Alan Swan (1934 - 2008), was the nation's foremost authority on international trade, and the author of the definitive casebook in the area. The School's international and transnational offerings cover not only on the basic subjects of international and comparative law, but a wide range of specialized topics as well – from international criminal law (Professor Mary Coombs) to European food regulation (Professor Stephen Diamond) to regulation of the Internet (Professor Michael Froomkin).

In 1965, the late Professor Philip E. Heckerling founded the School's Estate Planning Institute, which was later renamed in his honor. Designed for sophisticated attorneys, trust officers, accountants, insurance professionals and financial planners, the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning is the nation's leading continuing legal education program, attracting more than 2,000 professionals annually. It complements the School's LL.M. program in Estate Planning, also founded by Professor Heckerling in 1974. Professor John Gaubatz (1942 - 2007), who was an expert in trusts and estates, employee benefits and pension law, and moot courts, later directed both programs. Both programs are currently directed by Tina Portuondo, an expert in the field of estate planning.

In 1970, the Ocean & Coastal LL.M. was founded by the late Professor Emeritus Thomas A. Clingan and former Professor Dennis J. O'Connor. Professor Clingan was one of the world's experts on the law of the sea. Today, the program is directed by Professor Bernard H. Oxman, a leading expert on the law of the sea, who is the Richard A. Hausler Professor of Law at the Law School and co-editor-in-chief of the prestigious American Journal of International Law along with Professor Lori Fisler Damrosch of Columbia Law School. Professor Hugo Caminos, Senior Lecturer in International Law and a judge on the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (located in Hamburg, Germany), regularly teaches at the Law School as well.

Also in 1970, through the benevolence of Reba Engler Daner, JD '36, the School was able to build a moot courtroom as well as a new jury room. The Clinical Law Program was established the same year following a Florida Supreme Court ruling that allowed law student interns – under the supervision of sponsoring attorneys and officials – to appear in court representing indigent persons.

Professors Walter T. Beckham and Gerald T. Wetherington co-directed the Program, which was later headed by the late Professor Thomas Ewald. Under the directorship of Professor Laurence Rose, the Litigation Skills Training Program, won recognition nationally and internationally. Professor Rose stepped down from the role of program director in 2008, and currently serves as executive director of education at the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA).

The Law School offers a wealth of other skills training opportunities, through courses in alternative dispute resolution (Professor Richard Williamson); transactional skills (Professor Stephen Halpert); new directions in lawyering (Professor Bruce Winick); the Ethics Center; the Law School's clinics, which include the Children & Youth Law Clinic, the Community Economic Development and Design Clinic, and the Health and Elder Law Clinic; the Bankruptcy Assistance Clinic; and an extensive array of externships, supervised by Professors Sarah Mourer and Jennifer Zawid.


By 1973 the work of a number of distinguished deans and faculty had produced a growing national reputation for the Law School as an institution committed to the highest quality in professional training and scholarship. The Law School's reputation made it possible to attract Soia Mentschikoff (1915 – 1984) as Dean in 1974. The first woman to teach at Harvard Law School (even before women were admitted as students) and at the University of Chicago Law School, and the first woman to serve as president of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS), Dean Mentschikoff was the intellectual co-founder of the Uniform Commercial Code, and in 1999 was named one of the Lawyers of the Century by American Lawyer. Several years before becoming Dean she had regularly joined the faculty at Miami as a visitor from the University of Chicago, recruited by then-Dean Fred Lewis.

Dean Mentschikoff, who served as Dean of the Law School from 1974 to 1982, was a formidable, almost legendary leader. Nearly all of the current senior faculty members were recruited by her, and over half of the physical facilities of the Law School were built during her deanship. During her time as dean, the size of the student body and the faculty experienced another significant increase. Dean Mentschikoff was a powerhouse in the legal profession, and the faculty she recruited to the Law School enhanced its already considerable quality. Distinctive elements of the first-year curriculum today, including Elements and Legal Research and Writing, were introduced or restructured during her deanship. Building on this structure, the faculty later added an elective to the first-year curriculum in 1991. The electives typically included a range of specialized offerings developed specifically for first-year students.

In 1980, the late Professor Ralph Boyer, who taught at Miami Law from 1952 to 1985, established the LL.M. in Real Property, which provides an advanced education in planning, structuring, and financing real estate projects and counseling real estate professionals. Today the program is directed by Douglas Bischoff, an experienced real estate attorney who regularly brings his expertise to the JD program as well. Until 2006, Charles Haar, the Louis D. Brandeis Professor Emeritus at Harvard Law School, and for many years a Visiting Professor at UM, served as advisor to the program.

Dean Mentschikoff's successor, Claude Sowle, was a renowned educator and the former president of the University of Ohio. In four years as Dean, from 1982 to 1986, he consolidated UM's commitment to a first-rate faculty and student body, and strengthened the School's commitment to diversity in its faculty and student body as an essential ingredient in serving UM's educational, scholarly, and community service missions.

In 1988, UM furthered its commitment to diversity in legal education with the establishment of the James Weldon Johnson Summer Institute. A training program for selected entering students, the Institute combines a rigorous introduction to the study of law with meetings with lawyers and judges. The Institute was founded by the late Professor Robert Waters (1927-2002). The first African-American member of the faculty, Professor Waters was an expert in civil rights law, economic regulation of sports, and Florida constitutional law, as well as a mentor to countless minority students. The Institute, which was renamed the James Weldon Johnson/Robert H. Waters Summer Institute in his memory, continues to this day under the leadership of Professors Irwin Stotzky, assisted by Professor D. Marvin Jones.

November 1988 marked another significant phase in UM's history. Under the leadership of Professor Mary Doyle, who served as Dean from 1986 to 1994 and again as Interim Dean from 1998 to 1999, the School launched a $10 million building campaign with generous leadership gifts from alumni Reba Engler Danner and Alex E. Carlson, trustee of the Claude M. Olds estate. The groundbreaking for a Law Library addition took place in February 1993, with plans including a major renovation of the student lounge and café, a new Career Development Office , refurbished classrooms, and a new courtyard. In March 1996, the newly expanded and renovated Library was dedicated, nearly doubling its size to approximately 78,000 square feet. Under the direction of Professor and Law Librarian Sally Wise, the Library offers students a comprehensive collection in an attractive environment.

The benefits to students of the expansion of the Law Library were increased by the School's decision in 1998 to reduce the size of the student body under the leadership of Dean Samuel Thompson, a national expert in taxation and the School's first African-American to serve as a dean from 1994 to 1998. Today, the student body is about fifteen percent smaller than it was throughout most of the 1990s, yet this was done without sacrificing any of the advantages of a larger law school, including a rich and varied curriculum and diverse student body. For example, upper-level students taking a basic course like Evidence can often select from four faculty members teaching in the area – Professors Terence Anderson, Ricardo Bascuas, Donna Coker, and Michael Graham – as well as specialized courses such as the seminar on scientific evidence offered by Susan Haack, Professor of Philosophy and Law.

At the beginning of the 1990s, UM created the first of a number of foreign programs that provide rich opportunities for its students. In 1991, the Law School established the London Summer Program, which is offered at Bentham House at University College London. A second summer abroad program, the Tour de España, followed in 1998.

The summer programs have since expanded to include two segments which include the option to choose LEAP (London/ English Countryside/Paris/Amsterdam), Tour de España (Fuengirola Costa del Sol)/Granada/Seville/Lisbon/Madrid), or Greece & Italy (Athens/4-day Aegean & Turkey Cruise/Corfu/Rome) for the first session and London, Barcelona or Italy and Greece (Rome/Corfu/Athens/4-day Aegean & Turkey Cruise) for the second session. There is a break and an Italy optional trip scheduled between the two sessions.

These programs are directed by Professor Michael Graham, one of the nation's foremost experts in evidence and litigation, including comparative trial litigation. Since 2001, the Law School has conducted an annual bi-national seminar with the University of Leipzig in which law students from the two universities collaborate on topical issues of international and European law under the guidance of UM Professors Richard Williamson and David Abraham, along with Professor Rudolf Geiger of Leipzig. UM also regularly offers a number of comparative and international courses in Spanish.

The 1990s also saw the emergence of UM's preeminence in interdisciplinary work with a focus on law and public policy. Today the Law School has one of the strongest faculties in the country in terms of research, both legal and interdisciplinary, on how law and legal doctrine relate to contemporary social issues including immigration, poverty, domestic violence, crime, labor, democracy and constitutionalism, and the Internet. Because regional and international regimes governing trade, the environment, labor, and human rights increasingly exert a major influence on such domestic legal issues, this strength makes UM an incomparably rich setting for the study of globalization and its local, national, and international effects.

In 1996, the School celebrated the establishment of its first endowed chair in honor of Professor Hausler. John Hart Ely, then the Robert E. Paradise Professor at Stanford Law School, and a former Dean of Stanford and member of the faculties at Harvard and Yale Law Schools, joined the Law School as the first holder of the Richard A. Hausler Endowed Chair. Professor Ely, a nationally renowned constitutional law theorist and the fourth most-cited legal scholar ever, passed away in 2003 at the age of 64. In 2007, Professor Bernard Oxman was named holder of the Chair and is now the Richard A. Hausler Professor of Law.

The School's first in-house law clinic, the Children and Youth Law Clinic, began operation in January 1996. The clinic, headed by Professors Bernard Perlmutter and Kele Williams, was made possible in large part by a grant from the prestigious Echoing Green Foundation; its work continues today with the generous support of the Florida Bar Foundation. Also in 1996, the Center for Ethics and Public Service was established under the direction of Professor Anthony Alfieri. He and the Center are winners of numerous awards, including the American Bar Association's 1998 E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award; the Florida Supreme Court's 1999 Faculty Professionalism Award; the Florida Bar's 1999-2000 Professionalism Award; the 2007 William Pincus Award, given by the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education; and the 2007 Father Drinan Award, given by the AALS Section on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities.

In the last few years the Ethics Center's clinics have grown and now also include the Community Economic Development and Design Clinic and the Health and Elder Law Clinic, directed by Professor JoNel Newman. The School also houses a Bankruptcy Assistance Clinic, directed by Adjunct Professor Patricia A. Redmond (JD '79).

The late 1990s also saw the establishment of the School's Center for Hispanic and Caribbean Studies under the direction of Professors Elizabeth Iglesias and Francisco Valdes, and the Center for the Study of Human Rights under the direction of Professor Irwin Stotzky, who for the past 20 years has represented Haitian refugees on constitutional and human rights issues in many cases, including several in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Complementing the public service focus of the clinics and these centers is the Law School's HOPE Program (Helping Others Through Pro Bono Efforts) – initiated in 1998 under the direction of Marni Lennon, Assistant Dean for Public Interest and Pro Bono – and the pro bono service work of a number of faculty, including Professors Terence Anderson, Donna Coker, Martha Mahoney, Elliott Manning, Stephen Schnably, Irwin Stotzky, Richard Williamson, and many others.

In 1999, Dennis Lynch rejoined the faculty as Dean, having been a professor at Miami from 1974 to 1990. Dean Lynch is a nationally recognized expert in Latin American law and in labor law. Fluent in Spanish, he was a Fulbright Scholar in economics in Venezuela and a program officer with the Ford Foundation in Colombia. In addition, he served as a consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development on constitutional reform in Colombia, legal reform in Nicaragua and the administration of criminal justice in Central America. From 1973-1977, he held an International Legal Center Research Grant to study the Colombian legal profession.


In 2002, Professor Mary Doyle, who served during the Clinton administration as acting Assistant Secretary of Interior for Water and Science and chair of an intergovernmental panel coordinating a massive 20-year $7.3 billion Everglades restoration program, spearheaded the creation of the University's Leonard and Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy (Abess Center). The Abess Center's mission is to bridge the gap that separates science from environmental policy and law, through innovative, inter-disciplinary initiatives. Along with Professor Doyle, Professors Cynthia Drew and Richard Williamson are involved in the Abess Center, as well as faculty from other parts of the University.

In July of 2008, Dean Lynch stepped down after nine years as Dean of the University of Miami School of Law. Paul R. Verkuil, a distinguished legal scholar, academic administrator, and attorney, was appointed Acting Dean. A leading scholar of law and regulation, Dean Verkuil has authored or coauthored more than 65 articles and books, including Administrative Law and Process, the leading student treatise in the field. He is a member of the faculty of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where he served as dean from 1997 to 2001, and is also senior counsel at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP. In addition, he was appointed Special Master by the U.S. Supreme Court in the original jurisdiction case of New Jersey v. New York, which determined sovereignty to Ellis Island.

During Dean Verkuil's tenure, he re-established the School of Law's Visiting Committee under the leadership of Carlos de la Cruz, a Miami Law alumnus and a distinguished business executive. The Visiting Committee, comprised of notable alumni and friends of the law school, provides feedback regarding the Law School's strategic plan, supports the administration and faculty in its work, and encourages philanthropic support.

Great success was achieved by the Charles C. Papy, Jr. Moot Court Board during this time. In March 2009, Miami Law placed first out of 47 teams at the 17th annual Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition in New York.

There was also the creation of two endowed faculty chairs. First, the de la Cruz-Mentschikoff Endowed Chair in Law and Economics established in Soia Mentschikoff's memory, focuses on matters of business associations, planning, commercial and international transactions, securities, and antitrust.

The second established chair, the John Hart Ely Distinguished Chair, honors the late John Hart Ely, a renowned constitutional scholar whose academic work continues to have a tremendous impact on legal scholarship across the globe. The John Hart Ely Distinguished Chair will be filled by a constitutional law expert and scholar. The establishment of these two chairs brings the number of endowed faculty chairs at the law school to five, joining the Richard A. Hausler Chair, the M. Minnette Massey Chair, and the Michael Klein Distinguished Chair. These chairs enable the School to recruit renowned faculty.

The Michael Klein Distinguished Chair will be filled by Jan Paulsson, the Faculty Chair for the Specialization in International Arbitration. Professor Paulsson will head the newly-established institute for international arbitration which includes an enhanced international curriculum, LL.M. specializations, research facilities, training, and CLE courses programs.

Miami Law also welcomes five other exceptional new faculty members starting in the 2009-2010 academic year: Michele DeStefano, Sergio Campos, James W. Nickel, Kunal Parker, and Rebecca Sharpless. They join a vibrant scholarly community deeply committed to excellence in teaching, scholarship, and public service.

In the fall of 2009, Miami Law offered new programs and initiatives. The Certificate Program in Business and Finance Law enables students to focus their studies in preparation for assisting clients undertaking sophisticated business, commercial and financial transactions. Additionally, the new, Zurich-Miami short-term exchange program provides a small group of Miami students an opportunity to spend a week in Zurich with students and professors from the University of Zurich, and then similarly host visiting students from that institution for one week in Miami.

Also in the fall of 2009, the Law School opened a new Immigration Clinic for students to gain integrated practical legal experience through live client clinical offerings in the area of immigration. The Clinic will also enhance opportunities for community outreach and service, developing relationships with the local bench and bar and our alumni. The Clinic will be directed by Professor Sharpless who was a Supervising Attorney at Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, where she litigated cases on behalf of immigrants both in immigration court and before the Bureau of Immigration Appeals.

Under the leadership of Professor Bruce Winick, a pioneer and major architect of therapeutic jurisprudence, the Law School opened the Center for Therapeutic Jurisprudence in the fall of 2009. This center conducts theoretical and empirical research, publishes scholarly books, articles and reports, performs training for judges and lawyers, conducts community programs, and holds conferences, symposia, and other educational programs locally, nationally, and internationally.

Most importantly, Patricia D. White, a nationally known leader in legal education, was named Dean of the University of Miami School of Law in March of 2009. Professor White was the former dean of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. An elected fellow of the American College of Tax Counsel, Professor White is widely published and has extensive practice experience in tax law and estate planning. She has taught at the Georgetown University Law Center, the University of Michigan, and the University of Utah.

Today the Law School has a national reputation as one of the premier institutions of legal education, and increasingly draws students from around the world, particularly Europe and Latin America. UM offers an unmatched opportunity to study in a variety of fields including international and comparative law, business and taxation, environmental law, public interest and constitutional law, intellectual property, and skills training.

More than eighty years after its modest beginnings, legal education at UM is still an exciting and vital experience that combines a challenging curriculum with countless opportunities for rich practical experience.