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Demonstrating Leadership Since 1888

History of IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law

IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, the law school of Illinois Institute of Technology, is nationally recognized for the scholarship and accomplishments of its faculty and student body. The second oldest law school in the state of Illinois, Chicago-Kent has a history marked by innovation and excellence. Chicago-Kent has always emphasized professional responsibility in the broadest sense, encompassing intellectual discipline, careful analysis, comprehensive research, and sensitivity to the needs of clients and the context in which the law operates.

Recognizing that equal justice before the law could only be attained through equal access to legal education, Judge Thomas Moran and Judge Joseph Bailey founded the Chicago Evening Law Classes to offer evening instruction to working men and women. Originally held in the judges' chambers, the classes quickly moved to a more formal setting. A year later, in 1888, Chicago College of Law was incorporated. The first minority student and the first woman student were graduated in 1895.

During this same period, Marshall D. Ewell, former dean of Northwestern University Law School, returned to academia to found Kent College of Law, named after Chancellor James Kent, author of Commentaries on American Law, a classic in early American legal scholarship. Ewell's pioneering treatment of jurisprudence as an academic discipline paved the way for the future of legal education.

Within 10 years, Chicago College of Law and Kent College of Law merged to form Chicago-Kent College of Law. Chicago-Kent established a full-time day division, which gained accreditation by the American Bar Association in 1936 and membership in the Association of American Law Schools in 1951. Within its first twenty-five years, Chicago-Kent had already established itself as one of the most innovative law schools.

The merger of Chicago-Kent with Illinois Institute of Technology in 1969 gave recognition to the need for a partnership between legal education and science and technology to prepare students properly to face the challenges of a complex society. Since the merger, the law school's reputation for developing creative approaches to the traditional tasks of legal education has increased dramatically in scope and depth. In 1989, Chicago-Kent was unanimously elected to membership in the Order of the Coif, the national legal honor society.

In January 1992, Chicago-Kent moved into a new ten-story, state-of-the-art building located at 565 West Adams Street in downtown Chicago. The building is equipped with the latest technology and includes a five-story library, a complete courtroom that seats one hundred people, and significant additional space for classroom and student activities.

Chicago-Kent's growth has been spurred by a number of factors: an innovative and dedicated faculty, constantly upgraded facilities, and an outstanding student body. Chicago-Kent's law library, one of the largest among law schools in the nation, provides resources that enhance the educational process. Chicago-Kent is nationally recognized for offering the most comprehensive research and writing program of any law school in the country. In addition, its extensive clinical and trial advocacy programs help to sharpen students' practice skills. The Law Offices of Chicago-Kent, which supervises the clinical program, is the first fee-generating law firm to operate as part of an American law school. The Programs in Business Law, Criminal LitigationEnvironmental and Energy Law, International and Comparative Law, Intellectual Property Law, Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution, Labor and Employment Law, Public Interest Law, and the Center for Law and Computers underscore Chicago-Kent's commitment to curricular innovation to better prepare lawyers for the demands of practice in a complex society.

All of these programs contribute to the essential task of the law school, which is to teach its students to think like lawyers. Faculty members continually pursue this fundamental goal, whether by exploring the theoretical justification for a rule of law in traditional Socratic fashion or by helping a student fashion a complaint on behalf of a client in the Law Offices of Chicago-Kent. The faculty distinguishes itself in legal scholarship in areas ranging from international business to environmental law.

From the initial gathering of law students in judges' chambers, Chicago-Kent has grown to a current enrollment of over 1,000 students, a large full-time faculty and an adjunct faculty made up of practicing attorneys and members of the judiciary.

Chicago-Kent College of Law is accredited by the American Bar Association (1936) and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools (1951) and the Order of the Coif (1989).