A History of the Law School

Law students in classroom in 1966


Lewis & Clark Law School has its earliest roots in the University of Oregon’s original law department, founded in 1884. Thirty-one years later, Dean Calvin U. Gantenbein—declining to relocate the program from downtown Portland to Eugene—led the faculty, administration, and students of the department to form the independent Northwestern College of Law. The 2015-16 academic year marked the centennial of that pivotal event.

After a half century of dedicated leadership by the Gantenbein family, the Northwestern College of Law merged with Lewis & Clark College in 1965 and took on its current official name: the Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College. Soon after, the law school moved to its present campus, adjacent to Tryon Creek State Park and a short walk from Lewis & Clark’s Undergraduate Campus.

Once exclusively a night program, the law school began expanding its offerings in 1970 to include an extensive range of daytime classes. During the subsequent decade, Lewis & Clark Law School, always a highly respected regional institution, rose to a position of prominence and was recognized for its distinguished legal education, research, and service.

Read more about the law school’s storied past:

Cover of The Nor'wester 1923 “The Northwestern College of Law” by James W. Gantenbein ’22




Lewis & Clark Law School: Northwestern School of Law, 1884-1973
by John Clinton Geil




Cover of Crystalling the Legacy: Stories and Reflections on the Accreditation Era of a Law School 1965-1974, by Ronald B. Lansing, profes... Crystalling the Legacy: Stories and Reflections on the Accreditation Era of a Law School 1965-1974 by Ronald B. Lansing

Excerpt printed in the fall 2011 issue of Advocate Magazine



Dean Calvin U. Gantebein was Dean and Proprietor of the law school from 1915-1919 List of the law school deans, important award recipients, and honor society members throughout the years.