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History & Mission

Our History

The Claude W. Pettit College of Law began in 1885 as a department of law in the university’s liberal arts college.  It offered a basic two year program, with J. Ross Lee as the department head and sole faculty member.  By 1895-1896, the course requirements had been extended to three years and culminated in the LL.B. degree.  The law department became a separate college in 1902.  By 1927, two years of undergraduate work were required for admission to the law college.  The requirement was extended to three years in 1952 and to a baccalaureate degree in 1960.  The degree granted by the law college was changed from the bachelor of law (LL.B.) to the juris doctor (J.D.) in 1967.  Beginning in 2006-2007, the law college also began offering a program of study for foreign lawyers leading to an LL.M. in Democratic Governance and the Rule of Law.  A small number of J.D. students that enroll in the concurrent J.D./LL.M. program may also receive the LL.M. in Democratic Governance and the Rule of Law upon graduation.   

Initial approval from the American Bar Association was received by the law college in 1939, but lost briefly during World War II when enrollment fell to a single student.  ABA approval was regained in 1948 and continues through the present.  The law college became a member of the Association of American Law Schools in 1965, and membership continues through the present.  In 1973, the college was renamed the Claude W. Pettit College of Law in honor of the service to the College by Dean Pettit.  David C. Crago became the college’s twenty-first dean in 2001 and served in that capacity until 2012.  Stephen C. Veltri served as interim dean for the 2012-13 academic year while the law school conducted a dean search.  Richard Bales was hired to be the new dean of the Law College and he began serving in that capacity during the summer of 2013. 

Our Mission

ONU Law's mission is to educate and transform students into competent, ethical, professional legal practitioners able to apply their skills and talents in traditional and emerging environments.  We work diligently to maintain an educational program that prepares students for admission to the bar and effective and responsible participation in the legal profession.  Our objectives are to provide students with a foundation in legal reasoning, analysis, and writing; to give them a thorough understanding of the structures and policies of the law; to help them acquire a broad and general understanding of how the law and legal institutions evolve and operate; and to make them aware of the limits of the law and how lawyers can contribute beyond the boundaries of the profession.

The educational program is designed not only to address current and anticipated legal problems, but to provide students with a substantial opportunity to regularly interact with faculty, to enhance and expand their exposure to professional skills, and to examine a topic of personal interest within a critical, yet collegial environment.  The program offers a traditional, comprehensive curriculum consistent with producing ethical, competent, and responsible professionals.