Skip To Main Content
Skip To Main Content

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 1895-96, the course requirements had been extended to three years and culminated in the bachelor of law (LL.B.). 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 LL.B. to the juris doctor (J.D.) in 1967. Beginning in 2006-07, 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 who 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 was lost briefly during World War II when enrollment fell to a single student. ABA approval was regained in 1948 and continues today. The law college became a member of the Association of American Law Schools in 1965, and membership continues today. In 1973, the college was renamed the Claude W. Pettit College of Law in honor of the service to the college by Dean Pettit.  

Our Mission

ONU Law's mission is to educate and transform students into competent, ethical and 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 also 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.

A Values-Based Legal Education

Influenced by a unique history and an enduring affiliation with the United Methodist Church, Ohio Northern University’s mission is to provide a high-quality learning environment that prepares students for success in their careers; service to their communities, the nation and the world; and a lifetime of personal growth inspired by the higher values of truth, beauty and goodness. Since 1899, the University has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church and intentionally embraced church-related values. From these beginnings, Ohio Northern University has developed a focus on teaching, learning, scholarship, professional practice and a campus environment that’s centered on students, service and values. We celebrate the University’s historic and continuing relationship  with the United Methodist Church and welcome persons of all faiths by providing a supportive environment for their moral and spiritual growth.

The University has a full-time chaplain on staff, and the Chapel is central to campus life. The University has long observed a chapel hour each week in which we refrain from scheduling classes or meetings so that members of the community can attend the weekly chapel service or engage their own spiritual practice. The University also offers various opportunities for students, staff and faculty to serve the local, national and international communities, including supporting the United Methodist Committee on Relief's disaster-response initiatives. In addition, the College of Law's Corporate Transactional Clinic provides legal assistance to the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church (comprising roughly 1,300 churches). The students assist in a variety of issues, including real estate transfers and incorporations. The College of Law is also home to a thriving chapter of the Christian Legal Society.