Our Story

Our Story

Since our founding in 1870, the University of Richmond School of Law has served as the premier training ground for some of the greatest lawyers in Virginia and beyond. Join us in a look back at the steps along the way.

  1. 1870

    The School of Law is founded as part of Richmond College, with an inaugural class of 30 students. Professor James Neeson, pictured at center with the Class of 1873, is one of the first faculty members at Richmond Law.

  2. 1890

    After a period of hardship, classes at the Law School continue as a result of a $25,000 donation from the family of Thomas C. Williams Sr., which established the T.C. Williams Professorship of Law. Pictured: The Class of 1890.

  3. 1893

    The law library is established in Jeter Hall with a donation of 700 books from Mrs. Harriet Purcell. Pictured here is the law library reading room in 1928.

  4. 1917

    The law school relocates to Columbia Hall on the corner of Grace Street and Lombardy Street in the Fan district of Richmond.

  5. 1920

    The law school is named in honor of Thomas C. Williams Sr.

  6. 1923

    Jane Brown Ranson is the first female graduate.

  7. 1954

    The law school joins the University on the Westhampton Campus.

  8. 1979

    The law library is named in honor of Dean William Taylor Muse.

  9. 1984

    Okianer Christian Dark was the first African American tenured faculty member.

  10. 1991

    The building is renovated and expanded to its present-day size and configuration.

  11. 1992

    Student carrels are installed in the law library, providing a dedicated study space for every student.

  12. 1994

    1L students at Richmond Law are the first in the nation to be required to use laptop computers.

  13. 1995

    The Journal of Law and Technology launches as the first exclusively digital law journal in the country.

  14. 2011

    Wendy Collins Perdue is named the first female dean of the law school.

  15. 2020

    The Law School celebrates 150 years.

Our Deans and Leaders

  • Wendy Collins Perdue

    Dean and Professor of Law, 2011–Present

    The first female dean of the law school, Dean Wendy Perdue also served as president of the Association of American Law Schools and as vice president of Order of the Coif.

  • John Douglass

    Dean, 2007–2011; Professor of Law 1996–Present

    A former United States Attorney, Dean John Douglass teaches and writes in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence, and trial advocacy.

  • Rodney A. Smolla

    Dean, 2003–2007; Allen Professor of Law 1998–2007

    A sought-after lecturer on constitutional and mass media issues and a frequent counsel before the country's highest courts, Dean Rodney Smolla has also argued before the Supreme Court of the United States.

  • John R. Pagan

    Dean, 1997–2003; Professor of Law, 2003–2019

    During Dean John Pagan’s tenure, Richmond Law created three chairs for distinguished professors and raised $5.7 million toward a $6 million fundraising goal.

  • Joseph D. Harbaugh

    Dean, 1987–1995

    Dean Joseph D. Harbaugh focused his tenure on expanding the size of the facilities and building the law school’s reputation and visibility, as well as computerization and diversification efforts.

  • Thomas Andrew Edmonds

    Dean and Professor of Law, 1977–1986

    Under Dean Thomas Edmonds’ administration, the School of Law witnessed an increase in the size of the faculty and the library staff, the creation of a placement office, and the expansion of the building.

  • William Taylor Muse

    Dean of Law School, 1947–1971; Professor of Law, 1931–1971

    Dean William Taylor Muse presided over the new law school building on the Richmond College Campus. He introduced new scholarship initiatives and seminar classes as part of the curriculum.

  • James Harmon Barnett

    Professor of Law, 1920–1968

    A law school graduate, James Harmon Barnett went on to become the secretary/administrator of the evening law school program in 1922. Even though not technically a dean, James Barnett did most of the administrative work in addition to serving as a full-time member of the faculty.

  • Malcolm Ray Doubles

    Dean of Law School, 1930–1947; Professor of Law, 1926–1947

    Dean Malcolm Ray Doubles first started out at the Richmond School of Law in Columbia Hall as a student before joining the faculty and later becoming the second full-time dean.

  • Dr. Walter Scott McNeill

    Professor of Law, 1905–1930

    Although not technically a law school dean, Dr. Walter Scott McNeill was held in great regard and was looked up to by his colleagues and students. He was the first to introduce the case system of teaching at the Richmond College School of Law and he was the first to use this form of teaching in the South.

  • Roger Gregory

    Chair and Professor of the Department of Law, 1833–1920

    When Judge Roger Gregory began his term as chair of the University of Richmond School of Law, he carried the newly reopened school for five years on his own, lecturing a student body of no more than 14 students.

  • Andrew Jackson Montague

    Dean of the Law School, 1906–1909

    Prior to his tenure, Dean Andrew Jackson Montague served as the fourth Governor of Virginia from 1902-1906. He was dean for only three years before his election to the United States Congress.

  • Thomas C. Williams Sr

    Richmond College 1846–1849

    Although T.C. Williams Sr. was officially considered a trustee of Richmond College, he would have been considered a dean of the School of Law by today's definition. T. C. Williams Sr. is the one we have to thank for successfully reestablishing the Richmond College Law School after the law school closed in 1892 due to insufficient funding. T.C. Williams privately donated enough money during his tenure on the Board of Trustees of Richmond College (1881-1890) to open the doors of the School of Law once again.