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Archivist’s Angle: NYU School of Law

By Erin Shaw (GSAS ’14)

The School of Law, founded in 1835, is the oldest professional school of New York University and one of the oldest law schools in the nation. Benjamin F. Butler, at the time attorney general in the cabinet of President Andrew Jackson, drew up the “Plan for the Organization of a Law Faculty” for NYU, which outlined a three-year curriculum. Butler’s plan, the first designed to teach law by the course method, became the model for the structure of modern legal education.

In the nearly 180 years since Butler’s ground-breaking plan, the School of Law has maintained its role as a leader and innovator in legal pedagogy. Today, NYU School of Law is among the most prestigious and competitive law schools in the country. The school’s faculty and alumni, such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei (LAW ’71, 74, HON ’04), are continuously at the forefront of legal, political, and intellectual innovation in the U.S., and throughout the world.


A photograph of the Law Library, 1906. Until 1951, the Law School was located in the top floors of what is now the Silver Center for Arts and Science.

Members of the NYU National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA), 1988. NYU’s chapter of NBLSA, founded as the Black American Law Students Association in 1967, was the first program of its kind. Today, NBLSA is the largest student-run organization in the U.S., with more than 200 chapters at law schools throughout the country. For more information, visit

Former New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, undated. La Guardia is one of three NYU School of Law alumni who served as Mayor of New York. The others are Ed Koch (LAW ’48, HON ’83) and Rudy Giuliani (LAW ’68).

Agnes Craig (LAW 1916) being sworn in as the first woman municipal court justice in 1935. Women were admitted to the School of Law beginning in 1892, making it one of the first schools in the United States to do so.

An architect’s rendering of Vanderbilt Hall, 1949. By the 1940s the Silver Center proved insufficient for the growing needs of the law school. Vanderbilt Hall was completed in 1951 and is still home to the School of Law.

Former School of Law dean (1988–2001) and current president of NYU, John Sexton, meets with law school students, undated. NYU School of Law has the second highest number of faculty who are members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 19, including Sexton, of any law school in the nation.

Root-Tilden Scholars dance at a reception in their honor on the rooftop of Hayden Hall, 1955. Founded in 1951, the program is now called the Root-Tilden-Kern Program and provides full-tuition to twenty students per year who are committed to public service.

Today, NYU School of Law is among the most prestigious and competitive law schools in the country.

Thank you to the NYU Archives for sharing these photos!

For more information about the NYU Archives, click here, or contact the Archives at or 212-998-2646.

For details on planning a visit to the Archives, click here.

For more great photos and fun facts about NYU, like the NYU Archives on Facebook.

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