William Mitchell College of Law

William Mitchell College of Law
William Mitchell College of Law
Motto Practical Wisdom
Established 1900
School type Private
Endowment $16.5 million[1]
Dean Eric Janus
Location St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
Enrollment 1045[2]
Faculty 48 full-time; 300+ adjunct
USNWR ranking 135 [3]
Bar pass rate 94.2%[4]
Annual tuition $35,660[5]
Website http://www.wmitchell.edu

William Mitchell College of Law, or WMCL, is a private, independent law school located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), it offers full and part-time legal education in pursuit of the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree.



William Mitchell has a unique history, in that the current institution is the product of five predecessor schools, all in the Twin Cities, which ultimately merged in 1956. Although they varied in size and location, each one was originally established as a part-time, evening-program law school. This was meant to open the doors of the legal profession to men and women working full time to support themselves and their families.

St. Paul College of Law

William Mitchell's first predecessor, the St. Paul College of Law, was founded in 1900 by five attorneys in Ramsey County. They intended the school to be an alternative for legal education in the state, with the only others being the University of Minnesota Law School and the outmoded nineteenth-century practice of "reading" law with a licensed practitioner.[6]

Three of the five were transplants from the east coast: Hiram F. Stevens, Clarence Halbert, and Ambrose Tighe. Stevens, a Vermont native, had read law with New York Court of Appeals Judge John K. Porter and graduated from Columbia Law School.[7] When former Justice William Mitchell of the Minnesota Supreme Court died before assuming the deanship, Stevens took his place. Halbert came from New York, having graduated from Yale Law School.[8] Tighe, also from New York, earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Yale, where he was a member of the college's Skull and Bones society.[9] The other two founders, Thomas O'Brien and Moses Clapp, came from Minnesota and Indiana. O'Brien read law in St. Paul and later served as a justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.[10] Clapp graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School, served three terms as Minnesota Attorney General, and later represented Minnesota in the United States Senate.[11]

The St. Paul College of Law's first class had twenty students and annual tuition amounted to $60. During its official existence, the school was housed in three different locations, all in downtown St. Paul. Classes were originally held in the top floor of the former Ramsey County Courthouse, which had stood at Fourth and Wabasha Streets before being torn down.[12] In 1917, the school moved to the McColl Building, which still stands today, at Fifth and Jackson Streets.[13] Finally, from 1921 until after the merger, the law school occupied what was known as the Berkey Mansion, at Sixth and College Streets.[14] That building, also long since torn down, was located in the middle of the current Kellogg Boulevard, just south of the entrance to the Minnesota History Center.

Until 1938, when it was accredited by the ABA, the law school relied entirely upon local attorneys and judges for its faculty and administration. One of them was Harry Blackmun, a professor at the St. Paul College of Law from 1935 to 1941. Years later, after the merger, Justice Blackmun also served as a Trustee of William Mitchell.[15] Others were Minnesota Supreme Court Justices George Bunn and Oscar Hallam, both of whom served as deans of the law school while on the bench.

Minneapolis Law Schools

Four Minneapolis law schools followed: the Northwestern College of Law and the Minneapolis College of Law in 1912, the Minnesota College of Law in 1913, and the YMCA College of Law in 1919. Their apparent lack of institutional stability stands in contrast to the history of the St. Paul school. Among them they occupied more than a dozen different locations in downtown Minneapolis and were often beset by financial difficulties.

The Northwestern school was founded by George Young, a University of Minnesota law graduate and local entrepreneur. When the University of Minnesota began to consider discontinuing its part-time evening program in 1912, Young sensed an opportunity and stepped into the breach to provide a similar service. Northwestern operated without incident until 1926, when Young died. By 1928, the school had declared bankruptcy and its students transferred to the Minneapolis College of Law. Similarly, the YMCA school ceased functioning in 1934, despite discussions of a formal merger with the Minnesota College of Law.

Although incorporated in 1912, the Minneapolis school did not offer any formal classes until 1925. Its existence was dominated by funding issues, which were only alleviated by a formal merger with the Minnesota College of Law in 1940. The Minnesota school had been the most solvent of the four, so the two surviving Minneapolis law schools became one, the Minneapolis-Minnesota College of Law.


Discussions of a merger between the St. Paul College of Law and the Minneapolis-Minnesota College of Law began in 1952, but it wasn't until 1955 that they yielded tangible results. Due to shortcomings in the size of the faculty and its physical location, Minneapolis-Minnesota was repeatedly unsuccessful in gaining ABA approval.[16] Without it, their students were not eligible for tuition assistance through the G.I. Bill.[16] John Hervey, long-serving adviser to the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, used the situation to help accomplish his goal of "improving legal education by pruning away the weak law schools and strengthening those that remained."[17] Hervey intimated to the Minneapolis-Minnesota Trustees that he could ensure ABA approval so long as the school agreed to merge with the St. Paul College of Law.[18] Conversely, Hervey hinted to the St. Paul Trustees that their school could lose ABA approval if they didn't agree to move forward with the merger.[18]

In July 1956, after renewed negotiations prompted by Hervey, the Minneapolis-Minnesota College of Law (armed with provisional approval from the ABA) united with the St. Paul College of Law to become William Mitchell College of Law. The consolidated Board of Trustees selected the name to honor the St. Paul school's unofficial "first" dean, William B. Mitchell, who had been widely-regarded as one of the finest U.S. jurists of the late nineteenth century.


The most pressing issue for WMCL Trustees after the merger was finding a new, permanent home for the school. The school reached an agreement with the University of St. Thomas to purchase land and construct its own building on the latter's undergraduate campus, located at 2100 Summit Avenue.[19] In the interim, students enrolled at what was in name the same law school attended classes in different cities, with the Minneapolis students at their downtown campus and the St. Paul students at the Berkey Mansion.[20] It wasn't until 1958 that the school truly unified under one roof.[21]

The next few decades saw rapid expansion for the school and its programs. By 1976, William Mitchell had outgrown the space at St. Thomas and required larger facilities. The administration successfully purchased the building at 875 Summit Avenue, a former Catholic secondary school called Our Lady of Peace. In 1974, William Mitchell had launched its flagship legal journal, the William Mitchell Law Review. By 1980, William Mitchell began offering traditional daytime classes and the option of full-time enrollment. In 1990, the school completed work on its campus additions, which included a new classroom building and the Warren E. Burger Law Library. The library houses WMCL's collection of nearly a half-million volumes, affords electronic access to thousands of additional documents, and provides extensive study space. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor accompanied Chief Justice Burger to the dedication. Continuing its tradition of attracting adjunct faculty from the state and federal bench, Donald Lay, Paul Magnuson, Donovan Frank, Edward Toussaint, Jr. and others have taught and continue teaching at WMCL.

In 2000, to celebrate its one hundred years of legal education, Governor Jesse Ventura declared November 19–25 "William Mitchell Centennial Week" throughout the state. Later, William Mitchell became one of two law schools in the country that refused to let military recruiters on campus in protest against the Solomon Amendment.[22]

Profile and Rankings

William Mitchell's 2009 entering class has 302 students, 66% of whom attend full-time. The median undergraduate GPA is 3.49 and the median LSAT score is 156. 50% of the class are men and 50% are women. 11% list themselves as minorities. Total enrollment of over one thousand students makes it one of the largest law schools in the Midwest.

Currently, the school is ranked 135th overall by U.S. News and World Report.[23] The school's part-time program is ranked 59th.[24] The magazine has also consistently ranked the school's clinical program as one of the best.[25][26][27]


All 1Ls participate in a comprehensive course called Writing and Representation: Advice & Persuasion, or simply "WRAP." It focuses on legal research, reasoning, and writing, while providing a broad overview of critical skills like client interviewing and counseling, contract negotiation and drafting, dispute mediation, and pretrial litigation.

As 2Ls or 3Ls, students must take Advocacy, a course designed to teach basic litigation skills. Students are instructed in conducting discovery, examining witnesses, introducing exhibits, presenting opening and closing arguments, and presenting written and oral appellate arguments.

Special Programs

Legal Practicum and Business Practicum are upper-level courses in which students, pairing up to form two-person law firms, hone their legal skills by handling a series of simulated cases. Each case requires mastery of integrated substantive and procedural law, and each firm must successfully participate in oral arguments, motion arguments, mediation, arbitration, negotiation, in-chambers settlement conferences, and a full-day jury trial. Students interview clients, conduct depositions, prepare pleadings and motions, compose memoranda, and draft various transactional documents. The coursework is performed under the supervision of two faculty members, as well as practicing lawyers and judges from the Twin Cities area.

Study Abroad

The school belongs to the Consortium for Innovative Legal Education (CILE), in partnership with California Western School of Law, New England School of Law, and South Texas College of Law. CILE is the only program of its kind in the United States, offering students an opportunity to participate in programs and classes at any of the other three law schools.

Through CILE, opportunities to study abroad are available in summer and semester programs. Summer programs are offered at the University of Edinburgh, Charles University in the Czech Republic, the University of Malta, and the National University of Ireland, Galway, while semester programs are offered at Leiden University in the Netherlands and the University of Aarhus in Denmark.

Centers and Institutes

The Intellectual Property Institute advances the school's IP program, which features a curriculum focused on patent, trademark, and copyright law. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office chose William Mitchell as one of six law schools to participate in its Law School Clinical Certification Program. Students are allowed to practice before the agency under the direction of a faculty supervisor.[28]

The National Security Forum examines and debates the balance between safety and liberty in America. The Forum has hosted events and seminars featuring current and former officials from the Department of Justice, Department of State, the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Notable judges, professors, and journalists have also contributed to the Forum.

The Rosalie Wahl Legal Practice Center directs William Mitchell's clinic, externship, and skills programs. The clinical programs are designed to offer hands-on experience in practicing law, as well as convey the importance of public service. They were established in 1973, one of the first at an American law school.

The Tobacco Law Center works to improve tobacco control laws and policies at local, national, and international levels. Through research, policy development and analysis, technical assistance and consulting, the center aims to help lawmakers, nonprofit organizations, advocates, and health professionals address tobacco-related legal issues.

The Center for Elder Justice & Policy provides advocacy groups with resources, technology, and information to help seniors and their families. The Center also supports William Mitchell's elder law curriculum.

The Center for Negotiation & Justice is a collaboration between experienced negotiation practitioners and leading scholars in conflict and dispute resolution. Its mission is to explore, develop, and advance the connection between principled negotiation and social justice.

Notable alumni

WMCL has more than 12,000 alumni, representing all fifty states and twenty foreign countries. Alumni are active in the private sector, with partners in all of Minnesota's—and some of the country's—largest law firms. Alumni also have a significant presence in the public sector. More than one hundred current members of the Minnesota judiciary have graduated from William Mitchell.

Despite the school's modest beginnings, it has produced many distinguished attorneys, judges, and civic leaders. William Mitchell's most famous alumnus/a is Warren E. Burger, the fifteenth Chief Justice of the United States.

Other notable William Mitchell graduates include:


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2009. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2009 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2008 to FY 2009" (PDF). 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. http://www.nacubo.org/Documents/research/2009_NCSE_Public_Tables_Endowment_Market_Values.pdf. Retrieved February 6, 2010. 
  2. ^ "The William Mitchell Student - Student Profile - William Mitchell College of Law". Wmitchell.edu. http://www.wmitchell.edu/admissions/deciding/the-William-Mitchell-Student.html. Retrieved 2011-01-26. 
  3. ^ "Search - Law - Best Graduate Schools - Education - US News and World Report". Grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com. 2010-04-15. http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/items/03086. Retrieved 2011-01-26. 
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  6. ^ Douglas R. Heidenreich, With Satisfaction and Honor: William Mitchell College of Law 1900-2000, pg. 1.
  7. ^ Heidenreich, p. 3.
  8. ^ Heidenreich, p. 6.
  9. ^ Heidenreich, p. 8.
  10. ^ Heidenreich, p. 7.
  11. ^ Heidenreich, pp. 8-10.
  12. ^ Heidenreich, pp. 10-11.
  13. ^ Heidenreich, p. 26.
  14. ^ Heidenreich, p. 101.
  15. ^ "Harry Blackmun : Library". Mnhs.Org. 1970-04-29. http://www.mnhs.org/library/tips/history_topics/125harry_blackmun.html. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  16. ^ a b Heidenreich, p. 173.
  17. ^ Heidenreich, p. 172.
  18. ^ a b Heidenreich, p. 180.
  19. ^ Heidenreich, p. 184.
  20. ^ Heidenreich, p. 190.
  21. ^ Heidenreich, p. 196.
  22. ^ Katie Zezima, Law School Pays the Price in 'Don't Ask' Rule Protest, N.Y. Times, June 29, 2008.
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  30. ^ http://www.campaignforlegalaid.com/profiles_files/ba4eb1017231698b20b35ee842ef494b-8.html
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  32. ^ "John Flicker Interview - National Audubon Society CEO John Flicker on Bird Conservation". The Daily Green. 2010-04-20. http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/john-flicker-interview-460310. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
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  35. ^ "Haigh selected as new Council chair - December 2010 Metropolitan Council newsletter article". Metrocouncil.org. 2010-12-30. http://www.metrocouncil.org/newsletter/planning2010/NewChairDec29.htm. Retrieved 2011-01-26. 
  36. ^ http://www.tennessean.com/article/20110204/SPORTS0601/102040337/Perseverance-turned-UT-s-Irwin-into-star
  37. ^ "Erik Jensen - FSI Stanford". Fsi.stanford.edu. http://fsi.stanford.edu/people/erikjensen/. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  38. ^ Cha, Eugene. "Influential Minnesotans in Washington | Morning Edition Goes to D.C. | Minnesota Public Radio News". Minnesota.publicradio.org. http://minnesota.publicradio.org/projects/2011/01/minnesotas-clout-in-washington/influential-minnesotans/. Retrieved 2011-01-26. 
  39. ^ http://www.taser.com/executive-team
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  43. ^ "Minnesota State Law Library: Biographies of Judges and Justices of the Minnesota Appellate Courts". Lawlibrary.state.mn.us. http://www.lawlibrary.state.mn.us/judgebio.html#murphy. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  44. ^ "Minnesota Legislators Past & Present - Legislator Record - Newman, Scott J". Leg.state.mn.us. http://www.leg.state.mn.us/legdb/fulldetail.asp?ID=10819. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  45. ^ "Microsoft Word - PressRelease.docx" (PDF). http://www.mnd.uscourts.gov/Press_Releases/2011/01-14-2011-RauPressRelease.pdf. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
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