Our law school opened its doors on September 5, 1972 as the University of Puget Sound (UPS) School of Law in Tacoma, Washington. Seattle University acquired the law school 22 years later, in 1994, and we moved into our current home, Sullivan Hall, on the Seattle U campus in 1999.
Much has changed since the law school’s early days, but a few common threads have emerged over the years. The law school has consistently prioritized access to legal education for a wider range of students. Our curriculum has emphasized practical skills such as legal writing and representing real clients. And we’ve always held ourselves, and our students, to high academic standards.
The acquisition by Seattle University gave rise to the law school’s commitment to social justice, now a central principle of our mission-based legal education.
Our graduates, now numbering more than 10,000, are leaders for change, working in every state and around the world in all areas of the law, business, education, the judiciary, and public service.
The creation of a third law school in Washington state was a response to a growing market for legal education in the 1960s and encouraged by business leaders in Tacoma. The military conflict in Vietnam had deescalated, so fewer young men were drafted into the military. And those who returned from the war had education benefits to use. Changing social attitudes meant that more women were interested in becoming lawyers. Layoffs at Boeing meant that more people were considering a change in career. And finally, the baby boom had created an increased pool of potential students.
A UPS feasibility study in 1971 found that Western Washington was the largest area in the country served by only one law school.
The UPS Board of Trustees approved the formation of a law school in December 1971 and hired its first dean less than a month later – Joseph A. Sinclitico, Jr., a Harvard Law School graduate who had been dean at the University of San Diego School of Law from 1964 to 1970.
In only nine months, Dean Sinclitico hired eight faculty members (including a librarian who quickly acquired 50,000 books), found a temporary home for the school in a business park on South Tacoma Way, and recruited an incoming class of 427 first-year students. The law school made history by earning provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association (ABA) in record time, six months after opening.
At the first meeting of the school’s Board of Visitors in 1973, board chairman Judge George Boldt said, “All of us feel the creation of the school has been nothing short of a miracle.”
Notable moments in the law school’s history since then:
In the long term, we will be educating many of the region’s finest lawyers, women and men who are destined to play significant roles in determining how our society operates”—Father William Sullivan
No history of the Seattle University School of Law would be complete without a history of Seattle University. "A History of Excellence" is an interactive look at Seattle University's past. It uses video clips, text, and photos to tell the story of the people and events that shaped our institution. Highlights of the feature include: stories of pride and accomplishment, snapshots of student life through the years, video interviews with faculty and staff, and profiles of famous alumni.