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LAW SCHOOLS. Formal instruction for a career in law, as distinguished from training by apprenticeship, was introduced at Austin College in 1855, but that innovation was discontinued after four students had completed the course of one academic year. In 1857 Baylor University instituted a law department with a two-year course; it continued to function until 1872. The University of Texas initiated its school of law in 1883 with a two-year curriculum. From the early years of the twentieth century until the beginning of World War II, a number of independent and several university-affiliated law schools were founded in San Antonio, Galveston, Houston, Dallas, Huntsville, and Fort Worth. Of these one of the most significant was the Houston Law School, which operated from 1912 until after the beginning of World War II. Others became permanent institutions: Baylor University School of Law (revived in 1919); South Texas College of Law (1923); Southern Methodist University School of Law (1925), into which the Dallas School of Law was later merged; and St. Mary's University School of Law (1934), into which the San Antonio Law School (1927) was merged. During this period all schools had extended the course of study for the law degree to three academic years. The Supreme Court of Texas (see JUDICIARY) instituted the degree privilege in 1891 whereby graduates of the state law school were allowed to practice in Texas courts without a qualifying examination. This privilege was rescinded in 1903 but reinstated in 1905. Though the Texas legislature initiated a new system of licensing in 1919, the Texas Supreme Court ultimately extended the degree privilege to more than seventy-five schools outside of Texas, as well as an additional seven Texas schools, before the privilege was abolished in 1937. After World War II the size and number of law schools greatly expanded, first to accommodate returning veterans and then to serve the increasing demand for legal education as a result of economic prosperity. In the period after World War II four new schools were established: the University of Houston College of Law (1947), Texas Southern University School of Law (1947), Texas Tech University School of Law (1964), and Texas Wesleyan University School of Law (1993), which had evolved from two prior ventures. During these years some schools began to offer graduate degrees in law. Of the nine law schools in Texas in 1995, four were public and five were privately operated, and all were approved by the American Bar Association. South Texas College of Law, the University of Houston College of Law, Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, and Texas Wesleyan University School of Law offered a full course of instruction during evening hours. In 1994–95 the number of students enrolled full-time for the Juris Doctor degree in Texas schools was just over 6,600. The prior peak year had been 1991–92, with more than 6,500 students. From Texas and other schools the Supreme Court of Texas licensed 2,679 lawyers in 1994.

Joseph W. McKnight

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Joseph W. McKnight, "Law Schools," accessed April 23, 2017,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.