The University of Denver College of Law opened its doors in 1892, laying the foundation for legal education on America’s frontier and graduating many of the attorneys and judges who built the legal structure of the Mountain West.
A pioneer amid pioneers, the college of law started its legal aid dispensary in 1904, creating the first clinical program in the nation. A frontrunner in serving Denver’s indigent populations, the dispensary saw several incarnations before it evolved into the law school’s present-day clinical programs. The student law office trains law students in the practice of law under the supervision of experienced faculty, while at the same time serving the underserved communities in criminal defense, civil practice, civil rights matters, immigration and environmental law.
Westminster Law School
The Westminster Law School is an important part of the history of legal education in Denver. For 45 years, from its founding in 1912 to its merger with the University of Denver College of Law in 1957, Westminster provided the only evening program of law study from Kansas City to the Pacific Coast. When the school merged with the University of Denver, terms included naming the law library the Westminster Law Library and developing of an evening program, the precursor to our part-time professional JD program.
1896 Denver Law graduates Mary Lathrop, the first woman lawyer to be admitted to practice before the Colorado United States District Court and the United States Court of Appeals
Denver Law's Diversity History
Denver Law has reflected the promise of diversity and inclusiveness since its very first class of 14 students. The 1892 inaugural class included a woman, an African American and a foreign national from Japan. The first woman to become a member of the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations and one of the first two women admitted to the American Bar Association graduated from our hallways.
During the civil rights movement, Dean Robert B. Yegge created a summer program to increase access to legal education among Latinos and other people of color, an initiative funded by the Ford Foundation. Building from that successful model, the American Bar Association and the Association of American Law Schools established the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO) in 1968.
1941 Denver Law hires Helen Thorp, the first full-time woman law faculty member in the nation
Adopting the Sturm Name
In September 2004, upon receipt of a generous $20 million gift from Denver Law graduate Donald L. Sturm, LLB’58, and his wife, Susan M. Sturm, the University of Denver’s College of Law became the Sturm College of Law. The gift was the largest single donation in the history of the law school and one of the University of Denver’s largest gifts to date.