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UMass Dartmouth has a long history, dating back to 1895. A significant chapter in that history took place in 2010, when the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education voted to approve the university’s authority to grant the degree of Juris Doctor, and the University of Massachusetts School of Law - Dartmouth (UMass Law) was established.

UMass Law was made possible by a $23 million donation of assets—a facility, land, library, technology, and cash— from the Southern New England School of Law.

Southern New England School of Law was established in 1981 with a volunteer faculty, a handful of part-time students, no home, no cash, not even a name—nothing but the excitement of creating an environment for teaching and learning the law. It grew from a literal store-front operation, offering a weekend program of study in Fall River, to a dual-division law school located in its own state-of-the-art facility in North Dartmouth. At the time of the donation, SNESL had 1,200 alumni, 200 students, 13 full-time faculty members, and two dozen adjunct faculty.

Milestones in our history

1981 Incorporated as Southeastern Massachusetts-Rhode Island-Avins Law School, offering weekend classes
1986 Becomes Southern New England School of Law (SNESL)
1988 Approved by the Massachusetts Board of Regents to confer Juris Doctor degree; first class matriculates, taking extended weekend program
1989 SNESL confers first JD degrees
1992 Full-time program established; first day class matriculates
1994 Moved to new permanent site at 333 Faunce Corner Road in North Dartmouth
1995 Accredited by New England Association of Schools and Colleges
2009 University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees approves UMass Dartmouth plan to offer JD degree
2010 Massachusetts Board of Higher Education authorizes UMass Dartmouth to offer JD degree; first UMass Law class matriculates
2011 Confers first JD degrees
2012 Granted provisional approval by Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Association
2013 Ranked among the top five law schools in region for black students in the Lawyers of Color Black Student's Guide to Law Schools 2014
2014 Named to The National Jurist's first honor roll of law schools that deliver practical training; Justice Bridge Legal Access Center launched
2016 Granted full approval by Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Association
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