An banner image introducing UMass Law's history.

UMass Dartmouth has a long history, dating back to 1895. The most recent chapter of that history took place on February 2, 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 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



Incorporated as Southeastern Massachusetts-Rhode Island-Avins Law School, offering weekend classes.



Became Southern New England School of Law.



Approved by the Massachusetts Board of Regents to confer Juris Doctor degree; first class matriculates, taking extended weekend program.



SNESL confers first JD degrees.



Full-time program established; first day class matriculates.



Moved to new permanent site at 333 Faunce Corner Road in North Dartmouth.



Accredited by New England Association of Schools and Colleges.



University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees approves UMass Dartmouth plan to offer JD degree.



Massachusetts Board of Higher Education authorizes UMass Dartmouth to offer JD degree. SNESL makes $23 million donation of its assets to UMass Law. First UMass Law class matriculates.



UMass Law confers first JD degrees.



UMass Law is granted provisional approval by Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Association, 321 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60654, 312-988-6738.



UMass Law 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.



UMass Law named to The National Jurist’s first honor roll of law schools that deliver practical training; Justice Bridge Legal Access Center launched.


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