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|
|2017||Received Massachusetts Bar Association Public Service Award; Massachusetts Bar Association Oliver Wendell Holmes Public Interest Scholarship awarded to a UMass Law student; Library of Congress Award for student law review article|
|2018||Ranked 14th in the U.S. and #1 in MA and New England by preLaw magazine for careers in government; Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association Public Service Scholarship awarded to a UMass Law student|
|2019||Named among top law schools in the country for practical training in preLaw magazine; featured in The Bar Examiner for outperformance in bar passage rates; Black Students Guide to Law Schools ranked UMass Law among top 5 law schools in the east for Black students|
|2020||Received Equal Justice Coalition Award for civil legal aid advocacy; named to preLaw magazine's Employment Honor Roll for outperformance in employment outcomes|
|2021||Successful ABA reaccreditation; Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association Public Service Scholarship awarded to a UMass Law student|