History and Mission
In the latter part of the 19th century, Boston was in need of an evening law program. So we gave it one. It certainly isn’t a concept that would turn heads today. But back when Professor Robert Gray Dodge delivered the school’s first lecture in Property on the evening of October 3, 1898, the idea was revolutionary. That wasn’t the only one. The school was founded on the notion that a law school could and should respond to the needs of local community — a maverick educational idea at the time.
Despite having an enrollment of more than 2,400 in the mid-1920s and anchoring the formation of Northeastern University, by 1956, resources were scarce and we were forced to close our doors. But our graduates fought for a revival. In the 1968-1969 school year, their efforts paid off and the School of Law reopened. In keeping with the tradition of innovation, we made cooperative legal education the cornerstone of our program — a unique approach to educating lawyers that recognizes the interdependency of theory and practice.
Flash forward another 40 years or so and our mission — to fuse theory and practice with ethical and social justice ideals so students understand what lawyers do, how they should do it and the difference they can make in the lives of others — still rings true, louder than ever.
Northeastern University School of Law's mission is to be a global leader in experiential legal education, providing students with the knowledge, skills and ethical and social values essential to serving clients and the public interest, now and in the future. Through teaching, scholarship and public service, we work to promote social justice and enhance understanding of law’s impact on individuals, enterprises and communities, at home and around the world.
I. We believe that experiential legal education, including the full-time, repeated immersion in professional settings provided by cooperative legal education, is the best way to prepare lawyers with the knowledge, skills, ethical values and social and cultural awareness that are essential to serving clients and pursuing social justice.
We recognize that law students are best prepared to practice law effectively and ethically when they have multiple practice experiences before leaving law school and when these experiences are integrated with and related to their other professional development within and without the law school. We are committed to providing our students with multiple, full-time experiences in professional settings, as well as practice experiences in clinics, real client projects, externships and simulations within the classroom in which they can garner practical skills and reflect critically upon the practice of law and its impact on individuals, enterprises, and communities.
II. We are committed to rigor and excellence in our teaching and scholarship.
We value intellectual inquiry, critical thinking, vigorous exchange and testing of ideas, and academic rigor in our teaching. We demand clarity of thought, conceptual flexibility and strong performance skills from our students and celebrate excellence from our graduates in their professional careers. We create and maintain an intellectual environment that fosters rigorous and creative legal scholarship, including interdisciplinary and translational scholarship.
III. We are devoted to the pursuit of social justice.
We recognize that law has a profound impact on individuals and society, and we strive to ensure that the law serves as a vehicle for advancing the public good. We work to promote social justice and deepen our own and others’ understanding of laws’ impact on individuals, enterprises and communities, at home and around the world. We believe strongly in access to justice, and believe we have an obligation to advocate for individuals and groups who are underrepresented, less powerful or less economically secure domestically and abroad. We aspire to educate lawyers who are concerned about injustice and think critically about their responsibility to address it in professional and practice settings.
IV. We are committed to diversity in all its permutations.
We are committed to a broad conception of diversity that recognizes the values and differences in identity and life experiences among students, faculty and staff. We recognize that respect for diversity embraces differences in ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, economic status and ideology. We also recognize that individuals who belong to two or more historically disadvantaged groups face unique challenges that may go beyond the challenges each faces as a member of one group or another. We encourage diverse opinions and thinking within the law school community and more broadly. Because we believe that diversity provides a competitive advantage to any institution that embraces it, we are particularly committed to promoting opportunities for members of underrepresented groups in the law school and in the legal profession.
V. We foster a legal profession that embodies the highest ethical standards and practices.
We expect our students, faculty and staff to understand and adopt the highest ethical standards in their professional lives. We expect students, faculty and staff to think critically about the moral implications of the law, their own legal practice and legal practice more broadly. We expect all faculty and students to be mindful of the welfare of others and to engage in pro bono work.
VI. We promote co-operation, collaboration and mutual respect in all parts of our community.
We nurture one another’s unique strengths and individuality. We teach students the value of team-work that embraces difference. We are committed to respecting the views and concerns of students.