When the first graduates from the Duquesne University School of Law received their diplomas, Woodrow Wilson was president and baseball legend Babe Ruth was just making his major league debut.
That was 1914. Now, the 100th graduating class is preparing to take the stage.
Ken Gormley, dean of the Duquesne University School of Law, said there are a lot of similarities between the two graduating classes.
“They were developing the case method and the Socratic method in class to draw up the powers of reasoning and analytical skills of students,” he said. “And, of course, that’s how our law school classes are conducted today.”
The law school was added to what was then called the Catholic College of the Holy Ghost in 1911, becoming the first Catholic university in Pennsylvania.
The original law building was located downtown near the courthouse. The site is now a parking garage for One Oxford Centre.
Gormley said the original building’s proximity to the Allegheny County Courthouse made it a prime location.
“Part of the whole idea was to have the law school very accessible to the courthouses and for students to be able to observe law in action,” he said.
Classes began Sept. 25, 1911 with just 12 students, all of whom would go on to pass the state bar exam on their first attempt. The school has expanded dramatically since then. More than 160 students will be graduating this year.
Like most law schools, Duquesne started by offering only night classes, allowing Pittsburgh’s working class to get a legal education while holding their day jobs. Back then, tuition was only $100 a year. Now, the same degree costs almost $30,000 per year.
There’s been a drop in law school applications in recent years. Nationally, applications fell about 11 percent in 2011 from 2010 and another 14 percent in 2012. Duquesne’s law school experienced a 15 percent drop in applications last year, but Gormley said he’s not worried at all.
“We’re focusing on the things we do very well and trying to have an operation that really pays careful attention to each individual student,” he said. “And with a smaller class size, you can accomplish that.”
The class of 2014 graduates Sunday.