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Gavel and scales for law school

New Era for School of Law

As of July 1, 2015, Widener University will have not one, but two schools of law – one in Wilmington, Delaware, and one in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  The long-awaited approval from the American Bar Association for the move came in late March.

The decision means Widener University School of Law – which is currently one school, sitting on two university campuses – will become Widener University Delaware Law School in Wilmington and Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg. Each will have its own dean.

“This is an exciting time for Widener University and its law schools,” University President James T. Harris III said. “The Widener School of Law has offered exceptional legal education for over 40 years. During that time, the two law campuses have grown and developed their own strengths and unique identities.”

Harris added both schools will benefit from this change as it will allow each campus to showcase their strengths and individuality.

“This change will allow us to enhance our student services and educational offerings, with separate law school administrations dedicated to the different locations,” he said.

Two distinguished educators, scholars, and attorneys will come on board as deans of the two law schools. Rod Smolla, former dean of Washington and Lee School of Law and University of Richmond School of Law and former president of Furman University, will serve as dean of Delaware Law. Christian A. Johnson, the Hugh B. Brown Presidential Endowed Chair in Law and co-chair of the curriculum committee at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, will serve as dean of Widener Law Commonwealth.

The change in status and new names will take effect July 1, the day both deans begin their tenures.  The new names for the separated schools were selected after listening sessions with faculty, administrators, students, staff, alumni, university trustees, law school overseers and the legal community.

Widener University School of Law has deep roots in both the Wilmington and Harrisburg communities. Its origins began in 1975 when the Delaware Law School, which had been founded in 1971, relocated to Widener’s Brandywine College Campus in Wilmington. In 1975, the law school gained ABA accreditation and graduated its first class. In 1989, Widener acquired property to house a law school in Harrisburg and opened a campus there.

Today, the two locations are home to more than 700 law students pursuing Juris Doctor degrees. Read more about the new law schools.