UDC-DCSL evolved from two predecessor schools: the Antioch School of Law and the District of Columbia School of Law. Antioch School of Law was created in 1972 by Edgar S. and Jean Camper Cahn who championed the rights of low-income people and minorities. The school was also committed to training public interest lawyers and pioneered a comprehensive clinical legal education model adopted now, in small part at least, in nearly every law school in the country.
After Antioch University decided to close 32 of its units around the country in 1986, including the School of Law, the Council of the District of Columbia passed legislation that established the District of Columbia School of Law (DCSL) and that retained Antioch's mission, curriculum, clinical programs, and personnel. The school was awarded provisional ABA accreditation in 1991 and rapidly grew to nearly 300 students.
Carrying on Antioch's traditions, the new public school of law's statutory missions are:
- to recruit and enroll students from groups underrepresented at the bar,
- provide a well-rounded theoretical and practical legal education that will enable students to be effective and ethical advocates, and
- to represent the legal needs of low-income residents through the school's legal clinics.
In 1996, the D.C. Council passed legislation merging the School of Law with the University of the District of Columbia. On April 28, 1998, President Clinton signed legislation re-naming the School of Law. The new University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC-DCSL) honors the legacy of former D.C. Council Chair David A. Clarke, who was a strong civil rights and humanitarian leader and who ardently advocated for the School of Law's educational, diversity, and public service missions.
In 1998, a new grant of provisional ABA accreditation was awarded to the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, and in 2004, the School of Law applied for full accreditation. The School of Law received full accreditation from the American Bar Association on August 8, 2005, with the unanimous vote of the ABA House of Delegates.
In 2009, the School of Law began offering a part-time, evening program of legal education leading to the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. In 2010, it launched a Master in Laws (LL.M.) degree program to prepare attorneys to become clinical educators and leaders in the public interest bar.
In 2011, the School of Law moved down the street from UDC's main Van Ness Campus to a 100,000 square-foot building at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Yuma Street, 4340 Connecticut Avenue, NW.
In 2014, the School of Law added two new legal clinics, bringing its total clinics to nine in the areas of Community Development, Criminal Law, General Practice, Government Accountability, Housing & Consumer Law, Immigration & Human Rights, Juvenile & Special Education Law, Legislation, and Low-Income Tax.
Antioch School of Law was located at Warder Mansion. This is the mansion in 1900. Photo courtesy of The Library of Congress.
The Warder Mansion today. Photo courtesy of NCinDC.
UDC's Van Ness Campus circa 2003
4200 Connecticut Avenue NW
The School of Law's building circa 2011
4340 Connecticut Avenue NW