Grand Avenue Campus


Changing Locations, Not Principles: Loyola Maintains Focus on Advocacy

Loyola Law School, Los Angeles welcomed its first class of students on Sept. 8, 1920 as St. Vincent’s School of Law on Venice Boulevard. Classes were held exclusively in the evening. The program took four years to complete, much like today’s Evening Program, and culminated in what was then called an LLB degree. Even in its formative years, the Law School emphasized the ideals that it currently espouses. The early curricula required students to take at least one course in either ethics or philosophy. The school also emphasized rhetoric and advocacy.

The Law School experienced a growth spurt in the late 1920s under the leadership of its first dean, William Joseph Ford. Ford was a celebrated deputy district attorney well-known for his prosecution of the McNamara brothers for the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building. Under his watch, Loyola saw an increase in student diversity and its alumni passage rate for the California Bar Exam.

The Law School's growth continued upon the return of Father Joseph Donovan, S.J. in 1927 as Law School regent. As was customary in that era, Loyola’s first deans maintained active law practices. Donovan, for whom Loyola’s Donovan Hall is named, oversaw the day-to-day running of the school. In 1929, the law school moved the Law School moved to a new downtown facility at Third Street and Broadway.

Other early deans included Joseph Scott, a prominent defense attorney and political player who delivered a nomination speech for Herbert Hoover during the 1932 Republican National Convention. In the courtroom, Scott was famous for two cases involving the Los Angeles Times. First, he defended the McNamara brothers on charges that they bombed the newspaper’s downtown Los Angeles building – opposing his predecessor William Joseph Ford. Second, he was awarded a large judgment in a libel suit against the paper for its coverage of his representation of a woman in a divorce case. Scott is immortalized in a bronze statue outside the Grand Avenue entrance to the Los Angeles County Courthouse.

In 1930, the Law School ushered in three significant changes: the addition of a day division, a new name and a new location. With the advent of a day division, the school began holding classes from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. – with evening classes from 7-10 p.m. It opened its doors at a new location at Third Street and Broadway – just three blocks away from the Los Angeles County Law Library. And with the move, the school changed its name to Loyola Law School to reflect its affiliation with what was then Loyola College.

In 1933, the school relocated to 1137 S. Grand Street, a location it called home for 31 years. As Loyola grew more established, obtaining American Bar Association accreditation became a major goal. In 1935, the school achieved it under the watch of Dean J. Howard Ziemann. Further milestones were earned in 1937 with the addition of two legal fraternities, Phi Alpha Delta and Phi Delta Phi. That same year, Loyola was admitted into the Association of American Law Schools on its first attempt.

Sayre McNeil, Loyola’s longest serving dean, ushered the Law School through the challenges brought by World War II. Having worked with Father Donovan to keep the Law School afloat during the war, he likewise worked to deal with the precipitous rise in applications following the end of the war, which was brought on by veterans using the GI Bill to pay for schooling.

In 1951, two students (alumni Manuel Real ’51 and Roger Sullivan 52) formed the St. Thomas More Law Honor Society. In 1952, the Law School established the Scott Moot Court in honor of Dean Scott. Just two years later, the team advanced to the semifinals of the National Moot Court competition.