Temple University Beasley School of Law is committed to excellence in teaching, scholarship and service. The faculty is dedicated to preparing students to enter and continue in the legal profession with the highest level of skill possible, with a firm commitment to principles of professional responsibility, and with a sense of personal obligation to lead and to serve the communities in which they live and practice. We are dedicated to our traditional ideal of making opportunities for legal education accessible to talented students who might otherwise not have the opportunity and those who might encounter barriers due to race, creed, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, socioeconomic background, or other personal characteristics. The Law School seeks to maintain and strengthen our longstanding tradition of accessibility and diversity in order to pursue the goals of excellence in higher education and equal justice under the law.
The Law School opened in 1895 as Temple College’s Department of Law. The school’s first Dean, Henry S. Borneman, proposed to Russell Conwell that he organize evening courses in the study of law for students wishing to prepare for the bar examination. Dr. Conwell – though not a lawyer – carefully replied: “[Y]ou go ahead. If it is a success, it is your success; if it is a failure, it is your failure.” Borneman appointed himself as Dean and proceeded to recruit a faculty. Although he planned to establish both a day and evening division, the day division attracted no students and was canceled, while 46 students initially enrolled in the evening division. The Law School graduated its first class (of 16) in 1901. It received accreditation from the Pennsylvania State Board of Bar Examiners in 1907.
James E. Beasley
The Temple University Beasley School of Law is named in honor of James E. Beasley, Sr., a legendary Philadelphia trial lawyer and a member of the class of 1956, in gratitude for one of the largest gifts ever given to an American law school. Jim Beasley was, in many ways, the consummate “Temple Lawyer” – tenacious, hard-working, and committed to helping people who had nowhere else to turn. Born to a working-class family in West Philadelphia, Beasley attended Temple University on the GI Bill and then enrolled in Temple Law School. He went on to establish his own firm, now known as The Beasley Firm, and became nationally known as an outstanding litigator with several landmark verdicts. His transformative gift has helped to ensure that new Temple Lawyers will have what it takes to succeed on their terms for generations to come.
Law School classes were initially held in College Hall, on Temple’s main campus. In 1910, the school relocated to Center City Philadelphia, where it had many homes over the years, including a location over a shoe repair shop, another above the noisy printing presses of the Philadelphia Ledger, and one in the Gimbel’s Department Store (where students had to walk through the retail merchandise floors to get to class). In 1954, the Law School returned to the University’s main campus, and in 1973, it moved into its current main building, Klein Hall.
In 1933 the Law School created a three-year day division, and in that same year it received full accreditation and an “A” rating from the Council on Legal Education of the American Bar Association. The Law School was admitted to full membership in the Association of American Law Schools in 1935. During the late 1930s and early 1940s, the Law School experienced a deep decline in enrollment and attendant severe financial difficulties, and by 1943, the school was on the brink of closure. However, Judge Charles Klein, for whom the Law School’s present main building is named, worked closely with a group of dedicated alumni and professors to save the Law School from collapse. Their efforts eventually culminated in a resurgence in enrollment and the return of the Law School to the University’s main campus through the acquisition of the former Keneseth Israel Synagogue, which was renamed Reber Hall. At the dedication of Reber Hall in the spring of 1954, the keynote speaker was Chief Justice Earl Warren, and the dedication was attended by deans of law schools from throughout the country.
During the 1970s and 1980s, under the leadership of Dean Peter J. Liacouras, the Law School greatly expanded its programs. Various “law center” programs with a community outreach focus, such as Temple’s Legal Aid Clinic, were founded or significantly expanded. Dean Liacouras established international Summer Abroad programs in Athens, Rome, Tel Aviv and Ghana, and organized foreign law graduate, teaching fellow, and graduate tax programs. Within the J.D. program itself, clinical education received new emphasis, and upper level course offerings were expanded.
Under Dean Robert Reinstein, who served from 1989 to 2008, the Law School prospered. In 1999, to express gratitude for one of the largest gifts ever given to an American law school, the Law School took on the name of its alumnus and benefactor, James E. Beasley. The availability of Beasley scholarships, together with Law Faculty, Conwell and Public Interest Scholarships, continues to draw a bright, diverse student body. The Law School inaugurated a number of new programs during this period, including the semester abroad program in Tokyo, the LL.M. in trial advocacy, the LL.M in Transnational Law, and the LL.M. program for Chinese lawyers. Law School facilities saw significant improvements as well. In 1997, through the generosity of Murray Shusterman ’36, the Law School added Shusterman Hall, a converted Gothic-style church on Temple’s campus that now serves as an elegant conference facility. In 2002, a generous contribution from Lynne and Leonard Barrack ’68 led to the creation of Barrack Hall, named for Mr. Barrack’s parents, Sylvia and Morris Barrack, which houses classrooms, meeting spaces, and administrative offices. The Centennial capital campaign made possible dramatic renovations to Klein Hall as well, thus ensuring that all three of the Law School’s main buildings were accessible and welcoming environments for the Temple Law community.
In 2008, Dean Reinstein returned to the faculty after 19 years, and was succeeded by JoAnne Epps, who had served for many years as an Associate Dean. One of Dean Epps’ first initiatives was the Upper-Level Curriculum Initiative (ULCI), an eighteen month curricular evaluation and strategic planning process that has brought about several new, innovative experiential course offerings. In 2009, the Law School was selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to house its new $19 million Public Health Law Research Program, devoted to funding research into the influence of law on population health. That year, the Law School also established the Conwell Community Corps, and offered recent graduates full-time, paid four- to six-month positions with Philadelphia area public interest agencies.
Dean Epps’ leadership during the economic downturn in the years following 2009 drew national attention to Temple Law and to the Dean as an influential voice within legal education. In addition to expanding its experiential offerings, the Law School made significant enhancements to its business and transactional law curriculum. In 2013, Temple Law alumnus Murray H. Shusterman ’36 gave the Law School $1.1 million to establish the Shusterman Professorship in Transactional and Business Law.
Dean Epps also worked during this time to create a space at Temple Law School that would further a core element of her vision for the school: a Center for Social Justice. In 2013, through a $1.5 million gift from Stephen and Sandra Sheller, the Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple Law School came into being. Housed at the Gittis Student Center at 13th and Montgomery, the Sheller Center partners with local community advocacy organizations to address civil access to justice issues confronting underserved populations.
Russell Conwell was an attorney, journalist, and Baptist minister who assumed the pastorate of Grace Baptist Church in North Philadelphia in the early 1880s. Through his leadership the church quickly grew too large for the building it had commissioned at Mervine and Berks Streets. As a result, the congregation voted to purchase a lot a short distance away at Broad and Berks streets and to build what would become known as the Baptist Temple.
Temple University was founded in 1884 by Dr. Russell H. Conwell as an outgrowth of his ministry at the Baptist Temple. Dr. Conwell wanted to make higher education available to all capable and motivated students regardless of their backgrounds and finances. His college began as informal classes for seven people and was first housed in the meeting rooms of his church.
Over 125 years later, having emerged as a major educational enterprise, Temple University continues the Conwell mission. Today, Temple enrolls about 39,000 students, is the 27th largest university in the United States and is one of the nation’s leading centers of professional education (law, dentistry, medicine, pharmacy, and podiatric medicine).
Temple Law is proud of its Conwellian heritage, and remains committed to providing access to a world class legal education regardless of means or family background.