The University of Nebraska College of Law was established in 1891 when the University's Board of Regents voted to take over the private, two-year-old Central Law College and incorporate it into the University system. The first classes were offered in the fall of 1891 and in 1893 Manoah B. Reese, a former justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court, became the first Dean of the College of Law. Reese served as dean until 1903, when Roscoe Pound assumed the deanship. Dean Pound's goal was to revolutionize the training of lawyers by making academic legal study the primary means of preparation for law practice. To accomplish his goal, he introduced the case method of legal studies, instituted 'practice courts', and raised admission requirements by requiring a high school diploma for entrance. Pound's successor in 1907 was George P. Costigan, Jr., who served as the dean only until 1909, when he was succeeded by William B. Hastings. Hastings facilitated the move of the College from University Hall, where classes had been conducted since 1891, to the College of Law building at 10th and "R".
Though Roscoe Pound left the deanship of the University of Nebraska for Northwestern and then Harvard Universities, he continued to influence the direction of the College, In 1920, he advised the Board of Regents to reorganize the College by hiring full-time faculty and abandoning the practice of selecting part-time law instructors from the membership of the practicing bar. Pound also recommended the appointment of Warren A. Seavey to the deanship to carry out the changes. Dean Seavey implemented the changes and raised the requirements for admission the College to include sixty hours of college credit.
When Seavey left in 1926 to go to the University of Pennsylvania, the Regents appointed law faculty member Henry Hubbard Foster. Foster held the deanship until 1945. Frederick K. Beutel succeeded Foster as dean.
During his tenure, Beutel, a former Assistant Solicitor for the U.S. Department of the Interior, proposed a series of curricular changes to reflect the growing need for lawyers to be trained in the workings of the legislative and administrative branches of government. Beutel served as dean until 1950, when Edmund O. Belsheim assumed the deanship. He oversaw the introduction of the honor system during examinations and participation by member of the law faculty and students in the formation of the Lincoln Legal Aid Bureau.
David Dow, a faculty member of the Law college since 1946, assumed the deanship in 1960. Under Dow, enrollment at the College began the increase which resulted in the number of law students more than doubling by decade's end. In 1964, Dow also received the Board of Regent's authorization to confer the Juris Doctor degree rather than the L.L.B. degree.
Dow served as dean until 1966 when he was succeeded by Henry M. Grether, a former Assistant Attorney General of Nebraska and a member of the College of Law faculty since 1948. Grether presided over the move of the College of Law from the building it was housed in since 1913 to its new home on East Campus, Ross McCollum Hall.
In 1977, Grether resumed full teaching responsibilities and John W. Strong assumed the deanship. Under his leadership, the Sherman S. Welpton, Jr. Courtroom was added to the new law building. In 1983, Harvey S. Perlman was named dean and began work to expand the law library. In 1998, Nancy B. Rapoport became the first woman dean of the University of Nebraska College of Law, and moved to further the Schmid Law Library Renovation and Expansion Project.
Steven Willborn succeeded Rapoport on July 1, 2001. Since that time, the College has invested about $12 million in a complete renovation of its facilities. The renovations include a beautiful new reading room, an outdoor courtyard, and a new suite of legal writing offices. In 2003, for the first time ever, the number of female first-year students exceeded the number of male first-year students.
On May 15, 2010, Susan Poser became Dean of the University of Nebraska College of Law.
The College has had a strong past and looks forward to a solid future, as it continues to prepare leaders for Nebraska and the world.