How the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law Got Its Name

25Sep17

Contrary to popular belief, the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law is located at the University of Louisville, in Kentucky, and not at Brandeis University. Brandeis was born in Louisville in 1856, and while he never lived there again after he graduated from Harvard Law School, he retained a fondness for his hometown for the rest of his life. Starting in the 1920’s, he began a campaign to improve the quality of the University of Louisville. The Law School ended up being the biggest benefactor of the campaign. He arranged for the school to obtain subscriptions to various law reporters, as well as paper copies of all the briefs submitted to the US Supreme Court. (The law school continues to receive those briefs today, a distinction shared by only nine other libraries.) Brandeis also donated the bulk of his personal papers to the Law School–a collection of about 250,000 items. After their deaths, the remains of Brandeis and his wife were buried under the Law School’s portico.

Two short articles recently published online by the University of Louisville reflect upon the relationship between the University and Brandeis. The first one is about former Dean Don Burnett and his efforts to align the Law School with Brandeis’s ideals. His efforts culminated with the institution of a mandatory pro bono graduation requirement and the renaming of the school after Brandeis. (His successor, Laura Rothstein, would carry on the tradition of the school’s identification with Brandeis even further.)

The University of Louisville’s University Libraries department publishes a newsletter called The Owl. The latest issue of The Owl features an article written by myself that outlines Brandeis’s campaign to improve the University and its effect on the campus’s libraries. It turns out Brandeis’s fingerprints are all over the place here if you know where to look.

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