St. John's University School of Law opened its doors on
September 28, 1925. Founded 55 years after the opening of St.
John's University by the Vincentian Community, the School initially
dedicated itself to educating the children of individuals who had
been denied access to economic and educational opportunities.
In the School of Law's first year, classes were held in the
Terminal Building at 50 Court Street, Brooklyn. The University
selected George W. Matheson to lead the School of Law through its
first crucial years of existence. From the beginning, classes
filled so quickly that expansion was necessary almost immediately.
In August 1926, the school leased additional space in neighboring
buildings. Soon, even they overflowed. The School of Law needed a
new facility in which to grow. The school subsequently moved into a
new fourteen-story building at 96 Schermerhorn Street in downtown
In 1932, Dorothy C. Most, a native of Oklahoma educated in Texas,
was appointed Dean of Women, a new position established to
encourage the development of women leaders in the legal profession.
The strong leadership of the School of Law continued under Reverend
Joseph T. Tinnelly, C.M., Dean from 1950-1959, Reverend William F.
Cahill, Acting Dean in 1960, and Harold F. McNiece, Dean from
As college and graduate school applications skyrocketed in the late
1960s, the entire University began to once more feel confined. In
1970, John J. Murphy became Dean of the School of Law. In one of
his first official acts, Dean Murphy presided over the
ground-breaking ceremony for the Queens Campus, where most of the
University stands today. The School of Law moved into its new home
in 1972 – finding space for more classrooms, an expansive law
library, and offices for the growing faculty.
By 1981, when Dean Patrick J. Rohan began his decade-long tenure as
the head of the School, many additional faculty members had been
hired. Once again, the school needed more room.
On June 8, 1991, Dean Rudolph C. Hasl and benefactor Leon Finley
'29, '85HON broke ground for yet another expansion to the School of
Law, Finley Hall, which would more than double the size of the
School. The building added a new cafeteria with expanded
facilities, a larger and thoroughly modern law library, additional
classrooms, and more. Through the generosity of Jerome and Maxine
Belson, the older building was renovated and made compatible with
Finley Hall. The combined buildings, Belson and Finley Halls,
provide a very attractive and spacious facility for the School of
The School currently boasts more than 13,000 living graduates and
attracts students from over 200 colleges and universities
throughout the country. The current student body of approximately
1,000 represents students from many backgrounds, all of whom have
excelled in undergraduate institutions, and many of whom have been
employed prior to starting their law studies. Today, the School of
Law's original vision has widened to include students from all
parts of the nation and the world who share a mutual commitment to
the pursuit of excellence.