History

Chief Justice of the United States

Warren E. Burger

Warren E. Burger ’31 was the 15th Chief Justice of the United States from 1969 to 1986

In 1900, five notable St. Paul lawyers had an entirely new idea for legal education. They founded a night law school for people who, because they were earning a living and supporting a family, needed an alternative to daytime law school.

The founders pulled together a group of students, many of them clerks in their law firms, and taught the classes themselves, bringing a real-world, practical perspective to the classroom. The college flourished, buoyed by the practical wisdom of the founders and the workaday ethic of the students.

That maverick law school, along with four other area schools that shared its practical sense, would eventually become William Mitchell College of Law in 1956.

As the law school’s emphasis on practical legal education continued, its graduates, such as Warren E. Burger ’31, the 15th chief justice of the United States, and Rosalie E. Wahl ’67, the first woman to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court, stood out for their legal know-how.

William Mitchell developed a clinical program in 1973, one of the first schools in the nation to do so, and led the way with its legal writing, advocacy, and practicum programs.
In 1980, the college, always responsive to the needs of students, began offering daytime classes and the option of full-time enrollment, in addition to its night classes. Day or night, William Mitchell’s classes were filled with a cross-section of students coming from established careers or straight from their undergraduate experiences.

Today William Mitchell is still pioneering practical legal education and is recognized for its flexible, intellectually independent, experimental character established more than a century ago.

Our 11,000 alumni are leaders in the profession, working in the state’s largest law firms, Fortune 500 companies, judiciary, government and nonprofit organizations. Our scholarship and service makes an impact on our community, our students, our graduates, and the law.

Who was William Mitchell?

William B. Mitchell

In 1956, the law school was named for Justice William B. Mitchell of the Minnesota Supreme Court from 1881 to 1899.

Justice Mitchell was one of Minnesota’s finest judges, known for opinions that were regarded as models of brevity and sound judicial reasoning.