Law School Archives


Records of the administration of the law school; of teaching and learning; and of student life that have been selected for retention because of their continuing value form the archives of the W&L School of Law. The selection of such records for retention -- and the destruction of those that are not chosen -- is carried out in adherence to the records management guidelines established by Washington and Lee University Office of General Counsel.

The archives holdings are small for a one hundred fifty year old school. There are several reasons for this.

The records of the School of Law were inextricably bound with those of the university as a whole for the first one hundred years of its existence. Thus early matriculation books, law class photos, handwritten law deans' reports, etc. can be found in the holdings of the Special Collections Department of W&L's Leyburn Library.

Official transcripts and all other student records (re admissions, placement, etc.) are the responsibility of the University Registrar and the School of Law Recorder. They retain these records and control access to them indefinitely.

A devastating fire in December 1934 destroyed the law school's first building and its contents. This included all of the records stored in that building.

The lack of a records program at the University allowed an incalculable amount of records and personal papers -- including the records of ten of the fourteen law deans -- to be destroyed or deposited in other institutions.

There are nine broad categories of records in the law school archives holdings:
1) Non-current records from administrative offices

2) Record copies of selected publications by the School of Law

3) Photographs

4) Law Exams

5) Moot Court Competition Records

6) Architectural plans of the law school building

7) Client files and other records retired from legal clinics of the law school

8) Faculty publications 

9) Archive of Washington and Lee University School of Law Website

1) Records from administrative offices (Dean, Assistant and Associate Deans, the Francis Lewis Law Center, the Law Librarian, etc.) are available only to staff of the office of creation. All others must have the permission of the head of the department of origin before being granted access.

Exceptions to this access rule are the following which are open to the researching public:

William H. Moreland (Dean, 1923-1944)

Correspondence, 1921-1946 (bulk 1934-1945), 3 cu. ft.

Clayton E. Williams (Dean 1944-1960)

Correspondence, 1935-1961; 2 cu. ft.

Faculty "Personnel Files", 1917-1990.
Note: Official personnel files are maintained by W&L's Personnel Services in accordance with university records guidelines. These 'Faculty "Personnel Files"' were created by the office of the Dean of the School of Law and consist primarily of correspondence between that office and members of the faculty. Access is available to files of deceased persons only.

2) Access to the publications is unrestricted, but these materials do not circulate and must be used in the archives. Titles include:
School of Law Catalogs, 1849-present.

Law News (the student newspaper), 1972-present.

Res Ipsa (Law School yearbook), 1980-1990; 2000-present.

The Lawyer, 1953-1995.

Dean's Report, 1968-1998.

W&L Law (alumni magazine), 1996-present.

Law School Directory, 1978-present.

School of Law Alumni Directory, 1881-present.

3) Photo access is unrestricted.

4) Access to exams of current faculty members of status is allowed only with the permission of the professor who wrote the exam. Though exams as recent as 2016 are present,the bulk of the exams are from 1981 to 2007. There are some exams from the period 1966-1980 and some very few nineteenth and early-twentieth century exams, as well. An index by course title is available for the period 1981-2016.

Some more recent exams -- 1998 and forward -- are available to the law school community under password protection through the Academic Success webpage under the "Exam Preparation" tab.  The Law School Recorder's Office also holds an extensive run of exams. Access is under the jurisdiciton of that office.

5) Holdings of Moot Court Competitions records are open to researchers. Materials present are typically: best briefs, problems, and printed programs form the competitions. Be aware that the holdings are incomplete and the writers of the briefs are often identified only by social security numbers.
6) Access to building plans is generally limited to Physical Plant personnel and builders contracted to work for the law school.
7) Legal clinical files are available only to the staff of the clinic that created the records. The client files are destroyed according to the records schedules of the individual clinics.


8) The library has endeavored to collect one copy of every publication of each faculty member, within the guidelines stated in the Collection Development Policy. These are stored in the archives, though the law school's digital Scholarly Commons is likely to be the home of such publications in the future. All are in the Catalog and may be read in the archives. Occasionally such publications are circulated and even sent through interlibrary loan. Such actions are decided on a case-by-case basis.