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Some may be surprised to hear that The Morningside Muckraker is not the first paper at Columbia Law. Columbia’s Law School News was a monthly print newspaper that ran from 1947 until 2003.  The first issue, which was released on April 22, 1947, settled the debate between Columbia Law School and Harvard Law School over which school had the first law school paper (we did).  The Columbia Jurist was the first paper at CLS and the first in the nation when it released its first issue on February 3, 1885, two years before Harvard’s counterpart. The Jurist was followed by the Columbia Law Times, the Columbia Law Review, the Columbia Law School News, and, now, the Morningside Muckraker.

According to professor Peter Strauss, the Law School News was ‘“the community rag,’ running stories about goings on at the law school, carrying messages from the Senate to the student body, interviewing or profiling faculty members… expressing editorial viewpoints about issues, [and] to some extent carrying views about the larger community.” Strauss goes on to say that the Law School News was targeted to students, but gave the faculty “a window into students’ general concerns.”

The archives of the Law School News can be found in Diamond Law Library.  Each issue, we will re-print an article from the archives. In the spirit of inaugural issues, here is an article from the inaugural issue of Law School News.

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Columbia Had First Law School Paper

April 22, 1947

M.E. DeOchris

Contrary to popular rumors floating along the banks of the Charles, the first law school periodical to be published regularly in this country was not the Harvard Law Review but the Columbia Jurist, which first saw the light of day on February 3, 1885.  Dusty copies of the pioneer publication now lie at rest in the inner sanctum of the Columbiana Library, prima facie evidence of another Columbia first.

The Jurist was later supplanted by the Columbia Law Times which in turn was followed by the Columbia Law Review, making the Columbia Law School News the fourth of the School’s ventures in the field of legal periodicals.

The Jurist, which preceded by a full two years its Harvard cousin, was a small, four-page, book-size weekly which lived by its motto, “Quality Before Quantity,” and soon had a Boston publisher saying it was “the only paper in the country paying attention to the wants and interests of law students.” The publication was eminently successful and by 1887 it had grown to eight pages, boasting correspondents in a dozen law schools from coast to coast, and even one in London.

Encouraged by the success of the Jurist, the Law School launched its second publication in 1886, the thirty-cent, thirty-page, monthly Columbia Law Times. To the editors, it seemed proper “that law students have a paper which may be made distinctively the champion and representative of the interest of the younger members of the profession.”  The Times supported vigorously Dean Keener’s new case system and the requirement of a college degree for the entrance to the law school.

In 1893, the graduating board of editors could find no one to carry on its burdens and the publication was suspended. Seven years later the Columbia Law Review was founded as a scholarly periodical.  The students and alumni did not have a regular newspaper for more than a half century until the creation of the News last month.

The editors of the first newspaper “aimed to serve” and the lively pages of the Jurist were filled with full reports of moot court trials, recent decisions, book reviews, comments on local events, and complete “lecture notes,” the “purples” of those days. Editorials matched the pompousness and dignity of the moustaches and sideburns of the time, and editors exchanged compliments and praises in the warm, vitriolic language of the gaslight era. But they had fight too, and their pens waged gallant verbal battles in defense of the Field Code which was the big legal issue of the day. 

The first volumn [sic] of the Jurist is inscribed, “To Professor T. W. Dwight with the compliments of the editors.” Scholarly articles by the Prof. Dwight, George Chase, John Dillon and Simeon Baldwin appear in various issues of the publication.

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