» The History of the Fowler School of Law

An Innovative Foundation

With its fresh approach to legal education and its ties to California's origin as a state, Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law's illustrious and innovative past paves the way for a limitless future.

Our Philosophy

The Fowler School of Law is a place where future lawyers prepare for life as professionals and officers of the court, providing the groundwork for a lifetime of legal service. Graduates gain a deep understanding of professionalism, serving with honor and distinction whether handling the smallest matter for a single client, or advising our country or others on upholding the rule of law.

The study of law at Fowler School of Law is collaborative, rigorous and personal. Students gain a thorough understanding of the rule of law and core legal principles, while learning key skills to transition effortlessly into the legal workplace. They are bound to ethical standards so they may help those who will seek their advice within the boundaries of the spirit and letter of the law, and to find fulfillment in helping others.

Unlike some legal teaching methods that foster an educational environment grounded in intimidation, Chapman professors seek to challenge old paradigms and put students at the center of the educational experience, while simultaneously retaining rigorous classroom discussion.

The History of the Law School

The law school opened in 1995 as Orange County's first law school on a university campus. In 2013, a generous $55 million gift by Dale and Ann Fowler renamed the school to the Dale E. Fowler School of Law.

The law school site was once part of the fabled Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana, a huge tract granted by the Spanish crown in 1810. A prominent Los Angeles lawyer, Alfred Beck Chapman, and his law partner, Andrew Glassell, acquired a large portion of the ranch in 1868, and laid out the town, which today is called Orange.

In 1872, Mr. Chapman donated to the town the land on which the new law building is located. The law building is located just two blocks from "the circle" in the heart of Historic Old Towne Orange. The circle has been featured in a number of movie productions because of its quaint array of restaurants and shops, many of which trade in antiques. On June 1, 1999, the School of Law occupied the new $30 million law school complex on Chapman University's main campus in Orange.

In 1999, the law school building was officially named Donald P. Kennedy Hall, honoring Mr. Donald Kennedy, a Chapman trustee and benefactor who was a longtime chairman of the board of First American Financial Corporation. Kennedy, who passed away in 2012, served First American for more than 60 years, overseeing its dramatic expansion from a single office in Santa Ana, California to a Fortune 500 company with hundreds of offices around the world. The principal Kennedy Hall building at Chapman University rises four stories and provides 133,000 square feet of floor space, a vibrant and efficient learning environment for our students.

  • Classrooms and seminar rooms are equipped with state-of-the-art technology for enhanced teaching and learning, and are capable of accommodating future changes in electronic, visual and on-site learning.
  • The law library occupies three stories of the Kennedy Hall law school building, enhancing the research process by offering comfortable student carrels, numerous private study rooms, Wi-Fi, and wireless printing technology. The award-winning library has a comprehensive set of essential print volumes as well as a wide variety of digital research databases, such as Bloomberg, Lexis, Westlaw, and many more.
  • Two courtrooms, one designed for trials and the other for appellate hearings, provide fully equipped facilities for trial advocacy exercises, mock trial and moot court competitions, and formal hearings by visiting courts.
  • The popular student lounge provides couches and tables, TVs, a game room with billiards and foosball tables, vending machines and microwave ovens. Chapman University offers a number of dining options, including multiple coffee venues, a smoothie shop, a sandwich counter, and a grill. The university also hosts different gourmet food trucks during extended lunch hours each day of the week.
  • The law school is home to a diverse range of student organizations reflecting the varied interests of our student body. The school also provides a quiet reflection room and a private room for new parents who are nursing.
  • A 720-car parking structure adjacent to the law building provides ample parking for students, faculty, and staff, and includes battery chargers for electric cars. 

The distinctive historical facade of an earlier building, modeled after the eleventh century Romanesque Basilica del Santi Vitale e Agricola in Bologna, Italy, is preserved within the walls of Kennedy Hall. Thus, the building links the important heritage of the past with the exciting educational environment of the future.

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