The Founders

The Founders

 

Albany Law School came into being at the halfway point of the 19th century, a time of great change at home and abroad. During this period, New York experienced parallel changes and growth. New York's capital was a hub not only of state government and law, but of commerce and industry.  The rapid economic development of America during the first half of the century was accompanied by a transformation in legal thought.

That resulted in a growing shift of training for the profession from a lengthy apprenticeship, which had been viewed as elitist by some. In New York, about 15 trustees of a law school were designated in April 1851, shortly after legislation by the state authorized the creation of the University of Albany and a law division.

But, the early administration, growth and foundation of Albany Law School and the teaching of many of those classes are credited to three distinguished lawyers who were the school's visionaries.

The triumvirate of Amasa J. Parker, Ira Harris and Amos Dean led the school for the first 17 years, during a time of great change and growth in the fledgling country. The rapid economic development of American during the first half of the century was accompanied by a transformation in legal thought.

Of the three founders of Albany Law School, Parker and Harris had the most in common. By mid-century, both were prominent at the local and state levels. Both enjoyed thriving private practices in Albany and had served in the state Assembly. In 1851, Harris was a justice of the state Supreme Court. Parker was a judge of the Court of Appeals.

Judge Parker was famous for his efficiency and punctuality. It was said that he never failed to answer a business letter on the same day that it was received and that he always opened court precisely on time.

Parker was know for his expeditious handling of trials during the anti-rent riots of 1845 in Delaware County, where the jails were overflowing with more than 150 people charged with murder and other violent crimes. He disposed of the cases in three weeks and was credited with restoring law and order to the region.

Before the law school was founded, Parker had served as a Democratic representative from the state to the 25th Congress. He ran twice for governor but lost.

Harris, the more charismatic of the two, was more successful in obtaining high political office.  He was elected to the state Assembly as a Whig, with anti-rent movement support, and later joined the Republican Party. Considered a fair judge and a fine statesman and orator by contemporaries, he was later elected to the U.S. senate during the administration of Abraham Lincoln.

Parker and Harris put aside political differences to create Albany Law School. Both had apprenticed with men who had firsthand knowledge of the Litchfield Law School and Peter Van Schaack's Kinderhook school, both which offered formal legal training for nearly 50 years starting shortly after the birth of the nation. Parker and Harris' involvement in a short-lived law school operated in Ballston Spa affirmed their belief in the superior value of formal legal education.

In contrast to his two illustrious colleagues, Amos Dean became neither a judge nor a politician. From his youth, Dean had demonstrated a passion for learning, which he later channeled into teaching, scholarship and the establishment and support of several institutions of higher education.

History, philosophy and science were among Dean's favorite interests, and he especially enjoyed the intricate and sometimes arcane subject of the law. But once he passed the bar and joined an Albany law firm, Dean found he disliked court work.

Instead, he preferred consulting with clients and preparing legal documents. He also found time to write several books: a treatise on phrenology, a manual of law for businessmen, an essay on philosophy and a course of lectures on medical jurisprudence, which he honed Albany Medical College. His seven-volume "History of Civilization," begun in 1833, would be published posthumously.

When his law partner retired in 1854, Dean abandoned the practice and threw himself into nurturing the fledgling law school. Harris and Parker would have been aware of Dean's proven organizational skills and teaching experience at the time of the law school's founding. Dean had helped establish Albany Medical College in 1838, serving for many years as its professor of medical jurisprudence.

Amos Dean's role in managing the day-to-day affairs of Albany Law School cannot be overstated. He was the school's first head, or dean. As well-known figures in area law and politics, the reputations of Parker and Harris were crucial to attracting students. Their wide experience also benefitted their classroom Albany Law School came into being at the halfway point of the 19th century, a time of great change at home and abroad. During this period, New York experienced parallel changes and growth. New York's capital was a hub not only of state government and law, but of commerce and industry.  The rapid economic development of America during the first half of the century was accompanied by a transformation in legal thought.

That resulted in a growing shift of training for the profession from a lengthy apprenticeship, which had been viewed as elitist by some. In New York, about 15 trustees of a law school were designated in April 1851, shortly after legislation by the state authorized the creation of the University of Albany and a law division.

But, the early administration, growth and foundation of Albany Law School and the teaching of many of those classes are credited to three distinguished lawyers who were the school's visionaries.

The triumvirate of Amasa J. Parker, ira Harris and Amos Dean led the school for the first 17 years, during a time of great change and growth in the fledgling country. The rapid economic development of American during the first half of the century was accompanied by a transformation in legal thought.

Of the three founders of Albany Law School, Parker and Harris had the most in common. By mid-century, both were prominent at the local and state levels. Both enjoyed thriving private practices in Albany and had served in the state Assembly. In 1851, Harris was a justice of the state Supreme Court. Parker was a judge of the Court of Appeals.

Judge Parker was famous for his efficiency and punctuality. It was said that he never failed to answer a business letter on the same day that it was received and that he always opened court precisely on time.

Parker was know for his expeditious handling of trials during the anti-rent riots of 1845 in Delaware County, where the jails were overflowing with more than 150 people charged with murder and other violent crimes. He disposed of the cases in three weeks and was credited with restoring law and order to the region.

Before the law school was founded, Parker had served as a Democratic representative from the state to the 25th Congress. He ran twice for governor but lost.

Harris, the more charismatic of the two, was more successful in obtaining high political office.  He was elected to the state Assembly as a Whig, with anti-rent movement support, and later joined the Republican Party. Considered a fair judge and a fine statesman and orator by contemporaries, he was later elected to the U.S. senate during the administration of Abraham Lincoln.

Parker and Harris put aside political differences to create Albany Law School. Both had apprenticed with men who had firsthand knowledge of the Litchfield Law School and Peter Van Schaack's Kinderhook school, both which offered formal legal training for nearly 50 years starting shortly after the birth of the nation. Parker and Harris' involvement in a short-lived law school operated in Ballston Spa affirmed their belief in the superior value of formal legal education.

In contrast to his two illustrious colleagues, Amos Dean became neither a judge nor a politician. From his youth, Dean had demonstrated a passion for learning, which he later channeled into teaching, scholarship and the establishment and support of several institutions of higher education.

History, philosophy and science were among Dean's favorite interests, and he especially enjoyed the intricate and sometimes arcane subject of the law. But once he passed the bar and joined an Albany law firm, Dean found he disliked court work.

Instead, he preferred consulting with clients and preparing legal documents. He also found time to write several books: a treatise on phrenology, a manual of law for businessmen, an essay on philosophy and a course of lectures on medical jurisprudence, which he honed Albany Medical College. His seven-volume "History of Civilization," begun in 1833, would be published posthumously.

When his law partner retired in 1854, Dean abandoned the practice and threw himself into nurturing the fledgling law school. Harris and Parker would have been aware of Dean's proven organizational skills and teaching experience at the time of the law school's founding. Dean had helped establish Albany Medical College in 1838, serving for many years as its professor of medical jurisprudence.

Amos Dean's role in managing the day-to-day affairs of Albany Law School cannot be overstated. He was the school's first head, or dean. As well-known figures in area law and politics, the reputations of Parker and Harris were crucial to attracting students. Their wide experience also benefitted their classroom teaching.

But Dean, who by all accounts was beloved by his students, seems to have embraced the task with zeal of running the law school.

The three founders of Albany Law School envisioned an educational institution that would train aspiring lawyers and benefit the legal profession and larger community. They created a foundation for the school with all the ingredients of success: university affiliation; the support of prominent civic leaders; the setting of a thriving state capital with its legislature and courts; access to a good library; a dedicated administration and faculty; and a pool of motivated students.

In these respects, Albany Law School has changed little since the 19th Century.