Filed Under Education

J. Reuben Clark Law Building (JRCB)

Just east of the Harris Fine Arts Center lies the J. Reuben Clark Building, home to BYU’s Law School. The building was completed in 1975 and the school has since become an internationally recognized institution, ranked 39th in the U.S. for Best Law Schools.

In 1970, BYU President and former attorney Ernest L. Wilkinson suggested to leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the creation of a law school, and in March 1971, Harold B. Lee announced that one would be established at BYU in the coming years. In November 1971, Rex E. Lee, who would later become president of BYU, was named the first dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School. Ground was broken for the law school building in May 1973.

Classes began in the fall of 1973 and were held in the nearby St. Francis of Assisi School, which the law school leased in 1972 after the Catholic school there was discontinued. Law students attended classes in St. Francis of Assisi until the J. Reuben Clark Building’s completion and dedication in 1975. The first class graduated in 1976.

The school’s namesake, J. Reuben Clark Jr., studied law at Columbia University and was made Assistant Solicitor to the State Department in 1906 under Theodore Roosevelt. He became Solicitor to the State Department in 1910 under William Howard Taft. Clark was appointed Ambassador to Mexico in 1930 by Calvin Coolidge, a position he held until 1933 when he was sustained as second counselor to President Heber J. Grant in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In BYU President Dallin H. Oaks’ opening remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony, he said: “The life of J. Reuben Clark exemplifies the excellence of mind and character we seek to foster in the law school that now bears his name. Every person—and especially every young student of the law—can identify with the life of this great man and appropriately aspire to the greatness he attained.”

The BYU Law Library remained nameless until 1995, when it was dubbed the Howard W. Hunter Law Library at the groundbreaking for renovations that would double the library’s size. Hunter, a member of the BYU Board of Trustees, approved the creation of the school, participated in the selection of the first dean, and helped with fundraising efforts for the school. In 1989 the Howard W. Hunter Professorship was established in his honor. Hunter himself was a lawyer; he had studied at Southwestern University in Los Angeles, graduated cum laude, and had run his own practice for 19 years before entering full-time Church service.

President Oaks said of the purpose of the school: “Religious commitment, religious values, and concern with ethics and morality are part of the reason for this school’s existence, and will be in the atmosphere of its study.” At the dedication of the law building in 1975, Oaks and others expressed dismay at the negative perception of lawyers’ moral standards. Most speakers expressed hope for BYU’s law students in developing strong ethics and character through studying the laws of man “in the light of the laws of God.”

Images

Rex E. Lee and Bruce C. Hafen examine a model of the J. Reuben Clark Law School Building, 1971
Rex E. Lee and Bruce C. Hafen examine a model of the J. Reuben Clark Law School Building, 1971 “Rex E. Lee, left, who was appointed first dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School in November, 1971, and Bruce C. Hafen, assistant to the president, who was also involved in the organization of the new Law School, examine a model of the J. Reuben Clark Law School Building. Plans to establish the Law School at BYU were announced by President Harold B. Lee, then first counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, at an assembly on March 9, 1971, in the George Albert Smith Fieldhouse. Resignation of President Ernest L. Wilkinson was announced at the same meeting. The first law students were admitted and classes began in the autumn semester of 1973. The school will eventually have an enrollment of 500.” Source:

“Rex E. Lee and Bruce C. Hafen examine a model of the J. Reuben Clark Law School Building, 1971.” Photograph. Harold B. Lee Library Digital Collections, Brigham Young University, UAP 2 Folder 318. https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/BYUPhotos/id/909.

The St. Francis of Assisi School was used by the Law School for offices, library and classrooms pending the completion of the J. Reuben Clark Law School Building, 1972
The St. Francis of Assisi School was used by the Law School for offices, library and classrooms pending the completion of the J. Reuben Clark Law School Building, 1972 “The inscription on the building is "St. Francis of Assisi School" the sign in front of the building states, "Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School." The building housing the discontinued Catholic school was leased by the BYU Law School in 1972 to provide space for offices, library, and classrooms, pending the completion of the new J. Reuben Clark Law School Building on campus east of the Ernest L. Wilkinson Center, in September, 1975. Even while it was in a state of organization, the new BYU Law School assembled an outstanding library in the leased building which exceeded the collections of over half of the law school libraries in the United States.” Source: “The St. Francis of Assisi School was used by the Law School for offices, library and classrooms pending the completion of the J. Reuben Clark Law School Building, 1972.” Photograph. Harold B. Lee Library, Digital Collections, Brigham Young University, UAP 2 Folder 319. https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/BYUPhotos/id/914.
Brigham Young University photographs of the J. Reuben Clark Law School Building
Brigham Young University photographs of the J. Reuben Clark Law School Building J. Reuben Clark Building while under construction. Source:

“Brigham Young University photographs of the J. Reuben Clark Law School Building.” Photograph. L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University, UA 827 Box 2 Folder 16. https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/SCMisc/id/19770.

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the J. Reuben Clark Law School Building, May 1, 1973
Groundbreaking ceremonies for the J. Reuben Clark Law School Building, May 1, 1973 “In spite of the wind and cold, Dean Rex E. Lee spoke at groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Law School Building on Law Day, May 1, 1973. On this bone-chilling, wind-whipped day the event was held in the parking lot east of the Wilkinson Center. Speakers were Sam Brewster, director of the Physical Plant Department; Elder Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the Twelve Apostles; BYU President Dallin H. Oaks; and Dean Lee. Dean Lee, President Oaks, and Elder Benson climbed aboard a huge bulldozer as it scooped up the first earth of the excavation.” Source: “Groundbreaking ceremonies for the J. Reuben Clark Law School Building, May 1, 1973.” Photograph. Harold B. Lee Library Digital Collections, Brigham Young University, UAP 2 Folder 319. https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/BYUPhotos/id/913.
J. Reuben Clark Building
J. Reuben Clark Building Source:

BYU Law School. LinkedIn. https://media.licdn.com/dms/image/C561BAQFZMz_w7JlToQ/company-background_10000/0?e=2159024400&v=beta&t=gGNRB44GfZ-VgzU2xSn-MtlxXdFubvRtDfYCjyLdpZg

https://www.linkedin.com/school/byu-law-school/

Location

Metadata

Allie Patterson, Brigham Young University
, “J. Reuben Clark Law Building (JRCB),” Intermountain Histories, accessed May 19, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/372.