The first law school in the country was founded in Litchfield by Tapping Reeve in 1784. Reeve had already been instructing law students in his living room for a number of years when he decided to construct a one-room building next to his home to accommodate his library, law lectures, and moot court exercises. When Reeve became a Connecticut Superior Court judge in 1798, he asked James Gould, a recent graduate of the school, to join him, and the two men operated the school together for the next two decades.
Even though the Litchfield Law School offered practical instruction more in the tradition of the legal apprenticeship than that of the modern law school, it was considered the most influential force in legal education until the opening of Harvard Law School in 1817. Its students took detailed lecture notes which they bound into leather volumes and later used for reference in their office law libraries. The UConn Law School Library archives has a number of these notebooks in its collection; contact Preservation Services at 860-570-5031 for more information.
The school had more than 900 graduates by the time it closed in 1833, including such distinguished alumni as educator Horace Mann, future Vice Presidents John C. Calhoun and Aaron Burr, over 100 members of Congress, and numerous Cabinet members, Governors, and judges. The Litchfield Historical Society has compiled a list of students who attended the school.
The Tapping Reeve House and Litchfield Law School can be visited from mid-April through November.
For more, see the following articles:
Influence of Litchfield Law School on American Law, John Hamilton King 40 Conn. Bar J. 440 (1966)
"To Learn and Make Respectable Hereafter": The Litchfield Law School in Cultural Context, Andrew M. Siegel 73 N.Y.U. Law Rev. 1978 (1998)
The Lawyer Scribe: The Litchfield Law School, Laptops, and the Metaphysics of Soul-Searching, Louise Harmon 32 Legal Studies Forum 837 (2008)