University of California Hastings College of the Law has a rich history, dating from its founding as California's first law school in 1878. Hastings College takes its name from Serranus Clinton Hastings, the first Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court.
His legacy to California was the founding of Hastings College of the Law. For the establishment of the state's first public law school, he paid the sum of $100,000 into the state's treasury in 1878, declaring, "This College shall stand as long as government and civilized society shall stand. It shall be a monument, not of granite, wood, or marble, not a house made with hands, but a temple of law and intellect." In that age, when the study of law was mostly achieved under the tutelage of a practicing attorney, Hastings' put forth several ideas in his founding address for the new College that, for the time, were revolutionary.
To fulfill his vision of a “Temple of Law," Hastings began by focusing on the importance of a rigorous legal education. He outlined a three-year college curriculum, making the college one of only three law schools to require more than two years' study for the LL.B. The college's third year was devoted to "the codes and practice," unique to legal education at the time. Then he enlisted a local minister "...to lecture on ethics and rules of morality," signaling his determination to stress the importance of a high moral calling. He vehemently opposed the rejection of any applicant or student because of his poverty or limited means of support. Those foundations remain as college guideposts.
When Hastings Professor Ray Forrester died in February 2001, with him passed an era. He was the last active member of Hastings' Sixty-Five Club. In the years following World War II, Hastings College was known for the Sixty-Five Club, and for the dean who brought its members together, David Ellington Snodgrass. Dean Snodgrass, who served from 1940 to 1963, gathered at Hastings a group of eminent scholars and jurists, many retired involuntarily at age 65 from the nation's top law schools. For more than 30 years, the Sixty-Five Club provided Hastings with one of the most distinguished faculties of any American law school.
Since its founding in 1878, Hastings occupied a series of spaces. Seventy-five years of nomadic existence ended in 1953, largely through Dean Snodgrass' efforts, with the dedication of the classroom building at 198 McAllister Street, now named Snodgrass Hall.
The composition of Hastings' faculty evolved over the past three decades as Hastings grew into the nation's second largest public law school. Prior to 1971, the Sixty-Five Club was the hallmark that brought the College an international reputation. By the 1970s, the Sixty-Five Club members recognized that the college would benefit by having not only senior individuals of great distinction, but also new and younger members whose promise and abilities suggested that they ultimately could fill the shoes of the Sixty-Five Club members when they decided to retire. State and federal age-discrimination laws passed in the mid-1970s made it substantially more difficult to entice scholars over the age of 65 from other law schools to fill those new faculty positions.
In early 1990, then-Dean Frank "Tom" Read received permission from the legislature to reduce the size of the student body to approximately 1,200, while simultaneously increasing the number of regular faculty positions. Today, Hastings and its faculty resemble other nationally ranked law schools, except that the college stands in a distinctive San Francisco location, separate from an undergraduate campus.