Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School was founded in 1933 as an independent, freestanding educational institution dedicated to providing a quality educational opportunity to non-traditional or adult learners, and to other significantly underserved segments of Georgia citizenry.
The first Dean of John Marshall Law School was S.B. Fenster who, along with the other founders of the institution, brought with him a dedication to broadening the opportunity for legal education to those traditionally denied such career options. This dedication is evidenced by the fact that John Marshall was among the first of the Southern law schools to integrate its student body and the fact that women have been represented in the student body since the school’s first graduating class. Since its founding, the school has continued to provide access to legal education to those residents of Georgia who, for what ever reason, were unable to achieve their goal from other, more established institutions of legal education. Alumni of John Marshall now number in excess of 2,000 members and many have served with distinction as members of the judiciary, public officials, government officials, and as members of the private bar serving the people of the State of Georgia.
In 1978, the Supreme Court of Georgia promulgated standards and procedures for the approval of law schools and set forth an application process similar to the accreditation process of the American Bar Association (ABA). After gaining its initial approval, John Marshall Law School had its approval renewed after each subsequent inspection between 1978 and 1987.
In 1987, the Supreme Court changed its 1978 promulgation to require that all law schools in the state be approved by the ABA. To meet the goal of achieving ABA approval, the John Marshall Law School Board of Trustees endorsed a plan designed to bring the school into compliance with ABA Standards.
To assist in achieving ABA approval, the school signed a management agreement with the Argosy Education Group (AEG), the nation’s largest provider of doctoral level programs in the field of psychology, as well as a significant presence in the fields of education and business. In 2001, after a change in ownership of AEG, the law school once again found itself a freestanding, independent law school under the direction of then Chairman of the Board of Directors, Dr. Michael C. Markovitz.
Under the leadership of Dr. Markovitz, the Board of Directors determined that the school would once again seek approval by the ABA and all steps reasonably necessary to accomplish that goal would be undertaken. A major renovation project at the school was recently completed providing new classrooms, a new trial courtroom and a new appellate courtroom, each equipped with audio – video capabilities, to provide facilities for the training of advocates. The library was also expanded to accommodate a growing collection.
Today, Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School remains the sole surviving heir to Georgia’s long tradition of law schools offering a part-time evening program designed to provide access to legal education to non-traditional students. As we move further into the 21st century, the law school has placed itself in a position to grow and develop into a major institution of legal education in the Southeast.