Through the Decades: 1910s

The law student everyone called Pinky reminisced about being a member of the Class of 1914. “There was no general indoctrination of any kind. On the contrary, we worked entirely from casebooks. Only a few years prior to this time, the Harvard Law School had adopted the casebook system, and it was copied so closely at Boalt Hall that we were expected to derive our legal training solely from the cases in our casebooks.” Feeling he was being poorly prepared for the legal profession, Pinky secured an after-class job in a Berkeley law office in order to gain some practical experience.

During the first decade of its existence, the School of Jurisprudence encouraged law students to work their way through Boalt Hall. “Board and lodging can often be obtained in exchange for three or four hours of household work daily. There are opportunities for general manual work, typewriting, stenography, and personal services of various kinds.” The YMCA, YWCA and the Appointment Secretary in California Hall were all recommended as employment agencies for cash-strapped law students.

The cost of attending the School of Jurisprudence was — at first — rather modest. The university was free to residents of California, and a fee of only ten dollars a semester was levied on non-residents. All students were required to pay an annual gymnasium fee of two dollars (even the unathletically-inclined) and an infirmary fee of three dollars, which entitled the student to visits with a doctor and hospitalization, if needed. However, beginning with the 1914-15 academic year law students were assessed a special “Law Library fee”of a staggering $25 a year. Board and lodging with a private family ranged from twenty-five to forty dollars a month, but student boarding clubs offered a cheaper alternative — as little as twenty bucks. At mid-decade a law student could attend Boalt Hall for a total personal expense of around $450 a year — or the equivalent in today’s money of about $10,000.

In January 1911 the law program moved from North Hall into the Boalt Memorial Hall of Law in the very center of campus. There were only four classrooms in the new building, and though that represented four times the number of rooms formerly available, scheduling the curriculum of thirty courses was at times problematic. The marble-columned, mahogany-tabled, chandelier-illuminated library had shelf space for a projected 90,000 volumes, and students studying there felt as though they had gained entrance to an elegant private club. In the basement of the building were five student offices, a large smoking lounge, a men’s locker room and a restroom (complete with shower). The entire basement was designated as a men-only space.

There was no women’s restroom anywhere in the new building (women students — and there were always a few in each class — were expected to go next door to California Hall), but on the northeast corner of the second floor of Boalt Hall, just off the library, there was a “women’s cloakroom.” The San Francisco Recorder in 1910 waxed poetic about the new facility. “[T]he fair sex takes it upon itself to study the law, and they must be provided for along with their male fellows. An inviting little room has been reserved especially for them, and it is expected it will furnish an incentive to ambitious co-eds, who have up to this time hesitated to study law on account of the forced association with the men.”

With a total population of around 175 law students, Boalt Memorial Hall of Law was a crowded, noisy, vibrant community. From the study tables crammed into corners of the attic, to the law review office near the dumb waiter in the basement, every square inch was occupied. Still, for both male and female law students Boalt Hall was, all in all, a refined, dignified, and yet very friendly place in which to study the law.

As for Pinky, he managed to scrape together enough information about the legal profession to have a fairly successful law career. Earl “Pinky” Warren was the only Boalt graduate ever to become Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.


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