The College of Law’s history dates to 1891 when the Detroit College of Law was established to serve residents of Detroit. Before the Law College’s founding, the only way a Detroit resident could become a member of the bar without leaving the city to study was by “reading” law in local attorneys’ offices. The Law College’s founders were a group of such “readers”—law clerks and students in southeastern Michigan. As a result, during the first two years of the school’s history, its directors were themselves students—a unique situation.

The first class of 69 graduates included a future circuit court judge and a future ambassador. A woman in the first class and an African American in the second exemplified the Law College’s commitment to offering all sectors of the population an opportunity for a quality legal education.

In 1995, the Law College affiliated with Michigan State University, thereby providing students with access to a wealth of resources and opportunities while preserving the school’s student-centric culture. Over the years, the affiliation relationship grew progressively closer, until MSU and MSU Law leadership committed to full integration in October 2018. As of August 17, 2020, MSU College of Law was fully integrated into the university, and exists as a constituent college of MSU.

Michigan State University College of Law has preserved the historic DCL values of access and opportunity, work ethic, and immersion in the profession, while embracing the opportunities that come from being part of a Big Ten university.