22 May 2019

BOOK: Paul DEFOREST HICKS, The Litchfield Law School: Guiding the New Nation (Wesport: Prospecta Press, 2019). ISBN 978-1632261007, $18.00

(Source: Amazon)

Prospecta Press has published a new book on the (defunct) oldest law school of the US, the Litchfield Law School.


In this well-researched and engaging book, Paul DeForest Hicks makes a convincing case that the Litchfield Law School provided the most innovative and successful legal education program in the country for almost fifty years (1784-1833). A recent history of the Harvard Law School acknowledged, “In retrospect, both Harvard and Yale have envied Litchfield’s success and wished to claim it as their ancestor.”

Upwards of twelve hundred bright and ambitious students came from all over the country to study law at Litchfield with Tapping Reeve and James Gould, who took a national rather than state perspective in their lectures on the evolving principles of American common law.

In every year from 1791 to 1860, there were law school alumni, including Aaron Burr and John C. Calhoun, who served at high levels in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal and state governments. Hicks gives fascinating details about many who succeeded as lawyers and in public office but also in the fields of business, finance, education, art and the military. Whether they practiced law or pursued other careers, their collective achievements continued to enhance the prestige of the Litchfield Law School long after it closed.


Paul DeForest Hicks is a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School. After practicing law in Denver, Colorado, he returned to New York where he joined J.P. Morgan. Retiring as a Managing Director after more than thirty years with JPM, he began a third career as a writer. 

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