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Law Academy Project

A comprehensive collection of works exploring the history of the Law Academy of Philadelphia, compiled by editor Dr. Joel Fishman.







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About the Law Academy of Philadelphia

In Pennsylvania, legal education has a long, varied history. Legal education in Pennsylvania began with the University of Pennsylvania Law School, which dates back to 1789-1790 when James Wilson, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, gave a series of law lectures. Unfortunately, the Law School did not continue and was only resurrected in 1850.

Therefore, the Law Academy of Philadelphia was one of the earliest educational institutions in the United States for law-related education, teaching law students and junior members of the bar the art of moot courts. The organization had several short-lived predecessors before its establishment by Stephen Du Ponceau in 1821. A leading Philadelphia lawyer in the early 19th century, Du Ponceau created “The Society for the Promotion of Legal Knowledge and Forensic Eloquence.” In addition, he established a subordinate organization called the Law Academy in 1821, complete with a constitution and by-laws. Over the century, the officers of the Academy increased in positions and number. And eventually, the professional bar of Philadelphia developed one of the best reputations in the country (“the Philadelphia lawyer”).

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About the Law Academy Project

The Law Academy Project aims to explore the Academy’s history from its beginnings to the mid-twentieth century. Within the database, users will find biographies of the Academy’s leading officers; course pamphlets; annual addresses from noted local, national, and international law experts; as well as other shorter pieces relating to the Academy.

The Law Academy Project is now available to all subscribers of our Legal Classics database. It may be accessed as a subcollection within the Legal Classics database and will also be located alphabetically on the Welcome page upon logging in to HeinOnline.

Database Tools and Features


Each year, Law Academy students were assigned different cases representing the plaintiff or defendant, with Academy officers serving as judges in the disputes. View the Argument List pamphlets published from these assignments beginning in 1855.

tablet screenshot of Law Academy Project pamphlet

Editor's Picks

While browsing, users will notice gold stars, denoting the titles which editor Dr. Joel Fishman considers to be most important. These 20+ “Editor’s Picks” provide a detailed description of the publication and an analysis of its importance to the Law Academy’s history.

Related Titles

Additionally, the Editor has included various shorter pieces related to the Academy, covering topics such as the bench and bar of Philadelphia, history of the Pennsylvania judiciary, law schools, legal bibliography, and more.

tablet screenshot of Law Academy Project related title

About the Editor

Dr. Joel Fishman has M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a M.L.S. degree from Queens College (CUNY). He has been a law librarian for 48 years: Assistant Law Librarian at Seton Hall University School of Law (1973–1977); Law Librarian, Allegheny County Law Library (1977–1999); Assistant, and then Associate Director for Lawyer Services, Duquesne University Center for Legal Information/ Allegheny County Law Library (1999–2016).

Dr. Fishman is a specialist in Pennsylvania legal history and bibliography. He has written more than 300 publications, including books, articles, chapters in books, and book reviews. His more recent notable works include co-author of Pennsylvania Legal Research Handbook, Bisel’s Special Education Lawsource: Federal and State Laws and Regulations, Pennsylvania Judicial Discipline Handbook, co-editor of Pennsylvania Constitution: A Treatise on Rights and Liberties (first ed.), and Hein legal research guides on Judicial Ethics and Discipline, Grand Juries, Grandparents’ Visitation Rights, and Pennsylvania Administrative Law. He also publishes annual indexes for the Journal of Supreme Court History, Pennsylvania Bar Association Quarterly, and Pennsylvania Family Lawyer. Two recent web projects are the Biographical Dictionary of the Justices of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Law Academy of Philadelphia for HeinOnline. He is co-Director of the Pennsylvania Constitution Website at Duquesne University School of Law. He also teaches an online Introduction to Legal Research course at the University of Pittsburgh College of General Studies and an American Legal History course at Duquesne University Forensic Science and Law Program. 

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