History of the College
The Legal Education in Tamil Nadu has a long and interesting history. Mr. George Norton was the first to conceive the idea of Legal education in Madras. The genesis of Legal Education can be traced to the informal law classes conducted by him in his house in the form of conversations in the early 19th century.
In 1852 at the direction of the Governor, Sir Henry Pottinger, a Government High School was expanded into the Presidency College. Mr. John Bruce Norton who was appointed as the first Professor of law in 1855, delivered his lectures at the Presidency College. Till 1884, there was only one Professor of Law in the Presidency College. In 1884, to supplement lectures by tutorials, a second Professor was appointed. To him was entrusted the tutorial work. The Scheme was put on trial for two years. Since it proved a success, it was continued for two more years from Ist January 1886.
Mr.H.B. Grigg, the Director of Public Instruction evinced keen interest in improving the status of the legal education. He sent a proposal to the Government for setting up a Central Law College in Madras. The Government concurred with the conclusion of the Director of Public Instruction that changes were necessary in the arrangements for Law Instruction and that an independent institution should be established. In 1885 Mr. Justice Muthusamy Ayyar gave his warm support to the proposal.
The establishment of the Law College as an independent institution under the control of the Director of Public instruction was sanctioned by the Secretary of State, on the advice of the Council of Legal Studies (Education) in London. Mr. Reginald, A. Nelson, the first Principal, entered upon his duties on 2nd May 1891. Thus the Law College came into existence. For seven and a half years after birth it had no habitation of its own and the College was housed at the Senate House of the University of Madras.
A project to place the new institution as near the High Court as possible led to the selection of a site for erecting a structure to the west of the High Court building. The present building of the Law College was designed by Mr. Henry Irwing, the Government Architect. The Law College moved into this building on 9th January, 1899. As a natural consequence of gaining a building of its own, the Law College was converted into a whole time institution.
The year 1953 witnessed a vital change in the set up of legal education in the state. A separate department of Legal Studies was created and Director of Legal Studies was appointed for the first time.
The law college acquired a hostel of its own in 1959. The college celebrated its Platinum Jubilee in 1968. In 1991 the college completed 100 years. In 1999 the Building Centenary was celebrated. In the early seventies, the Law College was upgraded as a Post Graduate Institution with the introduction of M.L. Courses. From 1973-74 the Tamil Language has also been made as a medium of instruction in Law as part of a Government Policy to introduce Tamil as Official Language at all levels in the State.
A new two storeyed block was constructed in 1976 and an auditorium in 1978 – A hostel for the law college women students was started in 1977-1978. Further a new two storeyed block has been constructed for the library in the law college campus in 2007.
The ever increasing demand for Legal Education led to the proliferation of law colleges in our state and in a short period, law colleges were started at Madurai. (1974-1975), Coimbatore, Tiruchirappalli (1978-80) Tirunelveli (1996-97), Chengalpattu 2006-2007 and Vellore (2008-09). The separation of the Directorate of Legal Studies from the Madras Law college in November 1981 was an important step taken by the government to improve the Department of legal Studies. Presently it is housed in our own building at Purasawalkam High Road, Kilpauk, Chennai – 600 010.
In order to encourage scholarship and research in law the Department has been publishing a Year Book of Legal Studies since 1955.
The Government of Tamil Nadu has renamed the Madras law College as Dr. Ambedkar Government Law College in commemoration of the birth centenary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in 1990.
The Dr. Ambedkar Government Law College, Chennai is affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, Chennai from the academic year 1997-98.
With a view to upgrading the standards of legal education, B.A.B.L., (Hons) course was introduced in the college from the academic year 2002-2003 and the same has been shifted to the T.N. Dr. Ambedkar Law University with effect from the academic year 2006-2007.