The Villanova Law Story

Villanova Law

At the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, our broad-based legal education is grounded in academic rigor, practical hands-on training and a foundation in business that primes graduates for diverse and rewarding legal careers.

Wherever your interests may lie—international law, corporate law, intellectual property law or public interest law—you will find programs at Villanova Law that will prepare you for the future. Guided by our Where Law Meets Business philosophy, our programming infuses vital business principles, professional skills, ethical training and practical experiences into each student’s education. Through innovative coursework, six clinics and 200+ externship placements, Villanova students learn by doing so they graduate with the knowledge and skills needed for success in today’s competitive job market.

Villanova Law distinguishes itself not only by the quality of its legal training, but by its inclusive, supportive and vibrant community. Here, you’ll meet students, faculty and staff from differing backgrounds who are approachable and available. You will learn from and work with them not only in our state-of-the-art classrooms, but in our hallways, library and offices.  At Villanova, learning happens in a community.

Come visit us so that you can tour our building, meet our students and faculty, attend a class and explore the Philadelphia metropolitan area. 

Villanova’s values-based, community-focused educational program is guided by the teachings of St. Augustine—the prolific, fourth-century theologian whose namesake order founded our University.

Augustine viewed community as a meaningful nexus of courage, humility and service—a place where true learning manifests. His fearless search for knowledge can be summed up in the three words that appear on the Villanova University seal: Veritas, Unitas, Caritas. Everything at Villanova—from the academic to the extracurricular—is rooted in those values of truth, unity and love.

At Villanova Law, students and faculty members learn with and from each other. Our learning community requires open, intelligent, responsible and mutually respectful interactions and points of view in search of wisdom. We invite and welcome people of all faiths to our community to participate. Inclusion and diversity of faith continuously inspire Villanova’s teacher-scholar model that demands intellectual courage within the context of shared values and a commitment to the common good, and to each person’s role in working toward a more just and peaceful world.

Villanova University was founded by the Order of Saint Augustine in 1842 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. It was a time of significant anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. Villanova College, as it was then known, was founded to educate the sons of Irish immigrants who were being denied jobs and educational opportunities.

For decades the University’s curricula concentrated on the liberal arts; however, as time passed the need for new programming increased. The idea for a law school at Villanova first surfaced in the 1920s, but was not realized until the physical and programmatic expansion that took place at the University after World War II.

The vision for a Villanova’s School of Law came to fruition in the 1950s—made possible by philanthropic support. Eugene Lester Garey—a prominent New York Lawyer—bequeathed $1.2 million to the University to establish a school of law. In February 1953, Harold Gill Reuschlein, a veteran professor of the University of Pittsburgh and Georgetown, was appointed the School’s first dean. The first class of Villanova Law students—65 men and 3 women—began their studies just a few months later on September 12, 1953.

Knowing that a law school could be only as great as the graduates it produced, Founding Dean Harold Gill Reuschlein actively sought out leadership potential in prospective students. He pursued for the student government leaders, captains of athletic teams and those who served in the military for the School’s first classes. Those first Villanova Law graduates achieved great success, becoming managing partners in leading law firms and heads of multinational companies.

The alumni who followed continued to fulfill Dean Reuschlein’s vision, becoming leaders in law, in government, in business and in the community. We are the proud alma mater to numerous leaders, including a former U.S. Senator; a former Governor; a Congressman; countless CEOs, COOs and members of corporate counsel; judges at senior levels and notable community advocates.

In January 2016, Villanova University President, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, announced a transformative $25 million leadership gift to the Law School from alumnus Charles Widger, Esq., ’73 CWSL, founder and executive chairman of Brinker Capital. In recognition, the School was named the “Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law,” becoming the first named school at Villanova University.

Mr. Widger’s $25 million gift supports the growth of the endowment and the enhancement of academic innovation at the Law School through the following programs to be named in his honor, including an:

  • Endowed Scholars Program to provide financial support to incoming Law School students who have shown a significant interest in both law and business and have demonstrated leadership qualities.

  • Endowed University Professorship to create a new interdisciplinary University faculty member position based in the Law School that will help foster cross-campus research, academic programming and collaboration among Villanova’s colleges. Brett Frischmann, JD—a renowned expert in intellectual property and internet law—was appointed the inaugural Charles Widger Endowed University Professor in Law, Business and Economics in June 2017.

  • Dean’s Innovation Fund to support new strategic and academic programs that enable the law school to stay on the cutting-edge of ever-shifting market conditions. 

Situated 12 miles west of downtown Philadelphia, Villanova Law offers students the best of both worlds—a picturesque suburban location that is a short regional train ride away from one of the nation’s most dynamic cities. With a train stop just steps from the law school building, the City of Brotherly Love is only minutes away.

Philadelphia—the fifth largest city in the United States—is located conveniently in the middle of the Northeast Corridor, in close proximity to New York City (100 miles north) and Washington, DC (133 miles south). Home to some of the largest companies and most prestigious law firms in the nation, Philadelphia is one of the East Coast’s primary legal job markets, offering students access to externships, summer clerkships, pro bono work, and postgraduate careers.

The Villanova Law presence is strong in the Philadelphia region, with an active alumni network ready to welcome and mentor graduates as they find their place in the law.

Villanova Law graduates join a tight-knit community of alumni that’s over 10,000 lawyers strong. You’ll find our alumni in positions of leadership and influence throughout the country and around the globe. They become federal and state judges, professors, entrepreneurs and successful lawyers, many of whom are recognized as being among the Best Lawyers in America and who have received numerous awards for their work in the community.

Our alumni include the former governor of Pennsylvania, a former United States Senator from New Hampshire, the current President of the AFL-CIO, the President of Jefferson Health System and the general counsels of Fortune 500 companies. 

Our alumni remain a part of the Villanova community and take an active role in helping our students succeed. They recruit students, become mentors and help them network with prospective employers.