In contrast to his two illustrious colleagues, Amos Dean became
neither a judge nor a politician. From his youth, Dean had demonstrated a
passion for learning, which he later channeled into teaching,
scholarship and the establishment and support of several institutions of
History, philosophy and science were among Dean's favorite interests,
and he especially enjoyed the intricate and sometimes arcane subject of
the law. But once he passed the bar and joined an Albany law firm, Dean
found he disliked court work.
Instead, he preferred consulting with clients and preparing legal
documents. He also found time to write several books: a treatise on
phrenology, a manual of law for businessmen, an essay on philosophy and a
course of lectures on medical jurisprudence, which he honed Albany
Medical College. His seven-volume "History of Civilization," begun in
1833, would be published posthumously.
When his law partner retired in 1854, Dean abandoned the practice and
threw himself into nurturing the fledgling law school. Harris and
Parker would have been aware of Dean's proven organizational skills and
teaching experience at the time of the law school's founding. Dean had
helped establish Albany Medical College in 1838, serving for many years
as its professor of medical jurisprudence.
Amos Dean's role in managing the day-to-day affairs of Albany Law
School cannot be overstated. He was the school's first head, or dean. As
well-known figures in area law and politics, the reputations of Parker
and Harris were crucial to attracting students. Their wide experience
also benefitted their classroom Albany Law School came into being at the
halfway point of the 19th century, a time of great change at home and
abroad. During this period, New York experienced parallel changes and
growth. New York's capital was a hub not only of state government and
law, but of commerce and industry. The rapid economic development of
America during the first half of the century was accompanied by a
transformation in legal thought.
That resulted in a growing shift of training for the profession from a
lengthy apprenticeship, which had been viewed as elitist by some. In
New York, about 15 trustees of a law school were designated in April
1851, shortly after legislation by the state authorized the creation of
the University of Albany and a law division.
But, the early administration, growth and foundation of Albany Law
School and the teaching of many of those classes are credited to three
distinguished lawyers who were the school's visionaries.
The three founders of Albany Law School envisioned an educational
institution that would train aspiring lawyers and benefit the legal
profession and larger community. They created a foundation for the
school with all the ingredients of success: university affiliation; the
support of prominent civic leaders; the setting of a thriving state
capital with its legislature and courts; access to a good library; a
dedicated administration and faculty; and a pool of motivated students.
In these respects, Albany Law School has changed little since the 19th Century.