Roger Williams University School of Law is the only law school in the U.S. state of Rhode Island. It is located approximately 18 miles south east of Providence, Rhode Island, in the town of Bristol. It was the first program established by Roger Williams University in 1993. The School of Law has been accredited by the American Bar Association since 1997 and has been a member of the Association of American Law Schools since 2006. The school enrolls approximately 575 students and has a student to faculty ratio of 20:1. The law library contains approximately 280,000 volumes. The school's philosophy is that lawyers should serve the communities that support them. Introducing students to volunteerism and public service as part of their legal education, they believe, sets the stage for a lifetime of commitment. Students are required to complete at least 50 hours of community service before graduation.
Roger Williams University offers a JD/Master of Science in Criminal Justice. This program is designed to prepare graduates to formulate system policy and serve effectively as administrators to United States justice system agencies. The School of Law also offers two joint-degree programs in conjunction with the University of Rhode Island. The JD/Master of Marine Affairs program is geared toward students interested in maritime, admiralty, and environmental law. The JD/Master of Science in Labor Relations and Human Resources program is designed for students interested in issues relating to employment and labor relations.
The Marine Affairs Institute explores the legal, economic, and policy issues raised by the development of the oceans and coastal zone. Students take elective courses in traditional admiralty law and practice, pollution and environmental regulation, coastal zoning, fisheries, and the international law of the sea. The Honors Program is a three-year program of seminars, clinics, and externships. Scholarships of half to full tuition are awarded to students selected for the Honors Program. The Admissions Committee selects students, evaluating them on their academic records, LSAT scores, and recommendations. The School of Law operates a Criminal Defense Clinic and a Community Justice and Legal Assistance Clinic in Providence. These clinics provide a service to the community by helping indigent clients and at the same time provide students the opportunity to represent clients before courts and agencies under the supervision of a faculty member. Students may also engage in a semester-long supervised clerkship in a judge's chambers or in a public interest or governmental law office for academic credit. The multicultural mentor program pairs students of color with members of the bench and bar. Other student organizations include The Docket (student newspaper), Maritime Law Society, Women's Law Association, the Alliance (LGBT), the Association of Public Interest Law, and the American Trial Lawyers Association.
In July 2007 the school made national headlines in the wake of a racist statement made by University trustee Ralph Papitto, for whom the law school was then named, at a Roger Williams board meeting. After students protested and submitted a petition to the administration, July 18, 2007, Papitto requested that his name be removed from the school. Papitto resigned as Chairman from the board and was granted the title "Chairman Emeritus". He was succeeded as Chairman by Richard Bready, the CEO of Nortek Inc., the company Papitto founded.