The Faculty of Law is one of the oldest institutions of the University of Zagreb. The Faculty traditions are related to the beginning of higher education in Croatia. When in 1773 Pope Clement XIV had dissolved the Jesuit order, Queen Maria Theresa undertook comprehensive reforms in the system of education and by her decree of 1776, the Royal Academy of Sciences (Regia scientiarum) was established as the highest educational institution. The Academy consisted of three faculties: the Faculty of Philosophy, the Faculty of Theology and the Faculty of Law (Facultas iuridica). The earlier Political-Cameral Studies (established in 1769 in Varaždin) for the education of the Croatian administrative personnel were merged with the Faculty of Law.
The first professors of legal sciences were elected upon applications to the announcements, and the Queen officially confirmed their appointment. At the first formal session held on October 11, 1776 it was determined that the academic year would start on November 4, 1776 and therefore this date is regarded as the day of establishing the Faculty of Law. At that time, the Faculty had four professors in the following Chairs: canon law (ius canonicum), international and universal public law (ius gentium et ius publicum universale), civil and domestic law (institutiones iuris civilis et iuris patrii theoretici) and political-cameral sciences (politia qui accesserit studia cameralia quoque ac aeconomica). In addition, the Faculty had one associate professor (extraordinarius) who substituted for full professors in their absence. The final extensive curriculum (Ratio educatonis) was issued a year later, i.e. in 1777.
The educational system in the Habsburg Monarchy was reformed in 1850. The reform abolished the Academy in Zagreb, the Faculty of Philosophy was merged with the Principal Grammar School (Archigymnasium) in Zagreb and the Faculty of Law was turned into the Royal Academy of Legal Science (Regia academia iuris), which thus became the only institution of higher education in Croatia until 1874.
Through the efforts of Bishop Strossmayer during the period of Ban Ivan Mažuranić, the Royal University of Franz Joseph I was officially opened in Zagreb on October 19, 1874. It consisted of three Faculties: the Faculty of Theology, the Faculty of Legal and Administrative Sciences and the Faculty of Philosophy. The current name of the Faculty of Law came into official use in 1926.
During the period between two World Wars, the Faculty went through four legal systems. Up to the academic year 1926/27 it acted according to the amended University Organisation Act of October 6, 1894. As of mid-1926, the existent government introduced the regulations of the Serbian University Act into Croatia. During the dictatorship the new, uniform Yugoslav University Act was passed on June 28, 1930, which was complemented with the General Regulation on Universities a year and a half later, on December 11, 1931. Despite great difficulties, even under such circumstances the Faculty managed to maintain its identity and the attribute of the leading Faculty in the country. Only in 1940 did the Ban of the Banovina of Croatia through his General Regulation proclaim the self-management of the Faculty in terms of its most important functions, thus enabling the preservation of the distinctive features of the Faculty of Law in Zagreb. In 1968, the College of Administration was integrated with the Faculty of Law, while the integration with the Higher School of Administration and the Inter-faculty Study for Social Workers took place in 1983. Consequently, the two-year study for administrative lawyers and the four-year study for social workers were organised. From the academic year 1996/97 onwards the study of tax law was organised at the Faculty as the programme for the needs of the state government. By the decision of the Government of the Republic of Croatia of 21, May 1998, the School of Higher Education in Social Sciences was established and it undertook the organisation of the studies of administrative law and tax law.
After World War II, the Faculty of Law went through several legal regimes dictated by the federal and republic laws on higher education, according to which four statues were made. During that time the Faculty of Law in Zagreb remained a scientific institution, acting in accordance with the principles of free scientific work, in spite of strongly marked unsuccessful attempts to introduce ideological uniformity in its work. After the adoption of the Higher Education Act (1993), the new Statute of the Faculty was made.
The study at the Faculty had lasted three years until 1868, when it was prolonged to four, as it lasts today. At the Royal Academy, instruction was primarily conducted in the Latin language. Students wrote and defended their papers for public disputes mainly in Latin, although they could do so in other languages as well. Since 1850, at the Academy of Legal Science the professors had to lecture in Croatian or “possibly in Latin”. During Bach’s absolutism, when the German language was introduced into the studies, Latin ceased to be the language of instruction. With the fall of absolutism, the Croatian language became the only teaching language. For the Royal University of Franz Joseph I, the University Organisation Act of the Sabor of the Kingdom of Dalmatia, Croatia and Slavonia of January 5, 1874, in paragraph 54, provided that ‘all teaching at this University shall be conducted in the Croatian language’. This Act of the Sabor set the foundations for awarding doctorates in a Croatian institution, although such privilege has had its roots in the Diploma of King Leopold since 1669.
The Faculty of Law was originally situated in the so-called Temporal House on St. Mark’s Square (which does not exist any more), because there was no room in the building of the former Jesuit Academy on St. Catherine’s Square, then in the aforementioned building of the former Jesuit Academy and finally in the building where it is still situated today and which was built in 1856. At present, the Faculty of Law is situated at five locations in Zagreb: 14 and 3 Trg maršala Tita, 4 Ćirilometodska, 10 Gundulićeva and 51 Nazorova.
In its first seventy-five years, i.e. from 1776 to 1850, about two thousand students were enrolled at the Faculty of Law, and approximately one thousand and seven hundred were enrolled at the Academy of Legal Science between 1850 and 1874 (on average seventy students per year). Nowadays there are about four thousand students on two courses of study at the Faculty.
Scientific and professional work at the Faculty is organised in six institutes and one study centre: the Institute of International and Comparative Law, The Institute of Administrative and Political Sciences, The Institute of Criminal Law Sciences, Criminology and Victimology, The Institute of Commercial Law and the Law of International Trade, Economics and Finance, the Institute of Civil Law Sciences and Family Law, The Institute of the History of Law and State and the Social Work Study Centre. There are several postgraduate study programmes at the Faculty: the Postgraduate Study in Criminal Law Sciences, the Postgraduate Study in Public and Private International Law and International Relations, the Postgraduate Study in Civil Law Sciences, the Postgraduate Study in Commercial Law, the Postgraduate Study in Legal, Administrative and Political Sciences and the Postgraduate Study of the Fiscal System and the Fiscal Policy.
The Library of the Faculty of Law is particularly valuable for scientific research. The Library of the Academy of Legal Science contained about 22,000 holdings in 1874. Today it consists of almost 200,000 holdings which cover all fields of law, including numerous rarities, and in terms of their number, variety and quality it is among the best law libraries in this part of Europe.
After the establishment of the Republic of Croatia, the Faculty of Law in Zagreb, the oldest of the four faculties of law in the country, has strengthened international scientific co-operation. Its members participate in the work of foreign scientific institutions and cultivate co-operation with scientists in other countries. In its third century of existence, the Faculty of Law in Zagreb has proved to be the source of Croatian nation-building spirit and free thought, the guardian of the Croatian culture and the representative of the Croatian legal school as one of the centres of the Mid-European legal tradition, and as such it is distinguished in the country and abroad. Its members, being aware of the role which the Faculty had in the past, in the present social environment act in the spirit of the rich tradition of the school of law they belong to. They greatly contribute to the creation of the Croatian legal system, establishment of the rule of law and education of new generations of lawyers on the best European legal traditions.
Future generations of students should take an active part in all these activities in order to achieve the professional level expected of the legal profession. Thus they will continue the tradition of their school of law to act according to universal legal principles, without being limited to the surroundings they act in. In this way, they will give their contribution to the continuation of the activity of the Faculty of Law on the same foundations as it has always done throughout its rich history.