The Story Behind the Crocodile, Greyhound, and Staples

The Arms of Yale Law School first appeared on the School banner in 1956. The Arms incorporate, with slight modifications, heraldic elements from those of three of the founders of the School.

During the first decade of the nineteenth century, Seth Staples (Yale B.A. 1797), started a law school in his New Haven law office and purchased and maintained a law library, which together eventually became the modern Yale Law School. Samuel Hitchcock (Yale B.A. 1809), Staples' successor in 1824, was the moving spirit of the School until 1845. Judge David Daggett (Yale B.A. 1783), a judge of the Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut and a former U.S. senator from Connecticut, became co-proprietor at Hitchcock’s New Haven law school in 1824 and Kent Professor of Law in Yale College in 1826, positions he held until 1847.

Mr. Staples is represented by silver staples, medieval in character, on a black field. An alligator on a green field represents Mr. Hitchcock: when the Hitchcock family emigrated from Wales to the British West Indies, the dragon that traditionally represented Welsh entities was replaced by the alligator as the heraldic motif (a crocodile sits atop the coat of arms granted to Jamaica in 1661). Judge Daggett (‘Doggett’ or ‘Doget’ being early spellings of the name) is signified by a collared greyhound combatant on a field of gold.

The Arms were designed and executed by Theodore Sizer, Professor of the History of Art at Yale from 1927-1957, associate director and director of the Yale Art Gallery from 1929-1947, and University Pursuivant of Arms from 1962 until his death in 1967.

Listen to Former Dean Guido Calabresi discuss the shield's design, the three founders and more on the school's history.


A YLS History in Portraits, as told by Former Dean Guido Calabresi from Yale Law School on Vimeo.