While the CSU College of Law has been a part of Cleveland State University since 1969, its history as a Cleveland-area law school dates back to the late nineteenth century. In 1897, Cleveland Law School was established, becoming Ohio's first evening law school. It also became the first law school in Ohio to admit women and one of the first in the state to admit minority students.
In 1946, Cleveland Law School merged with John Marshall School of Law, which had been founded in 1916 by several Cleveland attorneys. The new Cleveland-Marshall Law School moved into the Ontario Building at 1240 Ontario Street, where it remained for several decades until the law school building was demolished to make room for the Cuyahoga County Justice Center.
In 1969, Cleveland-Marshall officially affiliated itself with Cleveland State University, becoming the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. The new CSU college held classes in several buildings on campus, including Rhodes Tower and the Chester Building, before it moved into its own building on the corner of East 18th Street and Euclid Avenue in 1977. The building was dedicated that year by Prince Charles of England. A major addition to the building, including a state of the art law library, was added in 1997. In 2022, the CSU Board of Trustees voted to approve changing the school's name, dropping its namesake, who was a U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall but also a slaveholder.
The Cleveland-Marshall College of Law sits on grounds that were at one time occupied by the Millionaire Row mansions of two of Cleveland's most prominent nineteenth-century businessmen—E.W. Oglebay, the co-founder of Oglebay-Norton Mining Co., and Truman Handy, president of Mercantile Bank and promoter of the early railroad industry in midwest America.