Topeka, Kan. – Washburn University’s Board of Regents has approved plans to design and build a new home for its law school on the campus at the corner of 21st Street and Washburn Ave. The current building was built in 1968 and has been updated several times including the addition of the law clinic. But a 2010 study indicated that the building either needed to be expanded and completely overhauled or should be replaced. The new facility – on a premier location at one corner or the campus – is estimated at $33 million.
“After that study, we did preliminary estimates and initial planning,” said Washburn President Jerry Farley. “But since that time, there have been significant changes in legal education which required an update to the project scope.”
One of the major changes, according to Farley, is in the requirements for law schools from the American Bar Association. For instance, law school libraries were once required to have paper versions of all of the electronic resources. Updating that requirement means that law libraries can be much more efficient and considerably smaller.
“All across the country, law school enrollments have declined,” Farley said. “as a result, law school classes have been smaller in recent years and we needed to adjust the size of the building to make sure it is the right size for our projected enrollment.”
The original plan was based on an enrollment of approximately 450 students, he said. Projections of smaller class sizes along with the innovative Third Year Anywhere program means that the right size for the building will be in the 300 to 325 student range.
“There has also been a significant change in the way we teach law students,” Farley said. “There is a much stronger focus on technology in the legal profession and we need to have a facility designed to properly prepare our graduates.”
Modern legal education also requires extensive interaction between students and faculty. Even with significant additions, the current building would not provide the necessary facilities found in modern legal buildings, Farley said. What’s more, the cost of such renovations would equal or exceed the cost of a new building.
The new building will be funded by a combination of university resources and private fundraising. The ultimate $13 million from fundraising will be the largest amount for a single project in Washburn history. Work on the plans is expected to begin immediately. No date for completion of the project has been set at this point.
Once the new building has been completed and occupied, the existing law building will be able to house other university programs and offices.