by Kelly Hildebrandt

When law professor Laura Cooper moved her office into the new Law Building in 1978, it wasn’t even finished. For the next four months until the building’s completion in April, she taught classes among the banging and hammering of construction workers and the constant ringing of fire alarms set off by welders’ torches. To say the least, it disrupted class.
If plans follow through to construct a $7 million addition to the Law School, the banging and hammering of construction workers will finish a project two decades in the making. However, Dean Tom Sullivan is seeking private funding for this round of construction, as opposed to the state funding that built the original building.
In an effort to keep up with the growing rate of student enrollment and changing teaching techniques, Sullivan is planning a three-story addition to the north end of the building, where there is currently a parking lot.
Although the expansion will eradicate some parking spots, Sullivan said there won’t be a significant loss.
The expansion will include student organization offices, more offices for faculty members and a much-needed cafeteria.
The northern expansion was chosen instead of adding fifth and sixth floors to the building because it is less disruptive and less expensive, said Leonard Parker, the building’s architect.
The addition, which will follow the same architectural design as the current building, was part of the original sketches, Sullivan said. But because the state Legislature in 1978 didn’t approve the full amount of the necessary funding, the building plan was scaled down.
“This is what we’re coming back with 25 years later — with phase two,” Sullivan said of the renovation, which is slated for completion in 2002.
If all goes well, construction will begin this summer and will conclude within 18 months. But no definite schedule has been set yet, Sullivan said.

From state-of-the-art to outdated
In 1978, when the Law School building was opened, the $14 million structure was quite modern, and has since been emulated at a number of schools, Parker said.
As opposed to Fraser Hall, where the Law School was housed previously, classrooms in the Law School have a U-shaped structure, which Cooper said brought students and faculty closer together and is better for discussion.
But today, with growing classes and changing techniques, not to mention a technology boom, the building needs renovation.
When the building was constructed, Cooper said there was only one computer. Today there is an entire computer lab, not to mention a growing number of students using laptops.
“The whole technology revolution was not even thought of 20 years ago,” Sullivan said about the building.
Sullivan said the addition will allow contractors to create a more technologically flexible environment, where, for example, students can use laptops in class.
The evolution of teaching styles also demand building renovations. When the original building was constructed, professors used the Socratic method to lecture classes, Cooper said. Today, students have a more active role in the process with the use of court simulations and clinics.
“I think it is really important to have facilities that are appropriate to what we do,” Cooper said. But with limited space, many new projects are being rejected due to spatial limitations.
There are no offices for the more than 100 Law School adjunct faculty to prepare for class or meet with students. There is only one student organization office for the more than 30 student organizations at the school.
In 1978, one office for the three student law organizations was adequate, but Sullivan said the current situation is unacceptable.
“They can’t reach their real potential of contributing to the community by being so constrained,” Sullivan said.
The new addition will offer 15 offices for student organizations, decreasing the ratio from 30 organizations per room to two per room.
Although Kerry Evans, a first-year law student, thinks the classrooms are sufficient, she said the building is dark and it needs more study areas. She often studies in the halls because the lounges are usually full and too loud to study in.
In addition, adjunct faculty offices will be created and the library, which is one of the five largest law libraries in the world, will be expanded for future growth.

Food at last, food at last
The new addition will also include a cafeteria. Since the closing of the Riverbend last winter, the only food service available in the Law School is The Law Cart, which is housed in the basement of the building and is only open in the morning and early afternoon. The new building will have a cafeteria, which Sullivan said will give students and faculty a chance to converse.
“We’re pretty jealous of the Carlson school,” Evans said about the Carlson School of Management, which is where she goes to eat lunch. “I guess a lot of us wish our building looked like that building.”
Sullivan said the commons will be a place where a student can “get a bagel and a cup of coffee in the morning and bump into faculty and talk with them before class.”
A cafeteria is also a necessity because students are spending many more hours at the Law School than 20 years ago to participate in law clinics and moot courts, Cooper said.
“It would be particularly useful to have food service available later in the day,” Cooper said.