Downtown law schools are hot right now.
A number of law schools are preparing to ditch their university campuses for downtown digs that will place them within steps of state and federal courthouses, law firm offices, government agencies and major corporations. That proximity will make it easier for law schools to integrate into the local legal landscape—and more convenient for law students to network or extern, according to administrators.
The latest school to follow the trend is Oklahoma City University School of Law. The trustees on October 24 signed off on plans to move to a former high school building downtown, about three miles away.
“I think the trend reflects the changing nature of legal education,” dean Valerie Couch said. “Law schools are responding to the expectation of students and the legal community.”
Besides the usual attractions downtown, the students will be surrounded by major players in the energy and health care industries, Couch said. “Locating a law school in the heart of a thriving downtown community puts our students in close contact with the world they will be working in once they graduate,” she said.
University leaders had been contemplating a move for years, but found an appropriate location only last spring. They bought the 177,000-square-foot former school building in September and hope to start holding classes there in 2014.
Elsewhere, the newly opened Concordia University School of Law situated itself in downtown Boise, Idaho. Saint Louis University School of Law is in the process of moving into a donated downtown office building that is undergoing remodeling. Charlotte School of Law announced earlier this month that it plans to vacate its rented office space on the city’s west side in favor of an uptown site closer to courts and businesses. The University of South Carolina School of Law has been raising money for several years in hopes to moving into a new building in downtown Columbia.
Officials finally are moving forward with plans for the new University of North Texas Dallas College of Law, which will be temporarily housed in a former department store in downtown Dallas before moving into a restored former municipal building. Two years ago, the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law moved into a renovated former post office in downtown Memphis.
“I thinking moving downtown is a pragmatic approach,” Couch said. “I think we’ll see even more of this.”
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