Archive for Thursday, July 19, 2012

Washburn University plans historic $40M law school

July 19, 2012


— Washburn University in Topeka plans to build a $40 million law school, which would represent the largest single-building construction and fundraising project in the university's history.

The university's Board of Regents on Wednesday approved a funding proposal for the new law school, but the timetable hasn't been established, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

The university plans to finance the proposed 152,600-sq.-foot building with a $20 million fundraising campaign by the Washburn University Foundation, another $10 million from university reserve funds and borrowing $10 million in short-term bonds.

Washburn officials said they expect the fundraising effort to take two to three years. The university will determine the fundraising success before finalizing plans with the architect, President Jerry Farley said.

"We won't exceed what we cannot commit to do," Farley said.

Farley said it was important to improve the building for a "signature program" at the university.

"When I hear people around the country talk about Washburn, they almost always mention the excellence of the school of law," Farley said. "It has truly developed a phenomenal reputation. But right now, we don't have the building we need for a world-class school of law in the 21st century."

The current law school building opened in 1969 after most of the Washburn campus was destroyed by a tornado in 1966. It holds 420 students in a 96,000-sq.-foot building. By comparison, regional law schools in Colorado and Oklahoma average 177,000 sq. feet, according to SHW Architectural Group, the architect on the project. SHW estimated upgrading the existing building would cost $45 million.

Law school dean Thomas Romig acknowledged that the project comes at a time when law school applications are down at Washburn and nationwide. But he said he expects enrollment to begin growing again when the economy improves.


Paul R Getto 5 years, 10 months ago

Good move by the best law school in Kansas.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 10 months ago

OK. I'll say it. Kansas does not need two law schools. Let's keep the best and put an end to the misery of the second.

scarletbhound 5 years, 10 months ago

The New York Times reported this week that only 55 percent of recent law school graduates hold law-related jobs. That means thousands of people spent tens of thousands of (often borrowed) dollars on a degree that has little financial value. The Times also noted that this situation is unlikely to change in the forseeable future due to business cutbacks in legal services and the development of sophisticated computer software, along with outsourcing legal scut work overseas, that does the work once done by entry-level lawyers. Now Washburn, like KU, a third/fourth-tier law school, expects to raise millions of dollars for a building to produce uneeded lawyers. Unless the law student wants to work in small towns or in low-wage legal-aid type positions where demand still exists, for almost anyone else it is a huge waste of money and effort to attend either KU or Washburn.

Jim Williamson 5 years, 10 months ago

Scarlet, like you, it's painful for me to give Washburn credit for much, but if you consider Washburn a third-tier law school, you're just not paying attention.

KU's law school would give it's left tort to be in the same breath among those in the legal community as Washburn.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 10 months ago

And, from what I hear, Washburn actually prepares students to practice law in Kansas. What an original thought. KU's law school would make a good athletic dorm.

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