Law school explores move to Downtown campus

ASU administrators are in the early stages of developing a plan to move the Sandra Day O’ Connor College of Law into a new, 294,000-square-foot facility on the Downtown campus.

The Arizona Board of Regents approved the initial budget on Sept. 27, beginning the multi-step process to relocate the law school.

ASU Senior Vice President and University Planner Richard Stanley said in an email the law school has made a strong academic case for deserving a new facility.

“The law school is highly-ranked in many national surveys and is in need of upgraded and expanded facilities,” he said.

Stanley said the Tempe campus buildings occupied by the law school would open up “valuable growth space” for College of Liberal Arts and Sciences programs.

The new facility would include classrooms, an auditorium, faculty and administrative offices, conference spaces, a 230-space parking structure, student collaboration areas, a law library and retail spaces, according to the ASU Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2014-16.

The building, which will cost an estimated $129 million, would be built at a lot on Taylor and First streets.

Katie Krejci, president of the ASU Women Law Students’ Association, said a new building and a move to the downtown Phoenix area would be lucrative for Valley law students.

“The law school is … really old and kind of falling apart, plus we barely fit in it, so a new building would really help,” Krejci, a second year law student, said. “If we were downtown, it would be easier to network with most of the bigger private law firms and with government agencies.”

Current and prospective law school students would not see any drastic tuition increases to fund the project, Dean Douglas Sylvester said in an email.

“We are one of the best values among the nation’s top law schools, and we have no plans to raise tuition beyond historical trends,” Sylvester said.

In-state tuition for ASU law students is currently set at an annual rate of $26,267 for full-time students, while out-of-state tuition is $40,815 for full-time students annually.

Building the downtown facility would allow ASU to increase its enrollment in the law school by up to 50 percent, according to figures included in the CIP.

Law school enrollment is between 650 and 700 students, according to the CIP.

However, enrollment in law schools nationwide dropped by 10 percent in fall of 2011 and again by more than 13 percent in fall 2012, said Wendy Margolis, spokeswoman for the Law School Admission Council.

Despite these trends, Sylvester said a move downtown is the next logical step in the process of growing the law school, which was recently ranked 26th among law schools nationwide, and eighth among public law schools, by the 2013 U.S. News and World Report.

“ASU’s employment rate was 13 percent higher than the national average – and higher than the vast majority of U.S. law schools, including Georgetown, UCLA and USC,” Sylvester said.

ASU must now complete its preliminary planning and cost estimates and present these figures to ABOR for approval, which could happen as early as December 2012, ABOR staff member Lorenzo Martinez said.

Martinez said additional committee reviews and full board approvals are necessary for actual construction to begin.

 

Reach the reporter at npmendo@asu.edu