Law School Renovations Aim to Improve Student, Visitor Experience
The University of Virginia School of Law is about to start a series of ambitious renovations that will improve the experience of students and visitors alike.
The project, which will launch in earnest over spring break and last through early August, will redesign student services offices in Slaughter Hall to include reception areas and expand the space allotted to the Law School's 20 clinics. The new space will be called the Karsh Student Services Center.
"We are making offices more accessible to the students, prospective students and alumni we serve," said Stephen Parr, senior associate dean for administration. "People will be able to find the offices more easily and the departments will be able to function more effectively as teams."
The project is being made possible through a substantial gift from Law School alumni Martha Lubin Karsh '81 and Bruce M. Karsh '80 of Los Angeles.
"Martha and Bruce Karsh believe that what sets Virginia apart is the student experience and they were eager to make possible a project that will enhance that experience," said Law School Dean Paul Mahoney. "The Law School community is deeply grateful for their generosity."
The construction involves creating a two-story atrium that will bump into the Slaughter Hall courtyard, known as Purcell Garden, and will offer a gathering space that will spill out into a redesigned garden.
At the bottom floor of the atrium, visitors and students will have easier access to the Law School's Admissions, Financial Aid and Graduate Studies offices (now located on the second floor). A staircase in the atrium will lead to new offices for Career Services, the Public Service Center and Clerkships, all grouped around a central reception area just around the corner from interview and videoconference rooms.
Senior Assistant Dean for Career Services Kevin Donovan said the new space will help improve the school's career counseling efforts.
"Our students often consider a number of possible career tracks. As a result, it's important for counselors in Career Services, the Office of Judicial Clerkships and the Public Service Center to coordinate the advice they are providing," Donovan said. "The new space will facilitate that approach and make us more flexible in offering cross-office team counseling. For the students, it will just be simpler. Everything they need will be in one place."
Although the Student Affairs and Student Records offices will remain in their current locations, the renovation will connect and redesign the rooms to improve service.
Current students also will benefit from expanded space for clinics.
"Clinics have flourished tremendously over the past decade at Virginia and we're proud of that, but they've just outgrown their space," Parr said. "The new space will group all of the clinics together, give every clinical faculty member an individual office and create new spaces in which students can work and collaborate."
As a result of the expanded space for student services and clinics, two journals that had been located in Slaughter Hall — the Virginia Law Review and the Virginia Journal of International Law — are moving into newly created offices on the second floor of the library. The construction of the new journals' space started in January and will be completed in April.
Virginia Law Review editor-in-chief Joseph Ashbrook said the new location will provide much-needed additional office space for the journal. "I think our members will enjoy working there," he said.
Law School staff on the first and second floors of Slaughter Hall, and some Law School Foundation staff from the third floor, will relocate to classrooms and other spaces in the Law School during some phases of construction, said Greg Streit, assistant dean for building services. But they will all return by early August, prior to on-Grounds interviews and the start of classes.
"While there will be selective demolition and construction over the next few months, the most extensive work will not begin until after graduation," Streit said. "It's an aggressive timetable, but we've worked closely with our partners — the University, the architect and the construction firms — to ensure a smooth transition."
Streit said one of the goals of the renovation is to use existing space more effectively. For example, two new interview rooms overlooking the Purcell Reading Room will be added in what is now a large hallway. Purcell, known also as "the Fishbowl," will additionally be modified to better serve as a space for events.
Students might notice site preparation in the garden area soon, Streit said, though the Law School, landscapers and the construction crew are making a collective effort to save vegetation that can be replanted.
"We want to save and reuse whenever possible," Streit said.
On the third floor of Slaughter Hall, where the Law School Foundation offices are located, the renovation will combine the staff and alumni lounges into a new and expanded room that opens onto a balcony with a view of the garden.
"The new space should be an attractive venue for alumni and other events," Parr said.
Streit said he plans to regularly email updates on construction progress to the Law School community in the coming months. Key dates include:
- Mid-April: Career Services staff relocate
- Late April: Admissions, Financial Aid and Clinics staff move
- Mid-May: Public Service Center, Student Records and Graduate Studies move
- After commencement: Student Affairs relocates
- Aug. 6-10: Staff return to Slaughter Hall