On Thursday, the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees unanimously approved the financing necessary to move forward toward construction of a new building for the School of Law.
“This marks a major step forward, and we couldn’t be more excited about yesterday’s vote,” said Robert M. Wilcox, dean of the law school. “Our new home will transform the way the law is taught here in South Carolina, and we know it wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the support we’ve received from the Board.”
There are still several regulatory approvals to obtain before construction can begin, but with this key decision in place, the $80 million project is expected to break ground in the summer of 2014 with the hope that it will be ready in time for the beginning of the 2016 fall semester—and the school’s 150th anniversary in 2017.
“What I’ve been telling people is that there is so much going on here, between new faculty and staff, and new programs, that we’re a law school that is on the move,” said Wilcox. “Now, I can say that both figuratively and literally.”
The new 187,500-square foot building will be located on the north side of the USC campus, situated on the block bounded by Gervais, Bull, Senate and Pickens streets. A block south is the National Advocacy Center, where federal prosecutors are trained. The Whaley House, located across Gervais Street from the new law school, will become the Children’s Law Center. The new school will still be only blocks from the State House and the South Carolina Supreme Court.
Wilcox said that one of the primary focuses of the new building’s design is to be as flexible as possible, allowing the school to adapt to changes in legal education for years to come.
“We’re moving away from having mostly big lecture halls and are creating more smaller rooms better suited to the hands-on skills courses and specialized classes that are being offered,” said Wilcox. “We also know that students study and learn differently than in the past.
“When I went to law school, everyone sequestered themselves into a private carrel to study. It is far more common nowadays for students to learn in small groups.”
Other significant changes include four courtrooms and a new student affairs suite where students can take care of almost all of their needs in one place, from admissions to registrar to career services. And in a drastic departure from its present location, the new layout will contain features that encourage increased interaction between faculty and students.
“We’ve really given a lot of thought to the new building, ensuring it will provide us with the professional appearance and flexibility that has been lacking in our current home,” said Wilcox. “The board’s positive vote represents a clear moment of transformational change for our law school.”