One year ago, Lawrence Biondi, S.J., president of Saint Louis University, announced to the SLU population that the former AT&T building in downtown St. Louis would become the new home of the SLU law school.
“With our more than 1,100 law students, faculty and staff, the move will make us the largest educational institution downtown,” Biondi said in a letter released Jan. 24, 2012. “It also represents another major economic investment in the city of St. Louis by Saint Louis University.”
The building, donated by benefactors Joe and Loretta Scott, was of special interest to the University due to the flexibility of its 11 floors of space and its central location among St. Louis’s federal and civil courts, as well as several of the city’s law firms.
Now, the progress on the Joe and Loretta Scott Law Center is well underway. According to Michael Wolff, co-director of the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Law and chair of the Law School Building Committee, the building is expected to be completed in time for the start of the new school year in August.
“There’s four or five months of work left to do,” Wolff said. “We will probably start moving in May, and then some in June and then a lot in July because we are due to be in there lights on, switches switched by August.”
The University is working with the Lawrence Group, a building design and development firm located in St. Louis.
The Lawrence Group has partnered with SLU on a few different occasions prior, including projects such as the construction of Hotel Ignacio and the renovation of the John Cook School of Business.
According to Wolff, much inspiration for the law school building project was taken from several high-rise Chicago law schools.
“The Lawrence Group architects brought back and put into the SLU building some of the best ideas we saw,” Wolff said.
The deconstruction of the old building began last spring, as began many of the engineering studies that would work toward the final building plans. Much of the renovation, however, started this fall.
Renovations on the building include adding a 12th floor, classrooms of various sizes, additional elevators and communal spaces for students and faculty to congregate.
The new 12th floor will feature a practice courtroom that will mimic the style of the federal courthouse.
The courtroom will be fitted with the latest in technology, including screens for presentations and videoconferencing. The new floor will also feature five, smaller multipurpose rooms and a classroom with a video wall to allow four, different projections at once.
The main ground floor will have a restaurant that will be open to the public in the hopes of attracting law professionals from the surrounding area to the school.
“I think the food service will attract some people from the court houses because it will be a close and nice place to eat, from what I’ve seen,” Wolff said.
The second, third and fourth floors will be a parking garage and the fifth and sixth floors will be the new home of SLU’s law library.
Another new feature of the downtown building will be that it provides a space for SLU’s two law clinics to reside in. Currently, both clinics are detached from the law school, with the Catholic Legal Assistance Ministry located on West Pine Mall and the other clinic located on Spring Street.
“With both of our clinics downtown, they will be more accessible to our client population and the courts,” Wolff said. “I think we will be in a position to really offer a lot of opportunities for students to work in the real world and reach underserved populations who don’t have access to legal assistance.”
The building will also provide space for administrative and faculty offices, offices for student support services and a student commons area.
According to Wolff, however, one of the most attractive features of the new building is the chance it provides to build a community environment, both among the students and with the legal professionals who work in the downtown area.
“It’s really an opportunity to blend our curriculum with the legal profession. We will be bringing members of the profession in to work with our students and reinforce what they are learning in the classroom,” Wolff said. “And that will be a major part of the way we integrate our students into the profession, in a meaningful way. We will give our students a real exposure to law as it is practiced and how we learn it.”