UW News

October 9, 2003

School of Law’s exile ends

As William H. Gates Sr. cut a purple ribbon in front of the glass and brick building bearing his name, he also symbolically slashed away limitations on the UW School of Law.

The Sept. 12 opening ceremony for William H. Gates Hall welcomed the law school back to the main UW campus after three decades of “exile,” and invited the public to discover much better access to the Pacific Northwest’s major law library.

And, as Interim UW President Lee Huntsman told the approximately 400 celebrants, the 196,000-square-foot building — about a third larger than the old Condon Hall — “frankly just creates enough space for the law school to prosper.”


Amid those happy prospects, however, were sober reflections on the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Gates, a 1950 graduate of the law school and UW regent, spoke of the link when he portrayed the law as a counter-force to global violence, injustice and warfare.

“Not withstanding all the jokes about lawyers,” Gates said, “the dividing line between functional and non-functional societies is the principle of the rule of law.”

Similar thoughts were voiced by keynote speaker Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York, who praised Gates as an “exemplar of the highly successful, high-minded lawyer.”

All of which was seconded by Gates’ more famous son — Microsoft chairman Bill — who also lightened the mood by disclosing that he had wanted to follow his father into the practice of law before a computer hobby took hold in his teens.

“When I was in high school I spent quite a lot of time on this campus looking in buildings for spare computers, so I’m always glad when there’s a new building,” Bill Gates joked.

The distinctive sharp angle of the northeast corner of William H. Gates Hall is seen cutting through a clear summer sky.

The Microsoft co-founder and his wife Melinda provided $12 million of the $34 million in private donations for the new law building. The rest of the $80 million total came from state capital funds and the sale of bonds to be repaid by revenue from the UW’s downtown-Seattle Metropolitan Tract real estate.

The quest for a new law building was nearly a decade in the making, said Law Dean W. H. Knight Jr., who especially praised the efforts of immediate predecessor and Dean Emeritus Roland Hjorth in overcoming legislative resistance and stepping up the fund-raising as the years passed and costs rose.

Yet those struggles seemed forgotten by the crowd of students, politicians, law professors, staff and alumni who stood in front of the “magnificent” new hall, as Huntsman described the six-story structure.

The upgrades start with the Marian Gould Gallagher Law Library, which occupies nearly half of Gates Hall’s square footage in two spacious, subterranean floors lit by four green skylights resembling gigantic emeralds.

The book collection had been scattered among Condon Hall’s seven floors and was impossible to keep track of, forcing librarians to sequester nearly half the books out of reach in the basement.

The new library, by contrast, has a single entrance, enabling Law librarian Penny Hazelton to make 95 percent of the collection readily accessible to browsers. That includes books often consulted by non-lawyers, such as “Every Tenant’s Legal Guide” and “Pocket Guide to Family Law.”

“A lot of people don’t like to ask for help, especially if it’s a personal problem they’re dealing with,” Hazelton said. “We’ve made this collection more accessible in every way.”

For working attorneys and scholars alike, the new library improves access to more than 560,000 volumes, including such treasures as the full set of Ninth Circuit Court records and briefs, a rare compendium of statutes from Czarist Russia, and more than 45,000 books in languages of Asia. The complete videotapes of the O. J. Simpson trial can even be viewed.

The library, of course, is only one of the changes that law students and professors are discovering. From video-training rooms, to realistic moot courtrooms, to wireless Internet capacity, to “smart podiums” that “remember” a professor’s audio-visual needs, Gates Hall is technology-infused and designed to reflect modern legal training, Knight said.

Still, none of the changes may be more profound, the dean added, than the simple fact of being on the main campus. This proximity enables lawyers-in-training to better collaborate with their counterparts in the sciences, business and engineering, as modern legal practice demands.

“The law is the adhesive that holds our diverse and vast and changing world together,” Knight told the opening-ceremony crowd. “That we hold this celebration so close to Sept. 11 is a symbol of our aspirations rising above sorrow and despair.”


Clinical programs to benefit from move

With a 1-year-old son to entertain and a slate of classes to attend, the last thing single mom Marissa Thomas needed was to have her car impounded because of a clerical error.

Marissa Thomas used the UW’s Auto Impound Clinic.

The only good news for Thomas, in fact, was sitting at a Municipal Courthouse information table — a UW law student who managed to help get her car back without a fine.

“They worked very hard for me,” Thomas said of the UW’s Auto Impound Clinic, one of 12 free public legal services that make up the School of Law’s nationally known clinical program.

The Marian Gould Gallagher Law Library has drawn much of the attention in the law school’s move to William H. Gates Hall, but another big winner is the clinics. The school’s growing clinical program — three of its 12 clinics are new — had been scattered in ramshackle facilities that were inconvenient both to clients and the law students and professors trying to help them.

The spacious clinical suite on the second floor of Gates Hall welcomes visitors. It features audio-visual-embedded interview rooms that allow professors to supervise how students work with clients and prepare cases. The suite also enables the clinical staff to deploy modern case-management software and offer up-to-date legal research facilities, said Alan Kirtley, director of clinics.

“Our students have to learn good practice skills in a professional office environment,” Kirtley said. “We’re trying to integrate everything they learn in the classroom and put it in the service of a client’s case.”

About 100 law students — or half the school’s J.D. enrollment — work under faculty supervision in the free clinics, which in addition to Auto Impound are: Child Advocacy, Disability Law, Environmental Law, Immigration, Innocence Project Northwest, Low-Income Taxpayer, Mediation, Refugee and Immigrant Advocacy, Technology, Tribal Court Criminal Defense, and Law & Public Policy.

While each clinic has a faculty advisor, being under the Gates Hall roof enables closer collaboration with the rest of the law faculty, as well as with experts in other disciplines around campus.

“We’re putting students into the role of lawyers,” Kirtley said, “It’s a confidence-builder, and it’s an opportunity to put the law into action.