Board approves plan for new Washburn Law building

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - It's official: Washburn University School of Law will soon get a new home.

Washburn's Board of Regents approved the plan Wednesday. The $33 million facility will be built at the corner of SW 21st and Washburn Ave.

The university will begin working on plans immediately. A completion date is not yet set.

The new building was first announced in fall 2013, as part of Washburn's "150 Forward" campaign. The $13 million in private donations raised for the building is the largest amount for a single project in Washburn history.

Washburn Law's current building dates back to 1968, with several updates over the years. A 2010 study called for a complete expansion and overhaul, or replacement

"After that study, we did preliminary estimates and initial planning,” said Washburn President Dr. Jerry Farley. “But since that time, there have been significant changes in legal education which required an update to the project scope.”

Among the changes, Farley said, are American Bar Association requirements for law schools. Law libraries no longer must have paper versions of all of the electronic resources, which means they can be considerably smaller.

In addition, declining enrollments nationwide meant Washburn downsized projections from a facility for 450 students, to one for 300 to 325 students.

The biggest advantage from the new facility, Farley says, will come from technological upgrades that were not financially feasible with the current building.

“There has also been a significant change in the way we teach law students,” Farley said. “There is a much stronger focus on technology in the legal profession and we need to have a facility designed to properly prepare our graduates.”

Washburn plans to utilize the current law building for other university programs and offices, once the new facility is finished.