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W&L Law Building Renovation to Commence Summer 2014

Sydney Lewis Hall, the home of Washington and Lee University School of Law since 1976, will undergo a dramatic renovation beginning this summer.

The project will result in more flexible space for student collaboration and study, new homes for four of the School’s legal clinics, and an improved entry sequence and navigation for the building. Associate Dean Sam Calhoun, chair of the School’s building committee, said that the goals of the renovation became clear during the most recent year-long space study.

“We’ve known for a long time that Lewis Hall can be confusing to enter and navigate for visitors,” said Calhoun. “What became clear during the space study is that students really wanted more flexible space for study and group work consistent with the demands of our curriculum and their changing work habits.”

The current plans call for the creation of more spaces for public and private group work, including group study rooms, small seminar rooms, and an additional reading room in the library. The addition of numerous exterior windows will allow more natural light into the building, especially on the lower floors. Some of the law school’s student organizations, including the Student Bar Association and The Law News will move to new spaces.

The renovation also includes a new and more obvious entry to the building on the ground floor near the visitor parking spaces and a new stairwell accessible from the main lobby that directly connects the second, third, and fourth floors. Together, these modifications will dramatically change the entry sequence to and circulation within the building.

The space required for the renovation will come from moving nearly 10,000 linear feet of library books to compact shelving. In addition, nearly half of the law student carrels will be removed. All first-year law students will still be assigned a dedicated carrel, and about half of the third-year class will have dedicated space through participation in a clinic or on a journal. The remainder of the students will have access to over 200 spaces of various sorts for study on an as-needed basis, along with a locker for storing personal items.

Originally slated to cost $10 million, Law School officials and University administration decided to scale back the renovation to a projected $8 million to meet the most critical needs. Phase 1 of the project will be completed this summer at a cost of $2.4 million. The cost and specific components of Phase 2, scheduled for next summer, are subject to final approval from the Board of Trustees. The project is not funded through tuition and fees. Instead, a combination of donations from alumni and friends and matching funds from the University will cover the renovation cost.

“Our alumni know that these renovations are long overdue,” said Dean Nora Demleitner. “We want to be fiscally responsible, however, to allow for enhanced scholarship support.”

Alumni wishing to purchase a carrel displaced by the renovation should contact Elizabeth Outland Branner, Director of Law Advancement, at brannere@wlu.edu or 540-458-8191.