ASU law school breaks ground on Downtown Phoenix campus

Shovels are in the ground and celebration is in the air as Arizona State University’s new $129 million law school building officially gets under way.

History will mark Nov. 13, 2014 as the groundbreaking ceremony for the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the Arizona Center for Law and Society on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus. ASU and civic leaders promise much more history is to come.

“What you’re seeing here today is the launching of America’s great model for a new law school of the future,” said ASU President Michael Crow to a crowd of approximately 200 people attending the ceremony. “The older models of university engagement have run their course. This is the new way and we’re forging the new way. We’ve planted our flag here and we’re only going to advance.”

The morning ceremony took place at the northwest corner of Taylor and First streets. In addition to Crow, dignitaries included retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, members of the Phoenix City Council, former Arizona Supreme Court members and several law school donors, including Phoenix attorney Leo Beus and his wife, Annette, who recently made a $10 million contribution to the building’s capital campaign, and members of the W. P. Carey Foundation, which graciously funded the Armstrong Great Hall in the new building.

Stanton said the law school, which was 10 years in the making, is poised for history and will produce great legal minds of the future.

“Leaders will be coming out of this building, including some of the top lawyers, future Supreme and State Court justices. People who will choose public service as their career and avocation. Leaders of the profit and non-profit world, and maybe even a few political leaders. The future leaders of this city and state will be coming out of this building. This is a great day for Phoenix,” Stanton said.

Justice O’Connor, who closed the ceremony, said today was a most memorable one for her.

“In just half a century the law school has established itself as one of the great preeminent institutions in the United States, and it’s only moving forward, not backwards,” O’Connor said. “I am so proud that this building is going to bear my name. It’s one of the great honors of my life.”

Construction on the Arizona Center for Law and Society began in July. The project is being funded by the City of Phoenix, which is providing land and $12 million, construction bonds through ASU and private donations. The law school has set a fundraising goal of $50 million for construction of the building, and has raised more than $30 million so far.

Doug Sylvester, dean of the Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law, said the university was strategic about the building’s location, which will bring about 1,000 new students to the downtown Phoenix location when it opens in August 2016.

“The downtown location is near the courts and the city’s legal district, which will prove invaluable to our students in the form of internships, externships and mentoring,” Sylvester said.

The new building is planned to be approximately 280,000 gross square feet, with two levels of underground parking. It will have 18 rooms in which classes will be regularly scheduled, including one large lecture hall dedicated to university undergraduate education. Features of the laws school include a hi-tech courtroom and an active learning classroom.

The Arizona Center for Law and Society will also include space for two think tanks, multiple centers with cross-disciplinary focus and the new ASU Alumni Law Group, the first teaching law firm associated with a law school.