Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Justice Kagan to help dedicate Law School's new South Hall

It has been almost 80 years since the Law School last dedicated a new academic building, but that's set to change Sept. 7 as a cast of legal and U-M luminaries, highlighted by Associate Justice Elena Kagan of the U.S. Supreme Court, gathers to dedicate the new South Hall.

Construction of the building, which houses state-of-the-art classroom and clinic spaces as well as faculty and staff offices, began in 2009 and was completed last fall.

On Sept. 7, the focus won't be on the building's architecture, cutting-edge technology or the sudden uncramping of the Law School's style as the new spaces opened on the southeast corner of State and Monroe streets. Instead, the focus will fall on the building's importance to a U-M legal education — and on the institution's gratitude for the donors who made the building possible.

"Michigan Law has already established itself as one of the most beautiful learning settings in America," says Law School Dean Evan Caminker. "Now, thanks to the generosity of hundreds of donors who recognize the importance of the extraordinary legal education available here, South Hall will make us among the most advanced learning settings, as well."

The hourlong dedication ceremony is set for 3 p.m., with an open house to follow. Scheduled speakers include Kagan, President Mary Sue Coleman, Regent Laurence B. Deitch, Caminker and Peter M. Starr, a third-year law student selected to deliver the thanks of present and future students to the donors.

Each classroom in South Hall is equipped with flexible, easy-to-use technology to make it easier for professors to bring their points to life. All five full-size classrooms include intuitive, touch-panel control systems, document cameras, a larger touch screen that allows professors to annotate documents projected on video screens, and much more.

Two of the rooms are fully equipped for videoconferencing and distance learning — meaning there's a microphone for every other student, enabling everyone to participate in classroom discussions with other students pretty much anywhere in the world.

Other areas of the building call for more specialized equipment, carefully designed to protect the sensitive information lawyers customarily handle. The clinical suites boast a separate entrance for client privacy and five interview rooms with digital equipment that can produce video or audio recordings at the push of a button. Interviews also can be viewed over a secure Internet connection, allowing professors to monitor the discussions.

The technology available in the building is matched by environmental responsibility. The new building received LEED Gold-level certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design from the U.S. Environmental Building Council.

Rebecca Eisenberg, the Robert and Barbara Luciano Professor of Law and chair of the faculty design committee, said her group worked hard to make sure South Hall had the flexibility and expandability it will need as technologies develop in the future.

"We took very seriously the challenges of providing an ideal environment for legal education now and into the future," Eisenberg said. "We're delighted that the resulting building was well worth the time and effort."

The dedication will celebrate more than just the new building. Prior to the ceremony, the Law School also will present the 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award to three graduates whose varied careers have each, in their way, demonstrated the Law School's position as one of the world's leading centers for legal education:

• Bruce C. Bickner is a former corporate executive and law firm practitioner, and the longtime alumni volunteer chair of the Law School's successful private fundraising efforts, including the campaign for the building expansion and renovation project;

• The Honorable Amalya L. Kearse, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, is the first woman and second African American to be named to that bench, and the first woman and first African-American lawyer to become a partner in a Wall Street firm;

• James J. White is the Robert A. Sullivan Professor of Law at U-M and one of the most highly regarded teachers and scholars in Law School history. His book "Uniform Commercial Code" (with Summers and Hillman) is considered the most widely recognized treatise on the subject.

"The widely divergent paths taken by these three influential alumni perfectly illustrates the depth and breadth of a Michigan Law education," Caminker said. "As we look forward to many more decades of legal education at the highest level in this beautiful new building, we can also look to these distinguished graduates as inspiration for our efforts."