CU Makes History in Legal Education
by David Getches
Dean of the University of Colorado School of Law
The University of Colorado Law School will make history with the dedication of the new Wolf Law Building on the Boulder campus in September.
Never before have students of an entire campus voted to tax themselves for construction of a new law school building.
Justice Stephen Breyer will dedicate the 183,000-square-foot building on Sept. 8. The Wolf Law Building will feature state-of-the-art classrooms, two high-tech courtrooms, 50 percent more space for law journal offices and law clinics, and the largest resource collection and most technologically advanced law library in the 12-state Rocky Mountain region.
In keeping with the outstanding national reputation for environmental law, Colorado Law is striving to make Wolf Law the first Gold-certified public law school building in the country
Since the school’s founding in 1892, Colorado Law has developed a tradition of excellence that will be enhanced with the new Wolf Law Building.
The journey to a new home began in 1995 when an American Bar Association report found the Fleming Law Building inadequate. By 1998, a plan was assembled and approved by the Board of Regents for a new building.
That is when the alumni network and private donors stepped up. The seminal moment in the birth of the new building and the inspiration to break ground came from a $3 million donation from Marvin and Judi Wolf, Erving and Joyce Wolf, and Elaine Wolf in honor of Leon and Dora Wolf.
The Colorado Commission on Higher Education approved the law school’s proposal for the building and more than $20 million was committed to the project. Law students voted overwhelmingly for an annual $1,000 tuition increase to help fund the project and private fundraising began in earnest to finance the remaining balance.
Groundbreaking was scheduled for May 2002. At the time, Colorado’s budget was in a tailspin fueled by the TABOR amendment to the state constitution, which restricted state expenditures. Legislative appropriations were abruptly rescinded as the state plunged into a financial crisis. In 2002, all capital construction funding ground to a halt and all of higher education, not just the law school, was suffering from major cuts.
Seven years after its original report finding the law school’s facilities inadequate, the ABA came calling again. In 2003, the ABA Accreditation Committee not only found Colorado Law in noncompliance because of the condition of its facilities, but it also threatened to take action.
In the fall of 2004, after months of intense negotiating within CU student government, campus leaders took the fee to a vote of the entire student body. The proposal resoundingly passed a capital development fee to fund the state’s share of the law building and three other projects on the Boulder campus. Every student will pay $400 per year and this will produce more than $100 million in capital investment on the CU campus Construction on the Wolf Law Building began in January 2005 with $21 million from student funds.
Private donors also invested heavily in support of the effort. They raised nearly $13 million toward the total cost of $46 million. The building was completed in August and the law school will have completed its move by the time classes began on Aug. 27.
The tradition of excellence at CU Law will thrive in this magnificent building. Wolf Law provides a new home that will continue to produce scholars who shape the nation and the world. It is a building worthy of the ideas and learning that will take place within its walls.