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The University of Kentucky College of Law started the 2019-2020 academic year in its state-of-the-art building, following a two-year, $56 million renovation and expansion. The facility was designed to support enhanced teaching and learning and provide the foundation for high-quality legal education in the 21st century.

“This Law Building is the product of our community’s education needs and desires,” said UK Law Interim Dean Mary Davis, who chaired the building committee. “We put much thought into every decision we made for this building based on many conversations with UK Law students, faculty, staff and alumni.”

Located on South Limestone with a main entrance that faces UK’s Memorial Hall, the Law Building’s façade is mostly windows from top to bottom. Inside, natural light floods the building, including the classrooms, courtrooms and law library. Each floor is interspersed with built-in alcoves and common areas furnished with seating and tables designed to enhance collaboration among students, faculty and staff.

“We want to make sure our students achieve intellectual excellence and find opportunities far beyond what they believed would be possible when they walked through our doors for the first time,” Davis said. “The rebuild was about more than being an excellent-looking building. This was about a commitment to our students and the legal profession to provide the classrooms, courtrooms, collaboration spaces, and technology needed to prepare the next generation of lawyers for the critical roles they will fulfill in society.”

The footprint of the College of Law has increased 26 percent to 122,513 square feet. The rebuild allows the college to expand the curricular demands needed for legal education and provides more space for teaching, learning, research, practical skills training and co-curricular programming.

The building holds 11 classrooms with 25 to 80 seats; a 185-seat grand courtroom for oral argument training, live court proceedings, lectures and conferences; a small courtroom for litigation training and classes; and a two-story law library that provides services and support to students, faculty, the legal profession and general public.

The Main Commons on the second floor – surrounded by classrooms and faculty offices – sits under a massive center skylight, and it is adjacent to a Common Grounds coffeeshop that serves hot and cold coffee drinks, sandwiches and salads. The space serves as one of many student, faculty and staff collaboration areas throughout the building.

“The Main Commons has become a prime location in the building for students grouping to study, have lunch, collaborate with other students and engage with faculty and administration outside of the classrooms, offices, and Law Library,” said Danny Murphy, UK Law’s senior assistant dean of community engagement and operations/chief diversity officer. “But you can find these collaboration spaces in every corner of our Law Building.”

Information technology offices, the student lounge and student organization rooms are located on the lower level. Some of the student organization rooms are shared while some rooms are dedicated to student organizations in need of more space or privacy.

“It’s nice to have a closing door for student organizations,” Student Bar Association President Chynna Hibbitts said. “We love having a place where people can come see us, meet their representatives and voice concerns.”

Hibbitts, a third-year law student, also finally gets to experience the UK Law community under one roof after being separated in temporary locations during the renovation. 

“It has definitely brought people together,” Hibbitts said. “We’re developing relationships and building even stronger bonds because we’re all in one place, and we often see the deans and our professors in the common areas. It’s a great time to catch up.”

The Law Building also has outdoor areas for collaboration, studying, co-curricular programming and special events. Two patios and a set of outside social stairs flank the main entrance and there are two terraces — one on the second floor and another on the third floor — that offer views of the UK campus. On the third floor, in addition to the terrace, three medium classrooms can be converted into one large multipurpose room that can accommodate about 200 people for continuing legal education seminars, journal symposiums, special guest speakers and events.

The rebuild of the Law Building, originally constructed in 1965, started in mid-July 2017 with a groundbreaking ceremony held in September of the same year.  Sherman Carter Barnhart of Lexington and Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates of New York City designed the building and Congleton-Hacker Company of Lexington served as the construction managers. David Collins of UK Capital Projects was the project manager who oversaw the construction project for the university.