University of Washington officials are moving forward with plans to create a law school at the UW Tacoma and want it to operate separately from the law school at the university’s Seattle campus, UW President Ana Mari Cauce said Wednesday.
Speaking at a meeting of the Tacoma City Club, Cauce said a standalone law school in Tacoma makes sense partly because the school would focus on subject areas that are important to the local community, such as environmental law, public service law and tribal law.
Beyond that, the proposed UWT law school will work hard to accommodate students who work full time, Cauce said.
“This is not going to be a law school like every other law school,” Cauce told City Club members.
“It really makes sense, given that the biggest purpose here is to fulfill the legal needs of this area, to have it be its own law school within the University of Washington Tacoma.”
It really makes sense, given that the biggest purpose here is to fulfill the legal needs of this area, to have it be its own law school within the University of Washington Tacoma.
UW President Ana Mari Cauce
A feasibility study to explore what it would take to create the law school at UWT will begin next week. Cauce said she expects the consultant — Marty Katz, the dean of the University of Denver’s law school — to produce a report by late summer.
The UW is paying $25,000 for the study, which Cauce said will look into costs of starting the school as well as how long it would take to open it.
She said she didn’t want to speculate how much the school will cost or when it might open until the feasibility study is complete.
“It’s going to take a lot of work, it’s going to require a lot of active community participation, and it’s going to require an investment from the state,” Cauce said.
The American Bar Association requires a feasibility study before accrediting any new law school, in part to examine whether there is enough demand to support the institution. The law school in Tacoma needs its own accreditation to avoid having to hold many of its classes at the Seattle campus, Cauce said.
“We all want a thorough analysis,” said UWT Chancellor Mark Pagano.
Bruce Kendall, one of the founding directors of a group that has been working to bring a law school to Tacoma, said the school would provide big economic benefits for the region. He and other members of the Tacoma Law Foundation think the law school could open as early as fall 2017.
It’s part of being a mature, growing community to have these kind of educational opportunities at people’s disposal.
Bruce Kendall, president and CEO of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County
Kendall, who is also the president and CEO of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, said a law school is needed in the South Sound partly because many of the state’s current lawyers are baby boomers who are nearing retirement.
The UW Tacoma law school would help train new lawyers to take the place of those who are retiring, he said.
Lawyers educated in Tacoma also are more likely to stay in the area, helping fill local needs for legal services and helping boost the local economy, he said.
Tacoma hasn’t had its own law school since 1999, when the University of Puget Sound sold its law school to Seattle University.
“It’s part of being a mature, growing community to have these kind of educational opportunities at people’s disposal,” Kendall said.
Kendall and other members of the Tacoma Law Foundation plan to meet with the consultant completing the feasibility study next week to discuss the project. Kendall said donors have pledged $2.25 million to help fund the law school should plans move forward.
The Legislature contributed $400,000 in 2014 to help get the school started, but Cauce said the university will require additional state funding to make the Tacoma law school a reality.