Law school starts semester in new facility

Jessica Klymchuk, News Editor Ω

Elevator access to the fourth floor via the new elevator that scales the outside of the building is not yet available. Sean Brady/The Omega

Elevator access to the fourth floor via the new elevator that scales the outside of the building is not yet available. Sean Brady/The Omega

As the $24.5 million renovations to Old Main which began in September 2011 come to a close, law students and faculty are settling into their new 40,000-square-foot home.

The third and fourth floor of Old Main opened for classes on Jan. 6, but a grand opening will be held in the spring, near convocation, according to vice president of administration and finance Matt Milovick.

Although the building is fully-functional, some cosmetic details remain unfinished. A circular staircase between the third and fourth floor is not complete and the area around it is still a construction zone. Milovick said the staircase would be delayed by two weeks following the opening of the space.

The renovations were originally scheduled for completion in September of 2013, and then delayed to November 2013. Milovick said issues with completing the ceiling caused the final delay.

“The ceiling is curved and it’s a complicated process,” he said. “It all got resolved but it did create about a two-month delay.”

The renovation of Old Main was former vice president of administration and finance Cliff Neufeld’s last project at TRU. Neufeld retired in 2013 and his successor, Milovick, credited him with much of the development of the university saying “he built the majority of this campus.”

Some of the third floor remains a construction zone, but many areas are open to students. Sean Brady/The Omega

Some of the third floor remains a construction zone, but many areas are open to students. Sean Brady/The Omega

“It’s quite fitting that this be his last project, and what a showpiece it is for the university,” he said. “We are all quite proud of it. It’s an amazing facility.”

Stantec and Diamond and Schmitt Architects won the design bid for the revitalization of Old Main in February 2011.

TRU interim dean of law Anne Pappas was looking forward to the law students returning for the winter semester to a space that has been designed specifically to their needs. Both Pappas and law professor Richard Oppong reiterated the importance of the law school being able have its own space and develop an identity.

“They have all the things they didn’t have for three years, so it’s going to be awesome,” Pappas said.

The new facility includes a silent reading room, a law library, student lockers, several meeting rooms and classrooms that have been acoustically designed to make discussion easier. Pappas said law classes are very interactive and other classrooms don’t accommodate dialogue as well as is required.

The facility also includes a moot court room to simulate court proceedings that were previously being carried out in flat classrooms.

Oppong, who was also on the building committee, called the moot court one of the most needed aspects of the new facility.

“It’s going to make a difference because it’s a simulated learning experience and while you can do it in a regular classroom, it’s not the same experience as when you’re in a room with a raised dais for the judge and tables that emulates a courtroom,” Pappas said.

“I’m very excited about that because I think the students are going to feel very differently going through it here.”

Pappas said services and amenities will be easier for students to access because they won’t be scattered. There is reserved space for career services, admissions, and permanent space for the Student Law Society and clubs.

In the Brown Family House of Learning, law faculty were sometimes sharing an office with two other professors, making it difficult to meet with students on a drop-in basis, which Pappas said is how the law school operates. Now they all have their own offices.

There will also be space for the legal clinic and the legal information centre.

The legal clinic will see law students providing legal advice to clients and taking files to court under the supervision and direction of law faculty and lawyers. Pappas said they hope to have the law clinic running for the fall 2014 semester.

The legal information centre will open this January and will be a resource for legal information. It will not provide legal advice or handle files.

This staircase to the fourth floor is yet to be completed. VP admin and finance Matt Milovick said that the opening of the staircase was delayed two weeks. Sean Brady/The Omega

This staircase to the fourth floor is yet to be completed. VP admin and finance Matt Milovick said that the opening of the staircase was delayed two weeks. Sean Brady/The Omega

The law school will also have a judge-in-residence in the new facility and Pappas said she thinks lawyers will be dropping in more often now that the law students will be easier to find.

“I think for the community, for Kamloops, it’s going to be a really rewarding experience being able to come to the law school and assist students in an ad hoc kind of way,” Pappas said.

She said she is curious to see how TRU plans to present the law school, considering it’s not stand alone and the entrance of Old Main is not an entrance to the law school.

“As you come into Old Main I don’t know that you get that feeling that it’s a law school,” she said.

They also expect to see organizational changes in the next couple years since there isn’t currently enough office space for a full law faculty of 18. Right now there are 11 faculty members who are all accommodated in the new space but expansion will mean that the Masters of Business Administration program, which is currently using offices at the end of the third floor, will have to adjust.

“I suspect ultimately to come to a time when they will have to decide on whether those people should be there,” Oppong said, “because this is a new school so we are definitely going to expand. So I think that will definitely come up very soon.”

TRU’s first law class will graduate this spring. Pappas said she is very impressed to see the inaugural class completing their last semester of study in the new building.

“We are certainly grateful to the university for putting in all the effort to make sure that we have it, especially for those that are going to graduate,” said Oppong. “It’s very important that they spend some time in the building before they graduate.”