Law School begins $200M campaign

A new Law School capital campaign has already raised over half of its $200 million goal for programs that aim to improve the school’s long-term future.

The Law School announced a five-year, $200 million capital campaign last week called “Law Tomorrow” — analogous to the University-wide “Yale Tomorrow” campaign to raise $3 billion that was launched September 30. The law school’s plan includes devoting $50 million to increasing its financial aid efforts, $50 million to expanding its faculty, and another $25 million to converting Swing Space into a law school residence hall.

Law School Dean Harold Koh said the campaign is necessary to maintain the school’s competitiveness.

“If we can secure new facilities, if we can renew the faculty, [and] if we can secure financial aid for students, we can permanently secure Yale Law’s standing as the greatest of law schools,” he said.

By hiring more faculty, Koh said, he hopes to address the rising average age of professors, which could lead to problems as faculty members begin to retire in the near future.

“Our faculty is the best in the world, but relatively senior, so to rejuvenate the faculty means filling more positions right now,” Koh said. “We are considering a significant number of hires and we want to hire the best people.”

Though faculty ranks may increase in the short term, they will eventually return to their current size, Koh said.

Law professor Kenji Yoshino said the law school will be challenged to expand spatially while maintaining the intimacy that has always been one of its defining characteristics. The school will acquire the Swing Space dormitory in 2012 in order to reestablish on-campus living for more of its students. Housing for Yale Law students is presently limited to approximately 20 single dorms located within the Sterling Law Building.

“Given the time and thought the Law School administration has already devoted to this issue, I’m confident we will be able to meet this challenge in an efficient and elegant way,” Yoshino said.

Associate Dean Mark LaFontaine said the administration has not determined how much it will cost to renovate Swing Space to meet the Law School’s residential needs. Additional classroom space is not currently part of the campaign plan, he said.

But some students said they think funds should be directed toward increasing classroom space as well as residential space.

“The fact is there aren’t enough classrooms,” Monica Bell LAW ’08 said. “I definitely think it’s a pressing problem.”

Some of the funds raised will go towards financial aid initiatives such as the Career Options Assistance Program and Summer Public Interest Fellowships. COAP is a loan repayment program for law graduates who go into low-paying jobs in public and non-profit sectors, while the SPIF program awards grants of up to $6,000 for law students to work in public interest, government and non-profit fields.

“Students should make career choices without regard to their debt burden,” Koh said.

Koh is also placing a priority on the school’s globalization, earmarking $25 million of the campaign to support current educational programs in China, the Middle East and South America. The school is also starting a program in Southeast Asia, he said.

Alumni have already pledged about $101 million since the beginning of last year, during the campaign’s silent phase, Koh said. The public phase of the campaign will last through 2011.

Law School administrators said they think alumni enthusiasm for the campaign’s vision is responsible for its success so far.

“[Koh’s] themes resonate with our alumni, and they are responding,” LaFontaine said.

LaFontaine said he is confident that the law school could surpass its $200 million target by 2011. Donations at many different levels – from $100,000 and below to upwards of $5 million — have already been pledged, LaFontaine said.

“While we have been fortunate to attract a number of very significant leadership gifts to help launch our campaign, we still have many ongoing conversations with a significant number of potential major donors, and are actively on the road throughout the year beginning conversations with still more alumni,” he said.

An additional $50 million of the funds raised by the campaign will go to a discretionary fund to be used for emerging and immediate Law School needs.

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