I should be clear, this isn’t a story about a replica law school building made out of Lego pieces. I’m pretty sure a lot of people have already done that — maybe Nathan Sawaya, lawyer turned Lego artist. And this isn’t a story about a life-sized law school building made out of Lego pieces; I’m pretty sure some online law school has “neato” plans already underway for such a brick-and-mortar plastic-and-Krazy-Glue supplement to their accreditation application to the ABA.

No, this story is about a brand-new, modern, actually quite interesting-looking law school building, which just looks like it was made by a child Colossus playing with a box of interconnecting building blocks. The progressive urban planner in me says, “That’s actually pretty cool.” The righteous crusader in me asks, “Dear GOD, how much did that cost?”

And the legal blogger in me just really wants the name “Lego Law School” to stick around for a generation or two….

The University of Baltimore School of Law has a new building. One tipster says the school is hoping to attract students “who want to study in Legoland.” From the school’s website, here’s the new Angelos Law Center:

Well, that’s interesting. It’s not Camden Yards, but for a space-efficient urban building, you could do a lot worse. And apparently it’s even nicer on the inside. From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

But it’s the Escheresque interior that is the real prize. A bright — and brightly colored — atrium winds up through the middle, with bridges and staircases zigzagging and spiraling through the space in patterns as quirky as the law itself. On the atrium’s west side are classrooms and faculty offices, while on the east are the 32,000-square-foot, 40,000-volume library, on Floors 7 through 12, and below it offices for the school’s eight legal clinics. Floors 6 and 7 are meant to be hubs of activity, with 6 housing student organizations and a cafe with an outdoor terrace, and 7 holding the dean’s office and the entrance to the library. Tucked below grade on the east side — under a garden, actually — is a big moot-court room and auditorium. On the building’s north side is a pleasant sunken courtyard with tables and chairs and with fountains pouring out of cracks in the far wall.

Escheresque? So, it’s like a ladder that looks like it’s leading you up, but is actually leading you nowhere? Your law school is built on the illusion of progress without allowing real upward mobility?

Or is that too on the nose?

Oh I kid, the inside does look really nice. How much did that run the good people of Baltimore Law School?

At $119 million, the building cost about $5 million more than a conventional structure of similar size, says the university’s president, Robert L. Bogomolny. But the university will save about $400,000 a year in energy costs, he says.

“The building is ideally designed for the kind of education we want to provide to students,” adds Ronald Weich, the law-school dean, who says the building will be a tool for recruiting both students and faculty members.

I know $119 million is expensive, and I know that capital projects contribute to higher tuition costs, but what are you going to do? Law schools, if you are going to have them, have to be taught somewhere. You’re not going to teach kids out of FEMA trailers.

There’s also a public utility to the new University of Baltimore Law building. I’m not talking about the silly suggestion that charging people around $26,000 a year (in-state) — which, by the standards of modern American legal education, is a bargain price — will magically lead to an influx of lawyers willing to service low-income clients. I’m saying that, quite simply, the new building is a nice space that is actually open to the public, unlike many law school campuses that are closed.

It’s an attractive urban building in a city that has its fair share of blight. And even though the school received some public support, it’s not like it got hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars in support of a billionaire sports-team owner. In fact, the new Angelos Law Center received significant private funding, led by the majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles, Peter Angelos (a successful trial lawyer and 1961 graduate of the law school).

And did I mention that the law school looks like a Lego building? In these challenging times, I think Lego Law School counts as a “win” for urban renewal.

The New Angelos Law Center [University of Baltimore School of Law]
New Building Aims to Draw Students to U. of Baltimore Law School [Chronicle of Higher Education]

Earlier: Career Alternatives for Attorneys: Lego Brick Artist
Nathan Sawaya Gives Up Corporate Law for Legos


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