Law School at 35

Part 2: Growing into Seattle University School of Law

From left, former President Father William Sullivan and President Father Stephen Sundborg led the ceremonial shoveling as the university broke ground on the new home for the law school.

On Aug. 4, 1994, Professor Jim Bond (uncharacteristically wearing a T-shirt) taught the last class at the University of Puget Sound School of Law. A few weeks later, on Aug. 24, Professors Marilyn Berger and Tom Holdych taught the first classes at what had become Seattle University School of Law. The law school awaited the construction of its new home, Sullivan Hall, on the Seattle University campus. It would be five more years before the school would physically move to Seattle, but its transformation was under way.

Faculty and staff learned about this unusual change of "sponsorship" of the law school at a surprise meeting Nov. 8, 1993. None of us who were there at the time will ever forget the mysterious memo in our faculty mailboxes telling us that there would be a press conference later that day and that instructed us that if we needed "to cancel a class in order to be there, do so."

There, the faculty was first introduced to Father William Sullivan, president of Seattle University, who welcomed the law school and explained the transfer of affiliation. Neither will any of us ever forget our colleague Doug Branson's good judgment in leading a standing ovation by the faculty for Father Sullivan and Seattle University that day.

The transaction had been a well-kept secret, so the announcement was a shock to faculty, students and alumni. It caused no small controversy in Tacoma and other South-Sound communities. Nonetheless, we knew immediately that it was better to be wanted, better to be bought rather than sold.

Most of the faculty knew little about Seattle University. Some of us knew it was on Capital Hill (or maybe it was First Hill). Some had heard of Elgin Baylor or the O'Brien twins and the legendary basketball program SU enjoyed in the 1950s. Most of us did not know at the time that we would become the 13th Jesuit law school - joining Georgetown, Boston College, Fordham, and the Loyolas, among others. It is fair to say that many of us were initially concerned with how the Jesuit identity of Seattle University would affect the law school and its programs. As it turned out, any concern was unfounded.

Events moved rapidly from that day, and there was much to do to make the transfer a successful one, not the least of which was to construct a new building in Seattle, hire a new dean, and restore accreditation by the ABA. Don Carmichael, who had become the interim dean just before the transfer was announced, had to figure out how to integrate with a new institution thirty miles to the north and at the same time keep the school in Tacoma running on an even keel. Don Carmichael's lasting gift to the law school was his calm and unruffled management in a time of great change.

As faculty and staff began to work with their counterparts at Seattle University, it became clear that the problems that would have to be worked out were overshadowed by the opportunities the new affiliation offered. As a major urban university in the Northwest's largest city, Seattle University wanted the law school to be both physically and functionally a part of the university as soon as possible. As a comprehensive Jesuit university, Seattle University wanted and needed a School of Law in order to make its mission of justice in action come alive.

Not enough can be said about the efforts of President Sullivan and Provost John Eshelman to make the transition a successful one. Anyone who worked with these two during the transition saw the commitment of Seattle University to the success of the law school in its new home. Another key person in the transition was Virgina Parks, who served as the point person for a transition committee, working out all of the many details of the transaction. Seattle University's commitment was matched by the law school's: the faculty, administration and staff worked extremely hard to make the new law school a functioning reality. And of course, the flexibility and support of the law school's students, alumni and friends was vital to the success of the transfer as well.

Becoming Seattle University

The first dean of Seattle University School of Law was James E. Bond, who had been a former dean of the law school from 1986-93. The law school began the process of reforming itself to fulfill the mission and goals of Seattle University. At the same time, the regular day-to-day business of the law school continued uninterrupted. The first faculty member hired by Seattle University was Henry McGee, a professor at UCLA School of Law. Professor McGee was the first tenured faculty member of color in the law school's history. Annette Clark '89 and Melinda Branscomb were the first faculty members to be granted tenure by Seattle University.

The law faculty, led by a committee including Professors James Beaver, David Skover, and Kellye Testy and Father John Topel, adopted a new mission statement, one that more fully reflected integration of the law school with Seattle University. There were soon more additions to the faculty: Connie Krontz '89, Lori Bannai and Mimi Samuel joined the Legal Writing faculty. The school began to experience the first significant wave of generational change, with Professor Beaver's death and several faculty retiring or taking new positions (including Professors Don Carmichael, John LaFond, Doug Branson, Anita Steele and George Nock).

At the same time, many talented new colleagues joined the faculty, which become more diverse. Professor Margaret Chon became the first tenured woman of color, coming from Syracuse and bringing with her expertise in the areas of race and law and intellectual property. Mark Chinen came from large firm practice in D.C. with experience in international trade, and Ron Slye brought expertise from Yale in public international law with an emphasis on human rights.

Lisa Brodoff joined the clinical faculty after serving as Washington's Chief Administrative Law Judge. Carmen Gonzalez, with expertise in international environmental law, and Gregory Silverman, an enrolled member of the Mohegan Tribe of Indian of Connecticut and an expert in electronic commerce and intellectual property, joined the faculty and brought increased depth to the Intellectual Property and International Law areas, both of which have grown into key areas of excellence for the law school.

Settling into Sullivan Hall

Sullivan Hall was dedicated at a ceremony in 1999. From left, back row: Professor John Strait, former Dean Don Carmichael, Vice Dean Annette Clark ’89, Associate Dean for Students Donna Deming. Front row: Father William Sullivan, former Dean Jim Bond.

Moving a law school is no small matter. Not only did the library and all of the faculty's books and materials have to be moved, but so did 20-plus years of administrative materials and records. The big move happened the week before school started, and many details weren't yet complete in the new building. In fact, there weren't even any chairs in the classrooms until two days before students arrived. But faculty and students settled into the beautiful new building, and a formal dedication - including the naming of Sullivan Hall in honor of the president who worked so hard to bring a law school to SU, was held in October 1999.

Having built the new harbor and safely navigated the ship into it, Jim Bond decided to step down from his deanship to once again return to teaching. So, the search for a new dean began. The law school found an experienced legal educator and administrator, Rudolph Hasl, who had previously been the dean of both St. Louis University's School of Law and of St. John's. Dean Hasl started the important process of connecting the law school to its new city, reaching out to the legal community, encouraging the growth of international programs, and upgrading the law school's technology systems to a level befitting this tech-savvy region.

The size of the student body increased in Seattle, and with that, so did the size of the faculty. New Professors Catherine O'Neill, Lily Kahng, Christian Halliburton, Natasha Martin, Jack Kirkwood, Bryan Adamson and Joaquin Avila joined the faculty, adding significant diversity and needed subject-matter expertise in the areas of environmental law, tax, criminal law, employment law, antitrust, consumer law and voting rights.

Onward and upward

As the law school settled into Seattle and began to blossom, Seattle University's aspirations to become a premier university continued to climb under the effective leadership of Father Stephen Sundborg, S.J., Father Sullivan's successor. In 2004, the university began the search for the next dean of the law school, seeking a leader who could propel the law school to its next level of excellence. After a national search, the university selected as its first choice one of its own: Professor Kellye Testy. Dean Testy succeeded Rudolph Hasl, becoming the first female dean in Washington state.

A popular teacher and successful scholar at the law school since 1992, Testy had already had a significant impact upon the school's direction as she assumed the decanal role. In addition to having a part in the law school's new mission statement and a number of key faculty hires, Dean Testy also founded or co-founded three key programs: The Access to Justice Institute, the Seattle Journal for Social Justice and the Center on Corporations, Law and Society. Dana Gold '95 was hired to run the new center in 2003, and it has now become nationally recognized for its Directors Training Academy, the premier corporate leadership training program in the Northwest. This fall, corporate governance expert Professor Charles O'Kelley will take over as director.

Since 2005, the School of Law has thrived in Seattle. Its national rankings have climbed, including being ranked as one of the top programs in the country for legal writing and as one of the most diverse law schools in America, and the law school draws faculty from the most distinguished ranks in the country.

Many programs have grown. In the summer of 2005, the law school became the host of the Institute for Indian Estate Planning and Probate, the only program of its kind in the country. Through funding from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, it offers paid summer internship opportunities to second and third-year law students who work under the direction of experienced attorneys to provide will drafting and other estate planning services for tribal communities on reservations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

The Center for Global Justice combines a justice-based approach to globalization with a commitment to academic excellence. Among the center's projects are a speakers series, a student fellows program and internship opportunities. Our International and Comparative Law Program, directed by Ron Slye, has grown significantly, offering summer programs in Brazil and South Africa and externship opportunities throughout the world. Faculty members have completed research and taught around the world.

The Access Admission Program/Academic Resource Center, directed by Paula Lustbader '88 and Professor David Boerner, has continued to make a legal education possible for students with diverse backgrounds who demonstrate their potential for legal study through measures other than the LSAT and GPA. This program has benefited enormously from the generosity of an anonymous donor, who has endowed a scholarship fund or more than $7.5 million to support ARC students.

Student life has grown, with now more 40 student organizations and many co-curricular opportunities. Hardly a week goes without a student-sponsored event, such as a forum on a current legal topic or a get-together with members of the bench and bar dealing with practice areas.

With more than 10,000 alumni who are practicing in every state in law practice, government, public service and business, the School of Law is a strong presence. Dean Testy has raised the external profile of the law school in the region and the nation. She is committed to becoming one of the nation's premier private law schools, built on the twin pillars of academic excellence and education for justice. This message is one that resonates strongly with the law school's alumni, friends and the legal community, both regionally and nationally. External support for the school has increased dramatically since 2005, toping a 500 percent increase and permitting the school to offer more scholarships to students and more programs that enhance the quality of its educational mission.

When the law school celebrated its 35th anniversary at the April gala at Benaroya Hall, Dean Testy announced the creation of the first endowed chair, the Donald and Lynda Horowitz Chair for the Pursuit of Justice, and two named professorships, the Fredric Tausend Professorship and John Eshelman Professorship. As the strength of the law school will continue to depend on the quality of its faculty, offering endowed chairs and professorships is critical to the future of the law school.

This past year was one of the most successful ever for the School of Law in faculty hiring. Seven distinguished and diverse professor join the law school this fall.

The past 35 years have taken the law school from Benaroya Business Park to Benaroya Hall. The path that has been traveled is only a projection of the exciting path that is to come. Seattle University School of Law has become a magnet for outstanding students and faculty and serves both the profession and society in many ways. We continue to seek new ways to educate outstanding lawyers who will stand for excellence and reach for justice.

This is the second part of a two part history of the law school. The author has been privileged to be part of all of those stories for the last 35 years. Read Part 1.

By John Weaver, Professor of Law
Summer 2008