by Gretchen Kell
Having struggled for more than 15 years with an inadequate building, Boalt Hall is unveiling the results of an extensive, $16.7 million building and renovation project.
The improvements include a quadrupling of its computer facilities, new faculty offices, a library reading room twice its former size, a new student commons and cafe, new classrooms, a center for visiting scholars, offices for student organizations and Internet access in every office and classroom.
The 17-month-long construction project added 40 percent, or 50,000 usable square feet, to Boalt Hall and another 80,000 usable square feet were remodeled. A four-story addition was built on the north side of the law school, and Manville Hall, a former dormitory adjacent to Boalt Hall, was renamed Simon Hall and converted primarily into offices and meeting rooms.
"We have been in desperate need of additional space," said Jesse Choper, a Boalt law professor and dean of Boalt Hall from 1982 to 1992. "We could not attract visiting scholars because there was no room for them, our faculty was working in cramped quarters, there was no space for a clinical program, and there were no student amenities ‚ no rooms for their organizations, journals or even a lounge."
Choper added that the building and renovation was not done because of any expected changes in the number of students at Boalt Hall. For the past five years, the law school has had between 900 and 950 students, including post-JD students and PhD students in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy program.
A building dedication ceremony was held Saturday, Oct. 26, in the Steinhart Courtyard.
"The building literally is a gift from Boalt's alumni and friends," said Dean Herma Hill Kay, who saw the construction from beginning to end. "Students, faculty, staff and administrators who work here are indebted to them for a new and exciting setting to study and learn law."
In 1989, Choper launched the improvement project with a $10 million fund-raising campaign. By the time he stepped down as dean three years later, $12.5 million had been raised through the help of more than 625 donors.
Of that amount, $2.2 million was from William G. Simon, a Boalt Hall alumnus. In Simon's honor, Manville Hall, the renovated dormitory, now is called William G. Simon Hall.
Since 1992, $1.75 million more has been donated to the project, and the fund-raising continues.
Built in 1951, Boalt Hall had been structurally expanded over the years and received cosmetic improvements. But within the past two decades, the building and its facilities no longer could keep pace with the modern needs of Berkeley's law school community.
This fall, the school is very much up to speed. Simon Hall features a commons area ‚ including student lounges and space designated for a cafe, a room for public meetings and receptions and a child care facility. The top three out of seven floors house new offices for faculty.
The school's new north addition, yet to be named, extends the library and provides several new reading rooms and nearly 100 student carrels ‚ half of them for laptop users ‚ where once there were only about half a dozen.
The top two floors of the addition contain faculty offices, a faculty library and a spacious faculty lounge with a deck.
In the 1951 portion of Boalt Hall, improvements include newly-defined entrances, several new classrooms, enlarged offices for administrative units and a new area with carrels for law scholars from around the world who do research there.
Kathleen Vanden Heuvel, deputy director of Boalt Hall's library, said one of the most significant changes was to the three computer labs, now housed on an entire floor of the library.
One lab, scheduled to open in early November, will be for general word processing and printing as well as for Internet access. Another is for accessing the computerized legal data base Lexis and a third for the use of the Westlaw data base.
"Before," she said, "...there were only a dozen computers, and the lab always was busy." Only a few of those computers were hooked up to the Internet.
The lab for general word processing and printing will have as many as 30 computers. All are fully networked so that students can send and receive electronic mail and use Netscape and other programs.
The library also has new space for the Robbins collection, one of the world's most prestigious collections of religious and civil law.