NEW YORK, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Call it the downtown advantage. Saint Louis University School of Law has become the latest law school to announce plans to move, or expand, downtown.
The new location will offer law school students easier access to real-world professional experience, law school administrators say. The move from the main campus to a donated 11-story building will take place in time for the 2012-13 academic year.
It joins Phoenix School of Law, the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, Fordham Law and the University of Baltimore School of Law, all of which have recently announced downtown relocations or expansions.
The move will strengthen the connections among up-and-coming lawyers and members of the practicing bar and business and civic leaders, said Annette Clark, dean of Saint Louis University School of Law.
"Our new home will be in the heart of where law is practiced," she said.
The new facility will also bring students closer to low-income communities they serve in clinical courses, Clark said.
Earlier this month, the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law finalized the purchase of a former Detroit firehouse to house its clinical programs. The new facility is expected to open in December.
Two years ago, the university's board of trustees and administration had asked the law school to explore potential cost savings by relocating from downtown to join the rest of the campus in northwest Detroit. The law school determined that it belonged downtown, said Lloyd Semple, the dean of the law school.
"We see our downtown location as a tremendous asset," Semple said. While some students would prefer a bucolic campus with rolling green hills and places to lie in the sun, Mercy School of Law offers "real-life experience," he said.
Students take advantage of externships with judges and the prosecutors' office, interface directly with federal and state courts, and work in one of 10 legal clinics serving the local community, Semple said.
In January, for-profit Phoenix School of Law completed its move into larger facilities downtown from another part of the city. The school, which moved from Scottsdale to Phoenix in 2006, settled on the space after a two-year search. Access to light rail and other transportation, along with proximity to the courts and major law firms, were motivating factors, said Nina Segovia, director of marketing for Phoenix School of Law.
Locating law schools downtown is not a new phenomenon. Fordham, Georgetown, Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles and Loyola University Chicago and Boston College have had downtown law school campuses for years.
Fordham Law School was originally located on Fordham University's Rose Hill campus in the Bronx. After relocating to other locations in downtown Manhattan, Fordham Law moved to its current location at Fordham University's Lincoln Center campus in 1961. Fordham Law School is relocating to a new, larger building near Lincoln Center in 2014.
After occupying several other spaces in Washington, Georgetown Law's campus has been at the foot of Capitol Hill since 1971. It allows students to easily access to Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court, along with government agencies and administrative boards.
"We have always believed that a law school should be in the heart of the city and not far removed from the problems that courts resolve," said Georgetown Law Professor Wallace Mlyniec, who authored a book on the school's history and helped create its public interest and community service center. "We have never seriously considered moving to the campus."
(Reporting by Moira Herbst)