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Work continues on SUNY Buffalo Law School

Students linger in the new, brighter entrance area for SUNY Buffalo Law School in O’Brian Hall at the university’s North Campus in Amherst. This is part of a $2 million project that is providing for renovations in different areas of the law school’s seven-story building. Courtesy SUNY Buffalo Law School

The first floor renovation of the SUNY Buffalo Law School is complete.

The centerpiece of the project is the new lobby in John Lord O’Brian Hall, a space that not only welcomes students, faculty and guests, but provides a bright, comfortable area to study and catch up. The latest news of what is happening in the building is broadcast throughout the day on two digital information screens put together — one each — by the law school and the student bar association.

“The new lobby, classroom and student space renovations, as well as technology upgrades, reflect on our commitment to providing a first-rate education to our students,” said Dean Makau W. Mutua. “Our alumni have much to be proud of about SUNY Buffalo Law School and we can now add our facilities to that list. I am grateful to Vice Dean Newton, without whom these historic renovations would have been impossible.”

James R. Newton, vice dean of administration, oversaw the team that undertook the project, which began with planning about two years ago.

The new lobby features a glass vestibule, modern reception desk, more student seating and new lighting, flooring and signage.

“We are very proud of our new entrance and lobby,” Newton said. “It makes a great first impression for the school. It is professional and welcoming. Equally important, our students spend a lot of their time in the first floor lounges, as most of our major classrooms are on the first floor.”

He said the space is now more livable and the students, who have a display case for their achievements, are greatly enjoying it. There are also a faculty scholarship display case and the Dean’s Advisory Council display, featuring pictures of the 40-plus council members.

The council, Newton explained, is the school’s national advisory board, a group of distinguished alumni and friends who advise the dean.

“It includes many of our most successful alumni,” he said. “It’s a great thing for students to see. This board demonstrates to our students what you can do with a Buffalo degree. The board members come from all over the country.”

Makau W. Mutua

The board is chaired by Thomas E. Black Jr., a 1979 graduate of the law school who is managing partner of the Texas firm Black, Mann & Graham LLP. The vice chair is Francis M. Letro, also a 1979 graduate, a highly respected trial attorney in Buffalo, well known for handling many high-profile cases and obtaining substantial verdicts and settlements. Letro is also the 2012 recipient of the Edwin F. Jaeckle Award, the highest honor bestowed by the school and its alumni association. Black received the award in 2011.

The renovation project also includes the installation of technology in three classrooms. Technology upgrades include projection, moving and equipped podiums, distance video conferencing and interactive student participation through the use of microphones. An additional two classrooms are being renovated and technologically updated. That portion of the project is expected to be completed this summer.

“When we finish, we will have installed technology in six of our 11 major classrooms,” Newton said.

Work on the nearly $2 million project was done by a variety of contractors, collaborated by University Facilities. The project has been paid for by the university, the law school and through donors.

Newton said Edward Davis, owner of Design Environments Interactive, came up with a number of designs for the lobby layout. Students and faculty voted on the final selection.

The project in the seven-story building also includes a new Michael H. Doran student lounge, named for a 1982 graduate and founder of the Buffalo firm Doran & Murphy PLLC, who died in a 2009 plane crash in Ohio, along with an associate, Matthew J. Schnirel, Class of 2008.

Gracing the wall in the new showcase lobby is the Dean’s Advisory Council display, featuring photos of the more than 40 distinguished alumni from across the country who advise the dean. Courtesy SUNY Buffalo Law School

A student enjoys studying in one of the newly renovated lounges at SUNY Buffalo Law School. Courtesy SUNY Buffalo Law School

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