Oklahoma City University law school officials are singing the praises of a proposed deal to move 550 students closer to the heart of the legal community.
Law school officials recently signed a purchase agreement with American Farmers and Ranchers Mutual Insurance for the historic former Central High School at 800 N Harvey in Oklahoma City.
The building is within walking distance of state and federal courthouses and what Valerie Couch, the law school's dean, calls “the state's most important concentration of law firms, government offices and corporate headquarters.”
“Our school already has strong relationships with the legal community, but moving to this downtown location would greatly increase the opportunities for our students to have meaningful externships and clerking experiences,” Couch said Friday.
“We think that once our students are downtown their opportunities for observation of court proceedings and trials are going to be greatly enhanced,” she added. “This is a big part of their legal education and will help them to get ready to practice law.”
The university's Board of Trustees will decide Oct. 24 whether to approve the agreement, Couch said Friday.
“We're making sure it's feasible, from a physical standpoint and a financial standpoint,” she said. “If the board approves the transaction, then we would plan to close on the purchase in early December.”
The dean would not disclose the purchase price, but the Oklahoma County assessor's office lists the building's market value at $9.219 million.
The 102-year-old building was designed by legendary architect Andrew Solomon Layton. It was given up by Oklahoma City Public Schools almost 30 years ago when it was sold to Southwestern Bell Telephone Co.
Oklahoma Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Co. bought the 177,000-square-foot, highly ornamented, late Gothic-inspired building from SBC Oklahoma in 2005.
The company, which expanded out of state and changed its name to American Farmers and Ranchers Mutual Insurance Co. in 2007, put the property up for sale in 2010 after determining the property was too large for its operations.
“It will be a wonderful thing for our students, and I think it will really enhance our ability to get more students working with more lawyers before graduation,” said Dan Morgan, an OCU professor who teaches trial practice, tort law and consumer protection law.