Housing Complex

Gray’s Choice for the Franklin School: UDC School of Law

If the Fenty Administration doesn't make a decision on who'll get to develop the Franklin School on 13th and K Streets NW soon, it may be up to a Vince Gray administration. If so, we know what the chairman would prefer: At a meet-and-greet in Cleveland Park on Tuesday, he said that the University of the District of Columbia's David A. Clark School of Law would be the perfect occupant. Joe Browne, the who heads the Coalition for the Franklin School's steering committee, strongly endorses the choice.

The one most in favor of UDC's Law School moving to the Franklin School building, however, might be the law school itself.

"Our dream, our vision, is to have a law school downtown," the school's dean, Katherine Broderick, tells Housing Complex. "The Franklin School would be absolutely perfect for our students and our clients...this is Mecca."

The school's clients are predominantly homeless and low-income people who benefit from the school's public interest legal services. Students and faculty put in 85,000 hours per year serving 1,000 folks in need. Being in Van Ness doesn't serve that purpose very well.

"Upper Northwest is nice, but there aren't many poor people," Broderick says. "It's often two bus rides and a subway away." (And it seems like those protesting the closure of the former Franklin Shelter might be satisfied with having the law school there as well.)

The school plans to grow to 650 students–it's currently 325 students, squished into 60,000 square feet on three and a half floors at UDC's Connecticut Avenue campus. Broderick estimates that they'll need 225,000 square feet eventually, which is more space than the Franklin School has. But considering UDC doesn't have the dough to buy their own building, a District-disposed former school would fit the bill quite well.

The catch: The law school didn't answer last fall's request for proposal. But the Coalition suggested a "variety of educational uses," and the other options are a charter elementary school and a boutique hotel. The City Council would have to approve the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development's selection, and it seems unlikely they'd hand the Franklin School to a private interest with such a serious bid from UDC on the table. Even if he loses, Gray–who is a founding board member of the law school–could have significant influence in blocking any other selection in the four months before his lame duck term as chair ended.

  • Rick Mangus

    Now that is a good idea for a law school!

  • LOL

    I agree with Rick.]

  • Jah Surrans

    Hold on! More space? UDC has great visibility in being a "botton-of-the-barrel" school that impersonates a law school; why put more poorly trained and limited skilled individuals in the market place? And, just because the UDC graduates have increased the Bar pass rate (the Bar exam is a joke, and is easy to pass - the CPA exam makes the Bar exam look like a simple quiz). With 200 accredited law schools in the US, mistakes are often made when it comes to accreditation; UDC is a good example. The school promotes that it is outstanding. Unfortunately, "outstanding" does not include academics and outstanding students. UDC does note that it is outstanding for diversity, liberal minded faculty/student body, and great emvironment for minorities. Too bad it does not include outstanding where it counts (if you do not know what this is, then you do not know what is important in evaluating a law school) A few of its graduates have done well (this is very subjective), and this is a drop in the bucket.

    I worked in DC and have met a few UDC graduates and was not impressed (and they said they were good students)- this has been exprerssed by other attorneys I know. I have met sharper paralegals.

    UDC should help the budget of DC and protect the public by closing the school. On the other hand, UDC may be a good "factory" for training its students to just pass the Bar, and providing attorneys to staff local organizations that provide services for landlord tenant, social services, and public defender - a lower skill requirement, and poor writing skills are not a handicap in getting one of these jobs.

    The problem of poor law schools is that there should be three professional levels for the law: (i) paralegal, (ii)new class " Certified Attorney's Assistant", and Attorney.

    The new class will better describe the UDC graduate, and help maintain a higher standard for the pool of attorneys who have graduated from good law schools.

    There has to be a time where the profession cleans itself up when it comes to training its lawyers.