Valparaiso building restored to house Lawyering Skills Center

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Looking at old photographs of a building on a northwestern Indiana campus built in the late 1800s and comparing it with a view of the same building from the school’s website, one would be hard pressed to find any major differences, at least on the outside.

But the inside of Heritage Hall, named for a music professor and one of the oldest buildings on the campus of Valparaiso University, has been redesigned as the law school’s Lawyering Skills Center and will soon welcome the Valparaiso University School of Law Clinical Program back to its old location.

The building will include space for students to learn and participate in pre-trial skills, trial practice, appellate advocacy, dispute resolution, moot court, mock trial, client counseling, negotiation, externships, arbitration, and pro bono work.

heritage hall Heritage Hall at Valparaiso University was one of the oldest buildings on campus until it was torn down, above, in 2009. (Submitted photo)

By the end of September, all construction will be done except for a few minor details. The furniture is due in early October, which is when technology will be installed. By mid-October, the law clinic will have moved back into Heritage Hall and out of the modular offices – a.k.a. doublewide mobile homes – where they’ve been for the last year.

Heritage Hall, built in 1875, has had a number of purposes, including a boarding house, a library, a building for music classes, and other uses over the years.

The building is adjacent to the law school’s current building, Wesemann Hall, built in 1986. When it was built, said Valparaiso University School of Law Associate Dean Curt Cichowski, who has overseen the Heritage Hall project, the law school didn’t include space for a clinic.

“It was an old building on campus and not maintained very well,” he said.

Sandy Tengblad, associate director of Clinical Services, agreed.

“The law clinic has always been in an old building that has seen better days,” she said via e-mail. “Since I started in 1983, we went from Lembke Hall across the lawn to Heritage Hall. Heritage Hall, as it stood when we moved in, was a beautiful building from the outside, with lots of character. When you walked inside, you could tell it had been through stages of renovations. You saw ’60s paneling, mixed with ’80s carpeting, sprinkled with a hodgepodge of furniture confiscated from the basement of the law school.”

The aesthetic issues weren’t the only problems in Heritage Hall.

“In the old building, the paint on the walls was bubbled and peeling. The stairway was narrow and steep. The brick was crumbling. We had bees, ladybugs, bats, and mice,” she said. “The floors had large bumps under the carpet, which were actually supports that helped hold up the building. We had no storage space. The windows leaked. There were retired wires throughout the building, both inside and out. Limited space to hold class. Clients were able to roam the building without any supervision. The only handicap access was to enter through the director’s office.”

The clinical program, which helps clients with criminal, civil, juvenile, domestic violence, tax, sports law, wrongful conviction cases, and mediations, helps about 700 clients every year. It has been in Heritage Hall since 1987, with the exception of the past year.

Heritage Hall The school worked with architects to recreate it to specifications of the historic building, as shown in the mid-1900s. (Submitted photo)

It was the clinic’s annual fundraiser that got the attention of a descendant of two early graduates of the law school. While not a lawyer herself, she wanted to preserve the history of the school, including her relatives’ time there in the early 1900s.

The donor started working with the law school on the project about four years ago. She helped raise a little more than half of the needed $9 million for the restoration project, Cichowski said, and the rest of the funding came from other donors.

During the early phases of the project, when the two main goals were to preserve the historic aspects of the building while adding modern amenities for the school, there was bad news and worse news.

Structural engineers said the building was in bad shape, he said. The restrooms, which were not a part of the original building, had issues, and the building never had grounded power.

“The worst news was that the bricks weren’t structurally sound,” he said. “The engineers joked with us that the roof was the only thing still holding the building together.”

The compromise was a building design “that to the inch was built to the exact specifications of Heritage Hall. The building was disassembled, and we harvested some of the bricks and original timbers,” he said.

The bricks were then reused as part of the new building’s interior, and the old timbers were made into benches and details in building.

After a year of construction, Cichowski said he loved the end result for a number of reasons.

“The law school building was built in 1986, and it looks like it was built 1986. But this building looks like it belongs on a college campus. The only difference was we couldn’t put the third floor back to what it was, but we designed a façade to look like it,” he said.

Curt Cichowski Cichowski

The back of the building is an added wing for a trial skills center, which includes a teaching courtroom and conference rooms. The courtroom will include a jury box, counsel tables, and a bench, as well as “everything that exists in the greatest courtroom in the country,” he said.

“There will be document cameras, the ability to record, the ability to play and stream video, the ability to send video out. … If it technologically exists today, it’s in the courtroom,” he said.

Cameras and televisions will also be available in small client interview rooms so a student can interview a client, and with the client’s permission, the professor can record the interview and observe from another room. The professor can later use the recording to help show the student what she did right or what she would need to work on for future client interviews.

“If you think about it – in a law school it’s common to have classrooms for lecture halls, but all of the skills of being a lawyer – interviewing, intake, negotiations, arbitrations, all the things lawyers do on a daily basis – none of those large spaces support teaching and lawyering well,” he said. “… It doesn’t make sense for lessons about one-on-one interactions to take place in a classroom where the students need to pretend it’s really an office space.”

He added that authenticity in the clinical experience is key because it is “the greatest educational experience for a student. They are working with live clients, and there are usually just 10 students, so it’s like working for a small firm.”

Because it’s the “last remaining vestige of old campus,” he said, the building will also serve as a museum of what the old campus looked like – the original Valparaiso University. Old pictures and maps of the old campus will be among the items on display for visitors.

“I have been in the building several times during different stages of rebuild,” Tengblad said. “When you see the plans, it is just a picture on paper. To see it come to life is amazing. The building still has the same charm it had – only better. It is a modernized building, yet has the look of 100 years ago.

“Now, for the first time,” she added, “we will have a quality building that reflects the high-quality representation that is provided by the law clinic.”•


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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.