UR, VCU Plan to Open Downtown Legal Campus 

The University of Richmond is reaching out of its secluded West End campus to set up shop downtown.

In partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University's social work and psychology programs, UR is making its first major commitment to downtown in the fall. UR's family law clinic will pair law students with Richmond attorneys who are representing low-income families pro bono. In a separate program, undergraduate and graduate students at UR and VCU will work with city-based organizations that provide services pro bono to low-income families.ÿ

The satellite campus will take over about 4,200 square feet at 626 E. Broad St., former headquarters of Franklin Federal Savings & Loan, which is across the street from the new federal courthouse. It's expected to open to students in time for the fall semester, says Adrienne Volenik, acting director for UR's National Center for Family Law. The Wilton Cos. donated the space for the campus, she says.ÿ

Even if the space isn't ready, students - so far four law students at UR and four VCU psychology and social work students - will begin working on the family clinic project through existing facilities, Volenik says.ÿ

The clinic will be staffed by Richmond law students, manned by UR's Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, and the clients will have social work and mental health support services from VCU.

For Doug Hicks, executive director of the Bonner Center and a professor in the leadership school, it's a huge step. The center has been angling for something like this for four years now, Hicks says, but Richmond's new president, Edward Ayers, was the catalyst who made the satellite campus a reality.ÿ

ÿ"In a lot of ways VCU and UR have done their own things, but not collaborated," Hicks says. "There's untapped potential there.?VbCrLf

It isn't the first time UR has tinkered with a possible downtown campus. Mayor L. Douglas Wilder prematurely announced that UR and VCU were planning to build a "downtown campus at the Richmond Hotel on Eighth Street?VbCrLf during his City of the Future address Jan. 9,ÿ 2006. Wilder, however, failed to brief the law school's then-dean, Rodney Smolla, on the specifics of the plan, which never got off the ground. - Amy Biegelsen and Scott Bass

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