In an exciting development, the University of Connecticut School of Law is uniting several of its legal clinics into one unit on campus.
By acquiring a campus building known as MacKenzie Hall, UConn plans to further its legal education and student engagement in “real world legal experience.”
Recent approvals from state officials have allowed UConn to regain ownership of MacKenzie Hall, located at 110 Sherman St. in Hartford, Connecticut. MacKenzie Hall, briefly in the university’s possession in 1981 during the acquisition of the former Hartford Seminary campus, is now returning back to the University of Connecticut.
After 1981, the building was owned by the state and contained portions of the state Attorney General’s office. The finalization of this acquisition, anticipated October 2023, is crucial for UConn Law as it centralizes its legal clinics and related services. In the following months and into 2024, UConn Law programs will move into the building and complete this anticipated project.
The objective of this initiative is to unite UConn Law’s seven in-house legal clinics, additional related offices and an extra seven legal clinics (those of which operate in partnership with external entities) all inside a specific location. Furthermore, MacKenzie Hall will serve as the new headquarters for the Connecticut Community Law Center. Dean Eboni S. Nelson of UConn School of Law conveyed her excitement, stating, “We are extremely pleased with this possibility to centralize our clinics, which are key to UConn Law’s mission of community engagement and essential to the sensible training of our students. The additional area will be put to excellent use.”
MacKenzie Hall also matches the Collegiate Gothic architectural design of the five other UConn Law School buildings and is on the campus inventory listing of the National Register of Historic Places. Jeffrey Geoghegan, UConn’s Executive Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer, emphasized MacKenzie Hall’s suitability for academic purposes to affirm that, “The building is a natural fit for academic use, as it’s strategically positioned on the campus and aesthetically resembles the five buildings currently occupied by the law school.”
Acquiring MacKenzie Hall presents an opportunity to repurpose state-owned infrastructure and aligns with UConn Law’s dedication to providing top-tier legal schooling and community service. MacKenzie Hall will play a pivotal role in accommodating UConn Law’s seven in-house legal clinics, addressing a wide spectrum of legal matters, from animal to criminal defense law.
In the past year, these in-house clinics enrolled 114 students and served 370 clients, with one clinic even acting as a court-appointed advocate in an extra 30 cases. Thirteen UConn Law faculty members performed an active role in these programs. UConn Law’s partnership clinics are equally diverse, encompassing areas such as children’s advocacy, criminal defense, disability rights, environmental law and veterans’ benefits. These clinics, in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, enrolled 37 students and benefitted from the guidance of nine dedicated faculty members.
Additionally, UConn Law hosts the Connecticut Community Law Center, which trains lawyers and law students to supply essential legal services to low — and moderate — income clients who do not qualify for legal aid and face financial barriers to general legal fees. The centralization of these clinics in MacKenzie Hall not only fosters greater collaboration among them, but it also enhances accessibility for clients in search of legal services. It will enable clinics to “cross-refer” clients requiring representation in multiple areas, streamlining the method for those in need.
MacKenzie Hall’s strategic setup envisions a community-facing approach with welcoming reception areas, offices, convention rooms, classrooms, an event and lecture room, lounge areas and centralized office suites for programs. This space improves UConn Law’s community outreach and enhances the school’s existing legal services, making it a great resource for UConn School of Law and the state of Connecticut.