In January 2010, more than 500 students, professors, and staff began occupying the beautiful new home of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. The 169,000-square-foot building is complete with wireless computer access, a wonderfully open and accessible law library, and all the comforts of a modern, state-of-the-art facility. In addition to its 21st-century learning environment, the location also offers a remarkable look back at the past, when artistic flourishes were the architectural norm.
The building that now houses the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law served as a U.S. Custom House, Court House, and Post Office. Begun in the early 1880s and incorporating the Italianate Revival style, the building was considered one of the most beautiful in the South. In removing years of government-issue paint and other materials, architects found beautiful woodwork, including interior beams covered in intricate, hand-painted stencil designs. The building’s architects also found original wainscot paneling which then was repaired and installed in various parts of the building. In other areas, sections of original plaster decoration have been restored. The east lobby’s historic beauty was retained, as demonstrated by the five bronze entrance doors to the law school, the main reception areas, and the bronze-fronted elevators and ceremonial stairs.
The original U.S. Courtroom on the 3rdfloor has been renovated and serves as the Moot Courtroom, including a decorative ceiling and roof monitor that had long been hidden by the acoustical tiles of a modern dropped ceiling. All five levels of the south wing serve as the Plough Foundation Law Library. A reading room has been incorporated into the top level in the center west side, with glass walls overlooking the Mississippi River to the north, south and west. The north wing first floor houses a large student lounge and study areas, and a student bookstore. Five large classrooms with tiered floors and state-of-the-art AV/IT features are incorporated into the original 1903 structural addition, which is located in the center rear section of the building. Also housed in this new facility are the law school legal clinics, including a Child and Family Advocacy Clinic and an Elder Law Clinic.
Situated downtown in the heart of the city’s legal, governmental, and business communities, the new home of the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law provides students and faculty with the opportunity to interact daily with judges, lawyers, governmental officials, and business leaders, enhancing the students’ prospects for externships and clerking positions, and providing access to a wealth of highly experienced adjunct professors and guest lecturers. The Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law is the center for legal study and intellectual inquiry in the Mid-South.