Clinics Enter New Era in New Home

Justice Sonia Sotomayor Helps Inaugurate the Recently Renovated Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics Facilities

March, 2014– In June of 2013, the Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics made their much anticipated return to the main law school campus from temporary quarters on Pennsylvania Avenue. While the clinics' location at the corner of 20th and G Streets, NW, is the same as it used to be, the look, size, and functionality of their new address at 650 20th Street is anything but. After moving around for almost two years, with several rounds of planning, packing, and unpacking, the clinics have finally found permanence in a place they are proud to call home.

Six months after renovations were completed, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor led a ribbon-cutting ceremony inaugurating the new facilities, alongside Associate Dean for Clinic Affairs Phyllis Goldfarb, GW President Steven Knapp, and Interim Dean Gregory Maggs. Emphasizing the importance of public service in the legal field, Justice Sotomayor said, "The purpose every lawyer serves in whatever capacity is to help people with their problems and to try to better that client's life situation. The students, the faculty members, and the administration who have supported the building of this center put on display the importance of law in service. It's a great, great testament to the heart of GW."

The goal of the two-year Clinics Townhouse Project was to convert the turn-of-the-century townhouses into a single cohesive space appropriate for a large, urban clinical program. During construction, the exteriors of the townhouses were fully preserved, and the interiors were enlarged, updated, and reconfigured to meet the clinics' expanded needs. The result is a modern, 27,111 square foot complex, purpose-built for educating students and serving clients.

"This new and improved space provides an important support to the clinics' pedagogical and public service mission," said Phyllis Goldfarb, Jacob Burns Foundation Professor of Clinical Law and Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs. "We deeply appreciate the commitment to clinical education at the law school that this building represents, and we will honor that commitment as we build programmatically. Doing so in a building that is simultaneously new and historic links the clinics in a compelling way with both the past and future."

Clients and visitors now enter from 20th Street into a spacious reception area. The installation of an elevator increases access to the facility for clients, visitors, and members of the law school community. In addition to offices for clinical faculty, fellows, and staff, four interview rooms will allow for clinicians and student-attorneys to meet with clients in a confidential environment. Five classrooms have been equipped with the latest audio-visual systems, including LCD screens. In addition to the clinics that it housed previously, the building is also the new home of the Health Insurance Counseling Project, a legal services office affiliated with the Health Rights Law Clinic. 

Associate Dean for Administrative Affairs Hank Molinengo said, "We wanted to create a modern, 21st century complex that will be agile enough to adapt to changing technology and pedagogical techniques while maintaining the style and tradition found in the architecture of these wonderful structures. We have kept faith with our commitment to the environment, our mission of providing the best in experiential legal education, and in preserving the rich heritage of Foggy Bottom. This is attributable to the hard work of everyone involved."

While the new complex is both beautiful and functional, it also serves to honor the legacy of the clinics' namesake, the late Jacob Burns, LLB '24, LLD (Hon.) '70. The Jacob Burns Foundation has demonstrated generosity and dedication to legal education at GW in unparalleled ways. The completion of the Clinics Townhouse Project both provides a fitting new home for a vibrant clinical program and represents a tribute to Jacob Burns and the foundation that bears him name.

More on the Clinics Townhouse Project

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony featuring Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Video | Photos

Clinics Overview [PDF]

DC Bar's Washington Lawyer | March, 2014 
"GW Inaugurates Newly Renovated Jacob Burns Legal Clinics"

GW Today | January 27, 2014
"Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Celebrates Law School Event"