Knoxville, Tennessee, August 22, 2016—Representatives from Lincoln Memorial University (LMU), the City of Knoxville and Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) signed lease documents for the historic Stair Building adjacent to the LMU-Duncan School of Law in downtown Knoxville on Monday, August 22, 2016. The ceremonial lease signing took place in front of the future home of LAET as LMU President B. James Dawson, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, LAET Executive Director Sheri Fox and LAET Board President Donald F. Mason, Jr., formalized the agreement.
In recognition of the need to provide high-quality legal services for those who otherwise could not afford to hire a lawyer, LMU, with the cooperation of the Old City Hall Knoxville Partnership and the City of Knoxville, has agreed to fully renovate the Stair Building and lease it to LAET for $1 a year. The University plans to invest over $1 million to restore and preserve the historic building, which is owned by the City of Knoxville.
“Our commitment to restore the historic Stair Building on our campus in Knoxville, not only provides for a long term visible presence for Legal Aid of East Tennessee accessible to the many people in this service area, but also offers our students the opportunity to develop their skills by volunteering their services and gaining practical experience in preparation for the practice of law. I am especially grateful to the Mayor, the City Council, for their leadership in this important initiative,” LMU Duncan School of Law Vice President and Dean Gary R. Wade said.
For over 50 years, the lawyers of LAET have been zealously advocating for the rights of Knoxville’s most vulnerable citizens, making sure they receive fairness in the justice system regardless of how much money they have.
“The generosity of LMU and the cooperation of the Old City Hall Knoxville Partnership and the City in making this arrangement possible send a clear message that justice for all is a priority in this community,” said Fox. “Not only will this generosity help LAET narrow the justice gap, but it also means that our clients and our entire staff will reap the numerous benefits of working in modern, beautifully appointed office space with upgraded technology.”
Demolition and construction on the site has already begun. Following renovations, LAET will move its Knoxville office from its current location on Gay Street in early 2017. The building will house attorneys, paralegals, administrative and support staff, and LAET’s information technology center.
Mayor Rogero, who shared her own connection to the site having worked in both the Stair Building and the LMU Law Building in the past, applauded the cooperation of two like-minded organizations seeking to serve the citizens of Knoxville and beyond.
“This arrangement will ensure that Legal Aid can continue to provide high-quality legal services to families across our region who can’t afford a lawyer. It likewise provides opportunities for LMU law students to roll up their sleeves and start helping clients immediately,” Rogero said. “But really, it’s an even better deal, because this lease arrangement brings a rare historic structure back into reuse. So this is a win-win-win situation.”
The entire LMU Law site, including the free-standing Stair Building, sits on land originally donated by merchant Calvin Morgan in 1844. The State originally appropriated funds for the construction of what came to be known as the Tennessee School for the Deaf, which opened in 1848. The school was converted to a Civil War hospital in 1861, first serving Confederate forces and later Union forces. After the war, the school reopened and operated on the same site until 1924, when Knoxville acquired the land for its City Hall. The City used the location until 1980, when its offices were moved into the City-County Building, but retained ownership of the buildings, which have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Tennessee Valley Authority and Knoxville Area Partnership have occupied the property for several years until LMU acquired the lease in 2008 and opened LMU Law in 2009.
The Lincoln Memorial University-Duncan School of Law is located in Knoxville’s Historic Old City Hall Building. LMU Law is an integral part of LMU’s values-based learning community, and is dedicated to preparing the next generation of lawyers to provide sound legal service in the often underserved region of Appalachia and beyond.
Lincoln Memorial University – John J. Duncan, Jr. School of Law is provisionally approved by the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Association, 321 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60654, 312-988-6738.