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Posted on Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

University of Michigan's Lawyers Club opens to students after $39M renovation

By Kellie Woodhouse

At one point during the past year, the University of Michigan Lawyers Club was nothing but a shell.

That's because construction crews had to completely gut the 1920s-era historic building in order to construct a modern interior during the residence hall's yearlong $39 million renovation. Demolition took five and a half months.

"The walls, the ceilings and the stairwells were removed," said Diane Nafranowiczm, director of the Lawyers Club. "Everything was taken out."

In fact, bathrooms for the hall's 227 residents were built off site and hoisted up the building before stairs were installed.

There were once 15 stairwells. Now there are six.

Prior to the renovation, the residence hall was townhouse style and separate apartments weren't connected. Now, each apartment is connected through an interior hallway. Instead of common rooms in townhouse style buildings, there are now 11 richly furnished club areas.

The Lawyers Club is a graduate student residence exclusively available to law students. It was built as a part of the Law Quadrangle in 1924 for $2 million. With an ornate gothic exterior, coupled with a grandiose reading room and meticulously kept lawn, the law school campus is regularly ranked among the most beautiful campus areas in the nation.

Because of its age, the Lawyers Club needed upgrades and accessibility improvements.

U-M wanted to accomplish those improvements without damaging the integrity of the building's exterior. Several exterior doors were rebuilt into windows; otherwise much of the building's exterior looks the same. The university decided to keep the original windows.

Law students move into the residence hall Monday, August 26.

Room and board prices for residents of the Lawyers Club increased 10 percent this year. A one-bedroom apartment with a 12-meal-per-week plan at the Lawyer's Club costs between $11,660 and $13,260 for an eight-and-a- half-month lease.

All but 34 rooms have their own bathrooms. There are 17 jack-and-jill style bathrooms shared by two students each. Capacity was reduced from about 260 residents to 227. Each room is meant for a single resident. Beds are full size —larger than those normally found in dorm rooms. The building now has air conditioning.

The Lawyers Club's main common area and dining hall were left mostly untouched during the renovation, although they did receive some practical upgrades, such as a new fire suppression system.

Charles Munger, who was an undergraduate mathematics student at Michigan in the 1940s but did not graduate, donated $20 million toward the project. Munger is the vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.

In 2007, Munger donated $3 million for lighting improvements in the public areas of the Law Quadrangle. Munger recently pledged $110 million toward a new 600-bed graduate student dorm and related fellowship program.

Munger has not yet visited the completed dorm.

Detroit architecture firm SmithGroup and Washington, D.C., firm Hartman-Cox Architects designed the renovation.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.


Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Aug 26, 2013 : 12:13 p.m.

Looks like another attempt at taking something classic and timeless and making it modernly generic.

Christy King

Mon, Aug 26, 2013 : 3:33 a.m.

It's a bummer about the fireplaces in the rooms, useful or not, and I will miss all of the staircases, but AMEN to the Law Club Dining room being back open! The best buffet on campus, I swear. Especially for Grilled Cheese day, they're always perfectly golden and crispy, never soggy. They also have the best chocochip coookie bars anywhere and mik is all you can drink. It's my comfort food haven. As a friend of many students, I am so happy for their sake that there is now air conditioning. It's a pretty big deal when you have to live without it in 90 degree heat.


Mon, Aug 26, 2013 : 2:32 a.m.

I thought SmithGroup was a local architecture firm? Getting those young lawyers off to a start on their upscale lifestyle!


Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 6:34 p.m.

Beautiful, stunning but also expensive and not necessary for academia. This opulent structure is a stark example of the increasingly waste and exclusivity focus of higher education catering to the wealthy & super wealthy. The gasp is not only for the beauty, but apparent fact that most students & their families will never have a chance to live here. The destruction of affordable education and living residence is a threat to this country. The donor, who never graduated from UM have financed a luxurious residence for wealthy students so they can be further shielded from the lives of real people and nurtured to protect their class. The donor is also financing another fancy dorm that is stripping the city of Ann Arbor of taxable property and an icon of the city. Never once did UM thought to use that money to build a fancy dorm on the massive property off Plymouth Rd. The students not wealthy will have a slim chance for their parents to afford this insane price to live there without being saddled not only with debt but the undercut of social class that this exclusivity perpetuates. An affordable education has become secondary to universities, hellbent on fancy dorms, high fees and exclusive surroundings. It's the haves & have-nots on steroids with most students & families saddled with debt. Surrounded, coddled and paying to be sheltered is the absolute opposite of what the legal profession should be about. Justice for the people by the people have been bought and sold at every level of society and the very students who are tasked with serving justice will not be the ones living in such luxiourios surrounding. They will be lawyers and politicians who represent the 1% who use every loophole to keep everyone down, similar to today. A previous comment had it right...Lincoln & Marshall didn't need luxury surroundings to become great. Just another reason to require a review of tax exempt status.


Mon, Aug 26, 2013 : 12:26 a.m.

More the exception than the rule anymore...


Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 10:57 p.m.

In America the beautiful thing is you too can earn money and give it away any way you like. Good luck!

Chase Ingersoll

Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

Lincoln didn't need all of this. Neither did Thurgood Marshall. Putting young people in elite surroundings is not going to provide them an experience for relating to and understanding of the the majority of society. Instead it perpetuates elitism and a lawyer subculture of elites. We then limit the selection of 1/3rd of our branch of government to those who have spent all of their adult lives in this subculture - Judges. Better to have them spend their time at the coffee shop, public library, homeless shelter, factory floor, hospital emergency rooms - anywhere where lawyers are not the majority of people in the building.

Angry Moderate

Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 9:14 p.m.

They live in a dorm with shared bathrooms and most of them are $150000 in debt. That's hardly elitist.

Lyn Barron

Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 5:28 p.m.

Very well said. How can a lawyer relate to an average person when this is what she/he is surrounded by?


Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 6:51 a.m.

How nice.quite expensive though.

Lyn Barron

Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 11:08 p.m.

If Mr. Munger only knew what he is supporting? My experience with UM lawyers and UM paid lawyers has been terrible. Do they actually teach the law students how to be so devious? Misleading the court and etc. see UM lawsuits on vimeo. One of the lawyers actually said that filing an incident report is the first step in workman's comp. so therefore UM HR was telling the truth when they told one of their employee's personal car insurance co. that sheri barron rn,bsn was on workman's comp. and other defaming things. of course UM got away with this behavior. There UM paid lawyer is now telling lies in the Federal court. I guess starting out in this plush atmosphere gives them some kind of entitlement.

Lyn Barron

Tue, Aug 27, 2013 : 12:35 p.m.

Dear Ann, I need the number of an Attorney that is willing and not in cahoots with UM. My case maybe dismissed on Sept. 23. Calvin Luker took my case because he was a personal friend but not familiar with federal law. I need a motion written up so it does not get dismissed. Do you know anyone that might be interested? thank you so much. 941 698 4776. Thank you Sheri


Mon, Aug 26, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

Lyn, thank you for speaking up about your experience. It is educational, I hope that you are able to overcome the great human flaws in our justice system. It is very sad when those so involved in that system have little to no respect for it and only think about the bottom line and can't move beyond their own best interests and biased, fallable, personal opinions. The good news is that there are still some very ethical attorneys in Ann Arbor and they TRY to hold the others accountable.

Lyn Barron

Mon, Aug 26, 2013 : 11:07 a.m.

Ann Thank you for your support. Unfortunately All the lawyers that I have had to deal with have been UM grads or hire. It hurts because since 1986 I completely devoted myself to being the best RN, BSN I could be at UM. All of my evaluations were excellent and I feel that I directly saved many lives. Now UM is trying to take everything I have including my health. I did not have plush surroundings while going to college. I have spent many hours doing free blood pressure checks at clinics and the like. I still go to support groups and many of them are made up of the homeless. I am not feeling sorry for myself. It is a real eye-opener. I just do not want what happened to me to happen to anyone else. How can these law students develope any compassion being pampered like the article indicates. I would not have a law suit against UM if I did not think ALL they did to me was on PURPOSE. The only reason I sued the truck driver was because my attorney would not take the UM case unless I did. I never ever sued for an accident before. BECAUSE IT WAS AN ACCIDENT. What UM did was INTENTIONAL. Try to find a lawyer to go against UM especially when they hire firms like Butzel Long. All I ever wanted was an investigation and for this to never happen to anyone else. I agree with the above articles that state the UM law students need to spend more time in the real world to develope more compassion. Is 'ethics' still taught in the UM law school?


Mon, Aug 26, 2013 : 7:27 a.m.

Lyn, there are ethical attorneys and there are unethical attorneys. Unfortunately, Ann Arbor has it's share of both. And, likely, they come from a variety of institutions. But, I feel your pain. It can be so easy for an unethical attorney to lie in court (they aren't under oath) and get a Judge to consider their lies. All they need to do is be loud and display passion and conviction.

Lyn Barron

Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 10:51 p.m.

Because of the illness that was diagnosed by a UM doctor as a result of what UM did to me- I have trouble expressing my thoughts. He even suggested I get a lawyer. Please see sheri barron on vimeo. UM lawyers lied and deceived the court. Please look at the records- UM lawyers at Ann Arbor with Judge Morris and now in Federal Court- they have hired Dan Tukel. Lawyers should have to tell the truth even if they live and hang out at the most expensive dorm in town.

Lyn Barron

Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 10:24 p.m.

I do not want this article to be about me, but to answer the question that relates to UM lawyers: they do have an obligation to follow the law- that is 'not lying to the courts'-now UM paid lawyers are lying in the federal court saying I did not start my job search until the last week. Ann Arbor courts lied and deceived the court by saying UM did not defame me. You must not have read the whole record. I have asked investigations before starting this. All of the documents are on the vimeo I referred to. And yes, I paid Union dues for many years, and having so much seniority/experience UM was obligated to give me my job back and promote me.


Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

Lyn, I feel your pain, and I realize that once something goes to court, it usually never ends well. You have to realize though that after your family brought them to court, the university took all necessary legal means to defend itself. Judging from public records released from U-M, it doesn't seem like your case has the proper legal basis. The University was under no obligation to be forced to promote one of their workers.

Lyn Barron

Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

Dear Ms. or Mr. Mowwan When UM lawyer misled the court and prevented justice, it caused major depression which leads to physical disease like increased hypertension (which happened to me). If I had been in poor health when this happened, I feel I would have died. Is that physical enough for you? UM unjustly did not pay me and called my personal car insurance company (no written authorization, NO REASON to call them- UM made the initial call. I feel UM called them so State Farm would not pay me either. What other reason could it have been? Robert Palmer did a deposition and that is what it revealed. I would hope a lawyer that could better relate to the poor and general population- instead of being housed in luxury, would have had some compassion or respect for the average person. I hope this NEVER happens to anyone else.


Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

I still want to know how they physically hurt people, what you described is emotional. Did an attorney representing the U.M. Put their hands on you?

Lyn Barron

Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

Someone asked me why my response to the above article may lead to someone getting physically harmed. I did not get justice in the Ann Arbor court. It was clear defamation of Character by any reasonable person. UM lawyers tried deceiving the court by saying UM had a written authorization to contact my personal car insurance. There was not any reason for UM to contact them. I lost my house in foreclosure due to not getting paid by State Farm or my employer. My then teenage daughter, 21 yo son, and 9 year old grandson suffered depression probably from losing the house they were raised in. My blood pressure went up to dangerous levels- when previously I had low/normal blood pressure. My depression worsened to think that we do not really live in a country where there is JUSTICE. I worked hard for UM for since 1986 saving many lives and this is how their lawyers are. I agree with the last entry. Lawyers should be trying to relate to the poor and the majority of the population, not what they are handed at UM. What message does this really send?


Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

@ lyn, how are U.M. Attorneys physically hurting people?

Lyn Barron

Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 12:20 a.m.

It is appropriate to ask these questions. Do you see any other departments getting this kind of treatment? I am just trying to make people aware of what HAPPENS at UM. PROOF. The UM lawyers, I have dealt with, have gotten away with hurting people physically, emotionally and economically. Why would not everyone want that stopped? What if it happened to your loved one? I think doing this for the LAW department adds to their sense of entitlement.


Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 12:06 a.m.

I hate to get in the way of a personal axe to grind, but keep in mind that not all lawyers who work for UM went to UM Law School.


Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 11:56 p.m.

one of the first things you learn in law school is it is not about right vs. wrong or good vs. evil but interruption of 'the law' . The stained glass windows through out the law school displayed examples of law interruptions.


Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 11:43 p.m.

I feel your pain but why limit it to UM lawyers


Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 11:05 p.m.

The makeover is functional but not inspiring. I'm sure it's safer in general though. The best thing to notice about this article is the mention of Mr. Munger's inspiring success in the world which allows him to give back in large ways without ever having graduated from college. Just something to tuck under one's hat.


Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 6:48 p.m.

Constructions workers are working on the building through a window? Why would they do that? They should put up scaffolding if they're working on the outside, or just go indoors if working on the inside.


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 2:35 a.m.

I wasn't confused; I was poking fun at the quality of writing found on Ann through a window.


Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 10:44 p.m.

They are standing on scaffolding. Look at the twelfth picture. The photograph was taken through a window. as is stated in the caption: "Construction workers CAN BE SEEN (sic) working on the building through a window." Confusion could be averted by re-phrasing the sentence to read, "Construction workers can be seen through a window working on the building." And there should also be no confusion if the picture is examined carefully.


Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

It all looks absolutely beautiful. If I were still a student there, I would take this style over the posh new high rise apartments.


Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 3:28 p.m.

Installing a small basketball hoop across from the toilet as seen in the third picture is very innovative.


Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

How will this improve the mean GPA of these students? Not really feeling the feng shui of the place in these photos...

Angry Moderate

Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 3:51 p.m.

Seeing as they are on a grading curve with a fixed mean, it would be pretty silly to try to improve it.


Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 3:04 p.m.

Guess need to get lawyers started young expecting the best in life as the sharks preying on society most of them are. If you think I do not like nor trust most lawyers, you are absolutely right. Some are great, but the groups average is horrible.


Mon, Aug 26, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

If only society as a whole would do something about it by only giving business to the ethical attorneys instead of the sharks. Unfortunately, there are enough people out there that prefer being represented by sharks because...

Rob MI

Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

I had heard that prior to renovations, each room had a fireplace. It looks as though all of those have been covered up.


Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 11:59 p.m.

They at least kept the lead glass windows on the exterior, but yes the fireplaces were functional for more than 80 years. The wood was kept in the basement and you could purchase some for a nice fire on a Saturday night while studying until 3 in the morning.

Kellie Woodhouse

Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 7:14 p.m.

The fireplaces are indeed gone. They hadn't been operational for a while, but did add to the aesthetic of the dorm.

Geoff Perkins

Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 6:21 p.m.

Fireplaces are no longer permitted in sleeping rooms per the building code, unless they are sealed gas burning units.


Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 2:56 p.m.

Hi Rob, each room did indeed have a fireplace! it does indeed look as if they've been covered up, sadly. I can only hope I'm wrong!


Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 1:52 p.m.

Very nice job. Given that there are about 360 1st years every though I wonder if the reduced capacity will result in some getting shut out of living there.


Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 12:13 p.m.

I have mixed feelings about the renovations. the old Law Club was so historic with the 1/4 sawn oak and chestnut wood throughout. you knew you were someplace special.

Sean Thomas

Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

wow I did not know any of this...and they had fireplaces?! Now I'm sad. Even though I would have never lived there. That sounds amazing.

Lyn Barron

Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

Thank you for your explanation of the design. Since I am on my own in the federal court and know that I am not going to win- I have a great case but I can't afford anymore lawyers- I want to make the best of it. Do you mind if I use the explanation you used in how some law centers are designed? People wonder why there are Chis Doners out there and the like. It seems you can't get JUSTICE anymore in the court system. Even ones I know that have graduated from Wayne State seem to want to act like they are apart of this spoiled brat's club that UM appears to be encouraging.


Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 12:04 a.m.

not to mention the 3inch thick doors, wrought iron chandeleirs, hand made brick in the hallways, the French doors which led to the bedrooms. The leather wrapped doors in the dining room. The individual staircases with the letter designations A - P section if I remember correctly. All gone. It was a surreal feeling being there you could felt like you were living history.


Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 2:29 p.m.

That's my reaction as well... Where is all (or any?) of the wood accent/finishing work, apart from the memorial room and dining hall? The furniture and bathrooms also strike me as straight out of the 70s. I'm normally not a debbie downer, but that is really my reaction to this one...

Eduard Copely

Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 11:40 a.m.

Beautiful renovation. Kudos! I guess local architecture companies couldn't handle anything this complex?

Great Lakes Lady

Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 12:10 p.m.

If you had donated that much money to the project, certainly you'd have a say in who gets the job.