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We need more lawyers, says Tacoma

Paula Wissel

It’s been twenty years since Tacoma lost its only law school. Now, civic leaders are hoping they can bring back a legal-degree program to the South Sound.  They say it will help train lawyers who stay and work in Tacoma and add energy to the city's intellectual climate.

Back in 1993, the University of Puget Sound (UPS)  in Tacoma agreed to sell its law school to Seattle University, which moved it north. Attorney Valarie Zeeck, who is a partner at one of Tacoma's top law firms, Gordon Thomas Honeywell, remembers that people in Tacoma felt kind of blindsided.

“I think the community felt like it didn’t have the chance to participate in that decision and after significant contributions had been made to the UPS law school,” Zeeck said.

She says it left a real hole in the community.

So, about a year ago, at a dinner party, when someone brought up the idea of bringing back a law school to Tacoma, people jumped on it. Pretty soon a steering committee was formed and a feasibility study undertaken. 

What makes a law school possible now, Zeeck and others believe, is that it would be fairly inexpensive. The idea is to house the school on the UW Tacoma campus and have the school accredited through the exiting University of Washington law school.

"$2.2 million is a bargain price as compared to building a $25 million  dollar building," said Zeeck.

And, she says, Tacoma having its own law school could help revitalize the city.

“I mean not all lawyers practice law, some go into business and run companies and are entrepreneurs,” she said

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.