Law school receives $1 million gift

ReAnne Utemark

Last Wednesday, the Washburn University School of Law announced a $1 million gift from Norman Pozez, a 1980 graduate of the School of Law.

This gift will establish the Norman R. Pozez Chair in the Business and Transactional Law Center at the School of Law. The law center chair will permit the law school to attract an additional expert in the field of transactional law to the faculty of the law school. The announcement was made by the Washburn Endowment Association and Jerry B. Farley, university president.

“It is that kind of private support to this institution that really makes the difference in what we can do,” said Farley. “It is wonderful that this institution, over a long time, has been supported by the city of Topeka, by Shawnee County residents, by the citizens of Kansas, but they can only provide so much of the resources. When we receive resources from private individuals, we can add to those resources and stretch them further than what we receive from the state.”

Pozez is a native of Topeka now living in Washington, D.C. He is Chairman of the Uniwest Group, LLC; Uniwest Construction, Inc.; Uniwest Commercial Reality, Inc. and Uniwest 1031, LLC. Previously, he was the Chief Operating Officer of the Hair Cuttery, Falls Church, Va., and is currently on the firm’s Board of Advisors. From early 2004 to early 2005, Pozez served as Chairman of the Board of Fidelity and Trust Corporation. He has also served as a Regional Director of Real Estate and Construction for Payless ShoeSource, a retail company founded by his father, Louis Pozez. During his tenure at Payless, and for some years thereafter, Pozez served on the Board of Directors of Bookstop, Inc., which sold to Barnes and Noble in 1989.

Since 1979, Pozez has been an active member of the International Council of Shopping Centers and is a board member of five not-for-profit organizations serving community needs in and around the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Pozez has also donated to the School of Law through the Norman R. Pozez Unrestricted Endowed Fund.

“The Business and Transactional Law Center at the Washburn University School of Law is to provide our students with the analytical tools they will need to succeed as problem solvers, especially in the fields of business and commerce,” said Dennis Honabach, dean of the Washburn Law School.

This is the beginning of the fourth year for the Business and Transactional Law Center. The faculty approved it in the spring of 2002. When the Center began, funding came from within the School of Law. The notion of this center is to prepare law students to be successful in the business aspect of law.

According to Honabach, a large portion of lawyers practice in areas that require transactional skills. The Center focuses their curriculum on this idea and includes many traditional business law courses, as well as some new transactional law courses. There are also many opportunities to communicate with practicing transactional lawyers and faculty.

“It has been a fairly common pattern for law-trained individuals to become corporate leaders,” said Honabach. “The notion that we’re dealing with is what a transactional lawyer does is help eliminate the risk in a deal.”

The Center also provides students with real-world training in the Transactional Law Clinic. In the clinic, students represent real clients in real cases under the supervision of professors. In addition to courses, a number of symposiums are offered each year, when both academicians and practicing lawyers come in to speak to law students. Subjects range from the liability of corporate officers and directors to the ethics of corporate council. Students are also encouraged to participate in “Lunch and Learn.” Alumni and practicing lawyers come in and speak to the students during the lunch time and answer any questions the students might have. The Washburn Business Law Society is a student group that helps the Center in a number of areas and works very closely with alumni.

The Center has had increasing amounts of outside funding. There have been endowments in the $50,000 to $100,000 range. There has also been an increase in the number of contributors to the annual fund.

“We knew that we needed to find the resources for attracting a chaired professorship,” said Honabach. “Obviously, the Pozez gift is a major step there.”

According to Honabach, the Pozez gift will allow the School of Law to establish itself as one of the leading law schools in the field of Transactional Law. This donation will allow the Center to attract national recognized faculty which will make the law school attractive to highly motivated students who are interested in the transactional area of law. Along with his gift, Pozez agreed to become a member of the founding Board of Advisors of the Center.

“When we first spoke with Pozez about the Business and Transactional Law Center, he expressed both his excitement about the program and his full support,” said Honabach. “We were not surprised. Mr. Pozez’s own experiences have made clear to him the importance of offering Washburn Law students a program that is not focused on litigation, but on negotiation and deal making.”