Northwestern University Law Renamed 'Pritzker Law School' for $100M

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on October 27, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It looks like the latest price tag to have a law school christened after your namesake is $100 million. Northwestern University's School of Law has been officially renamed the Pritzker School of Law after a school's alumni turned venture capitalist and his wife M.K. Pritker made the $100 million donation.

According to Northwestern University School of Law -- excuse me -- Pritzker Law School, a recent donation of $100 million is the largest ever single gift to a United States law school.

Dynastic Membership

Jay Robert (J.R.) Pritzker has been a mainstay of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans for a number of years and is a member of the venerable Pritzker family of Hyatt Hotel fame. He currently runs a venture capital firm out of Illinois and California. His father and his grandfather also became attorneys.

Other members of the Pritzker family have a place on the vaunted Forbes 400 list -- although a few of them do not make it in the top 1,000 of richest Americans. Nonetheless, at least ten members with the Pritzker surname boast a personal net worth of at least $1.48 billion.

No Physical Improvements

According to the ABA, The Dean of the newly renamed Pritzker Law School, Daniel Rodriguez, has promised that none of the gift funds will be used for physical improvements of the school and that rather it would be used to support and expand the school's social justice and clinical programs.

Already Well Off

Northwestern enjoys current bragging rights of already having a seat at the T14 -- the top ranked schools in the United States as according to the metric used by U.S. News and World Report. William Osborn, a chair of the Northwestern Board of Trustees painted the gift as a game changer, describing it as a "significant turning point in the history of legal education.

Elie Mystal at Above The Law maintains skepticism. He pointed out that Harvard's endowment is $1.7 billion and that the Pritzker gift won't be changing the legal landscape at "one third the budget of a bond movie." In fact, Northwestern already enjoyed a yearly endowment of $500,000,000 before the gift so this number is probably not as shocking as most people might have initially thought. The point is this: will the Pritzker gift cause a change in the rankings? Unlikely.

Not All Smiles

It's not all smiling, however. Bob Sector's piece at the Chicago Tribune is quick to point out that money talks (no surprise) and that the rich employ tax dodging tricks to reduce their tax exposure -- the sort of legal ballet that most people only dream about -- or may not even be aware of. In his words, "Today's big-buck's philanthropy can sometimes trump, or at least tweak, yesterday's grand traditions."

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