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JU law school gets multimillion-dollar gift honoring Randall C. Berg Jr.

Nicholas Allard, founding dean of Jacksonville University's College of Law.
Jacksonville University
Nicholas Allard, founding dean of Jacksonville University's College of Law.

Jacksonville University's College of Law has received a multimillion-dollar gift from the founder of a Jacksonville-based investment firm.

The endowment is in honor of the late Randall C. Berg Jr., whose legacy helped fund legal services for the poor in Florida and beyond. It was presented by his brother, local investor Gilchrist B. Berg. The amount was not disclosed.

The gift was presented to JU Law Dean Nicholas Allard during an event Thursday night at the River Club. Allard, a graduate of Princeton University, the University of Oxford and Yale Law School, has led JU's College of Law as its founding dean since June 2022.

He said it is a "profoundly humbling and inspiring" endowment to the fledgling law school.

"It is emblematic of the enormous support that we have gotten from the bench, the bar and the community, and it is emblematic of the kind of support that means that success is our only option," Allard said. "I feel a tremendous responsibility to live up to the high expectations which I think we are doing. I feel a big responsibility to earn the investment with interest on an ongoing basis."

Randall Berg Jr. was a lawyer and executive director of the Florida Justice Institute, focusing his work on the underserved before his death in early 2019. The institute, founded in 1978, was a public interest law firm working to improve the state's prison conditions and policies. He also spearheaded the United States' first Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account program in Florida and guided its implementation throughout all 50 states.

The program, which has generated about $4 billion nationwide, prioritized funding legal services for the poor and is overseen by the American Bar Association.

The Berg Deanship will provide funding for JU College of Law's faculty and student research, symposiums, scholarships and other academic initiatives. His brother said that legacy will live on through the Jacksonville University College of Law.

“My brother Randall spent his career fighting injustice and improving the lives of so many as a lawyer, making him so deserving of this recognition,” Gilchrist Berg said in a news release. “Young lawyers deserve strong role models like him, which is why I am so pleased to create the Randall C. Berg Jr. College of Law Deanship to ensure the Jacksonville University College of Law is steered by a strong leader, such as Nick, for years to come.”

Interest from the endowment will also generate funds for operating costs, scholarships, faculty hiring and equipment including helping the school's law library services, Allard said.

"It gives us the financial standing to be successful in being regarded as an ongoing concern," he said. "It ties together a remembrance of one of Jacksonville's most beloved, most effective lawyers."

JU's College of Law's inaugural class started in August at the private university's Downtown campus. A second class is primed to begin this August after Allard and his leadership team spearheaded the accreditation process. Most recently senior counsel at the Dentons law firm, Allard served as the President and professor of law at Brooklyn Law School for nearly a decade. He also chairs the American Bar Association standing committee on the Law Library of Congress.

Gilchrist Berg is the founder and president of Water Street Capital, a Jacksonville-based investment firm. He and his wife, Amy, serve on the boards of organizations such as the Jacksonville Symphony, World Affairs Council Jacksonville, the Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens, Jacksonville University, Jacksonville Civic Council and the Aspen Music Festival and School.

In a statement, JU President Tim Cost said he appreciated the endowment that Berg Jr. made to the law school.

“The fortitude Gilchrist has shown to invest in the future of legal education here is extraordinary, and we are privileged to have the Berg name associated with Jacksonville University," Cost said. "To honor someone like Randall, who embodied enduring core values, makes this all the more significant. We thank the Berg family for their support of the crucial task of providing high quality legal education in our city.”

Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years as a radio, television and print reporter in the Jacksonville area, as well as years of broadcast work in the Northeast. You can reach Dan at, (904) 607-2770 or on Twitter at @scanlan_dan.