CHICAGO – The Council of the American Bar Association (ABA) Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar approved today the merger of Rutgers’ law schools into one unified Rutgers Law School with two distinct locations in Camden and Newark, during its annual meeting. In June, the ABA’s Accreditation Committee voted to recommend approval of the proposed merger as did the Rutgers Board of Governors in April.
“We are elated with the ABA’s decision to approve the new Rutgers Law School,” says Acting Co-Dean John Oberdiek. “We believe strongly that our ambitious model allows for increased opportunities for all Rutgers Law students to advance their career searches and to learn from a wider selection of world-class faculty.”
Keenly attuned to the evolving demands of the legal profession and to the need for legal scholarship and education to address the public good, the new Rutgers Law School offers a comprehensive curriculum, propelled by one of the nation’s largest faculties with wide-ranging expertise. The expansive course offerings are made possible through cutting-edge immersive technology currently in place that connects the two locations and brings great legal scholars and students together in real time.
According to Co-Dean and 1983 alumnus Ronald K. Chen, Rutgers Law has a proven tradition of educating diverse new generations of legal professionals for public and private practice. “Rutgers has long provided exceptional and affordable legal educations to its students, but now as a Big Ten law school and a leader in legal education in the Northeast, we are positioned to make an impact on the national legal landscape” says Chen. “Not only will Rutgers Law School continue to further the missions of Rutgers University-Newark, Rutgers University-Camden and the entire university, it will serve New Jersey as its public law school.”
Steeped in history as a cornerstone of one of the nation’s oldest universities, Rutgers is at the forefront of innovation in legal education with its location in two of the nation’s five largest legal employment markets, which provide access to an extraordinary array of clinical, pro bono and experiential learning opportunities.
With an active network of more than 20,000 alumni nationwide, anticipation of this merger has cultivated sizable investments in Rutgers Law School. Thanks to 1990 Rutgers Law alumnus James Maida and his wife Sharon, who invested $1 million, the pro bono and public interest initiatives underway at Rutgers Law will expand their reach throughout the state through the funding of 40 summer fellowships as well as a post-graduate fellow. In addition, to honor 1927 Rutgers Law alumnus Herbert M. Ellend, Maxine S. Ellend recently added $1 million to the Herbert M. and Maxine S. Ellend Scholarship fund, which has already eased the financial burden of close to 200 Rutgers Law students.
Rutgers Law School is the academic home to 100 scholars and clinicians, with particular strengths in criminal law, health law, constitutional law, employment law, international law, corporate and business law and family law, among others, all advancing a comprehensive curriculum facilitated by state-of-the-art technology. With more than 1,000 students drawn from across the country, Rutgers Law School is now among the nation’s largest law schools, yet boasts a student-faculty ratio on par with other leading public law schools.
The idea of reunifying following their 1967 separation was first introduced by former law deans John Farmer and Ray Solomon in 2011. Two co-deans lead Rutgers Law School. The co-deans maintain their individual lines of authority, reporting to the chancellor of Rutgers University-Newark or Rutgers University-Camden, and also work collaboratively with the university senior vice president for academic affairs and senior vice president for finance.
Rutgers President Robert Barchi, who announced the plan for the law schools to merge in 2013, acknowledges this proud moment in Rutgers legal education.
“Today is a historic moment for our university and a welcome development for New Jersey and the region. We are excited about the future of an institution that is poised to revolutionize legal education and scholarship for the 21st century.”
The host cities of Rutgers Law School’s two locations remain vital to the various clinical, pro bono and other skills-based offerings that already brought the law schools in Newark and Camden national recognition. Few law schools around the nation offer the variety of clinical and other experiential learning opportunities that are now available to Rutgers Law School students. In addition, the merger enables students to pursue a greater diversity of careers beyond the traditional practice of law than students at most peer schools.
Says Rutgers University-Camden Chancellor Phoebe A. Haddon, “This merger places Rutgers at the forefront of innovation for new models for legal education. Collaboration across academic disciplines and with legal practitioners is the next logical step to ensure that access to justice remains a priority for our country. I am convinced that Rutgers Law School will forge new partnerships that will deliver interdisciplinary, team-based approaches to problem-solving that will prepare our students for successful careers while also better serving the legal profession and the public.”
Rutgers University-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor sees the merger as an important mechanism for also fostering high-impact scholarship.
“Many of the most complex challenges facing Newark and Camden – indeed, legacy cities and their metropolitan areas everywhere – require an all-hands-on-deck approach that integrates the perspectives of legal scholars, practicing attorneys and the broader community of experts including scholars and professionals across other fields, public officials, nonprofit leaders and community members," Cantor said. "The new Rutgers Law School configuration increases the potential impact of our faculty, staff and students by broadening and deepening the reach of these communities of experts."
Cutting-edge immersive distance education technology was first introduced last spring and will this fall support significantly expanded course offerings, giving Rutgers Law School among the most comprehensive curriculums in the nation. The state-of-the-art technology will also bring a sense of common identity and students separated by 90 miles.
The creation of the Rutgers University Law Review was among the first milestones passed during the merger process. After decades of producing separate flagship journals, Camden’s Rutgers Law Journal and Newark’s Rutgers Law Review, this newly merged publication has debuted as Rutgers Law School’s flagship journal, jointly run by students from both locations.
A single application will be in place this fall for the 2016 entering class. Classes at Rutgers Law School begin August 24.