Preparing wills and putting estates in order for his clients to have the most financial impact long after they are alive is how Herb Hinkle spent a good deal of his successful professional life.
The majority of his clients had an heir with a disability, making the 1974 Rutgers Law School alumnus’ work especially critical and the future of a loved and vulnerable family member a motivation.
As an only child growing up in Camden, when his father died at a young age, Hinkle and his mother struggled financially. After earning his undergraduate degree from Drexel, Hinkle returned to Camden for law school at Rutgers, largely for economic reasons. Now, having served as division director in New Jersey’s public advocate office for nearly a decade and then representing the elderly and individuals with disabilities for four decades in private practice, he’s returned to Rutgers Law School as an eager adjunct professor, teaching Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Estates and Trusts as well as spearheading pro bono projects and mentoring law students.The value Hinkle sees in Rutgers Law School extends past its affordability, and into the institution’s great impact on the surrounding community and on the generations of future lawyers whose first clients are individuals who need their legal support most.
For these reasons, he and his wife Patricia Hinkle, a 1978 Douglas College alumna, have bequeathed $2 million to Rutgers Law School, to create an endowment that will provide scholarships for law students and provide stipends for those engaged in public interest work.
“I can’t think of any better bequest than to Rutgers Law School and its growth and the work it does for Camden,” says Hinkle, who earned an LL.M. in taxation from Temple. “I’m seeing Rutgers from a different perspective, meeting and interacting with students and faculty. The strong public interest focus here really makes you want to be a part of it.”
The Hinkles’ decision to expand their already generous scholarship support to the law school comes during an exciting time for legal education at Rutgers. This past summer, Rutgers’ law schools in Camden and Newark merged to become a unified Rutgers Law School, now one of the nation’s largest public law schools in the Northeast.
“It’s a profound moment for Rutgers Law, and we are deeply appreciative to Herb and Patricia for their exceptionally generous investment to enrich our dynamic public interest program in Camden, for our students and for those who utilize our legal services,” says Rutgers Law School Acting Co-Dean John Oberdiek.
“This visionary gift is a vote of confidence in the bright future of Rutgers Law School here in South Jersey and across our state,” says Phoebe A. Haddon, chancellor of Rutgers University–Camden. “Herb Hinkle’s commitment to extending the transformative opportunities offered by a Rutgers Law degree supports our commitment to increasing the number of highly qualified and passionate attorneys who use their degrees to make more accessible the quality representation of clients for which we are known. We thank him for his generosity and are proud to count him among our alumni.”
Hinkle’s investment in the law school can also be seen through his involvement in several pro bono initiatives. Through a pro bono project he’s established, Planning Estates Pro Bono (PEP), Hinkle and students are preparing end of life documents for elders with low income. According to Jill Friedman, associate dean for pro bono and public interest at Rutgers, the vast expertise Hinkle brings to Rutgers is matched too by his enthusiasm.
“In the public and private sector phases of his career, Herb made an enormous difference for people with disabilities and their families through legislative reform and regulation, direct service, and appellate advocacy. Now, as a beloved professor, his delight in cultivating a new generation of lawyers for practice is palpable” says Friedman. “Though Herb is modest about his impact, his and Tricia’s philanthropic commitment, one of the most generous in the history of the law school, it will ensure in perpetuity the law school’s ability to attract and support students committed to our social justice mission.”
Witnessing aspiring attorneys in action has cemented Hinkle’s affection for Rutgers Law School and the quality of its students.
“One of the things that excited me about this law school is the students,” says Hinkle, who has been recognized with lifetime achievement awards from the ARC of New Jersey; the New Jersey Developmental Disabilities Council; and Autism New Jersey for his work furthering the rights of people with disabilities. “They’re bright, dedicated, interested, and doing good things. The school’s done a great job of showing them the importance of getting involved.”
With Hinkle’s help, third-year Rutgers Law student Amanda O’Keefe, launched her own pro bono project last year, inspired by her disabled sister. She credits her success in law school and her post-graduate employment at her “dream job” to Hinkle, who also is a favorite professor in the classroom.“The support and guidance from a Rutgers’ faculty member such as Professor Hinkle, who is passionate, dedicated, and at the top of his field, is the reason why I have accomplished so much,” says O’Keefe. “Professor Hinkle’s career has inspired me and solidified my passion to advocate for people with disabilities.”
While some law students might be interested in pursuing careers similar to Hinkle’s, he says all law students, regardless of what kind of law they’ll practice, benefit from the experience of interacting professionally with clients seeking legal services through Rutgers.
“The first couple of clients set your approach to the law for your career,” remarks the Rutgers Law alumnus. “As attorneys, the economic opportunities are significant. But if you don’t temper that with helping others, really, what have you accomplished?”
In addition to branching out of the classroom through pro bono projects, Hinkle has also expanded the perspective of future lawyers by creating opportunities for them to learn about relevant topics from other professions.
For instance, in partnership with the Rutgers School of Social Work, Hinkle has established a series of lectures on Medicaid taught jointly by him and a social work instructor for graduate social work and law students.
“Law students write wills for low-income people in tandem with support offered through the school of social work. Both sets of planning will benefit students,” he adds.
The extensive ways Hinkle has decided to reengage with Rutgers Law School may not be feasible for all law alumni, but reconnecting with the institution as a professional brings value for both alumni and current law students.
“Seeing the law school as a practicing lawyer is a revelation if your last contact was as a student. This is where your legal roots are,” offers Hinkle. “You can get so involved with the day-to-day practice of law that sometimes you can’t see the larger picture. It’s here, if you come to Rutgers.”