On February 28, 2013, Rutgers took a key step towards change in recognition of a fundamentally altered legal field. At a meeting of the Rutgers Board of Governors, President Robert L. Barchi introduced a proposal to strengthen legal education at Rutgers by merging Rutgers’ two schools of law in Camden and Newark into a single, unified institution. Rayman Solomon, Dean of the Rutgers School of Law – Camden, expressed fervent support for the proposed unification, stating, “We believe strongly that, under this Rutgers Law model, there are increased opportunities for students at each location to access expanded opportunities for advancing their career searches and for learning from and with a wider selection of world-class Rutgers faculty. Rutgers Law will be greater than the sum of its parts and will raise our law schools to a significant level of national prominence.”
Upon hearing the word “merger,” some Rutgers School of Law – Camden students first expressed their apprehension in light of the recent Rutgers-Rowan merger saga. However, most students now have a very positive view of the unification plan, pointing to Dean Solomon’s assurances that “Rutgers Law will remain in Camden and Newark” and that “students—current and future—will continue to earn juris doctor degrees from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.”
Samantha Gross, Editor-in-Chief of the Rutgers Journal of Law & Public Policy firmly believes “[t]he merger provides many opportunities for law students on both campuses. Sharing the strengths of our faculties, libraries, career services, and other resources, the merger is essential to adapting to a changing legal market. Coming together under one name not only strengthens the Rutgers brand, but will alleviate unnecessary inter-school competition for career opportunities and excellent applicants.”
The President of the Student Bar Association and Associate Managing Editor of the Rutgers Journal of Law & Religion, Jesse Tepedino, is confident the merger between the schools presents untold advantages for both student bodies. “The merger, embraced by both faculties, retains the embedded dedication to community service in two cities that rely on legal clinics, pro bono programs, and volunteer efforts. Yet, the formation of one united law school will establish the preeminent law school in New Jersey and will give all students access to both the New York and Philadelphia legal markets, strengthening the institution’s national reputation with the resources and faculties of what will become one of the nation’s largest law schools. We are all looking forward to future developments, prospects, and opportunities to take advantage of such great synergies.”
Steven Shur, Co-President of the Rutgers Business Law Association and Vice President of the Sports & Entertainment Law Society, confirmed that he has heard nothing but excitement from his colleagues, noting that they view the merger as highly beneficial to their post-graduation job prospects. “First and foremost, unifying the law schools creates greater internship, externship, and job opportunities for Rutgers Law students, as a unified Rutgers Law School will expose New Jersey’s law students to two of the larger commercial markets in Philadelphia and New York. Not only is a unified Rutgers Law School likely to enhance the Rutgers brand, a law school with combined assets can only lead to greater educational programs for its law students.”
While the details of the unification must still be worked out in the months ahead, students have every reason to be hopeful about the plan. As noted by many recent high profile reports, legal education faces several challenges, and Rutgers’ recognition and subsequent response to these challenges is an important step in keeping Garden State students competitive at the national level.