Dear Alumni and Friends of Rutgers Law School,
We write to offer a look back at a great year, with much to appreciate and celebrate, as well as a glimpse forward into what lies ahead for our law school. One of us (Michael) has just reached his first anniversary of joining Rutgers Law School; and of course, the merged Rutgers Law School itself is less than a year older than his tenure. But both of us appreciate — Ron through direct experience, Michael through recent understanding — that while the current form is new, our law school is rich with history and rightly proud of its traditions and the distinctiveness of both the individual campuses and the school as a whole.
Affordability and Opportunity
Perhaps the most significant aspect of our shared identity is our longstanding and ongoing commitment to providing an affordable and accessible legal education. That commitment is what makes us deeply gratified by the recognition we recently received in a U.S. News ranking of law schools — though not the one people tend to follow most closely — in which Rutgers Law came out at the very top of U.S. News’s list of American law schools whose 2016 graduates had the lowest average debt. That ranking indicates to us that even in an era of rising costs, Rutgers Law is continuing to fulfill its core mission of providing access and affordability. And our performance in that other ranking from U.S. News underscores that we are doing so without sacrificing our academic excellence. As before, Rutgers Law remains among the best values in legal education.
Another aspect of that educational value is our success in launching our graduates into a variety of rewarding and successful career opportunities, whether in private practice, as judicial law clerks, working for the government or public-interest organizations, or securing non-practicing positions in a range of industries, including finance, insurance, and tax. Despite a still-recovering job market for recent law-school graduates, Rutgers continues to enjoy strong employment outcomes: the rate at which our Class of 2016 obtained, within ten months of graduation, the most sought-after positions for emerging graduates — full-time, long-term jobs for which the J.D. degree is required or preferred — outpaced the national average rate by more than ten percent. Rutgers alumni play a crucial role in facilitating this success by interviewing our students on campus, posting job openings in our job database, serving as mentors and advisors, fielding questions about their practice areas and career paths, participating on career panels, and offering their time and expertise in myriad other ways.
Some other distinctive features have not only flourished but expanded with the merger, such as the Minority Student Program (MSP), which recently celebrated its 49th year in Newark — and its first in Camden. In just a year, Camden MSP director Rhasheda Douglas ’99 is building a program worthy of its relation to the Newark original, helping sustain our law school’s unparalleled dedication to promoting diversity and inclusion, within its own community and in the profession as a whole. In the coming year, we look forward to convening a number of events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the MSP, culminating in a gala event in April.
In similar fashion, the law school has expanded scholarship and fellowship opportunities that enable students to finance their legal educations and pursue a wide range of professional interests. The Maida Public Interest Fellowships Program, enabled by a generous gift from James Maida ‘90 and Sharon Maida, builds on the prior funding from APIL and PILF to support as many as 38 students in summer public-service placements, throughout the state and beyond, as well as to support a full year of work by post-graduate fellow each year. The first two post-graduate fellows (Josh Bauers ’15, at Fair Share Housing, and Alexi Velez ’16 at the ACLU) were extended permanent offers from their employers at the end of their fellowships. Class of 2017 Fellow Deanna Christian will be working to protect the interests of children with disabilities who attend charter schools. The Law School’s first incoming class also included, across the two campuses, 14 members of our new Social Justice Scholars Program, which (like the pre-existing Kinoy-Stavis Fellowships in Newark) provides funding and mentoring to support students who are committed to careers in the public interest.
Speaking of Social Justice Scholars, this year the Law School hired three new tenured faculty members who will be designated Chancellor’s Social Justice Scholars as a reflection of their influential and impactful academic and professional work promoting human rights and equality. Sahar Aziz joins us from Texas A&M School of Law. Prior to joining Texas A&M, Professor Aziz served as a Senior Policy Advisor for the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, where she worked on law and policy at the intersection of national security and civil liberties. Rachel Godsil comes to Rutgers from Seton Hall School of Law. Professor Godsil is a co-founder and director of research for the Perception Institute, a national consortium of social scientists, law professors, and advocates working to bring insights from the mind sciences to bear on legal issues, including empirical research to identify the efficacy of interventions to address implicit bias and racial anxiety. Rose Cuison Villazor, currently at UC Davis School of Law, will join the faculty in 2018. Professor Villazor teaches, researches, and writes in the areas of immigration and citizenship law, property law, Asian Americans and the law, equal protection law, and critical race theory.
Also joining our faculty is Adnan Zulfiqar, who specializes in criminal law, Islamic law, and laws of war. He was most recently a George Sharswood Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a Harry F. Guggenheim Fellow. He previously consulted with the United Nations Development Programme and the International Development Law Organization, helping draft penal codes and commentaries for the Federal Republic of Somalia and the Republic of the Maldives.
These new faculty members will continue, and advance, our history of outstanding faculty teaching, scholarship, and service to the profession and society as a whole.
Programs, Initiatives, Public Engagement
Still other traditions, or at least traditions in the making, have just been started this year. In April, our inaugural Garth Moot Court Competition matched two Newark students against two Camden students in an impressive and entertaining argument judged by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Michael Chagares, and retired New Jersey Supreme Court Associate Justice Gary Stein. The occasion also provided an opportunity to remember the life and career of its namesake, the late Judge Leonard Garth, a long time adjunct instructor at the Law School, whose impressive roster of former clerks includes Justice Alito and a Rutgers Law co-dean (Ron).
The merger has facilitated the growth of a number of strategic initiatives that have enriched the academic opportunities available at both locations. For instance, in the past year, the Rutgers Center for Corporate Law and Governance, founded in 2015 and co-directed by Professors Doug Eakeley in Newark and Arthur Laby in Camden, has launched a new Entrepreneurship Clinic that provides students with hands-on transactional law experience representing for-profit entrepreneurs and non-profit social entrepreneurs, often working in partnership with other Rutgers graduate schools. In April, the Center also conducted the inaugural Rutgers Transactional Law Competition in which students tested their skills in negotiating a hypothetical business acquisition, as counsel for both buyers and sellers. And this past May, 40 members of the Class of 2017 received the Corporate and Business Law Certificate after satisfying a demanding set of curricular requirements from among over 100 course titles that the Law School is able to offer at either or both locations.
Rutgers Law School has maintained and even increased its civic engagement and contribution to social justice, further cementing its role as an anchor institution serving the public good in both of its local communities, and beyond. The merger has enabled the Law School to project on a statewide basis in providing service to the public. For instance, under contract with the N.J. Department of Children and Families, the Child and Family Advocacy Clinic in Camden (directed by Professor Joanne Gottesman) and the Child Advocacy Clinic in Newark (directed by Professor Randi Mandelbaum) have combined their resources to provide critically needed legal representation to immigrant children who are involved in the foster care system. With support from Rutgers University President Robert Barchi, Professors Gottesman and Mandelbaum also supervise a new staff attorney who will work on both the Newark and Camden campuses to provide direct representation and coordinate pro-bono assistance to members of the Rutgers University community and neighboring communities, engage in community outreach, and provide research support for New Jersey non-profits responding to changing immigration policies. And the Rutgers Law Associates, the Law School’s “low bono” in-house law firm, has functioning offices in both Camden and Newark that provide affordable legal representation throughout the state to underserved client populations, while at the same time providing training for practice for recent graduates who work under close supervision in the law school environment.
While now united in mission and tradition for social justice, the two locations of Rutgers Law School still take much of their identities from the physical, economic, social, cultural and human connections to the communities that have sustained each for the past 109 years and 91 years, respectively. In keeping with Rutgers University–Newark’s role as an anchor institution, the Law School has been witness to the amazing revitalization of Newark that has occurred in the past few years, and has done its part to promote the reimagining of the city through initiatives such as:
- The H.E.A.L. Collaborative, in which Professor Jennie Valverde and students in the Health and Education Law Clinic work with professionals and graduate students in the fields of health sciences and social work to help low-income children and their families address social and legal problems affecting their health and well-being.
- The Center for Law, Inequality and Metropolitan Equity, directed by Professor David Troutt, which recently sponsored a Trauma, Schools and Poverty Conference that focused on issues of child trauma in Newark that Mayor Ras Baraka called “‘the public health crisis’ which derails children from schools into the criminal justice system.”
- Rutgers Law Associates’ participation in the Newark Community Street Team, in which law associates give free legal advice to former offenders re-entering the community and assist them in solving legal problems that can obstruct their successful reintegration in the community.
And in Camden, where Rutgers University–Camden is playing a leadership role in the city’s transformation, including a billion-dollar redevelopment of the waterfront area currently underway, the Law School is engaged in:
- A project in which three third-year students, supervised by Professor Ruth Anne Robbins, spent the 2016–17 year working on the issue of whether indigent parties in civil domestic-violence cases have a right to court-appointed attorneys. After conducting research about the three other states that have, or are developing, such a right to counsel, the students outlined a possible plan for New Jersey, and were invited to meet with staff members from both the State Assembly and Senate to discuss the issue. In the upcoming academic year, another group of students will continue this work.
- The Essential Protections for Policyholders Project, a comprehensive national project currently being pursued by the Center for Risk and Responsibility’s director, Professor Jay Feinman, in cooperation with United Policyholders. The project analyzes existing state laws and makes recommendations to provide a roadmap for every state to follow in improving homeowners’ insurance, leading to clearer policies, better claims processes, and fairer prices.
- A re-entry program, akin to Newark’s Street Team, in which law students help released ex-offenders resolve their civil legal problems — like acquiring a driver’s license, paying child support, or securing appropriate housing — so that their reintegration into the community is successful. The project aims to reduce recidivism and allow clients to resolve outstanding warrants to avoid being re-incarcerated. The program has also offered assistance to ReNew Camden, a federal court-supervised program designed to support former inmates as they emerge back into society.
A Far-Reaching, Multi-Generational Community
While the Law School has deep roots in each of its two urban locations, its branches spread far across the nation and the world. Over the course of the past year, it has been a pleasure for us to meet with alumni at various events, including receptions in Boston, Washington, Los Angeles, Wilmington, Princeton, and New York. Professionally and geographically, our graduates have ranged far and wide, but they share a heartwarming and infectious devotion to their alma mater. We take great delight in your achievements and your support, and great satisfaction in helping train the next generation of proud and successful Rutgers lawyers.
Indeed, we hope your success will help enable theirs. Please make sure to stay in touch with the Law School so we can continue to inform you about our progress, remain abreast of yours, and perhaps most importantly, help build and strengthen the ties connecting our alumni to each other. If you are not receiving our monthly alumni e-newsletter, please update your email address at www.alumni.rutgers.edu/update. Please also consider making a gift to the Law School. Affordability and excellence remain hallmarks of a Rutgers legal education, but in an environment of scarce public resources, our ability to pursue that mission and maximize the school’s potential depends critically on your support. Every gift makes a difference; broad support from our alumni and friends, who know the school best, sends a strong message to the university, the legislature, and other potential donors about the importance of investing in Rutgers Law School.
This has been an outstanding year, but the best is yet to come. We look forward to contacting you with further information about news at the law school; please don’t be shy about contacting us to share news about your lives and careers. And if you’re in the neighborhood(s), please visit and say hello in person.
Thank you, as always, for your support of Rutgers Law School — our law school.
|Michael T. Cahill||Ronald K. Chen|