"Social Justice Scholars has been a constant reminder of why I went to law school."
Newsome (left) with fellow Social Justice Scholars.

I came into law school with one goal: serving more than just myself with my legal career. Fortunately, I was honored to be accepted into Social Justice Scholars (“SJS”), an elite program on the Camden campus that is designed to cultivate public interest lawyers by offering scholarships, summer internship funding, workshops, faculty mentors, and dedicated pro bono opportunities. Social Justice Scholars make and express commitment to be public interest leaders on campus. In the whirlwind that is life as a law student, SJS has been a constant reminder of why I went to law school. 

However, soon after starting law school, the pressure of getting good grades, getting the best internships, and assembling the best network took up more and more space in my calendar. I quickly put many of the goals that existed at the beginning of my legal career on the backburner. When the first semester came to a close, I realized I had only done a mere three hours of pro bono work. Moreover, I had lost the connection with my purpose for being in law school that initially motivated me to apply.

At the start of my second semester, I took a look at the pro bono requirements for the Social Justice Scholars. I realized the requirements, though they were stringent, reflected how I wanted to spend my time at Rutgers Law. In order to fulfill the promise I made to the school when I took my first steps on campus, I signed up for various pro bono opportunities. The requirements motivated me to attend pro bono events the law clinics and student fellows put on as well. I participated in an Immigration Clinic’s Power of Attorney event and a “Prisoner Reentry: Legal Issues Class’s Expungement” screening. These events changed my law school experience entirely. Not only was I able to help people, but I was also able to connect with upperclassmen and get a behind-the-scenes look into what it took to be a student leader. This year, I am organizing Social Justice Scholar volunteers for these events. The Social Justice Scholars gave me the motivation and exposure I needed to get back on track with my law school goals.

The Social Justice Scholars Program also helps me to follow my personal legal goals. I doing antitrust litigation in a government position for the summer of 2019. Although I would not be financially able to take an unpaid position, the Social Justice Scholars Program will fund my summer with a modest but extremely welcome stipend.. The ability to cast a wide net in the job search without worrying about finances took some of the stress off of my plate that I might have otherwise had. Moreover, I am ever grateful for the chance to look for jobs that I want and not necessarily just jobs that will pay the bills. I will probably never have another opportunity like this again.

And last but not least, the Social Justice Scholars Program has put me in touch with a network of students who genuinely care about making the world a better place. This network consists of Social Justice Scholars, along with the friends we’ve all made outside of the program. There is nothing better than to see all of your friends grow and go on to do great things. Whether it’s taking a public interest job or advocating for pro bono at a firm, it is great to know that I’ll always have a group of people who I can count on to fight the good fight.

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Claire Newsome '20

Claire Newsome RLAW'20

After creating a program aimed at reducing recidivism rates by teaching prisoners Computer Science, Claire wanted to explore more about the criminal justice system. Particularly, she is interested in exploring the ways the law impedes people convicted of crimes from obtaining one of the stated goals of the criminal justice system of rehabilitation. She'd like to spend my time at Rutgers Law working with people who aim to remedy these impediments. "The Social Justice Scholars Program has reinforced my commitment to public service during my first year," said Claire. "It has also opened the door to many opportunities to participate in public interest work on campus and provided me with a network of like-minded students. I am looking forward to serving with SJS in my remaining years!"