Rutgers administration explain what Newark, Camden law school merger means on larger scale


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Photo by Naaz Modan |

Rutgers’s law schools, separated by almost 100 miles with locations at Newark and Camden, will merge into a single school in the coming year. The University board and administrators promise a boost in national rankings, new course offerings and better alumni networking opportunities. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY NAAZ MODAN / PHOTO EDITOR


The University's law schools, located at Newark and Camden and separated by almost 100 miles, will merge into one single school in the coming year.

The University board and administrators promise a boost in the national rankings, new course offerings and better alumni networking opportunities, according to njspotlight.com.

Rutgers Law School will have one set of graduation standards and a common curriculum that will span all areas of law and include a variety of the skills-based courses and experiences that the market increasingly demands, said Cathy Donovan, director of Law School Communications at Rutgers-Camden.

“Journals at both locations will be open to all Rutgers Law students. Libraries will have a single catalogue, becoming one of the most comprehensive in legal education,” Dovovan said. “All students can participate in on-campus interviewing for opportunities in both the New York and Philadelphia metro areas.”

The new law school will function under one curriculum and faculty, but administered by two separate deans. The two co-deans, Ronald Chen, currently the acting dean of the Newark Law School, and John Oberdiek, currently the acting dean of the Camden Law School, will co-lead the shared institution and report to their respective chancellors, according to njspotlight.com

The value of the University degree will be enhanced through an integrated Rutgers Law School, Donovan said.

“The Rutgers Law School alumni network will be doubled to be more than 20,000, strengthening reach in two major metropolitan areas,” Donovan said.

While the Camden Law School has specialties in intellectual property, the faculty of the Newark Law School specializes in criminal and corporate laws, Chen said.

“We tend to focus on big case-impact litigation that addresses systemic societal changes like affordable housing and constitutional law, and they tend toward client service," Chen said.

Along with combining the specialties and the course offerings of each school, the merger also hopes to minimize tuition and other extra costs in its establishment, Donovan said.

The merger will also increase efficiency in the school as a whole, with more than 1,000 students drawn from all over the world and 100 full-time faculty members, according to njspotlight.com.

“A merged Rutgers Law School will be greater than the sum of its parts,” said John Oberdiek, dean of Rutgers Law-Camden. “This is all due to an enhanced curriculum, supported through cutting-edge immersive distance education technology and a combined alumni network centered in two of the five largest legal markets in the country, which will improve the job opportunities available to our students.”

The catalogs in the libraries will also be fully integrated and coordinated under a unified library staff, while the new law school promises a more integrated administration as many older administrators will be retiring, Donovan said.

“With a merged faculty, certain courses that would have required an adjunct can now be staffed in-house by tenured faculty using the immersive learning classroom and certain others that may have required two adjuncts can now be staffed by one,” Donovan said.

Skeptics have questioned some aspects of the new and improved Rutgers Law School, but the administrators promise that those problems will surely find their solutions under the new system, according to njspotlight.com.

Until a few years ago, the two law schools were considered equals and comparable overall. But recently, the Camden school faced a drop in applications, and fell to No. 102 in the national rankings of the U.S. News and World Report of the top law schools.

The rankings were not all that bad and should not hurt the new law school in any way, Oberdiek said in a njspotlight.com article.

“Even having graduated our largest ever class in 2015, our employment rate at graduation is better than peer institutions, except Seton Hall, and our nine-month employment rate is in the top half of the group,” Oberdiek said. “We are tied with Rutgers–Newark for the second-highest academic peer assessment score, our acceptance rate is lower than every school but one and our bar passage rate remains comparatively strong."

The Camden Law School's part-time program and legal writing program were both ranked in the top 25 nationally, Oberdiek said.

Oberdiek also explained that the merger will help both schools boost their respective needs and help in enrollment, which is in fact “identical in size to Newark’s.”

The concerns about how the two campuses will function together by two co-deans have also been tackled simply and with ease.

“On all matters that affect the school as a whole we’ll make the decisions together,” Oberdiek said. “If they’re local we’ll make local decisions. It’s not likely you would ever hire someone for this position who isn’t collaborative.”

The new Rutgers Law School promises better course selections, state-of-the-art faculty members and improvements. A unified Rutgers Law School will remain integral to the mission and growth of Rutgers University–Camden and Rutgers University–Newark, Donovan said.

“Because of an immersive distance education classroom that connects the two locations, the merged Rutgers Law School will have one of the most comprehensive curriculums in the nation," Donovan said.


Keshav Pandya

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