For more than 40 years, Rutgers School of Law–Newark has been in the forefront of two movements: first, to make legal education more democratic by making it accessible to members of groups historically excluded from legal career opportunities and, second, to make it more relevant to public life by immersing interested students in the “hands-on” representation of real clients.
Prompted by the riots in Newark and other major U.S. cities in the summer of 1967, the law school undertook a searching examination of its roles and responsibilities as a legal institution within a declining urban community. As a consequence, the faculty voted to create the Minority Student Program (MSP), with the goal of enrolling substantial numbers of students from historically underrepresented groups. The commitment to pursue an aggressive policy of equal opportunity, together with subsequent initiatives to recruit women, transformed Rutgers-Newark into one of the most diverse law schools in the country with respect to race, gender and class.
To better educate a transformed student body and with a new understanding of the law school’s obligations to the local community, the faculty unanimously approved a recommendation by a commission comprised of professors, students and administrators to create an extensive clinical program that “would utilize the reality of ongoing problems as fundamental pedagogic tools.” The clinical program was to involve students and faculty “in every form of legal activity including litigation, administrative activity, legislative activity and community planning and would become in the deepest sense a ‘living classroom’.”
Four decades later, our clinics continue to build on this vision of a “living classroom” that provides rich opportunities for practical and transformative lawyering experience for students and high quality representation for underserved individuals, causes and communities. Each semester, more than 100 second and third-year students are active in the clinical program, which national surveys consistently place among the top in the country.