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SPOTLIGHT ON:(Back to Menu)

Buy a T-shirt in New SBA Store and Help Support Student Programs

A second-year student at Rutgers School of Law–Newark, Jorge Estrada ’10 was proud of his school. After participating in Centennial events celebrating its influence on legal education and the profession, he was even more certain that he had made the right choice. As 2009-2010 Student Bar Association (SBA) president, Estrada was committed to using his term to raise awareness of the school and give students a way to promote the name.

Legal Matter sign   
“I would go to events,” he recalls, “and students from other law schools would be wearing their school’s T-shirts and hoodies and Rutgers students would have on their undergraduate college sweatshirts. I decided that this needed to change.” Estrada was also frustrated that the SBA, which oversees the allocation of funding for student groups, lacked sufficient resources to support the growing number of symposia and panels organized by student organizations. Inspired by the Centennial, students were all the more engaged in the intellectual life of the school and planning ever more ambitious programming.

Talking with Andrew Rothman, Senior Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, about his desire to boost school pride and raise additional funds to support student-sponsored events, Estrada came to the realization that there was a way to combine the two goals. A year later, thanks largely to the efforts of Robert Colby ’11, “Legal Matter: Just stuff with appeal,” a retail and online store selling T shirts, hoodies, mugs, pint glasses, shot glasses, car window static clings, pens, and more, opened its doors.
         
Students at Fashion Show    Diana Sclar    SBA Store 
Hundreds of students watched the ribbon-cutting for Legal Matter and applauded as several faculty, including Professor Diana Sclar, walked the runway in law school T-shirts and hoodies and carried mugs and pint glasses to showcase the merchandise available in the new SBA store.

The store had “soft” openings at the September 25 reunions for the Classes of 1960 and 1985 and the October 2 reunion for the Class of 1970. “The alumni were very supportive,” reports Colby, chair of the SBA New Projects Committee. “They really helped us jumpstart our sales and hone our store process for the opening to the students.” Sales at the October 5 “hard” opening for students were phenomenal, says Colby. “I think students really understand that by buying our merchandise, they send the profits right back to things that make student life at our school so rich.” One hundred percent of the profits go to support student journals, symposia, clubs, panel discussions and other events.

Robert Menendez ’11, who succeeded Estrada as 2010-2011 SBA president, shares his predecessor’s goals of promoting the law school and adding to the SBA coffers. “Every year,” says Menendez, “the SBA has to make tough decisions about how to allocate our limited resources to student groups, which continue to grow and hold valuable events at the law school. With the additional revenue we believe the student store will generate, we can have an even more dynamic atmosphere at Rutgers Law School in which the SBA can invest more resources in our already successful student body.”

 

One hundred percent of the Legal Matter profits go to support student journals, symposia, clubs, panel discussions and other student-sponsored events.

By the time of Estrada’s graduation last May, several of the red tape-issues had been resolved and enough progress had been made that the first T-shirts were ready for sale. For this year’s SBA, the biggest challenge in getting the venture up and running, says Menendez, was staying focused and heading in a unified direction. “With so many possibilities ranging from the actual setup of the store to the production of an online site to determining what to sell and then designing the merchandise, there were a lot of opportunities to get lost in the details.”

Menendez gives much of the credit to the store’s successful launch to Robert Colby, “whose vision really made this all happen.” He adds that without Colby and the help of his wife, Helen, “we wouldn’t be where we are today and for that the school really owes them a great deal of gratitude.” Estrada, seeing Colby’s successful branding and merchandising efforts on behalf of the Rutgers Admiralty, Aviation and Space Law Association, had recruited him to the SBA endeavor.

Looking back at the work involved in making the nascent project a reality, Colby says he particularly enjoyed, and found instructive, his collaboration with the many parties critical to making his “bricks and clicks” vision a reality. They include Dean Rothman, who facilitated the law school’s support; the Rutgers University trademark licensing department, which helped provide graphic resources; the merchandise vendors and store fixtures’ suppliers; the Student Bar Association members who helped create and approve the designs; and facilities personnel including Francina Skipper, Director of Administrative Services. “It was fun,” says Colby, “to work with all of these resources and obligations to put together our desired result, like a set of puzzle pieces that could fit together but needed to be put into a certain arrangement using a bit of negotiation.”

The “bricks” piece of the “bricks and clicks” venture is located in the lower level of the law school’s home in the Center for Law and Justice. The store, complete with a “Rutgers red” wall and professional-grade shelving and slatwork, is staffed a minimum of 10 hours a week by SBA members, more when special events bring extra traffic just outside its door.

Estrada & Colby   
Jorge Estrada ’10 (left), who returned to Rutgers Law School to emcee the store’s fashion show launch, with Robert Colby who turned the concept for the SBA project into reality.  
It was Colby who pushed to have a store on site to complement the online presence and who led the committee that worked on opening Legal Matter. Sales already confirm his intuition “that while the online store will be an important source of sales, a physical presence, right in the heart of school, is absolutely necessary. There’s no substitute for being able to see the apparel in person.”

And more apparel and other merchandise are on the way. SBA plans to poll the student body to learn what else they want the store to carry. “It’s important that students remain involved in the development and growth of the store, and there’s no better way to do that than to ask what they’d like to have us design and sell,” says Menendez. SBA will also open up Legal Matter to other law student groups, which will be able to sell their own merchandise with the profits going directly to their organization. Colby expects that, given the high level of interest, there will be several new items, designed by student groups, in the store soon. Legal Matter also plans to carry law school essentials such as legal pads and casebook tabs.

Sales in the physical store to students, whose Rutgers–Newark Law School ID gets them a 15% discount, are important. But the SBA is also eager to reach alumni and friends through the online Legal Matter at www.rutgerslawstore.com. “I am really curious to see how web sales pick up around the holidays,” says Colby. “To all the parents out there, nothing says ‘we’re glad you’re home for the break’ like something warm and boastful.”

Estrada, who is clerking for Union County Superior Court Judge William A. Daniel, returned to the law school to announce the October 5 fashion show during which faculty and staff took to the runway to “model” the store’s offerings. The enthusiastic students who watched and then purchased and the positive response of alumni who were its first customers indicate that Legal Matter is off to a great start in helping student organizations, as Estrada puts it, “make really good events really great events.”

As for future SBA ventures, the drawing board shows a variety of projects, ranging from creating a service called the Rutgers Law Exchange in which students can swap books and list information about apartments or items for sale to having all SBA members undergo “safe zone” training. “There are countless other projects and objectives we’ve talked about doing and will likely begin working on this year,” Menendez says, “but what they all have in common is that at the core of them is this idea that collectively we can improve a school whose reputation and future have been entrusted to us. So long as we remain committed to that ideal, there is no challenge we won’t face, no obstacle we won’t overcome.”