Centenial Celebration

History of Rutgers School of Law-Newark

Rutgers School of Law–Newark, the first law school in New Jersey, has had many ancestors and locales. When its oldest predecessor, the New Jersey Law School, opened its doors on October 5, 1908, 30 students filed into a spare room on the fourth floor of the Prudential Insurance Company building for their first class. By December, operations were transferred to a substantial Victorian town house at 33 East Park Street, built in 1875 by the then mayor of Newark, Thomas Peddie.

The New Jersey Law School was one of many efforts to create the state's own major cultural and educational institutions. The school was founded by New York attorney Richard D. Currier, a graduate of Yale University and New York Law School. He received considerable help from Charles M. Mason, a New Jersey attorney, who served as dean from shortly after the school's founding until his death in 1928.

Impressive Early Growth

The school's business-oriented curriculum quickly attracted students eager for a practical legal education. Classes were held in the late afternoon and evening to accommodate the many students and faculty with outside jobs. Early class lists suggest that the school was an important avenue of advancement for the children of recent immigrants. Women were admitted from the beginning.

Once World War I ended, the New Jersey Law School began a decade of significant progress. By 1926, enrollment had grown to more than 2,300 students, making it the country's second largest law school. Needing additional space, in 1927 the school moved to the former Ballantine & Sons Ale Brewery at 40 Rector Street.

The Mercer Beasley School of Law, the second "parent" institution of Rutgers-Newark law school, was founded in 1926 by several prominent Newark attorneys, including Spaulding Frazier and future New Jersey Chief Justice Arthur T. Vanderbilt. The school was named for the chief justice of New Jersey from 1864-1897. In 1936 the New Jersey Law School joined with the Mercer Beasley School of Law to become the University of Newark Law School. Combining the faculties and resources of the two schools created a stronger institution. Still, the law school experienced a major decline in enrollments due to World War II and a precarious financial condition.

Merger With Rutgers University

With the State Legislature urging unification of New Jersey's educational resources, the University of Newark was an attractive opportunity for Rutgers University, which in 1945 had been designated the State University of New Jersey. The Newark university offered not only a thriving undergraduate college in the most populous part of the state, but also the state's only fully accredited law school and a reputable business school. In 1946, the entire University of Newark was absorbed by Rutgers University and Rutgers School of Law was officially born.

The new affiliation brought great advantages through the university's substantial resources and prestige. Over the next several decades, the school became an institution of national stature. Its library expanded to become the most comprehensive collection in New Jersey and its faculty tripled in size. In the 1960s, the law school pioneered in developing clinical education and in attracting more women and members of minority groups to a career in the law. The part-time program was established in the 1970s for students unable to attend the full-time program because of job or familty obligations.

In 1967, the School of Law in Camden, which had been administered by the dean of the law school in Newark, was created as a separate unit of the university, and the university's original law school became Rutgers School of Law–Newark. After outgrowing several buildings in downtown Newark, the law school moved in 1978 to the skyscraper at 15 Washington Street that became the S.I. Newhouse Center for Law and Justice. Samuel I. Newhouse, a 1916 graduate of the New Jersey Law School, founded what is today one of the world's largest newspaper and magazine publishing companies.

In January 2000, Rutgers School of Law–Newark moved to the new Center for Law and Justice, one of the most attractive and technologically advanced law school facilties in the country. The 225,000-square-foot, five-story building at 123 Washington Street was dedicated by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a member of the law faculty from 1963 to 1972. 

Enduring Values  

Teaching.  Scholarship.  Service.  Opportunity.  For 100 years, a commitment to those values has assured the law school a special place in the City of Newark, the State of New Jersey, and the national legal community.