It's been several years since I regularly used this site. I have since completed law school and am into my third year of practice. I recently remembered this site and how helpful it was, so decided to take a few minutes to offer some unsolicited advice on the school comparison that I am most familiar with, and which some of you may be currently addressing-- Rutgers-Newark v. Seton Hall. Feel free to PM me or post here with additional questions. I can't promise I'll be able to check often, but I'll try to answer you.
I attended/graduated Rutgers-Newark. Currently, I am completing a one year federal clerkship in DNJ. For my first two years post-graduation (and my law school summers) I worked at a prominent Newark-based firm. My classmate and soon-to-be wife is a prosecutor in NYC.
Around this time in 2008 I was comparing these two schools, and also had opportunities at St. John's, NYLS, Hofstra, and Fordham evening. My first decision, and one that I hope that many of you will not be afraid to make, was to conclude that the two Newark schools offered greater advantages than the rest. The NY schools put you in the NYC mix for both firms and local government work, but don't have any special cachet in New Jersey. The Newark schools have huge cachet in NJ (a very good legal market with an estimable bar of its own), and open up a very similar array of options in NYC. Arguably-- and this especially so with Rutgers-- they are more recognizable names nationwide, too. The two Newark schools, and Fordham, have the best potential for opening up doors to the biggest name firms and clerkships. If you come up short on a bid for a top 30 NYC school, you need to seriously consider the Newark schools. Finally, Newark is only 20 minutes from Manhattan and an up and coming place. New Yorkers would have you believe you're in Siberia, but you are actually in the heart of the sixth borough. I find the NYC lifestyle very desirable and was inclined to be there if I could, but I have no regrets about spending so much time based in Newark.
Now, for the more operative question: Rutgers v. Seton. I visited both and spoke quite a bit to their representatives. I received a 10k/yr. scholarship for Seton versus no initial award from Rutgers. But Rutgers offered in state tuition upon my moving into NJ from out of state, and awarded me institutional scholarships for my 2L and 3L years after getting just shy of a 3.7 my first year.
BOTH schools do the following:
-open doors to big NYC firms like Cleary, Debevoise, Sullivan, Hughes etc etc.; About 25-30 people per class will go the OCI + summer associate route and land these jobs. Both schools have loyal alumni in powerful big firm positions. I am not too familiar with Seton's but Rutgers has, for example, Candace Krugman Beinicke (Chair of Hughes Hubbard) and Mary Beth Hogan (Head of Litigation, Debevoise). Not bad.
-open doors to big NJ firms like Lowenstein, Gibbons, SIlls, Riker, McCarter. I caution that many of these firms (not Lowenstein, though) now hire clerks rather than recent law schools grads. They may appear at law school events but will often not hire people until they are clerking, or, some will hire you during law school and require that you then procure a clerkship. 5 years ago the big NJ firms combined were probably hiring 20-30 per class, but that's probably down to 10-20 now. To make up for this, some growing, but lower paying firms are doing a lot of hiring. One good example is Newark-based Genova Burns.
-have an extensive alumni network in the NJ judiciary and in small and mid size firms around NJ and to some extent NY. The average grad is going to have success landing a state clerkship, whether law or app. div.. Many law review grads will be in the mix for prestigious NJ Supreme Court clerkships. For example, Justice LaVecchia is a Rutgers alumni and reliably hires multiple Rutgers alums each term, and other Justices follow suit. I know plenty of Seton alumns also fill these seats, and the balance go to ivy leaguers. Each school has multiple alums as Federal judges in the DNJ, and between them and the other judges a solid handful of Rutgers and Seton alums get hired as clerks every year-- but often after a couple years at a firm-- again, mixing with primarily ivy leaguers.
-It's really hard to say that either school opens up more opportunities as a general matter. On a detailed analysis, you'll see that some opportunities are opened uniquely by Rutgers, while others are opened uniquely by Seton. Seton has had the better of national rankings lately, but the profession has expressed some backlash toward conventional rankings because they can be gamed. Meanwhile, Rutgers is historically better established and commands respect among the hiring brass. There may be certain categories that one school is better at opening doors than others-- Seton is better for the big NJ healthcare law market, while Rutgers has more cachet among public interest lawyers. It's honestly impossible, based on my experience and those of my peers and colleagues, to say that an average employer will seek out an alumni of one school over the other. Both schools have some excellent 'ins' across NY and NJ, and wonderful special programs with firms and organizations to propel your career.
Here is what Rutgers did better and caused my decision:
-Practicality and affordability. Lower tuition (in state beginning with 1L). Good trove of merit based scholarships. On-campus housing (a big plus for first year). Campus resources like gym, computer labs, and additional libraries (might seem unimportant, but being connected to a huge university offers some benefits). And, as a matter of fact, a pretty decent neighborhood for little things like coffee, lunch, etc.
-Culture. Very much a big-picture sort of place with a perpetual focus on public service, public interest, and turning students on to the force for good that the legal profession can be. Now, I am sure this does't lack at Seton, but my experience with lots of law schools confirms that Rutgers-Newark has a fairly unique, positive culture in this regard. There will be seemingly constant events and symposium on big issues of the day. The school is fond of the 'people's electric law school' tag it earned for its 1970s activism. Also, the average student is a couple years older-- it was my experience that most students had really thought through their law school decision and had strong motivations to be attorneys, and not just good law students. This also provides more life experiences to be shared among friends and colleagues. I came direct from undergrad, and was fairly boring compared to my peers. I thoroughly enjoyed the diversity and culture. I hope the current classes are just as good.
-some very special faculty. I didn't know this going in so much, but I now can share-- Raveson for evidence, Kim for Civ. Pro., Thomas for Crim Law, Pope for Con. Law, Rossner for Antitrust-- these are incredible professors and experts in their field. There are plenty more than I didn't have or are neglecting. I simply can't speak to Seton's professors, who are obviously excellent on paper, but I can affirmatively say that you will get some wonderful classroom experiences at Rutgers. I had way more fun than I expected.
-size of classes, and the small section. The day class size my year was 185. This year about 155, I hear. My class was sized just right, in my view. You can get to know faces and names of just about everyone. You are put into a group of about 30 with whom you take every first year class; one of those classes is just the 30 of you (for me, my 'small section' was contracts with the great Prof. Hyde). Then, your other classes are generally 60, sometimes 90 people (mixing with other sections). Seton, to my knowledge, has had great fluctuation in day class size. At one point they were well into the 300s. Now, last year, about 150 (owing to massively decreased demand). I would assume that if demand for law school goes up again, Seton intends to get back to the 200s-300s range. To me, that becomes a bit too large and erodes at community. My friends from Seton tend to have had smaller friends groups as a result of this. Some might prefer this, though.
Some fun food for thought, to close this out-- a list of prominent alumni of each school:
Rutgers: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mary Beth Hogan (Head of Litigation, Debevoise), Sen. Robert Menendez, Candace Krugman Beinecke (Chair, Hughes Hubbard), Justice Jaynee Lavechhia, Hon. Robert Cowen (3d Cir.) Hon. William Martini (USDJ), Hon. Freda Wolfson (USDJ), Hon. Esther Salas (USDJ), Hon. Barry Moskowitz (Chief USDJ); Hon. Barry Kamins (NY Supreme Ct.), Donna Lieberman (NY ACLU Director), Stuart Alderoty (Gen. Counsel, HSBC), Mary Cheh (Professor, GW Law; DC City Council)
Seton: Gov. Chris Christie; Hon. Dennis Cavanaugh (retiring UDSJ); Hon. Katharine S. Hayden (senior USDJ); Hon. Michael Chagares (3d Cir.); Hon. Joel Pisano (USDJ); Jeremiah Healy (former Jersey City mayor); Hon. Peter Sheridan (USDJ); John Azzarello (prominent criminal defense attorney); Kevin Marino (prominent defense attorney).
(Rankings, Profiles, Tuition, Student Life, . . . )
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