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Rutgers Law School-Camden is about to get more space and a new look. Last Thursday, Rutgers University’s board of governors approved a $20 million bond issue to fund extensive renovation of the law school’s existing facility and construction of a 55,000-square foot annex. The new structure — with classrooms and quarters for moot court and clinical programs — will be built on the site of a parking lot across Fifth St. from the current building and linked by a skywalk. Rutgers is in negotiations to buy the adjoining land and an architect will be appointed next month. The new facility is slated for occupancy in summer 2007. Law school officials hope the improved facility will be one more talking point for attracting applicants. “Facilities should be a neutral factor in decision making … but the reality is that it does matter,” says Dean Rayman Solomon. “I think this will enable us to remove any question of that.” However, there is no present plan to expand enrollment, which is now at 774. Renovation of the existing building will involve reconfiguration of the classrooms from large lecture halls to more versatile spaces that are better suited to the modern curriculum. “It’s hard to teach 60 or 70 students in a 120-student classroom,” says Solomon. The law school’s existing quarters, constructed in 1972, are likewise ill-suited to the greater emphasis on clinical training and practice advocacy, Solomon says. The current building has no moot court room. Students use nearby federal and state courthouses in the evening, but there’s no place to argue during the day. The new building will have at least one moot court room and optimally two. And whereas clinical facilities are in cramped quarters converted from a student lounge, the new building will have specially designed client interview rooms with videotaping equipment allowing faculty critiques, he says. The new space may allow the school to increase its legal clinics and pro bono programs, which now focus on bankruptcy, domestic violence, immigration law, community dispute resolution, elder law, security deposit assistance and special education. The new building also will permit consolidation of some law school functions like student journals and the development office, which are located elsewhere on campus. Solomon says the number of staff in development, alumni relations and career services has grown dramatically in recent years, even as the student body has remained fairly steady. The renovation project is envisioned as part of a new University District in Camden’s downtown. The school will receive an $11 million grant under the state Municipal Recovery and Rehabilitation Act of 2002. Other grants under the act are going toward construction of nearby facilities for Rowan University and Camden County College on the theory that growth in the number of students, faculty and staff in the area will revitalize business in downtown Camden.

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