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April 16, 2021

As spring began, 24 scholars from the UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law were exploring a program that could help bring change to some of New Hampshire’s most vulnerable residents, thanks to a decades-old joint venture between the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program and the Pro Bono Program’s DOVE Project.

The partnership is a win-win for both groups. DOVE, a collaboration between volunteer attorneys and crisis centers to connect low-income survivors of stalking and domestic violence with pro bono representation and victim-centered support at protective order hearings, engages many future volunteers. At the same time, the Webster Scholars gain practical skills and key knowledge that fits squarely with the program’s intent to prepare students with the tools necessary for real-life lawyering. This partnership enables students to take on protective order cases under Rule 36.

The miniseries comprises three classes. The first is a primer: Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire advocate Maddie F. focused on the dynamics of domestic violence and trauma-informed language to help attorneys understand and connect with the client. Next, DOVE volunteer Kirk Simoneau, Esq. reviewed the statute, case law and practice pointers, peppering his presentation with his invaluable insights from years of practice. The second session connected teams of students with faculty mentors, Simoneau; Lyndsay Robinson, Esq.; Sean List, Esq.; and John Brandte, Esq., to prepare for a mock hearing. The third was overseen by Marital Master Thomas Cooper, who held court and issued judgments, with educational commentary, from the bench.

COVID-19 has brought new challenges to everyone, from survivors to attorneys to the family courts. After the shutdown last spring threw a wrench into in-person classes between sessions 2 and 3, Courtney Brooks, director of the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program, and the DOVE Project made the difficult decision to go digital this year. With telephonic and video hearings more common than ever, the format mirrored some of the struggles real-world litigants face.

Lively and engaged, the Webster Scholars jumped into the miniseries with open minds and hearts. Two teams of budding attorneys passionately advocated for their clients and put themselves in the shoes of the parties. One scholar, Cassandra Rogers, said about the miniseries, “This partnership has been truly enlightening and rewarding. It’s been an opportunity to learn so much from a group of people that are passionate about these sensitive and important issues. It also has demonstrated the value in the volunteer work available through the DOVE program – both for clients and their attorneys.”

For more information about volunteer opportunities with the DOVE Project, please e-mail Elyse McKay at emckay@nhbar.org or Pamela Dodge at pdodge@nhbar.org.