Bar News - May 5, 2006
Webster Scholars Begin Rigorous Two-Year “Bar Exam”
By: Beverly Rorick
Webster Scholars on the steps of the New Hampshire Supreme Court with their mentor/teacher John Garvey, far left.
Initiated by the NH Supreme Court in July of 2005, the Daniel Webster Scholars Honors program at Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord is a two-year practice-based alternative to the usual bar examination. The first of its kind in the country, it has already received national recognition and has been praised by judges, attorneys and legal educators. Led by John B. Garvey, who left his private practice to become its director, the Webster Scholars program aims to have “client-ready” graduates at the end of the program, which takes place during the last two years of law school and is a collaborative effort of the NH Supreme Court, the NH Board of Bar Examiners, the NH Bar Association—and Franklin Pierce Law Center.
Said Garvey, “Instead of sitting down to a two-day multiple choice/essay exam, the Webster Scholars will be constantly tested over the next two years—and then receive immediate feedback. The present bar exam tests how quickly you can answer questions, particularly the multiple choice section, but that’s not the way one practices law. Webster Scholars will actually be undergoing an extended ‘bar exam’ over the next two years, which will prepare them more realistically for the practice of law.”
Although students who successfully complete the Scholars’ program will not have to take the two-day NH Bar exam, they will be required to sit for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) and pass the NH character and fitness requirements. As they would upon graduation from any accredited school of law, the Scholars will be eligible to sit for other state bar exams, subject to the same rules and regulations and reciprocity stipulations as other graduates. They will not be obligated to practice in New Hampshire, although, “We hope many of them will want to,” said Chief Justice John T. Broderick.
Broderick, along with fellow justices, Linda S. Dalianis, Richard E. Galway, James E. Duggan and Gary E. Hicks, sat in special session on April 18 to welcome the scholars and administer the scholars’ oath prepared by Justice Dalianis, who has been one of the moving forces in organizing the program. The 15 scholars, along with Garvey, sat with guests in the courtroom and listened to congratulations and admonitions from both Judge Broderick and Judge Dalianis. They also heard words of welcome from Richard Y. Uchida, president of the NH Bar Association and some advice from Frederick J. Coolbroth, chair of the Board of Bar Examiners.
Coolbroth described the bar exam as a “beast,” and spoke of the difference in the future that could occur because of this pilot program—and of the hard work ahead of the scholars: “Welcome to your two-year bar exam!” he said. Along with Coolbroth, two other members of the Board of Bar Examiners, attorneys Marty Van Oot (Orr & Reno), a former Bar Association president, and Bruce W. Felmly (McLane firm), also a former Bar association president, came in support of the scholars. Van Oot has worked particularly hard to help initiate the program.
Webster Scholars at a special session of the Supreme Court on April 18, 2006.
All of those who addressed the group stressed the importance of this pioneering step. Judge Broderick said, “It’s truly significant that this program is beginning so close to the start of the 21st century. It could make a permanent difference in what happens to bar exams in this country in this century.”
Judge Dalianis spoke of the heavy responsibility being laid at the feet of this first group of scholars. “The nation is watching,” she said. “We know you will not let us down. The very fact that you were chosen speaks highly of your abilities—and they will be put to the test over the next two years. But if you succeed, this program may become a pattern for law schools throughout the nation.”
Several times during their work in the program, the Webster Scholars will be asked to demonstrate their abilities before judges, lawyers, teachers, NH Bar examiners and classmates. Garvey, in addressing the group, described the program as exciting and challenging. “I am looking forward to spending the next two years with you,” he said. The class of 2008 is the first class eligible for the program. The period of application for those who wish to participate in the program occurs after the midterm exams in the second semester of the first year of law school. In this first year of the program, the class is limited to 15 scholars and selection was based on students’ academic, professional and interpersonal strengths—and scholars will have extra courses, but will graduate with their class. The courses will include exposure to various fields of practice, but there will be some electives, also. Some of the school’s courses will be open only to Webster Scholars, however.
Students who have been selected to participate in this ground-braking program are: Nicklas Anderson, of San Juan Capistrano, CA; Conrad Cascadden of Hampstead, NH; Rebecca Cotterell, of Yardley, PA; Lauren Crisera, of Idaho Falls, ID; Anthony Galdieri of Clarks Summit, PA; Jennifer Gibson of Londonderry, NH; Mary Goehring of Austin, TX; Ashley Hulse of Moultonborough, NH; Crystal Maldanado of Londonderry, NH; Justin Maleson of Reisterstown, MD; Sabin Maxwell of Colebrook, NH; Cynthia Mousseau of Plattsburg, NY; Milin Patel of Parsippany, NJ; Melinda Siranian of Wilmot, NH; and Joshua Wyatt of Hope Mills, NC.
They were chosen by a committee that included: two justices of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, two former New Hampshire Bar presidents, two deans from Pierce Law School, two faculty members, and several experienced practitioners.