Bar News - August 10, 2007
Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program Update – Year 2
By: John Garvey, Director- Webster Scholars Program
The second class of Webster Scholars is pictured at the Supreme Court in May following their induction into an honors program which will prepare them for practice without taking the usual Bar exam. The program, conducted by Franklin Pierce Law Center, is the first of its kind in the country.
On July 1, 2005, New Hampshire launched the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program. Initiated by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, this is a comprehensive, practice-based, teaching and bar licensing honors program which takes place during the last two years of law school. This program is the first of its kind in the country and has already received national praise and encouragement from judges, lawyers, and legal education scholars. In fact, the program has many of the characteristics recommended by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, in its 2007 book entitled, Educating Lawyers. It is a collaborative effort of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, the New Hampshire Board of Bar Examiners, the New Hampshire Bar Association, and Pierce Law. Students who successfully complete the program will be certified as having passed the New Hampshire bar exam, subject only to passing the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) and the New Hampshire character and fitness requirements.
The goal of the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program is to prepare law students to be “client-ready” in the broad sense, rather than concentrating on a specific practice area. Webster Scholars are exposed to numerous fields, including real estate law, business law, and litigation. As with a traditional bar exam, there is exposure to a broad area. Instead of a two-day bar exam, the program provides a two-year, comprehensive exam in conjunction with the training received. The first class of Webster Scholars is scheduled to graduate in May 2008.
The Webster Scholars of the class of 2008 went through an intensive first year in the program. As second year law students, in addition to regular classes, they participated in simulations and real client contact. During an intensive semester of Pretrial Advocacy in the fall semester, they divided into two law firms and litigated a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) case in federal court. Each firm had a professor in the role of senior partner. During the semester, the “associates” interviewed clients and witnesses, prepared or answered a complaint, prepared and answered interrogatories, took and defended a deposition in the presence of a stenographer who took it in “real time,” prepared motions or objections to motions for summary judgment and argued them before a judge, and prepared mediation submissions and participated in a mediation with real mediators. (Throughout the semester, they also submitted timesheets to their partners!)
This level of involvement was only made possible by the generous contributions of eight stenographers, four judges and eight mediators who donated their time, expertise, and feedback. There were also eight teaching assistants who played the roles of witnesses and clients.
In the second semester, Webster Scholars went forward with the FMLA case in Trial Advocacy. Using the interrogatories and deposition transcripts they had obtained in the first semester, they tried their hand at controlling the witnesses in the trial setting, and were able to see first-hand the importance of having good interrogatory questions and answers in order to effectively control the witness responses at trial. They also tried a simulated criminal trial from beginning to end, complete with a jury that deliberated.
Also in the second semester, Webster Scholars took an intensive seminar on Negotiations, where they role-played in a variety of settings in cases primarily involving business and intellectual property issues. As with the Pretrial Advocacy and Trial Advocacy classes, their performance was often taped so that they could observe themselves and learn from that experience in addition to receiving feedback from their peers and professors. Experienced practitioners also came and observed and provided valuable feedback.
The Scholars received training in Family Law during a miniseries that exposed them to numerous areas of practice, and subsequently participated at Legal Advice and Referral Center (LARC), where they learned how to do phone interviews and provide client advice to real clients. LARC staff provided training and feedback. This experience provided valuable client contact and also integrated the concept of the lawyer as volunteer citizen.
This fall, the Class of 2008 will take a course called Business Transactions, and they will again be involved in simulations, create numerous documents, and receive substantial feedback. In the spring, they will take a capstone course, which will integrate and build upon what they have learned during the other semesters. They will also be involved in clinical courses and/or externships, where they will be applying what they have learned during the program. During this entire process, the Scholars are reviewed by three members of the Board of Bar Examiners, who receive portfolios of student work and also have access to the students. Those students who successfully complete this two- year process and who pass the MPRE and the character and fitness check will be admitted to the New Hampshire Bar upon graduation in May of 2008.
The Class of 2009 will begin its work soon. For the first time, the program will have two classes running simultaneously, and will be “up to capacity” for its pilot phase. The entering class will benefit from the adjustments to the program that are being made based upon actual experience from last year, and will also be exposed to opportunities that are being tried for the first time. Webster Scholars know that they are learning through innovation, and that experience alone provides important training for being “client-ready.”