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Bar News - June 6, 2008

Webster Scholar Program Graduates 13 ‘Client-Ready’ Attorneys


After an intensive two-year "bar exam," the first class of Daniel Webster Scholars was sworn into the NH Bar on May 16, 2008 at a special ceremony at the NH Supreme Court.

Under the guidance of attorney and now professor John Garvey, who left over 25 years of private practice to become the director of the Franklin Pierce Law Center honors’ program, the project has been the subject of national (and international) attention. The students were admitted based on their performance as evaluated over the two years, and they were not required to sit for the traditional two-day Bar exam.

"The Webster Scholar Program, which is the first of its kind in the nation, recognizes the changing legal landscape and the need for lawyers to be not only intellectually but practically grounded upon their admission to the bar," said NH Supreme Court Chief Justice John T. Broderick in a statement for Bar News. "The Supreme Court was proud to be part of it. Justices [Linda] Dalianis and [James] Duggan worked tirelessly with the law school to make it a reality, as did the Board of Bar Examiners, under the leadership of Frederick Coolbroth."

"The Supreme Court is pleased and excited by the quality of the scholars and the rigor with which the bar examiners examined them," added Justice Dalianis. "We expect the Daniel Webster Scholar program to continue to evolve, be refined and improve as it matures, but we are already confident that the scholars are what we hoped they would be: better prepared to represent clients at the moment of their graduation."

Making Students Client-ready

The program, which is open to qualifying students after completion of their first year of law school, aims to make students client ready. It puts the Scholars through an inspiring—and sometimes grueling—real-life, real-law experience. They have interviewed clients, taken real-time depositions with court reporters, prepared briefs, interned in law firms and worked in the courts. All of them spent time at LARC (the Legal Advice and Referral Center) in Concord, fielding calls and consulting with staff on the issues raised.

Crystal Maldonado loved her experience at LARC so much that she followed up on an ad for a family law associate and will begin working for Clark Law offices in Manchester two weeks after graduation. "I was attracted to the Webster program by the possibility of being able to start working right away," said Maldonado. "I was glad to be one of the pioneering students."

The students each prepare a portfolio for review by the Board of Bar Examiners. The portfolios cover the six courses studied during the two years and many details are drawn from the journals which students must keep daily after every class. Students also must write reflective papers at the end of each course.

The six Webster Scholar courses include: Pretrial Advocacy; Trial Advocacy; a Miniseries covering family law, law office management, commercial paper and conflicts of law; Negotiations; Business Transactions; and a Capstone Course which integrates the prior courses and focuses on the client relationship, interviewing skills, and conflict recognition and avoidance.

These courses all involve simulation. In addition to the six Webster Scholar courses, the students must take Evidence, Business Associations, Tax, Wills, Trusts & Estates, and at least six hours of clinical and/or externship work. They also study how each course relates to the 10 fundamental lawyering skills and the four values of the profession as outlined in the MacCrate Report. (Read an executive summary of this report.)

In order to complete the program, the Scholars must maintain a cumulative GPA in all courses of at least 3.0.

A Variant of the Traditional Bar Exam

Garvey emphasized that the participants chosen for the program have taken a variant of the traditional bar exam. "Their written and video portfolios are examined by bar examiners four times during a two-year period, and they are personally interviewed by bar examiners in their final semester. Participants were certified through completion of the program as having met the requirements for admission to the bar under Supreme Court Rule 42(13)."

The last course the Scholars take deals in particular with lawyer-client relationships. Students must interview actors who are trained as clients, applying techniques practiced in class. Each interview is followed by a critique from an attorney who observes the video of the interview and also by the "client."

By this time, the students have also practiced questioning sometimes-hostile witnesses, too. "We learn the difference between open-ended and closed-ended questions," said Maldonado, "and how to clarify what a witness says by repeating his answers back to him."

At the conclusion of the two-year program, Garvey, in teaching the "capstone course," integrates all the other courses, but all along the way students receive constant feedback from Garvey, lawyers, judges, paralegals, court reporters, each other and from the other professors who teach courses.

"We learn how to be ourselves, but also how to use the skills of others—we watch and learn from our classmates, too," said Maldonado. "Some things have to do just with the ‘craft’ of being an attorney."

The World Is Watching

At the beginning of the Webster Scholars’ journey over two years ago, Justice Dalianis told the students that the whole country was watching. "If you succeed," she said, "this program may become the pattern for law schools throughout the nation."

The idea for the program originated with Dalianis; she and Justice Duggan, former Bar president Marty Van Oot, Fred Coolbroth and many others worked diligently to make the plan a reality. It became a collaborative effort of the Supreme Court, Pierce Law Center, the Board of Bar Examiners and the NH Bar Association.

"From my point of view, we have exceeded our expectations," Garvey told Bar News. "Because we were a pilot program, we had a lot of flexibility."

In February Garvey spoke at an international conference in Atlanta at which 10 countries came together to consider the future of legal education. Garvey has been asked to speak at a number of other gatherings, too, and was invited to serve on the Carnegie Foundation’s Initiative on the Future of Legal Education, which is looking at the program with great interest. "I’m part of a three-year project, said Garvey, "and I hope to take the program to the next step by making it more widely understood and accepted."

What Lies Within

In his speech to the Scholars at the May 16 ceremony, Garvey spoke of the gravity of the profession of law. "Today, you will be professing your belief in justice and acknowledging your duty to seek it. Daniel Webster declared that Justice is the great interest of man on earth. It is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together.

"You will be professing that this is a nation of laws, and acknowledging your allegiance to them and your duty to support and defend them. Daniel Webster declared that whatever government is not a government of laws is despotism, let it be called what it may." Garvey concluded by speaking of the two primary concerns of the attorney:

"First, within the bounds of the law, it’s always about the client. Second, be good to your inner voice. Feed it well, and help it grow, so that you can always hear it clearly. You will need it. As your journey progresses and you face the tough challenges, to paraphrase the words of Emerson, what lies behind you and what lies ahead of you are tiny matters compared to what lies within you."

What lies within these first Webster Scholars is a broad knowledge of the law and its practical application—and a keen awareness that they have been part of a program that breaks new ground—and that will have a significant impact upon the future of the profession of law.

At this writing, seven of the scholars have been hired or offered positions by law firms in New Hampshire and around the country, three are New Hampshire court clerks, two work for the NH Public Defender’s Office, and one works for the Colorado Public Defender’s Office.

Daniel Webster Honor Scholars - Class of 2008
Conrad Cascadden
Rebecca Cotterell
Lauren Crisera
Anthony Galdieri
Jennifer Gibson
Ashley Hulse
Crystal Maldonado
Justin Maleson
Sabin Maxwell
Cynthia Mosseau
Milin Patel
Melinda Siranian
Joshua Wyatt
New admittees behind the bar listened attentively to the remarks of Associate Justice Linda Dalianis, who, along with Associate Justice James Duggan, was instrumental in the law school-court collaboration that enabled the Scholars to be admitted through this non-traditional process.
Webster Scholar admittees, as do all admittees to the NH Bar, respond to the invitation to applaud their family and friends for their support.
Eileen Fox, Clerk of the NH Supreme Court, administers the oath to the Webster Scholars, while Fred Coolbroth, and incoming NHBA President Ellen Arnold look on.
The Webster Scholars program represents a collaboration between the Pierce Law Center and the state’s legal community. At left, speaking, is Pierce Legal Clinic Director Charles Temple and seated is Pierce Law Dean John Hutson. At center is Frederick Coolbroth, chair of the NH Board of Bar Examiners.
Proud group of trail-blazing Webster Scholars gather for a photo. At far left is John Garvey, Program Director, and at far right is John Hutson, Dean of Pierce Law.
The Justices’ conference room is crowded with the happy sounds of a group of new admittees speaking with family, friends, and their fellow Bar members, including members of the Court.

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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