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Bar News - June 12, 2009

Daniel Webster Scholars of 2009: 14 Client-ready Graduates


Webster Scholars, Class of 2009, pictured with their mentor and director of the program, John B. Garvey, center, front row
On May 17, the second class of Daniel Webster Scholar Honors graduates was sworn into the NH bar in a special ceremony at the NH Supreme Court – the day before their graduation from Franklin Pierce Law School. This ceremony capped a two-year specialized course which began for them in 2007.
The NH Supreme Court initiated the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors program in July of 2005, with attorney John B. Garvey as its director. Garvey, who left his private practice as a trial lawyer to become the director, said when the first class began its journey in April of 2006, "Instead of sitting down to a two-day multiple choice/essay exam, the Webster Scholars are constantly tested over a two-year period—and receive immediate feedback at each stage."

2009 Webster Scholars Graduates
Leila Archambeault
Rose Marie Culver
Heather Louise Devine
Iryna Nikolaevna Dore
Christopher Franke Gosselin
Nicole Eligia Hunter
Joseph Gardner Mattson
Stephen Patrick Morin, Jr.
Lauren Elizabeth Otto
Christopher Robert Paul
Jessica Elizabeth Roche
Kristin Elizabeth Scaduto
Kirk Charles Simoneau
Ee Ming Tracey Yap
The program, a practice-based alternative to the usual bar examination, is designed to make the Scholars "client-ready" as soon as they graduate. "The present bar exam tests how quickly you can answer questions," Garvey continued, "particularly the multiple choice section, but that’s not the way one practices law."

A collaborative effort of the NH Supreme Court, the NH Board of Bar Examiners, the NH Bar Association and Franklin Pierce Law Center, the program stipulates that while the Scholars do not have to take the two-day NH Bar exam, they are required to sit for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). They must also pass the NH character and fitness requirements. Upon graduation, the Scholars are eligible to sit for other state bar exams, subject to the same rules and regulations and reciprocity stipulations as other graduates.

Chief Justice John T. Broderick, Jr. and his fellow justices welcome each class of Scholars and administer the scholar’s oath prepared by Senior Associate Justice Linda S. Dalianis, who was the moving force behind the establishment of the program, along with Associate Justice James E. Duggan and many others.

Frederick J. Coolbroth, chair of the Board of Bar Examiners, told the first class, "Welcome to your two-year bar exam!" That first class successfully completed its "two-year exam" and was sworn in on May 16, 2008. The second class was welcomed in 2007 and sworn in on May 15 of 2009. The third class, welcomed in April this year, will graduate in May of 2010. Though Scholars carry extra courses, they graduate with the other members of their class.

Scholars Must Demonstrate Their Abilities

Periodically during their work in the program, the Webster Scholars are asked to demonstrate their abilities before judges, lawyers, teachers, NH Bar examiners and other classmates. 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. The class is limited to 15 scholars and selection is based on students’ academic, professional and interpersonal strengths.

The program has drawn nationwide attention and follows closely many of the recommendations in the American Bar Association’s MacCrate Report of 1992, the Carnegie Foundation’s 2007 report for the Advancement of Teaching on legal education, and Best Practices for Legal Education, a study led by Professor Roy T. Stuckey, which culminated in a report of the Steering Committee for the Best Practices Project of the Clinical Legal Education Association. All studies and reports called for changes in American legal education.

In a paper soon to be published by Garvey with co-author Anne F. Zinkin, permanent law clerk to Senior Associate Justice Linda S. Dalianis, titled, Making Law Students Client-Ready: A New Model in Legal Education, the authors give a comprehensive history of the movement toward a different kind of legal education. They also present a detailed overview of the Webster Scholar Honors Program.

The Langdellian Method

Beginning with a brief history of American legal education, A New Model relates the contribution of Christopher Columbus Langdell, the Dean of Harvard Law School. In 1870, Langdell introduced the method of teaching law by studying cases, combined with the so-called "Socratic method," which relies upon teacher-directed learning through questioning intended to sort the relevant from the irrelevant facts and distill the holding of the case. Regarded as a worthy part of an integrative program of instruction, it is considered by many to be a failure in making law students client-ready; some claim that it also alienates groups under-represented in law schools, such as women and minorities.

"At the end of the 19th century, it was common for a board of bar examiners to require either a two-year apprenticeship and one year of law school or three years of law school," report the authors of A New Model. "Over time, the apprenticeship option was eliminated and three years of law school became the nearly universal requirement," However, the "skill of thinking like a lawyer is first learned without the benefit of actual clients, and the typical form in which the case books present cases may even suggest something misleading about the roles lawyers play, more often casting them as distanced planners or observers than as interacting participants in legal actions."

The authors suggest comparing preparation for the legal profession to preparation for the medical profession, which must teach disease processes balanced with patient care.

Studies Lead to Innovative Program

The MacCrate Report advocates teaching those skills and values which new lawyers should possess upon completing their education. The Langdellian case-study method of teaching may not highlight these skills and values and emphasize instead qualities having little to do with justice, fairness and morality – and perhaps leaving students with the idea that "a sharp wit and dazzling performance are of more importance than a lawyer’s personal moral values."

The 2007 Carnegie report comments, the "lack of attention to practice and the weakness of concern with professional responsibility," are the "unintended consequences" of the reliance in legal education upon the Langdellian, or "case-dialogue" method of instruction.

Following these reports and studies, several law schools attempted—and are still attempting—changes in their curricula. Among these innovations, however, one stands out as truly unique: The Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program, which fully integrates the instruction of legal doctrine with legal skills and values and, says Garvey, provides a comprehensive assessment of a student’s ability to practice law.

Unlike any other program in the country, the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program actually trains and tests the skills and values needed by lawyers to practice law competently. Upon successfully completing the program, scholars are automatically eligible for admission to the New Hampshire bar.

Using the New Model in Other Schools

It is the hope of those involved in this ground-breaking program that other law schools will take similar steps to introduce an education that will give students better preparation to be client-ready by graduation day. Garvey says, "We recognize that change can be a challenge in any institution, and we do not presume to tell schools exactly how to implement their own Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program, but it is our hope that others will try such a program—and that our experiences here at Franklin Pierce will be a help and an inspiration."

This is Part I of a two-part article. Read Part II.

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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