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Bar News - September 17, 2010


Pierce Law Center Becomes UNH School of Law


Dean John Hutson interviewed at the unveiling of the schoolís new name, University of New Hampshire School of Law.

Law students will have the UNH name on their J.D. diplomas starting this June.
On Aug. 30, 2010, Franklin Pierce Law Center officially was renamed the University of New Hampshire School of Law, a change that reflects the affiliation of the stateís only law school with its major state university.

In a recent conversation, Dean John D. Hutson, a prime supporter of the affiliation who will step down next June after nearly 11 years as the law schoolís leader, answered some basic questions about what happens next for the UNH School of Law.

What was the prime motivation for Franklin Pierce Law Center to affiliate with another institution after so many years as a freestanding law school?

"From an external marketing point of view, the school will gain greater visibility with the University of New Hampshire name," Hutson said.

"The name has value. It says what we are as opposed to needing a two-sentence description to get us to who we are," he explained. "With this new name, you donít have to go through the extra steps of telling someone that the Franklin Pierce Law Center is a law school or who Franklin Pierce was and where he was from."

"Franklin Pierce Law Center is a name that is known worldwide in intellectual property circles and the challenge we have is to preserve the good will and the reputation of that name worldwide. Thatís why we will be creating the Franklin Piece Center for Intellectual Property - it will be housed in the new addition we are planning," Hutson added.

He said there had been discussion about phasing in the name change, using some variant of both names. "We decided Ė letís do it right, and letís do it once. People have a positive view of the state of New Hampshire."

"It wonít hurt us in the IP world. We still will use the Franklin Pierce name there for a while Ė we have earned our reputation in the IP world and we feel that eventually we will be able to transfer that good will to the UNH name."

The school was successful. Why not continue on its own?

"Out of 200 law schools in the United States, 20 are independent," Hutson explained. "Very few of the successful ones are in small cities like Concord. The successful independent law schools are in places like Brooklyn, Chicago and Minneapolis, where being known in that local area gives them a larger pool of talent to draw upon. We have to do a lot of marketing and recruiting to get our name out there. As much as we love Concord, it does not give us a large audience automatically."

What will change with this affiliation?

"Other than the name, not much, at least not for a while," Hutson says. "The sign out front, the website, e-mail addresses, and the name on the top of the diploma will all change. But the school will operate independently in Concord, for now."

"The affiliation is not a merger, but can be likened, in the for-profit world, to an acquisition of what becomes an independent subsidiary," Hutson says. "The affiliation agreement should have no budgetary impact on us," Hutson says. "There is no transferring of money from Pierce Law to UNH or the other way around."

The University of New Hampshire does gain increasing control over the institution. Each year, the number of UNH-appointed trustees increases until it has a majority of the board. This year, UNH will be appointing six new trustees to the UNH School of Law board.

The UNH board and the UNH School of Law board can also consider the next step Ė merger Ė in January 2013. "That gives everyone some time to decide if it would be a good idea," Hutson adds.

In the meantime two committees comprised of officials from both schools are going to be looking at potential opportunities for integration of the two institutions.

Issues the integration committees are looking at include:
  • Whether to offer in-state tuition rate for New Hampshire students. The law school is not receiving any state money, so, Hutson says, "it is not something that we have to do, but it is something that may be the right thing to do."
     
  • Creation of a three-and-three program that would allow UNH students to complete a pre-law program and be admitted to the law school after their third year of undergraduate study.
     
  • Making it easier for law students to be taking certain classes in Durham, and for there to be some faculty exchanges.
Will UNH School of Law lose some of the advantages of the small, nimble institution itís known as?

"I share that concern. To some extent we are buying into some more bureaucracy. The decision tree is not going to be quite so short Ė yet, there is some value to deliberate decision-making," Hutson says. "More bureaucracy is something we are going to have to deal with to the extent that it is a downside."

Hutson says while UNH is a public school and a larger institution, it shares a similar culture with Pierce Law. "UNH as a large university is very decentralized and it is used to administering fairly autonomous units," Hutson said. "UNH culture is not unlike ours. And, remember this: UNH liked us for who we are and does not want to see that changed."

The affiliation with UNH has some people asking whether the law school will eventually move from Concord.

"We are working really hard with the city of Concord to obtain approval to building a 13,000 square foot addition, so I think that shows we are not planning to go anywhere soon. We like being in Concord. Itís a lawyer rich community. While there are some advantages to being in Durham, a huge percentage of the lawyers in the state are our graduates, and we feel itís important to be close to that community."

You have announced your retirement from the school at the end of this school year in June.

"At that point, it will be almost 11 years," he explains. "Thatís enough. It will be the right time. This affiliation is something I am proud of and I need to see it through and then get out of the way."

He said that Sherry Young, an attorney from Concord, is chairing the search committee which has already begun the search for a successor.

"I feel a sense of responsibility to the lawyers of New Hampshire and I think the affiliation of the stateís major university and its only law school is going to be good for our state and for our lawyers."

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