UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law Among the Best in the Nation
By Kathie Ragsdale
August 17, 202
UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law’s practice of involving students in the state’s legal community while they’re still in school has at least one major payoff:
The school ranks sixth in the nation and first in New England for securing jobs for graduates on the open market – and many of those jobs are in New Hampshire.
Among 2019 graduates, 96.7 percent were employed within 10 months of graduation, with 80 percent of that number working in jobs that require bar passage, according to the 2019 ABA Employment Summary Report. Some 86 percent completed a legal residency or had other legal work experience before graduation.
The statistics are nothing new. A total of 97.2 percent of the previous year’s graduates found work quickly, as did 95 percent of 2017 grads.
Law school Dean Megan Carpenter attributes such success to the school’s emphasis on preparing students for their careers from their first year, and its long history of partnering with practitioners in the field.
“One of the things I have come to love about the New Hampshire legal community are the strong ties between the law school and the bar and the courts,” she says. “When you think about why students go to law school, it’s to take the bar and get a job. The fact we really do excel on a nationwide level is important to me and important to us.”
“We focus a lot on how to teach people not just how to think like lawyers but also how to be lawyers,” she adds.
Carpenter points to several ways in which the law school facilitates students’ involvement in New Hampshire’s legal community, starting with curriculum.
The Career Services Office teaches a class called Introduction to the Legal Profession through which students meet a variety of attorneys at different points in their careers, develop goals for their time in law school and beyond, and work with mentors to practice interviewing and resumé writing.
Students can also participate in clinics where, under supervision, they receive experience practicing law while helping underserved populations.
A fellowship offered through the school’s Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership & Public Service, provides students opportunities to do public interest work during the summer while receiving a small stipend. The program recently expanded to include 50 students this year.
In addition, the school offers a legal residency program, an externship modeled after medical residencies, where students are embedded for a semester (or up to a year) in law firms or courts in New Hampshire or elsewhere in the country.
“So, by the time they graduate with the experiences they have had at the law school through clinics and the residency program, they will have had four or five professional experiences helping clients and working as a legal professional before they even graduate,” says Carpenter. “It helps students build a sense of professional identity and gives them experiences that help them hit the ground running when they graduate.”
One recent graduate, Keelan Forey, said she was drawn to UNH Franklin Pierce Law School in part because of “the opportunities to be involved in the New Hampshire legal community even as a law student.”
During her first-year summer at the school, the Career Services Office organized an On-Campus Interview (OCI) process to provide students interviews for positions with New Hampshire law firms, public interest programs and judicial clerk posts.
“Ideally, if you receive and accept a position through that process for your second-year summer, the summer position will extend you a full-time position after graduation,” she says.
That was the case for her. After “a wonderful summer experience” at Devine, Millimet & Branch in Manchester, she continued working at the firm part-time in her final year of school before receiving an offer of full-time employment.
“I am grateful to the school for opening that door,” she says.
Another recent grad, Abbygale Martinen, enrolled at UNH Franklin Pierce after she took a course on the “deflategate” controversy surrounding the Patriots football team with law school Professor Michael McCann while still an undergrad at UNH. “It completely piqued my interest in sports law,” says Martinen, who subsequently received a full merit scholarship to UNH Franklin Pierce Law School.
She took an internship during the summer of her second year, which later led to a full-time job offer. She starts this month at Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green.
“The Daniel Webster Scholars Honor Program really shaped my experience at UNH Law,” she says, referring to the school’s unique program that allows students to pass a variant of the New Hampshire bar exam during their last two years of law school and be sworn into the New Hampshire bar the day before graduation.
“Taking a two-year practical bar experience and being able to graduate law school having already been admitted to the New Hampshire bar was crucial for my success in law school,” Martinen adds. “The skills that I learned and the ability to start working right away was crucial for my development as a new lawyer.”
Carpenter says the school’s success is attracting more students, and it is now welcoming the largest class in 10 years, including 113 students in the residential juris doctor program and 60 in the hybrid program, a mostly online program for working professionals which focuses on the intellectual property law courses for which the school is renowned. Last year’s entering enrollment for residential was 101 and for hybrid, 41, according to Carpenter.
She notes that the majority of students come from out of state but often get jobs in New Hampshire when they graduate. Of 2019 grads, 31 went to work in New Hampshire and 10 in Massachusetts, the second largest employment location.
“The law school is really an economic engine to keep young professionals in New Hampshire,” Carpenter says.
The school is ranked as one of the nation’s top 100 law schools and consistently as a top-10 school for the study of intellectual property law.