True Innovation in Legal Education!

I learned about this incredible program at Franklin Pierce College of Law from one of the talented students at Solo Practice University, Christopher Paul.  He is graduating in May, 2009 and will be sworn in to the bar without taking the bar exam.  Why?  Because he is part of an amazing new initiative at Franklin Pierce which selects 15 students from each class to do intensive practical training while in law school to prepare them for ‘client-readiness’ upon graduation.  And because they are monitored while in law school by bar examiners, they are not required to take the bar  exam in New Hampshire and can start practicing law immediately upon graduation.

A few years ago, several New Hampshire practitioners, including the Hon. Linda Delanis of the NH Supreme Ct. were bemoaning the fact ( at least their perception of the fact) that recent grads were unprepared for the actual practice of law. While I am sure you know that this is a common refrain amongst practicing attorneys and judges in most jurisdictions, these folks decided to try and do something about it. 

In a joint effort with the Franklin Pierce Law Center ( New Hampshire’s only law school), the  NH Bar and the Supreme Court developed an ”alternative bar” program where selected students, in addition to their regular coursework, receive additional practical skills-based training during the last two years of law school.

This innovative program, called the Daniel Webster Scholars Program is limited to fifteen students per class.  The class of 2009 is the second class that will graduate in the program.  The students who successfully complete the program are sworn in to the NH bar the day before graduation and can begin to practice right away.

During the two year program, the students are frequently assessed by NH bar examiners. The students’ written work and videotapes of substantive skills-based projects such as mock trial ad, depositions, client interviews and counseling, etc are submitted to the bar for evaluation.

The theory is to make students ”client ready” upon graduation.

I personally found the program terrific.  You can read more about  it here.  - Christopher Paul, May 2009

What I find so heartening about this program is on their website the law school states the following:

One of the most promising innovations in legal education currently taking place in the United States. The curriculum resembles closely many of the recommendations of the recently published report of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which calls for fundamental changes in American legal education.”

— Clark D. Cunningham
Director, Effective Lawyer-Client Communication, National Institute for Teaching Ethics & Professionalism and W.Lee Burge Professor of Law and Ethics, Georgia State University College of Law, Atlanta, GA

The irony of it all? Before the advent of ‘law schools’ and bar examinations, lawyers-to-be were apprentices traipsing after practitioners and learning.  When the practitioner deemed the apprentice was ready to take on a client, they were set free.  Have we hopefully come full circle seeing a law school doing precisely what it should be doing?  Creating client-ready lawyers upon graduation?  It would seem so.  I’m looking forward to learning more from Christopher Paul along with the other SPU students. He is part of something truly innovative.

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4 comments on “True Innovation in Legal Education!

  • What a great write-up about one of the exciting programs at Franklin Pierce Law Center. Chris has taken advantage of many of the hands-on opportunities offered him. His will be the second class graduating from the program. Last year’s graduates hit the ground running. We received a note from Crystal Maldonado in early July after graduation, “Within five weeks of graduation–while everyone else was studying for the bar exam–I had gone to court, cross-examined the plaintiff, put my client on the stand and won my very first case.”

  • What a fantastic program! In my first year civil procedure class twenty-five years ago, I noticed that those that “got it” had been paralegals prior to attending law school.

    Back then, even though I understood the Black Letter Law, I had no idea what the corresponding document was suppose to look like. It was like someone explaining to you how to play this complicated card game with several decks of cards, but you’ve never seen the cards and no one was going to let you look at them. I still don’t know what purpose that served; it didn’t serve the law students very well, and it certainly didn’t serve future clients.

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