New Hampshire Takes The Practical Road

CourtroomLaw School Program Emphasizes Practical Skills

 

Many law schools across the country are getting nervous. They are receiving fewer applications and fewer graduates are landing jobs. This has led to some schools changing curriculum and others reducing tuition. One of the schools to do the former is the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

Knowing that some Biglaw clients are less likely to spend money for green attorneys to learn on the job, New Hampshire is taking that training into their own hands. The Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program was actually created in 2005 to produce practice ready lawyers. And a study by the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System shows the program is having success.

Instead of a traditional theoretical, lecture-based approach to legal education, this program emphasizes trial- and-error. It puts students in positions to make mistakes and then learn from them. The students are given constant feedback and pushed to reflect on their performance and experiences. Program Director, John Garvey, says they tell the students at the beginning of the program it is a safe space to make mistakes and they encourage mistakes “because that is where you will grow from.”

Students admitted into the program begin practical training during their second year. The participants practice pretrial advocacy, trial advocacy and dispute resolution before taking a capstone class where they conduct client interviews with real actors.

The study took 69 lawyers who gradated from the program in the past two years and tested them against 123 lawyers who did not. Each group completed a standardized client interview assessment, with scoring based on a one-to-five scale. Program graduates scored an average of 3.76, while non-graduates averaged 3.11. According to the study’s co-authors, Alli Gerkman and Elena Harman, the difference is large and statistically significant.

Nevertheless, Brian Leiter, a professors of legal philosophy at the University of Chicago School of Law says the program should not be adopted everywhere. Just because it works at one school doesn’t mean it is best for every school, according to Leiter. That is the mistake legal education has made over the years, says Leiter, assuming it is a one size fits all kind of education.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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