Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program Gets Top Billing in Law School Guide
The University of New Hampshire School of Law's Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program has long been regarded as a pioneer in legal education, and now a top-selling book is spreading the word. The third edition of Law School Confidential, which published April 26, features an entire chapter devoted to the groundbreaking program. The book – called a must for prospective law students – touts it as "the future of legal education."
The Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program began in 2005 and is the joint creation of New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Dalianis, the law school, the state bar association and the state board of bar examiners. Dalianis, who before her time on the state supreme court had spent about two decades as a superior court judge, noticed that the young lawyers she saw in the courtroom didn't seem ready for prime time.
"Our little group just thought that the old methods of admitting people to the bar were not necessarily producing good lawyers," she says in the book. "I know any number of people who were able to pass the bar exam that nevertheless should not be practicing law, and I know a handful of people who haven't been able to pass the bar exam because they simply don't do well on standardized tests who I believe would make excellent lawyers. So why not try something new?"
Enter the DWS program, which eliminates the two-day bar exam and in its place offers a two-year exam: Students counsel clients, appear before judges, and develop their skills and judgment in both simulated and clinical settings. In short, students practice law before they graduate.
The author of Law School Confidential has seen firsthand the results of a DWS education: Rob Miller, who is also an attorney and managing director at the New Hampshire- and Massachusetts-based firm Sheehan, Phinney, Bass & Green, says his firm has hired two DWS graduates so far – and he's been very impressed.
In the book, he writes, “I wish a law school offered this kind of intensely practical educational program when I was looking at law schools. Knowing what I know now about the skills needed for the real world practice of law, I cannot endorse this approach strongly enough. . . . I am betting that what we are seeing here is, at least in some form, the future of legal education.”
The program, under the direction of Professor John Garvey, who practiced for over 25 years before running the program, is about to graduate its fourth class.
"I feel so fortunate to be a part of this program and this education movement," Garvey said. "Our goal during the two years is to weave professionalism into the fabric of the law school experience so that these students understand not just the law but also the skills and values needed to represent clients. Our focus is always on the client-centered relationship and what it takes to be client-ready. I'm flattered that the program has received this recognition from an author and highly regarded practicing lawyer who understands the rigors of practice."
UNH Law's DWS program has received this type of attention before: Prof. Garvey is a frequent speaker at conferences on the future of legal education, and several states have shown an interest in replicating at least portions of the program. The University of Findlay in Ohio is currently consulting with Garvey to develop a law school modeled after many of the principles of the DWS program.
"Ten years from now," Miller writes in Law School Confidential, "I'm betting that the purely intellectual, theory- based programs of study . . . will be a thing of the past. Practitioners, judges, clients, and now, even law students themselves, are simply demanding something better, such as law school graduates who are actually ready to be good lawyers rather than just good law students. Graduates who, in the parlance of the Webster Scholar Program, are 'client- ready.'"