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New Hampshire’s lone law school has established a first-of-its-kind program that enables graduates to obtain a license to practice law without passing the bar examination. The program at Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., is designed to give students practical experience during their second and third year of school, which is monitored by faculty, attorneys and judges. After three years, participants are eligible to practice without enduring the two-day rite of passage. Model for other states Franklin Pierce’s program is expected to serve as a model for other states and schools looking to emphasize practical skills and wanting to provide an alternative to the exercise of rote study that usually follows graduation, school officials said. First-year student Nicklas Anderson expects the program to prepare him for practicing law better than memorizing information for the bar exam. “I can learn what I need to for an exam, but a couple months later I don’t necessarily remember what I had to study,” he said. The Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program is a collaborative project developed by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, the state’s board of bar examiners, the New Hampshire Bar Association and Franklin Pierce Law Center, the only law school in the state. Students who successfully complete the program can become licensed after passing the multistate professional responsibility examination and satisfying the state’s character and fitness requirements. Last month, the school admitted an inaugural class of 15 students to the honors program, from about 30 who applied for it, said John Garvey, professor of law and director of the program. The school’s first-year class has about 140 students total. The requirements are intended to make students “client-ready” when they graduate, Garvey said. Participants take regular courses in addition to classes specific to the program. They also work in simulated, clinical and externship programs. They must demonstrate an ability to practice before judges, bar examiners, faculty members and classmates in order to pass. The “hands-on” dimension is what attracted Anderson. “It’s experimental, and it makes practical sense,” he said. The American Bar Association (ABA) will be watching the program “with interest,” said John Sebert, consultant on legal education to the ABA. He said he knew of no other programs like Franklin Pierce’s. Wisconsin is the only state that does not require law graduates to pass a state bar examination, provided that they graduate from one of the state’s two ABA-accredited law schools.

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