In a highly competitive market, law schools need to prepare their students to be ready to practice law upon graduation. According to the Wall Street Journal article, “Law-School Program Emphasizes Practical Skills” clients are simply no longer interested in paying new lawyers to “learn on the job.” Real, practical litigation experience is necessary (including taking depositions, interviewing clients, dispute resolution, pretrial/trial advocacy, and drafting motions and interrogations) if young lawyers want to compete for fewer job openings.
One school has taken concrete steps to better prepare their lawyers. At the University of New Hampshire School of Law’s Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program, students are taught practical skills that prepare them for immediate entry into the world of law. The program steers away from traditional lectures and doctrinal education; frequent feedback, courtroom and client simulations, and personal reflections are all important elements to the Daniel Webster program. Students take part in a capstone project on client interviews and complete the program with a standardized assessment – all clients in these simulations are played by actors.
The program, launched in 2005, admits students during their second year of law school. Since 2008, 120 students have graduated from the program.
According to the Wall Street Journal article, “Participation in the program – not scores on the Law School Placement Exam or class rank – was the only predictor of student performance on the standardized client interview.”
A study conducted by the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) found that non-Daniel Webster lawyers scored on average 3.11 out of 5 on standardized client interview assessments, compared to an average of 3.76 out of 5 for Daniel Webster scholars.