Monday, September 21, 2009

Husson University Seeks Permission For Law Grads To Sit For Bar

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently announced a hearing on the application of Husson University to permit its juris doctor graduates to sit for the bar:

On September 1, 2009, Husson University filed an application for an order establishing that Husson’s Juris Doctor graduates are eligible to sit for the Maine Bar Examination and to be admitted to the Maine Bar.

The Court has issued an order requiring Husson to answer questions propounded by the Court; permitting interested persons to file memoranda commenting on the application; and setting a public hearing on the application.

The Court will hold the public hearing on the application on Tuesday, December 1, 2009, at 10:30 a.m. at the new Penobscot Judicial Center, 78 Exchange Street, Bangor.

A copy of all documents relating to the proceedings on the application will be posted on the website of the Maine Judicial Branch at http://www.courts.state.me.us, and will be available for inspection between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. weekdays at the office of the Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court, 205 Newbury Street, First Floor, Portland.

Husson University is represented by Peter L. Murray, Esq., Murray, Plumb & Murray, 75 Pearl Street, Portland, Maine 04101.

Dated:  September 17, 2009

The court order is linked here. The court's questions are linked here.

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network has a report:

Husson University wants to open a law school to satisfy a demand for younger lawyers in the most rural parts of the state.

"Across northern Maine the numbers are something like more than half are 50 or older, and Hancock County I think it's something like 60 percent of the lawyers are over the age of 55," says Micheal Mullane, Dean of the Husson University Law School, which has just started accepting applications.

In order to be eligible for American Bar Association accreditation, the school will have to demonstrate that it can attract students. But last year, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court said graduates of Husson's law school would not be eligible to take the state bar exam because the school's existing faculty and curriculum were not sufficent to prepare students.

"We have addressed recommendations of the court. We have hired highly credentialed faculty with extensive experience teaching in law schools," says Husson President Bill Beardsley. "We've incorporated American Bar Association and Carnegie Foundation recommendations related to law curriculum. We've proposed a court-appointed review commission to carry out periodic assessments of our performance, the costs of which would be borne by the university. Finally, in September we'll be filing a substantive change notification related to the law program with NEASC, our accreditors."
 
Beardsley says he hopes those changes will be enough to persuade the Maine Supreme Court to allow Husson Law graduates to sit for the Maine Bar Exam. The school has re-petitioned the court. And Beardsley says he hopes in five years, the school will gain American Bar Association accreditation.

If approved, Husson would open Maine's only private law school. Dean Mullane says the school will set up a legal clinic in which students will hone practical skills, and there will also be courses on being a self-employed lawyer, a common form of practice in this part of the state.

"The other thing we're going to make a serious attempt at doing is making sure not only do our students have the knowledge and the skills necessary to go out and practice on a single-shingle operation, but that they have the self-confidence to do so," Mullane says.

Husson hopes to accept its first law school students in 2010. It estimates the class will have about 30 students. 

(Mike Frisch)

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