Husson again seeks OK from law court

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 01, 2009, at 8:29 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Husson University announced Tuesday that it is resubmitting its application to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to have the graduates of its proposed law school take the Maine Bar exam and is accepting applications from potential students.

“We have taken the court’s recommendations to heart,” Husson President William Beardsley said at a press conference announcing the resubmission. “We have strengthened our curriculum, hired a highly credentialed and experienced law school faculty and have proposed what we believe is a rigorous review process to assure ongoing program excellence.

“This program fits Husson’s mission and serves an unmet need in the northern two-thirds of Maine,” he continued. “We hope to have the first year of the law program fully enrolled and under way in 2010.”

Earlier this year, Husson hired a team of experienced law school professors to create and oversee the new law school and the application process to the state supreme court.

“We have used the law court recommendations, American Bar Association standards, recent Carnegie Foundation studies about how better to teach law, and Husson’s focused mission on serving the unmet need of place-bound Mainers who are seeking a law degree,” Michael Mullane, dean of the law school, said Tuesday, “and we believe we have established a wedding of these values in a way that will lead to a law degree Mainers will prize.”

In its application submitted to the state supreme court, Husson noted that Maine Department of Labor statistics estimate that between 2006 and 2016 Maine will have 73 job openings for lawyers annually. Husson officials estimated Tuesday that more than half of the practicing attorneys in northern Maine are over age 50.

The justices in June 2008 unanimously rejected Husson’s first application because the school did not plan to seek accreditation from the American Bar Association or plan to hire full-time faculty, who would work just for the law school and teach other classes, among other things. Beardsley said Tuesday that Husson would seek ABA accreditation in 2015 after the organization reviews its current standards, which have been criticized for not being up-to-date in areas such as requiring law school libraries to have a certain number of books rather than Internet access to court decisions and precedents.

Maine Supreme Judicial Court rules require that people who take the bar exam be graduates of a law school accredited by the ABA or a similar state entity or have practiced law for a certain number of years in another state in which they have based a bar exam. Husson announced Tuesday that it has recommended the court create a review commission, which would review the Husson program periodically and report findings and recommendations back to the court. Husson has proposed it pay for the reviews until it receives ABA accreditation.

Husson also is seeking accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges for its law school. That stamp of approval is not required by the court. Husson’s other programs have been approved by the NEASC.

The law school expects to enroll between 30 and 50 students a year, said professor Judy Potter, who taught at the University of Maine School of Law in Portland for many years before joining the Husson school earlier this year. It also will emphasize practical skills as well as core doctrines of the law and legal analysis. Potter said the Husson plan would combine the “old-fashioned teaching method of reading the law” — the method used by Abraham Lincoln to become a lawyer — with the best practices of law schools.

“Students will be assigned a mentor, who would be a local attorney, their first year, ” she said Tuesday. “The second year they would be required to take a class in evidence so they can learn to apply the rules to cases. The third year requires an ‘externship,’ or for students to work in our [proposed] law clinic. Unlike most law schools, those would be a requirement for graduation, not an option.”

Beardsley said it would cost between $800,000 and $1.3 million to get the law school up and running. He has said that tuition would be less than or comparable to that at other law schools in New England.

jharrison@bangordailynews.net

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http://bangordailynews.com/2009/09/01/news/bangor/husson-again-seeks-ok-from-law-court/ printed on October 1, 2014