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Trustees back merger of UNH, law school

Move must still be approved by ABA

By Holly Ramer, Associated Press  |  March 17, 2010

CONCORD, N.H. — The University of New Hampshire and Franklin Pierce Law Center are moving ahead with a proposed merger now that trustees for both schools have approved an affiliation agreement.

The University System of New Hampshire board approved the agreement Monday, about a week and a half after trustees at the law school did the same. Under the plan, the state’s only law school would remain in Concord for the foreseeable future but would be renamed the University of New Hampshire School of Law, pending approval by the American Bar Association and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

The earliest the ABA would consider the merger is August, said John D. Hutson, the law center’s president and dean. In the meantime, committees will be appointed to explore how best to integrate the schools’ academic programs and administrations.

Both Hutson and the University of New Hampshire president, Mark Huddleston, praised the affiliation between the private law school and the state’s largest public university as a move that would benefit both institutions and the state.

“There are very few things in life that are genuine no-brainers,’’ Huddleston said in an interview yesterday. “This is one of them. It is a win-win-win.’’

For UNH, the merger could mean the creation of programs that combine a business graduate degree with a law degree, or accelerated programs in which students earn both an undergraduate degree and law degree in six years instead of seven.

“For an undergraduate at UNH who’s interested in law school, suddenly there’s one at his or her doorstep,’’ Huddleston said. He said faculty would also benefit from being able to consult with colleagues who share interests. For example, some law center faculty specialize in agriculture and food law, which would be an asset to UNH’s agricultural programs.

For Franklin Pierce, the merger would give law students a chance to broaden their education through affiliation with an academic research university.

“It provides myriad opportunities for our faculty and students to engage in a much broader interdisciplinary education,’’ Hutson said.

Founded in 1973, Franklin Pierce has been consistently ranked among the top intellectual property programs in the nation. Given that reputation, the Franklin Pierce Law Center name may continue to be used for specific departments or programs, officials said.

The law center has about 450 students. The university, based in Durham, has 12,200 undergraduate students and 2,200 graduate students.