Chief justice next dean of law school

Last modified: 11/10/2010 12:00:00 AM
John Broderick, the outgoing chief justice of the state Supreme Court, has been named the new dean of the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

Broderick, 63, will join the staff of the former Franklin Pierce Law Center on Jan. 1 before formally taking over as dean and president Jan. 28. In June, he announced that he was stepping down as chief justice at the end of this month.

'His legal credentials are impeccable,' said Doug Wood, chairman of the Concord school's board of trustees.

Broderick has served on the state Supreme Court for 15 years and spent the past six as the chief justice. Gov. John Lynch has yet to name his successor.

Broderick will take over a 37-year-old law school preparing to explore a new affiliation with UNH approved earlier this year. In August, the school formally changed its name.

'I can see enormous potential for the affiliation between the law school and the university,' Broderick said yesterday. Current Dean John Hutson, who has served since 2000, will retire at the end of the school year, easing Broderick's transition.

In a statement, UNH President Mark Huddleston said Broderick is 'ideally suited to provide the type of creative, inspired leadership that will move UNH Law forward.'

Among the opportunities to merge resources between the two institutions, Broderick said the schools may offer joint degrees. A program allowing students to graduate from both schools in six years instead of the standard seven could be in the works, Broderick said.

Additionally, the law school may bring in UNH professors, and vice versa, to 'team teach' courses or give selected lectures, Broderick said. Interdisciplinary curricula could be developed that would help law students better understand the complexity and applicability of legal issues.

'A lot of things are three-dimensional, and often they're seen as having one dimension,' Broderick said.

Another focus of Broderick's tenure, he said, will be making sure UNH law graduates are 'practice ready.' In 2006, the school established the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program, a two-year program in which students get on-the-job legal training. At the completion of the program, students are certified as having passed the New Hampshire bar exam.

'We have to balance the theory that you learn in law school with the skills you need when you hit the street,' said Broderick, a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law.

With change on the horizon, Broderick was quick not to dismiss the school's bread and butter: the intellectual property program, which boasts the largest full-time faculty in its field. The school is planning to build a 12,700-square-foot addition near the intersection of Washington and Rumford streets that would house a new research center for the program.

'My first focus is to make sure the IP program, which is revered nationally and internationally, is enhanced,' Broderick said.

Broderick said he signed a six-year contract to lead the school. School officials were asking for a five-year minimum, he said, and he tacked on an extra year to show his commitment. He lives in Manchester with his wife, Patricia; the couple have two grown sons and four grandchildren.

Wood said the trustees reviewed about 40 qualified applicants in a nationwide search, and Broderick was one of three finalists for the position. Sherry Young, who led the trustees' search committee, said the board voted to hire Broderick at a meeting last week. Yesterday, the faculty voted to grant him tenure, marking the final seal of approval.

Young said Broderick's wide renown will help the school 'broaden its national footprint.'

'He will be a fabulous leader, not just in the UNH affiliation, but in reaching out to his network of chief justices around the country,' she said.

Wood said Broderick 'leads by consensus and listens very well,' two qualities that should be useful in dealing with an independent-minded faculty.

'It takes a special talent to be their leader,' Wood said. 'If he can lead a state of judges, he can lead a school of faculty.'

As chief justice, Broderick visited every courthouse in the state to gain insight into the day-to-day challenges faced by judges and court staff.

He convened a citizens commission to recommend improvements to the court system from a user's point of view.

Broderick also oversaw the creation of a family division within the judicial branch, which consolidates marital, custody and domestic issues into one place to help families more quickly resolve issues. He urged the state's biggest law firms to take on more cases free and championed a law to allow clients to hire lawyers for only part of a case in order to save money.

Before serving on the Supreme Court, Broderick was an attorney in the Manchester law firm of Devine, Millimet & Branch and later opened his own firm. Young called him 'one of the premier litigators in the state.'

In 1992, Broderick helped lead Democrat Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in New Hampshire. Three years later, Republican Gov. Stephen Merrill, a close friend and former law partner, nominated Broderick to the high court. As Broderick leaves public office, he said he would be hesitant to get back into politics.

'I think I need to be considerate of the fact that I represent the law school,' he said. 'I think it would be inappropriate if I represented it in an aggressively Republican or aggressively Democratic sense.'

Broderick also taught as an adjunct professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth for about 10 years. He said there might be a chance for him to do some teaching in his new role.

'I would enjoy it, but I also know the time constraints on a dean are such that it's tough to find that kind of time,' he said.

(Matthew Spolar can be reached at 369-3309 or

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