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Bar Journal - June 1, 2002

Introduction

By:
INTRODUCTION
 

In 1770, a New Hampshire census report observed that Grafton County included "6,489 souls, most of whom are engaged in agriculture . . . There is not one lawyer, for which fact we take no personal credit, but thank an Almighty and Merciful God."1  Ignoring the bleak view of the profession apparently held by these anonymous census takers, the lawyers in Grafton and Coos Counties formed one of the earliest bar associations in the nation.2  By 1898, the proposed merger of the Grafton and Coos Bar Association and the Southern New Hampshire Bar Association led to the revival of the Bar Association of the State of New Hampshire, which had been created by a special act of the New Hampshire Legislature in 1773.3  The special act establishing the professional association for "Gentlemen of the Bar" provided that its purpose would be "[m]aintaining the honor and dignity of the profession of the law, and cultivating social relations among its members, and increasing its usefulness in promoting the due administration of justice."4  As self-regulation is one of the hallmarks of A profession,5  these glimpses of the early legal landscape in New Hampshire are fascinating.

Bar membership in Grafton County - and in New Hampshire - has significantly increased and diversified since 1973. In the wake of last year's historic impeachment proceedings and the legislative efforts that followed, the regulation of the legal profession has become an important issue for those of us who practice in New Hampshire, an issue to which this edition of Bar Journal is dedicated.

As Josh Gordon's article "Impersonating a Lawyer?" illustrates, the practice of law has been regulated since the late 13th century by both the Legislature and the courts. The nature and extent of that regulation may be influenced over the next decade by efforts to define the practice of law either through legislation or through judicial interpretation of existing law. For example, pursuant to HB 1420, the Legislature has created a committee to define the practice of law, and in Merrimack County Superior Court, litigation is pending over the current version of RSA 311:7, which allows non-lawyers to appear in court on behalf of others, provided they do not do so "commonly." Even as this edition of Bar Journal goes to press, Governor Jeanne Shaheen has announced her veto of legislation that would have limited the New Hampshire Bar Association's First Amendment rights, and the Supreme Court has announced an increase in the assessment to defray the cost of restructuring the Professional Conduct Committee, as the volunteer members of the Committee can no longer fulfill the complex and important duty of policing our profession without additional professional and staff resources.

Over a century ago, the Southern New Hampshire and Grafton and Coos Bar Associations were criticized by an influential newspaper owner following a controversial decision of the New Hampshire Supreme Court for their failure to "[r]eorganize a court which juggles with legal principles, upturns legal landmarks and constantly makes law instead of declaring law."6  A constitutional amendment on judicial rule-making that will be on the ballot in November 2002 is the subject of a lively debate between Judge Robert Lynn, Judge Walter Murphy, John McIntosh, Rich McNamara, Gene Van Loan, Russ Hilliard and Fred Upton featured in this issue. Is this proposed amendment to Part 2, Article 73-a - described by Rep. Henry Mock in last summer's New Hampshire Bar Journal as the "linchpin of judicial reform" - a "blanket attempt by the Legislature to run the courts," as Judge Murphy argues, or does it simply "right the balance [of power] that had been upset in the last 20 years," as Gene Van Loan contends? As a profession, we may be profoundly affected by the voters' answer to this question.

The number of women lawyers admitted to the New Hampshire Bar has represented a remarkable change in the legal landscape since 1973, when the distinguished Richard F. Upton delicately reported: "At July 1, 1973, there were 17 lady members of the bar and two women were among the 93 new lawyers announced as having passed the bar examination in September 1973."7  An account of the research for the "First 100 Women" project, and the biographies of the first two women admitted, Winnie McLaughlin and Jennie Newhall, are highlighted in Jocelyn Champagne's article.

Former Bar President Randy Cooper argues that the demand for affordable legal services and competent representation may call for allowing - and regulating - certain legal services to be performed by non-lawyers, acknowledging that many of these legal services are already being delivered in New Hampshire by banks, title companies and independent paralegal firms, free of any regulation by the state. Linda Racette's thoughtful article titled "The State of Paralegal Regulation in New Hampshire" analyzes many of the difficult issues surrounding the regulation of non-lawyers. Also, Jen Hopkins and Rolf Goodwin predict the future of the regulation of the profession in New Hampshire, exploring the impact of the Internet and the ABA's Ethics 2000 report on the lawyer-client relationship and on the New Hampshire Rules of Professional Conduct.

Globalization of the market for legal services, multidisciplinary and multi-jurisdictional practice issues, the "unbundling" of legal services, political forces, and technology have and will continue to change the practice of law in this state. In the face of these changes, it is my hope that members of this Association will confront the future with the same courage and perseverance the first 100 women exhibited in gaining admission to the bar, as well as continuing to promote the collegiality - or perhaps the instinct for mutual protection - displayed by the members of the Grafton and Coos Bar Association more than 100 years ago.

ENDNOTES

1. Census Report, quoted in E. Norman Vesey, "The Role of Supreme Courts in Addressing Professionalism of Lawyers and Judges," Professional Lawyer (1997).
2. Upton, Richard F., "Centennial History of the New Hampshire Bar Association," Vol. 15 NH Bar Journal 35, 65 (1973).
3. Id.
4. Id at 109.
5. See "In the Spirit of Public Service: A Blueprint for the Rekindling of Lawyer Professionalism" ABA Commission on Professionalism (1986).
6. Id at 63.
7. In 1973, the Bar Association had 1100 members; it now has 5,227 members, 1,636 of whom are women.

The Author

Attorney Martha Van Oot, of the Concord law firm of Orr & Reno, takes office as the 2002-2003 president of the New Hampshire Bar Association on June 21, 2002, succeeding Peter E. Hutchins.

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