33 of the 73 current NHBA members celebrating their 50th year of law practice at the first annual 50-Year Member Luncheon. Photo by Rob Zielinski

By Tom Jarvis

More than 100 lawyers, judges, and their family members attended the New Hampshire Bar Association’s first annual 50-Year Member Luncheon on Thursday, June 1, at the Bedford Village Inn in Bedford. Of the 73 current members who entered the practice of law in 1973, there were 33 in attendance.

Each year, the NHBA recognizes members who have been in the practice of law for 50 years. The recognition previously took place at the Annual Meeting, but it was decided it would be prudent to create a standalone event. The change is partly due to exponential growth in membership in recent decades coupled with more members practicing longer, but mostly because of the NHBA’s desire to better honor this momentous milestone and produce a more accessible event with decreased travel times and no overnight stay.

When asked about the decision to move the celebration from the Annual Meeting to its own event, New Hampshire Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Gary Hicks, who spoke at the event and bestowed certificates, said it was a great idea and completely well-deserved.

“There were some absolutely brilliant lawyers there and it was wonderful to see them all collected in one place,” Justice Hicks says. “I was overwhelmed by the amount of talent that had been around practicing law in New Hampshire for 50 years. It was quite an honor to be able to preside over the event. It left me smiling.”

NHBA Executive Director George Moore says, “this was a wonderful event that has the personal touch of the New Hampshire Bar, and it allowed lifetime acquaintances to reconnect and share their experiences of a half century as members of the Bar.”

NHBA President Jonathan Eck gave opening remarks to the luncheon attendees about the progress the Bar has made over the last 50 years. Photo by Rob Zielinski

Before lunch was served, NHBA president Jonathan Eck opened the festivities by talking about how much has changed in the last 50 years.

“The Bar Association looks very different than it did 50 years ago,” Eck said to the attendees. “I hope all of you join me in celebrating the enhanced diversity we have in our membership, in every sense. The Bar is much more inclusive and representative of society in general than it was once upon a time, and that’s a sign of the progress we’ve made over the last 50 years.”

After congratulating the members on reaching this milestone, Eck encouraged members who are continuing to practice to volunteer for those who cannot afford legal services and asked members winding down or retiring to consider mentoring younger lawyers.

“My wife and I found the event to be exceptional. It was just a real treat,” 50-year member and former judge Albert Cirone, Jr. says. “The three speakers, Jonathan, Gary, and George did wonderful jobs in the three areas they touched on. I also talked with George about the change to a standalone event. He gave me the reasons and I think it was the correct decision. Half a century is a long time in any profession and it’s noteworthy.”

Brad Cook, who not only celebrated his 50 years practicing law but also 50 years at Sheehan and Phinney, agrees with Cirone.

“I thought it was nice to separate it from the Annual Meeting in the sense that it focused on the 50-year member group,” Cook says. “It was very well done. One of the nice things about it is that it wasn’t just the people who took the New Hampshire bar in 1973, it was also people who are members of the New Hampshire Bar now who have been lawyers for 50 years, so it brought in a group who have joined us from other states.”

The luncheon attendees all had a laugh when New Hampshire Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Gary Hicks asked, “do you remember when a chat was just a polite conversation?” Photo by Rob Zielinski

Following lunch, Justice Hicks and George Moore spoke to the crowd before presenting certificates to each 50-year member. Moore noted that when honorees were admitted in 1973, the Bar Association was celebrating its 100th anniversary and had only 920 members – of which just 19 were women. In contrast, today there are 8,678 total members, including 3,419 women.

Former New Hampshire Attorney General and 50-year member Gregory Smith highlighted the joy of celebrating the event with his family.

“It was an opportunity to see quite a few people I haven’t seen in a long time, and to introduce my son, Geoffrey Smith, who is a partner at Mintz Levin, to many of them,” Smith says. “I thought it was well-run and very enjoyable.”

“All the details – location, food, program, etc. – were of a quality equal to such a gathering,” 50-year member Richard Wiebusch says. “It was a nice opportunity to see old friends and to think for a bit about all that has happened in the 50 years since we were admitted to the Bar. Justice Hicks and George Moore did a fine job of calling to mind the quality, simplicity, and decency of the practice of law as I first knew it in New Hampshire.”