NHBA Executive Director George Moore sitting at his desk in his office at the Bar Center. Photo by Tom Jarvis

By Tom Jarvis

Note: When George announced that he would be stepping down, my immediate thought was to write an article to honor him and to illustrate what a notable leader he has been – not only at the Bar Association, but in the entire legal community. When I pitched it to him, he was apprehensive. He was concerned that it would appear self-serving, since I work for him. I assured him that I would make it clear he did not commission me to write this article. That’s George for you. Even though he quite deserves it, he does not seek public acclamation. But let’s give it to him anyway.

New Hampshire Bar Association Executive Director George Moore has been leading and mentoring others ever since becoming co-captain of both the basketball and baseball teams while attending Riverhead High School in New York.

For the past five and a half years, he has led the NHBA staff in becoming a high-functioning team, working more cohesively with the New Hampshire Supreme Court (NHSC) than ever before.

Following his announcement that he will be stepping down in early 2024 – even though we are uncertain where his future leads – we can look back on this natural leader and his distinguished career thus far.

As an undergraduate of St. Lawrence University in upstate New York, Moore was an English major and played a little basketball. Later, he was elected president of the student body and to the National Leadership and Academic Honor Society, Omicron Delta Kappa. After graduating in 1970, he applied to and was accepted into several law schools. However, amidst the ongoing conflict in Vietnam, President Richard Nixon changed the draft rules for new graduate school deferments.

“My original plan was to go to law school and then join the Army as a lawyer,” Moore says, explaining that he owed the US Army four years due to a full ROTC scholarship. “But I couldn’t get the deferment. So, in the summer of 1970, I got active-duty orders.”

After boot camp and advanced training, he received a duty assignment at an environmental medicine laboratory in Massachusetts, where he was a detachment commander of the test subjects in a study involving acute mountain sickness. He received orders to deploy to Vietnam, but his commanding officer deemed him “mission essential,” so the orders were canceled. As a result, he got to climb the Continental Divide with a large group of test subjects and scientists.

Following a subsequent assignment in Thailand, and as a courier delivering top-secret documents to various locations, he received a second deployment order to Vietnam. However, just before shipping out, he was diverted to the Second Infantry Division on the DMZ in Korea because President Nixon decided to phase down the number of in-country troops in Vietnam. There, he commanded a company of approximately 150 men in an elite battalion which was the only American unit still on the line.

Moore eventually earned the rank of captain before his discharge in 1974, confirming once again that he becomes a leader wherever he goes.

“The good news was I was in such a remote location and the nature of duty was such that I couldn’t spend money even if I wanted to,” Moore says. “Everything was subsidized by the government, so I saved everything I made as a captain in the Army and that paid for a year and a half of law school.”

Moore attended the Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia – the only law school he had previously been accepted to that kept his application on file during his time in the military. There, once again ascending to a role of leadership, he was elected to run the school’s law review as editor-in-chief.

While taking the New Hampshire Bar Review course, Moore met Ellen Arnold. The two remained friends as their paths crossed several times throughout their careers. Arnold went on to become counsel to Governor Judd Gregg, who later nominated her to become a District Court judge. After hanging up her robe, she became a partner at McLane Middleton and later an associate general counsel at Dartmouth College. She was also an NHBA president in 2008.

Years later, while serving on a Supreme Court committee together, the two got to know each other more and eventually married in 2014.

After earning his JD with honors in 1977, Moore began working at Devine Millimet as a trial lawyer under the direct supervision of the eminent E. Donald Dufresne.

“Don Dufresne was one of my mentors,” Moore says. “I became awed by his abilities, and I learned so much from him. He was one of those people that’s a real presence in the courtroom and is smarter than everybody else in the room, but he would never let you know that. He wasn’t ostentatious by any stretch. To the extent that I have any trial skills, I learned a lot more from Don Dufresne than I learned from law school about the art of lawyering.”

According to his colleagues, trial skills were something Moore possessed in abundance.

“George was a tremendous trial lawyer – one of the best,” retired NHSC Justice Gary Hicks says. “He was always able to see through issues that weren’t necessarily clear and get to the bottom line to try or resolve a case.”

A second mentor for Moore was former NHSC Chief Justice John Broderick.

“I tried a ton of cases with John and always came away amazed at his abilities,” Moore says. “Every trial was a learning experience.”

Justice Broderick was a new partner when Moore joined the firm as an associate and was only doing trial work.

“I became his official mentor, but that only lasted a short time because he and I became dear friends,” says Justice Broderick. “He was really gifted, insightful, and smart about cases and people. He is an extremely interesting person, and he really had the rhythm of a trial. I think he didn’t really need to learn much from me. We worked together on many cases with and against talented lawyers – and all of us learned from each other. Even though I was his mentor, it never felt that way to me. It felt like we were equal colleagues.”

Justice Broderick adds: “I think the world of him. He’s a very good human being and cares about the public good and giving back. He’s the kind of lawyer that we could use more of, to be honest.”

Moore eventually earned his way into leadership once again as a senior equity shareholder at Devine Millimet, where he became a mentor himself for several prolific members of the Bar, including Attorney Jonathan Eck, Catholic Medical Center CEO and President Alex Walker, and Superior Court Judge Dan Will.

“George was as good a mentor as anybody could ask for,” Judge Will says. “I owe him so much. He gave me so many opportunities and was so supportive along the way. He is extremely intelligent, and he was a gifted trial lawyer. As a young lawyer, I always sort of had this – I call it my pantheon – this group of people in my mind, lawyers who were senior to me who handled themselves like I wanted to handle myself and who were accomplished at a level that I wanted to be accomplished. I found myself constantly thinking, ‘what would that person do in this situation?’ George has been one of those people for me over the years – a little bit of a North Star for me.”

Jonathan Eck, immediate past president of the Bar, agrees that Moore was a great mentor and trial lawyer.

“I found George to be a wonderful mentor,” Eck says. “He’s someone who trains and guides junior attorneys well but doesn’t micromanage. He gave me the opportunities to develop and improve my skills and he was a valuable teacher both by example and through constructive feedback. He was a very skilled trial lawyer who was always comfortable and in command in the courtroom. He was likable to juries and respected by judges and was excellent at developing and presenting his theory of the case.”

While at Devine Millimet, Moore litigated many high-profile cases including two eminent domain trials: one with Jonathan Eck involving a real estate developer in Windham that came back with a $13.5 million verdict for his client and another that resulted in a very rare finding of ulterior purpose against the government entity who took the land.

Moore also recalls a lender liability case in the 1980s, which involved a real estate development in New Boston.

“It was a two-and-a-half-week trial in front of Linda Dalianis when she was a Superior Court judge,” Moore says. “My client was First New Hampshire Bank. The jury was out for two days, and we had offered a million dollars. Then, an executive showed up in person from the mother bank in Europe and was very anxious about the jury. He had us up the offer to $1.6 million but the plaintiff decided to wait to hear what the jury would say, thinking they would get a lot more. But the third day out, the jury came back with a defendant’s verdict.”

Aside from his professional endeavors, Moore has a passion for cooking. He attended Le Cordon Bleu School in France in 1996 and is known to his close friends as quite the chef.

“George so appreciates fine cooking,” says Attorney Russ Hilliard, whom Moore met in 1977 just after law school. “He’s an excellent chef and a perfectionist when it comes to food preparation. He’s also quite knowledgeable about wines. He and I both stumbled upon our favorite drink at the same time a few decades ago, which is a Perfect Manhattan.”

In 1999, Moore became the 100th president of the NHBA during the impeachment inquiry of the NHSC justices. During his tenure, he conducted extensive collaboration between the Bench, Bar, and press, testified before state legislature on the impeachment, and played a role in developing the Judicial Selection Commission.

Subsequently, Moore served as president of the New England Bar Association and on the board of directors of both the Legal Advice and Referral Center and New Hampshire Legal Assistance. He also co-chaired the NHSC Committee on Alternative Dispute Resolution and was a member of the New Hampshire Judicial Council and the Professional Conduct Committee.

In 2017, he ironically received the E. Donald Dufresne Award for Outstanding Professionalism from the NHBA.

After working at Devine Millimet for more than 40 years, Moore decided to apply for the position of executive director of the NHBA in 2018 following Justice Broderick’s suggestion that he consider it.

“He told me there were a lot of things that need fixing at the Bar and that [the NHSC] just had a commission on what the Bar needs to be doing,” Moore says, explaining that the NHSC had concerns about how the Bar was running and that there wasn’t much of a connection between the two entities.

George Moore and his wife Ellen Arnold. Photo by Rob Zielinski

“George was well-respected by both the judicial branch and other lawyers, and he had a great respect for the profession,” Justice Broderick says. “Being a trial lawyer is particularly stressful and after a while it really takes something from you. So, I knew he wanted to do something else. I thought he’d be perfect in that spot and I think he largely has been.”

Attorney David McGrath was the Bar president and chair of the selection committee for the executive director position at the time.

“We saw a lot of qualified applicants for the position, but George stood out among the rest of them,” McGrath says. “We as a committee felt fortunate to have George as a candidate. He is very smart, and we knew he would bring a lot of energy to the job. He also understands the legal system given his background, and his people skills are excellent – which was an important aspect of the position.”

McGrath continues: “All the things that we anticipated that George would bring to the position, he did. He’s been an outstanding executive director of the Bar, and we have all benefited immensely from his tenure.”

As executive director, Moore strengthened the connection between the Bench and the Bar.

“When I took over this job, there was some relationship building that needed to be done,” Moore says. “And part of the role of the executive director both then, now, and into the future is maintaining a close liaison with the Supreme Court. As a unified bar, we are under their supervision, we need to be working in conjunction with them, not at cross purposes. I set out to make that a priority and it’s worked. I think we’ve accomplished an excellent working relationship, and I think that will go into the indefinite future with folks that are on the Court now.”

Justice Hicks, who sat on the NHSC during Moore’s tenure until he retired this past November, concurs.

“There had been years of tension for some reason [between the Bench and Bar],” says Justice Hicks. “George instantly perceived that he could resolve almost all of that and he did. He was obviously well-respected as a lawyer by the Court, and I think that carried the day because relations absolutely improved.”

Moore also accomplished several other things as executive director, including overseeing a successful merger in 2021 between the NHBA Pro Bono Referral Program and the Legal Advice and Referral Center to create 603 Legal Aid, and the creation of the new NHBA Member Center.

“George has been an effective executive director because he cares about our profession and cares about the people in it,” says Jonathan Eck. “I’ve admired his ability to anticipate the needs of lawyers, his skill in navigating complicated matters, and his knowledge of how our bar association can best serve its members and then executing that plan.”

Russ Hilliard agrees with the sentiment.

“Having George, a seasoned lawyer both in court and helping to manage a large law firm, was just such a tremendous gain for the Bar,” he says. “He was such an asset and kept the Bar focused on what was important to New Hampshire lawyers.”

Judge Will – who was a Bar president during Moore’s tenure as executive director – says Moore’s stepping down coinciding with some major 2023 retirements seems like the end of an era.

“As all these folks are retiring off – like George, Gary Hicks, and others – it’s a meaningful transition,” Judge Will says. “It’s a loss to the Bar Association of people that were in a lot of ways larger than life to those of us who were young lawyers coming in underneath them. It’s worth reflecting on some of these leaders and giants in the Association – like who they are, who they were, and what it means as they move on.”

Moore announced he will step down in early 2024 and has not yet declared any definitive plans going forward.

“I don’t see myself going back into private practice right away but I’m going to keep doing things, whether it’s consulting work, mediation work, or board work,” he says. “If you feel you’ve got something to give to organizations – that you can make a positive benefit – it’s a lot better than sitting around watching TV.”

Whatever Moore decides to do, he will likely excel at it and take the reins of leadership as he has done since he was a teenager. After all, he is a born leader.

“You never know what you’re getting into in a job when you take it, but for me, [the executive director position] has been a very rewarding job that tapped a bunch of resources that were different than what I was using in law practice,” he says. “It’s been a very challenging but very fulfilling job, and I don’t regret a minute of it.”