At the Bar’s Annual Meeting in June, the President’s gavel was passed from David W. McGrath, of Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green, to Edward D. Philpot Jr., a solo practitioner for 27 years and former Belknap County Bar President. Philpot outlined how his term as President will focus on expanded communication of NHBA member benefits and implementing more technology assistance services for members, as well as a greater focus on Law Related Education programming. In a conversation with the Bar News, he shared more about his vision for the Bar, his surprising first profession, and the challenges of being a solo practitioner.
Bar News: What was your path to the legal profession? Are you a New Hampshire native?
Philpot: I am not a New Hampshire native. I am originally from New Jersey. I left New Jersey and moved to Concord in 1984 to attend law school at Franklin Pierce Law Center.
The law is my second profession. I graduated from a military preparatory school in 1976. I had a great education, but did not have a path mapped out for myself, so I followed my father into the construction industry. I was apprenticed as a mason in 1977 and, as part of my apprenticeship, I was required to take a minimum number of college classes. In doing so, I met some inspiring teachers and fellow students and, while working full time, I completed an Associate’s degree in 1982. I then continued on to complete my Bachelor’s degree in history in 1984 while still working in the building trades.
Law school was not my original intention, nor was it a conscious goal when I started in college. A combination of factors drew me there. First, my path was made easier by being close to my cousin, Jeffrey (also a New Hampshire lawyer). He was very helpful and encouraging to me when I made my decision to go on to law school. I also met professors and fellow students at Rutgers who helped shape my direction. My union involvement and involvement in politics during the late 70s and 80s was a factor as well.
Once I was in law school, my wife, Dianne, was a constant source of confidence and inspiration for me while I was working my way through school.
How did you become involved with the board of Governors of the New Hampshire Bar Association?
I have always felt that community service and collaborative interaction with other attorneys were an extremely rewarding aspect of my professional life. I am a past Governor of the NH Association for Justice (then known as NH Trial Lawyers Association), I have served as a school board member, County Commissioner, and on various non-profit boards. I coached several youth sports teams and have been actively involved in activities in my community since coming to New Hampshire. Being a Board member of the Bar Association fit my philosophy of giving back to my community and my profession and was a logical extension of my earlier involvement on various Bar committees.
What do you find most rewarding and most challenging about your current practice?
My current practice is a robust trial practice, focused on civil litigation, personal injury, business law, and construction law. I also mediate and arbitrate cases around the region (mainly New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and occasionally Massachusetts). As a solo practitioner, this keeps me pretty busy!
Of course, my biggest challenge is managing my time and my practice so that I can best serve my clients and still have time for my family and myself. The rewards are, however, manifest.
I feel that lawyers can make a huge difference to clients by giving their best advice and counsel (difficult as that may be at times) and help them move through the legal system as quickly and effectively as possible. Helping people — that’s the best part of what we do.
What qualities define your leadership style?
Good leaders encourage and inspire those around them to be their best. My goal is that everyone in our organization feels that they are important and that their voice and input into the operation of our organization can be heard. This means our Board, our managers and our staff. The expectation is that we will all do our jobs at our best and highest level of energy and competence. My job is to encourage and inspire that in everyone for the good of the organization.
What are your goals for your tenure as President?
I have often said of the Bar that, the closer you look, the better we look. I think that we need to do a better job of reminding our members of what we do, and can do, for them. My goal in this regard is to do a better job getting our message out to members who are not fully aware of the benefits of membership, and the relevance of the Bar’s activities to their personal and professional lives. The member services and advantages we offer are exceptional. Our CLE programs are outstanding, and we take pride in our service to the community.
That being said, we need to continue to demonstrate our relevance to our members, and to connect with them in as many ways as possible. Our member services are especially valuable to small firm and solo practitioners, and we need to continue to grow the variety of services that we can help them access. At the same time, we need to be looking at how our efforts and programs can better address the needs of larger firm and public sector lawyers.
Who personally inspires you?
More than anyone else, my wife, Dianne, personally inspires me and has since we met 36 years ago. Dianne has been my biggest supporter, coach, and partner in all that time. She is tireless in her devotion to her family, her community, and her career. Her intellect is sharp, and her wit is quick. She is constantly curious and always informed. Whether on current affairs, politics, crosswords, and the best healthy recipes to share with me and our children, she is always on top of things. As Dianne would put it, she “pays attention.” Dianne never ceases to challenge and amaze me.
What do you do outside of your working hours and service to the Bar?
Outside of work I enjoy hiking, sailing, and woodworking. I have been sailing and racing sailboats since high school and enjoy boating with Dianne and our family. I have hiked 38 of New Hampshire’s 4000-foot peaks and hope to complete the last 10 soon. I enjoy woodworking and making furniture, and I am currently teaching a woodworking class for Laconia Adult Education.