By Jonathan Eck
Anniversaries provide the opportunity to reflect on the milestones we’ve reached and to consider the history and progress we have made together over the years. For those happy events, anniversaries can be cause for celebration. At the same time, though, anniversaries are an opportunity to start charting a path ahead, based on past achievement.
Our New Hampshire Bar Association, which was founded on July 2, 1873, celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Following its founding, nearly 100 years later, on December 31, 1968, the New Hampshire Supreme Court established the unified Bar that we know today. Approximately three and a half years after that, the Court recognized that the NHBA “prospered and gr[ew] in stature” under the temporary unification order, and it ordered the Bar Association to continue “as a unified bar without limitation of time, under the court’s continuing jurisdiction.” On subsequent occasions, in both 1986 and 1993, the New Hampshire Supreme Court recognized that “the history of the unified bar since its creation is one of impressive accomplishment and service to the public and lawyers of our State.” The Bar Association continues to serve both its member lawyers and the state at large today.
The Association has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1873. Developments in the law, technological advancements, and progress in better supporting all New Hampshire attorneys have been constants throughout the Association’s history. As was true over the Bar’s first 150 years, progress and development will continue in the years to come. Over the course of this celebratory year, in assorted ways and on an ongoing basis throughout the year, the Association will reflect on what it has been, what it means to its members today, and what we, as its members, can help it become.
As members of the Bar, we have a great deal to be proud of. Governor Christopher Sununu recently signed a commendation celebrating the Bar on its 150th anniversary, wherein he recognized the many and significant ways that the Association serves its member attorneys “by providing resources and tools that assist attorneys in their work.” Beyond that, the Governor’s commendation recognizes the Association “serves the general public by providing legal referrals . . ., creating and providing a variety of Law Related Education resources to grades K-12, designing and implementing programs and events to help the public understand, trust, and access the justice system, and encouraging attorneys to donate their time and services to pro bono activities and legal aid providers.” The Governor also acknowledged the service the Association provides to the New Hampshire court system, under the direction of the judicial branch, through the assorted vital attorney regulatory functions that the Bar administers or assists with.
In this 150th anniversary year of our Bar Association, the Bar is embarking on a multi-faceted year of celebration that will include events, articles, service opportunities, and special programs. The programs and offerings will include a “Speakers Bureau” and a “150 Minutes of Giving” initiative. Through the Speakers Bureau, members of the Association will be identified as potential speakers for a wide range of speaking opportunities at schools, civics organizations, nonprofits, and other groups, on a broad range of topics relating to the law.
The “150 Minutes of Giving” is exactly what it is titled. The Association asks its members to use a mere two and a half hours of their time over the course of 2023 to volunteer and make a positive difference and then self-report on the volunteer projects. The Association has compiled a helpful list of simple and easily pursued ideas, which range from writing an article for the Bar News, to volunteering for Free Legal Answers, to participating in of the NHBA’s Law Related Educations events, such as the “Lawyer and Judge in Every School” program or the “We the People” competition. Additional non-law related volunteer opportunities and ideas are listed at volunteernh.galaxydigital.com/need/index.
For those who cannot donate their time, there is also the opportunity to make monetary contributions. One easy method of doing so is through the New Hampshire Bar Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the Association. The Foundation has established a special “150th Fund” to improve access to justice. Donations can be made at https://member.nhbar.org/donate/NTE=.
The Association’s Constitution states that our purpose, as a bar association, is as follows:
to improve the administration of justice; to foster and maintain high standards of conduct, integrity, competence and public service on the part of those engaged in the practice of law; to safeguard the proper professional interests of the members of the Bar; to provide a forum for the discussion of subjects pertaining to the practice of law, the science of jurisprudence and law reform, and the relations of the Bar to the public; to carry on a continuing program of legal research and education; and to encourage cordial relations among members of the Bar . . . .
In 2023, the Association’s leadership will regularly assess and ensure it is fully committing itself to this mission and purpose.
The Association and its Board of Governors invite and encourage you to commemorate NHBA’s 150th anniversary year by actively participating in the coming months in this extended celebration. The Association’s 2023 celebration initiatives provide multiple opportunities for you to increase your involvement with the Association and, with the NHBA’s support, make a positive difference in your local community or more broadly in our great state. Please take advantage of the opportunities that the Association is promoting this year as we celebrate the progress we have made and continue our work toward the future we envision for the practice of law and the administration of justice in New Hampshire.