By Tom Jarvis

The NHBA Member Center, located within the Bar Center at 2 Pillsbury Street in Concord, will open in January as a free service to all members, active or inactive.

The space is meant to provide members with an “office away from the office” while in Concord. It is approximately 2,100 square feet and consists of four private rooms, a huddle area, a workstation area with four carrels, a high-top workspace with six stools, a hospitality area, and a lounge area.

The Member Center lounge area is a comfortable and airy place for lawyers to relax. Photo by Tom Jarvis
The huddle area and the workstations are equipped with laptop tables and charging stations. Photo by Tom Jarvis

Many attorney destinations – the Capitol, the New Hampshire Supreme Court, the US District Court, the US Bankruptcy Court, state agencies, regulatory offices, and law firms – are conveniently nearby.

The existing conference rooms and meeting rooms at the Bar Center are still available for client meetings, conferences, trainings, arbitrations, and mediations – the difference is this space is for NHBA members only.

“The principal benefit of a members-only center is it gives lawyers a place with plenty of parking and controlled access by a fob to come to between depositions or hearings, or when work must be done at a time of day when they are not at their office,” says NHBA Executive Director George Moore.

A good example of this, Moore explains, is if a lawyer has a court hearing in Concord in the morning and a deposition down the road in the afternoon. With the Member Center, they have a place to come to in between to either unwind, check emails, or make phone calls.

“It’s a much nicer environment than sitting in a sub shop or something,” Moore says. “Members can have some level of comfort to do some light work, relax, or network if there are other lawyers in here at the same time. I know when I was in private practice, I would kill time by asking a friend in another firm in town if I could use their conference room to get a little work done between meetings. There was no dedicated area where I could just be left alone with my tuna sandwich to catch up on my emails.”

One of the private rooms, or hotels, all of which come equipped with electric adjustable desks. Photo by Tom Jarvis
On Thursday, November 16 – before the furniture was delivered – a retirement reception was held in the Member Center for Justice Gary Hicks. From left to right: NHBA Executive Director George Moore, New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice Gary Hicks, and NHBA President Paul Chant. Photo by Caitlin Dow

The Member Center boasts an exclusive and robust Wi-Fi network, and there are charging stations and laptop stands throughout the space. To make use of the space, you need only to schedule time through the receptionist – just as you would when reserving a conference or meeting room – and then check in upon arrival to acquire a key fob for entry.

Once you walk through the entrance to the Member Center, which is located behind the reception area, your eyes are immediately drawn to big windows lining one entire side of the space that provide an abundance of natural light.

Across from the entrance, a huddle area with high-backed chairs, a round table, and laptop stands provides a place for lawyers to talk or check emails. To the right of that, along the wall of windows, is a workstation area that has four carrels, all equipped with charging stations and privacy partitions.

A view of the Member Center from the huddle area during construction. Photo by Tom Jarvis
The center of the room features a high-top workspace with six stools, lit by a unique light fixture. Adjacent to this table is a small kitchen space. Photo by Tom Jarvis

Along the opposite wall – and next to the huddle area – there are four private rooms (referred to as hotels) equipped with electric adjustable desks for lawyers to make confidential phone calls, meet with another member, or just spend some time alone.

The middle of the Member Center features a hospitality area with a small kitchen space that includes a coffee machine, a refrigerator, a hot/cold water dispenser, a dishwasher, a sink, and a high-top table with six comfortable stools – all lit by a unique light fixture that serves as a focal point for the room.

At the far end of the Member Center, there is a stylish, airy, and soothing lounge area where members can relax with plenty of comfortable seating and periodicals such as the New Hampshire Bar News and the New York Times.

The idea for a members-only center stemmed from the empty space left behind after the 2021 merger between the NHBA Pro Bono Referral System and the Legal Advice and Referral Center to create 603 Legal Aid.

“Coming out of the pandemic, a lot of people had gone to remote work, and we were hearing a lot about shared office space or people having issues working from home,” NHBA Deputy Executive Director Paula Lewis says. “At the same time, there was an increasing number of members who were using our conference rooms and meeting rooms. One day, our treasurer Chris Regan called me and said, ‘we have our board meeting in the afternoon, and I have to be in Concord in the morning, but I have no place to go in between.’ He asked to use one of our meeting rooms and that kind of spurred me to think about the empty office space.”

Lewis says the original idea was to create a shared office space and possibly charge members to use it, like some other bars across the country. She brought her idea to Moore and then-Bar president Richard Guerriero. Following some discussion, the idea morphed into a member center that is free of charge.

“Because it’s a mandatory bar, we felt we should be providing as many services as we can for free and not creating cost centers,” Moore says. “So, the model that we developed as things went on was that it would be free to the members.”

When it was time to bring the idea into fruition, Moore and Lewis contracted with Genella McDonald and Janet Harkins of Stibler Associates for the design and Dana Adams of Capital Construction for the construction.

Demolition began in Spring 2023, with a completion date of late summer, but due to supply chain issues, state inspection lags, and furniture delivery delays, things have taken longer than anticipated.

Unfortunately, only half the furniture was delivered at the time this article was written. The workstation and lounge areas will not be complete until the second half of the furniture delivery takes place in January.

Lewis says that in addition to the obvious benefits of a members-only center, there are peripheral advantages.

The concept floor plan created by Stibler Associates before construction began. The yellow area is the Member Center.

“It also connects our members more with their bar association and with the staff at the Bar,” she says. “It offers the opportunity for our members to get updates from the staff right here at the Bar Center. For example, if a member is interested in the Mentor Program or Lawyer Referral Service, they can talk with [NHBA Member Services Supervisor] Misty Griffith here.”

Lewis says the Member Center will also promote the ever-important collegiality of the New Hampshire Bar because it will give attorneys the opportunity to network and further build the community while they are using it.

NHBA President Paul Chant, who crisscrosses the state a few days a week to attend hearings, depositions, and meetings with clients, says the Member Center will be very helpful to him, especially since it is centrally located in Concord.

The workstation area has four carrels with privacy partitions and charging stations. The carrels are among the items of furniture being delivered in January. This is a render from Stibler Associates of what the finished area will look like.

“Twenty-four years ago, I moved from Nashua to the Mount Washington Valley. Since then, I have been the beneficiary of more free conference rooms in the Manchester and Concord areas than maybe any other lawyer in the state,” he says. “This new space at the Bar is outstanding. It’s a place to quietly work, return phone calls, and yes, relax between meetings and hearings. I very much look forward to utilizing it.”

Nashua attorney Cathy Shanelaris, a governor-at-large on the NHBA Board of Governors, says she also looks forward to using the Member Center.

“It’s a really exciting innovation that the Bar Association has implemented,” she says. “For me personally, I can think of a time coming in a couple weeks where I have a meeting in the morning and a hearing in the afternoon in Concord, with a gap of space in between. It will be a perfect spot to go in and have a cup of coffee, check my email, do some work, and then be able to go right to my hearing. I will definitely use the space, and I see it as a really big help and service to members of the Bar.”

On November 16, before the first half of the furniture was delivered, the NHBA Board of Governors held a small retirement reception for New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice Gary Hicks in the space.

Stay tuned for an announcement in January about an open house for the official launch of the NHBA Member Center.

NHBA Construction, Part Two

The next construction project at the Bar Center – phase one of upgrading the seminar room – will begin this month and is expected to be completed in early February. The upgrade includes two-way virtual communication and improved cameras for virtual CLEs, enhanced lighting, an updated media board, and monitors on the columns for members seated in the rear of the room. The lighting will be installed by Capital Construction, and Key Code Media will be handling the digital equipment.