Edited remarks from the opening of the 2005 Fall NHBA Leadership Conference. A report on proposals emerging from this conference will be made available in an upcoming issue of Bar News.
This conference is the direct result of hard work that began one year ago at the Fall Leadership Conference at Waterville Valley. There we learned about the importance of involvement and participation in the Bar Association from some very enthusiastic and eager lawyers; we heard about the things the Association needed to do to be valuable in their lives.
Today, we take the next big step – to define and then command a future in which we deliver on the promise of a more valuable bar association. To achieve a more valuable association means understanding the future of our profession. And I mean “profession” in the broadest sense: our work, our firms, our fellow attorneys, and our clients, and also our justice system and the public that dearly needs the skills and talents that all of you possess. Understanding the profession’s future means identifying and understanding key forces that are shaping and driving it. It means understanding those forces which we control -- and those that we do not.
It means understanding the good that the future may bring, as well as the bad. And with all that, it means creating a plan by which the New Hampshire Bar Association can address those forces so that we can help our members command their futures.
Much at Stake
On a beautiful September morning in Lincoln, it may not feel as if there is much at stake—but there is. At stake is whether, in the words of the Chief Justice in 2000, “The profession has the visionaries it needs to define and meet – to command – challenges before it collides with externally imposed changes.”
Your work over the next day-and-a-half will set a course for the legal profession and the Association. In my mind, our profession, in this day and time, and amid all the discord and tension in our society, is the most valuable profession in the world. It is a profession that, when allied with the courts, protects the very rules which govern our society. It is our duty to see that this profession remains vital, relevant and cherished.
And think about this – if we don’t spend time on these challenges, who will? Certainly not the associate in Concord who is trying to bill 2,200 hours a year and make educational loan payments. Certainly not the trial judge in Portsmouth who is wondering how he will get to the 20th case of the day, all scheduled to start at 9:00 a.m. Certainly not the senior partner of a small firm in Laconia who is befuddled by budgeting, hiring, and administrative decisions, as faxes and e-mails pour in around her.
If We Fail….
If we don’t address these challenges, I can tell you who will. We have a legislature in Concord poised to tell us what we need to do and how we need to do it. There are Web sites and blogs transmitting from such locations as India and Africa, ready to dispense legal advice and counsel to our clients 24/7. We have a ready, willing and able Congress which has demonstrated its own eagerness to tell lawyers what to do and how to do it, as witnessed by the recent changes in our bankruptcy code.
No -- it is we lawyers in whom the membership of our bar should put its trust.
So join me in this important work. Your job is to roll up your sleeves and work with all of the people around you. Frankly, we have some of the best and the brightest of the profession here to undertake this work. We have the Supreme Court. We have the Task Force on the Status of the Legal Profession. We have the Board of Governors. We have committee and section chairs and members. We have the Waterville Valley Gang and the New Lawyers Committee.
We need every one of you to participate.
We need each of you to engage one another.
We need every one of you to speak freely and passionately.
We need each of you to impart your perspective and your wisdom.
Remember Our Values
I know all of you are up to the task. I hope that by tomorrow afternoon we will have a basic framework or plan to guide the work of our bar. I hope that this plan will be important enough and inspirational enough to engage and involve our colleagues who are not here. Let me say this -- I know our plan will be successful if it is founded upon the values of our profession – those of honesty, integrity, nobility, decency, respect and good character. And I hope this plan will be part of an era, and not just part of a year, that will deliver dividends for our profession for years to come.
So I thank you, and every lawyer in the New Hampshire bar thanks you, for your time, dedication and spirit. I am confident that by Saturday afternoon, your Association and our profession will be all the better for your participation.
Watch the Bar News and the NHBA Web site for further information as we begin to put your ideas and suggestions into practice.