Bar News - June 23, 2006
President’s Perspective: A Goodbye with a Plea for Help
By: Richard Y. Uchida
When I planned my last column weeks ago, I intended to write about the break-through year that our Bar Association has enjoyed and the accomplishments we’ve achieved. But frankly, there is a more critical issue than talk of achievements.
At the 2006 Midyear Meeting we reveled in the excitement and passion over efforts to bring attention to the Justice Gap. The Justice Gap, as you know, is the huge gap between those in desperate need of legal services and those who receive them. Chief Justice John Broderick, ABA President Michael Greco, Manchester attorney Jon Ross, Lebanon attorney Pat Hayes and the winners of our county Pro Bono awards each stood up for legal services for those who cannot afford them. It was, all at once, a wonderful moment for meaningful access to justice.
But the celebration was the beginning—not the end. Despite the fanfare, and the ongoing heroic efforts of the Bar’s Pro Bono Program, the Legal Advice and Referral Center (LARC) and New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA), the gap remains as wide as ever.
In the last two weeks, each one of you received a newsletter from the Campaign for Legal Services. This is the new statewide campaign, made up of LARC, NHLA and Pro Bono, which makes “one ask” for your support of these organizations. If our bar and this profession mean anything, contact the Campaign now, and pledge your support.
To keep pace, the Campaign wants to raise $500,000 in this calendar year. It needs contributions from everyone. My own firm, which is small and faces the same challenges as yours, has pledged $500 per attorney. If your firm can afford this, join us. If it can’t, pledge something—anything.
Meaningful access to justice for those who cannot afford it, is a problem that won’t go away. As my colleague Jon Ross has said, if we don’t support it, who will? And think about this—if our justice system is viewed as closed to those most in need, how valuable will it be? You know the answers to those questions.
So whether it is your sense of duty and professionalism, your concern about the value of the justice system, that sense of altruism that burns in your soul, or a personal favor to me, please pledge to the Campaign. Without support from our bar, we cannot bridge the Gap.
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And like all presidents in June of each year, it’s time to say goodbye. This has been the very best year of my life, and if given the chance, I would do it again with more energy and enthusiasm. I am proud and honored to have represented each of you, and to have met so many of you, in person or through letters acknowledging your many accomplishments.
From the future of our profession to outreach to our members, from the commitment to bridging the Justice Gap to the development of rewarding relationships with the NH Trial Lawyers Association, the Women’s Bar Association, the Governor, the courts, our congressional delegation, our county and local bars, and the state legislature, this has been a year when we have re-secured our position as the premier professional group in the state. We have tried to reinvigorate the bar and reassert its value—inside and outside of the profession. And I believe the trend will continue because our collective values of honesty, integrity, nobility, decency, respect and character—combined with our training to solve complex problems—make us the most valuable and honorable profession in the world.
The achievements this year are not my doing. They are the culmination of the work of those who have preceded me and the vision of your Board of Governors. The importance of a valuable, vibrant bar was taught to me by leaders like Sue Carbon, Steve Tober, Jon Ross, Chief Justice Broderick, Pat Hayes, Bruce Felmly, Greg Robbins, Randy Cooper, Peter Hutchins, Russ Hilliard, Marty Van Oot, George Moore and Jim Gleason. I was blessed with the wisdom of lawyers like Gretchen Witt, Rob Howard, Paul Chant, John Funk, John Tobin, Marilyn McNamara, Pat Closson, Alex Walker, Jennifer Parent, Rich McNamara, Eleanor Dahar and Ellen Arnold. And I was guided by the invaluable knowledge and experience of the bar staff—especially Jeannine McCoy, together with Dan Wise, Tom Manter, Ginny Martin, Jo Hinnendael, Denice DeStefano, Valenda Morrissette, Bar Foundation Director David Snyder, and his predecessor, Tina Abramson, and others.
A New Hampshire bar leader once told me that as bar president you cannot change the course of history. Instead, the best you can hope for is to move the bar five degrees in one direction or another. As I have tried to keep us on a steady course, I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey. I will be forever grateful, to the end of my days, for having the opportunity to serve you.
Richard Y. Uchida, of the Concord law firm of Hebert & Uchida, concludes his term as NHBA President at the 2006 Annual Meeting this weekend. He is succeeded by Richard B. McNamara, of Wiggin & Nourie in Manchester.