Bar News - January 5, 2007
Board Reaffirms LRS Referral Policy
Responding to a panel member’s expression of interest in accepting cases from the Lawyer Referral Service and then referring them to other attorneys in a fee-splitting arrangement, the NHBA Board of Governors at its December 21, 2006 meeting reaffirmed existing LRS policies that do not allow the practice.
In this instance, the attorney had listed his willingness to accept cases in certain areas of law from LRS but said he intended to find attorneys who regularly concentrate in those areas to serve as co-counsel. Don Hebert, a member of the LRS Subcommittee of the Delivery of Legal Services Committee, discussed the member’s inquiry with the Board. The Board then voted unanimously to reaffirm that such practices are not allowed under the program. Panel attorneys contracting with the LRS program can sign up for no more than five practice areas in which they are willing to accept cases – the intent is that attorneys are self-certifying that they have the expertise to handle those types of matters, Hebert said.
Ginny Martin, NHBA associate executive director for legal services, said that if an attorney takes the case with the intent of directly representing the client in the matter but later discovers that he or she does not have the necessary expertise, the attorney should seek the assistance of LRS in finding that expertise within the LRS panel, or obtain mentoring or other help through the program.
In discussion, board members did distinguish such referral arrangements from the occasional instance where a solo or small-firm attorney might be pressed to ask another attorney to cover a hearing involving an LRS client because of sickness or emergency.
Other matters considered by the Board:
- Federal Practice Institute CLE. The Board narrowly approved a proposal by the Federal Practice Section to organize a two-day Federal Practice Institute CLE at Waterville Valley in May 2007. The Federal Practice Institute, usually held every other year at the Warren Rudman Federal Courthouse, is being expanded, as it will also serve in the place of the First Circuit Conference, organized by the federal judiciary, which is usually held in the intervening year. There was some concern as to the number of attendees the Institute will attract. The program is expected to receive some funding as well from the federal district court in NH to pay expenses for an outside speaker.
- Security screening update. NHBA President Richard McNamara said the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department is gearing up to establish an expedited security process for attorneys entering the Hillsborough South Superior Courthouse. The process will utilize the NHBA ID cards in conjunction with a security “key card” to be issued by the sheriff’s department. The Bar is paying a portion of the initial set up costs for this pilot project, he said.
ID cards for all members are being produced and will soon be mailed to all active members, NHBA Executive Director Jeannine McCoy said. (Production was delayed for several reasons, including the development of protocols for the Hillsborough pilot project, and to accommodate the maximum number of attorneys providing photos.)
- A line of credit arrangement with Citizens Bank was approved that will only be used to assist with occasional fluctuations in cash flow. The arrangement requires that the line of credit be reduced to zero for at least a 30-day period each year. It is not anticipated that the credit line will be immediately needed.
- The Board received a draft of a policy for the use and rental of the NHBA Seminar Room in the lower level for its review and approval at a subsequent meeting. The Association is considering making the space available for rent to outside groups as a service and a non-dues revenue source. NHBA meetings would continue to have a scheduling priority and the rental policy would not apply to the conference rooms in the third-floor Bar Center office suite, which will remain limited to Association, Foundation and other meetings related to member needs.