Bar News - May 4, 2007
Board of Governors Discusses Status of Legal Profession Report
The April 19 meeting of the NHBA Board of Governors was dominated by a facilitated discussion of the recent report by the Commission on the Status of the Legal Profession (a copy of the report and a “Minority Report” addendum are posted on the NHBA Web site home page at http://www.nhbar.org/, under NHBA Newsroom Highlights.)
Board members Lawrence Vogelman and Robert Mittelholzer provided commentary on several key recommendations in the report and NHBA Past President Richard Uchida helped moderate the ensuing discussion among members of the Board.
NHBA President Richard McNamara said that the chief justice of the NH Supreme Court, who appointed the Commission nearly two years ago, is seeking reaction from the Bar Association on the Status Commission’s recommendations.
The board’s discussion—like the recommendations themselves—was sweeping, and the Board delegated a small group to further sort through the recommendations and suggest some items for consideration by various NHBA entities—Ethics Committee or Committee on Cooperation with the Courts, for example—and to select matters meriting priority consideration.
Among the topics discussed at the April meeting were recommendations that called for:
- Establishing “magistrate” positions which would have the task of screening cases and hearing pre-trial issues. The proposal drew some skeptical comments but intrigued some members if such intervention could be used to divert some time-consuming sessions involving pro se litigants from taking up judges’ time.
- Allowing “multi-disciplinary” practices so that lawyers could form partnerships and share income with other professionals. The idea was suggested by some attorneys seeking to form “one-stop” shopping for professional services, such as for land developers, for example. Board members differed as to whether allowing such arrangements would help or harm the competitive position of small-firm practitioners in New Hampshire.
- Advocacy for more sentencing alternatives. Board members suggested that the NHBA, whose membership includes judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys, might be one entity that could bring the differing parties together to push for more options to be available for sentencing of offenders.
- More activity to promote the value of attorneys. This point was raised in connection with a discussion about how to build support for a “civil Gideon” right to counsel for all in essential civil matters.
- Scheduling and other initiatives to improve the efficiency of the courts. The discussion on these matters centered on how to develop the proper forum to discuss these issues so that the people responsible for making the improvements would be involved in the discussion.
In other matters, NHBA Executive Director Jeannine McCoy said that a recent letter e-mailed to all Bar members and distributed to Section leaders seeking volunteers to work on unauthorized practice of law issues has produced numerous responses from attorneys in a variety of practice settings.
NHBA President-Elect Eleanor Dahar provided an update on the progress of the Finance Committee in the development of the 2007-2008 budget, which is expected to be ready for Board of Governors’ consideration at its May 17 meeting.
Also, McNamara announced that he intends to reappoint attorney Kenneth R. Nielsen as the NHBA appointee to the NH Board of Manufactured Housing.