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Bar News - June 8, 2007

Kirby an Inspiration for Courtesy, Professionalism, Compassion



Editor’s Note: The following is from a speech delivered by Attorney Joceline D. Champagne upon her receiving the 2007 Robert E. Kirby Award during the NH Bar Foundation’s 30th Anniversary Dinner on May 10, held at CR Sparks in Bedford.

Joceline D. Champagne poses with Judge Steven McAuliffe, one of the members of the committee who selected her for the 2007 Robert E. Kirby Award, to display the crystal bowl she received to commemorate her award.


About two months ago, I was standing in the staff kitchen at the New Hampshire Bar Center waiting for the microwave. David Snyder approached me with a big smile on his face and told me that this year’s Kirby Award recipient had just been chosen. In the instant before he told me the recipient’s name, I thought of several attorneys who fit the criteria and might have been chosen. To say I was shocked when he said my name would be an understatement. I thought for sure he was kidding but then realized that David is far too nice of a man to play a joke like that on me. After the initial shock wore off, I decided I should call to tell my folks—I think they were equally as shocked as I was.


Even months after first finding out, I am still overwhelmed by the honor of receiving an award named after Robert Kirby. I didn’t have the privilege of knowing him personally but have heard many speak of him as a kind, generous and dedicated man who loved and cherished his family. I have also learned that he was an excellent advocate for his clients and a professional in every sense of the word. Given his dedication to the profession and to others, I have no doubt that, if he could, Attorney Kirby would be with us tonight as we celebrate the Bar Foundation’s 30 years of work to strengthen justice in the state of New Hampshire.


One of the joys of my job at the NHBA Pro Bono Program is that every day I hear stories and see living examples of how members of New Hampshire’s legal community are also working to strengthen our legal system and ensure the citizens of our state have equal access to justice. In fact, you each strengthen justice each time you help a low-income family that faces a sure eviction without the help of an attorney to explain its case to a judge. You strengthen justice when you take time out of your night to answer LawLine calls from members of the public who are in need of answers to legal questions. And you strengthen justice when you agree to take a family law case at a reduced fee to ensure a parent does not lose custody of his child. So, tonight is also about celebrating all of you who make a difference in the lives of others everyday. It is also a time to ask ourselves if we could do more… For those of you who feel you can, please call me or one of my colleagues tomorrow because the Pro Bono office has just the case for you!


Tonight is also an opportunity for me to publicly thank my amazing family—my sisters, Sue and Michelle, my brothers-in-law, John and Bob, my fiancé, Ted, and especially my parents, Norm and Joyce Champagne. Mom and Dad, I thank you for supporting me in all that I have ever done. Whether it was making the decision to major in psychology, which I know you were thrilled about…or to volunteer two years as an AmeriCorps domestic violence advocate…or to leave private practice to work at the Pro Bono office…you have always been there for me and cheered me on. You are living examples to me of what it means to serve and respect others and be involved in my community. With all my heart I thank you and hope to always make you proud.


I also want to thank my colleagues and mentors that I have been blessed to work with as a prosecutor at the Hillsborough County Attorney’s office, in private practice with John Cronin & John Bisson and now as an advocate at the Pro Bono Program. Your talents and dedication have touched me and inspired me in countless ways. At times, when I was nervous about making an opening statement in a jury trial, or concerned about arguing that motion to dismiss in a tough case, or worried about organizing a seminar for a new volunteer initiative, you had confidence in me and made me believe I could do it. I wish every lawyer the opportunities I have had to work with such great people. Thank you all so very much.


Thank you also to the NH Women’s Bar Association. It was a stroke of luck that Joni Esperian asked me to get involved when I first became an attorney in 1999.  Through the NHWBA I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most hard-working, intelligent and dedicated attorneys in this state. The organization gave me a chance to be a part of something when, at the time, other opportunities seemed intimidating or out of reach. It’s exciting to see the organization grow and watch new attorneys becoming involved and helping the group to achieve more and better serve its members.


No matter what group you are involved with, I challenge you to be like Joni and to tap someone on the shoulder and ask that person to get involved. Everyone has something to offer and share. Often all we need to do is ask. 


Lastly, I want to thank the judges on the selection committee for thinking me worthy of this award, and those who nominated me for this honor and wrote letters of support. To my supporters, you are all respected advocates that I am lucky to consider as my mentors but also blessed to count you as friends. I was absolutely blown away by all of your kind words. I will do my best to live up to them.


I am incredibly honored to be considered as an example of what Robert Kirby stood for during his far-too-short life. My hope and desire is to continue to honor his memory in our profession. To do so, I will strive to continue my work with the same level of courtesy, decency and perspective that makes Attorney Kirby an example for us all.



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