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Bar News - September 7, 2007

President’s Perspective: NH Bar Association a Leader in Both Services and Benefits



This August, I attended the National Conference of Bar Presidents.  The meeting was held in conjunction with the American Bar Association’s annual convention in San Francisco.  While you were enjoying the 90-degree heat wave, the New Hampshire delegation endured windy and cool 50-degree weather!


As you might think, the conference provides an opportunity for bar presidents, presidents-elect, executive directors of bar associations and bar foundations to meet and review pressing issues facing bar associations around the country.  It is a forum where attendees both listen to and discuss how other bar associations are addressing common challenges.


At the introductory session, the role of the ABA in society was presented, with the thought that being part of something important is the power behind the organization.  The ABA has approximately 500,000 members and the organization should act where it can to do the most good.


One panel presented today’s “Hot Topics,” which included bar examination passing rates, the volume of immigration litigation, the escalating financial and behavioral problems faced by veterans, and the need to maintain the relevancy of bar associations for their members.  A recurring theme was the importance of restoring the public’s respect for lawyers.  In addition to other activities, most states continue to focus on this issue.


Another panel presented, “In Search of the ‘Golden Handcuffs’ – Thinking about Member Benefits,” and featured our executive director Jeanine McCoy as a presenter.  This panel discussed the benefits currently available to bar members and the ongoing quest for new or additional benefits.  Many benefits discussed by the panel are already available to us New Hampshire Bar members, such as Casemaker [free online legal research], the online lawyer directory, a regularly published newspaper, an e-mail newsletter, member use of the bar center, list serves, continuing legal education programs, and information resources.   In fact, there were not many ideas presented that were not already available for us. 


Attending these conferences, I have discovered that the New Hampshire Bar Association is viewed, and has been viewed for quite some time, as a leader among bar associations for member services and benefits.  I was delighted and surprised to see that other bar associations were asking our New Hampshire Bar Association for details on how it was handling member benefits, and some of the other hot topics presented.


Another panel entitled, “Tapping All Your Members:  6 Great Ideas in 60 Minutes,” generated some possible ideas for our bar association.  The panel of  presidents-elect and past-presidents of six state bar associations identified new ideas or benefits for their member attorneys, such as: a day-long seminar entitled “Lawyers in Transition” to assist attorneys moving in or out of practice; a program to place women lawyers on the boards of Fortune 500 companies to fill a current void; a program to encourage higher attendance at the state bar’s annual meeting; a program to address one bar association’s delivery of legal services and justice, while maintaining civility and professionalism.


Although none of the issues were new, it was both interesting and challenging to see that the issues facing the New Hampshire Bar Association are very similar to the issues facing other state bar associations.  It is also comforting to know that the New Hampshire Bar Association has focused on these very issues and is working on them. 


At the end of the conference, the panelists always made a point of telling us that it is impossible for any state bar association to address all of these issues in one year’s time.  In fact, most of these ideas are works-in-progress.  I think the one thing that is most important is that this conference emphasized member discussion, member feedback and member ideas. 


I was fortunate to be able to attend the National Conference of Bar Presidents.  It was enlightening as well as informative.  It is with pride I am able to report to you I found New Hampshire on the forefront of many issues such as Pro Bono services, legal services and member benefits.  We must continue these services and continue to work on other issues facing us, such as increasing attendance at annual meetings, maintaining member benefits, remaining relevant and restoring respect for attorneys in the public’s perception.  


It is an ongoing dialogue and I am glad we are a part of that dialogue.  I encourage you to be part of the dialogue also and provide your ideas for a better New Hampshire Bar Association. Your voice and active participation are essential to the New Hampshire Bar in continuing to lead the way on issues facing its members. 


Eleanor Dahar, of Dahar Professional Association in Manchester, is the 2007-08 NH Bar President.




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