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Bar News - October 19, 2007

Presidentís Perspective: Unpopular Mock Trial Decision



Eleanor Wm. Dahar

One of the unpleasant aspects of being Bar President is the task of in-forming the members about decisions made by the Board of Governors that do not please everyone.  I have promised to keep you informed and updated on the Bar Associationís actions.  Unfortunately, it is not always good or uncontroversial news.


I want to discuss with you the unfavorable decision of the Board of Governors to eliminate the Mock Trial Live Competition because I have been fielding phone calls and questions from members about this decision.


During the past two years, it has become apparent that the Bar Associationís resources, both financial and staff, are stretched to their limits.  As a result, concerns were raised about whether the Bar Association could continue to provide all of the programs and services to its members and the public as it historically has done.


In 2006, the Board of Governors decided to review the Barís resources, finances, programs and services to determine which could continue and which may not. The Board asked then Immediate Past President Richard Uchida to accept this task.  He created a process by which he and a small group reviewed certain Bar programs, including the cost and amount of Bar Association resources necessary to operate each program. They reviewed these programs and the resources required in conjunction with the Associationís budget. 


There were lengthy discussions and deliberations over the appropriate focus for continuing the Barís educational outreach efforts.  Following the groupís analysis of this process, the Board of Governors decided to accept its findings and recommendations to eliminate the Mock Trial Live Competition. The conclusion was that the Competition had grown to the point where it was straining the Bar Associationís staff resources and financial resources. Perhaps more significantly, it was overshadowing other equally important educational programs offered by the Bar Association.


The Bar Association welcomes any interested teachers, lawyers or groups to step forward and assume the task of coordinating, managing and staging the Mock Trial Live Competitions in schools throughout the State.  The Association applauds the effort of an entity currently seeking support and interest in assuming this responsibility of running this program. The Bar Association will provide contact information on the NHBA Web site if that effort comes to fruition. The financial and staff resources of the New Hampshire Bar Association do not allow the Bar to continue to manage and coordinate the live competition element of this program. Letters were sent to teachers and schools following the Bar Associationís decision.


It is important to note that the decision and action to eliminate the Mock Trial Live Competition was consistent with the budget directives adopted by the Board of Governors in early 2007. The budget directive adopted, along with the goal of a fiscally stable bar association, required some changes in programs and services and also required elimination or reduction of certain programs.  Unfortunately, the Mock Trial Live Competition was one of the eliminations made. There may be other services or programs reduced or eliminated.


This year, I asked the Board of Governors to arrange for the American Bar Association Division for Bar Services to conduct a Bar Association Operational Survey which is a comprehensive review of the Association. The survey identifies areas of strength and weakness within the Bar Associationís operations. It also provides recommendations for increased effectiveness.


With this professional analysis of the Bar Association, its financial resources and staff functions, we intend that further proposals regarding the Associationís services and/or programs will be supported by an independent analysis of the Association. In this manner, you may be kept abreast of any proposed program changes and/or reduction in services or programs.


Earlier this year, I asked you to continue to be part of the ongoing dialogue of the changes in your profession.  Everyone is busy and it is difficult to keep abreast of all of the proposed changes of court rules, of bar programs and our own practices and lives; however it is important that you raise your voice when you read about a proposed change with which you do not agree.  Too often, a proposal or change is introduced with requests for feedback and comment, yet nothing is heard.  The change occurs and then there is an outcry of disbelief and anger.  An example of this is the elimination of the Mock Trial Live Competition.  


Although the status of the elimination of the Mock Trial Live Competition has not changed, you now have an explanation of the basis behind the reasoning of the Board of Governorís decision.  As always, not every member will be satisfied with the outcome, but you are able to participate and have a voice in the dialogue concerning change.


Eleanor Dahar of the Dahar Professional Association, Manchester, is the 2007-08 NHBA President.




If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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