Bar News - December 14, 2007
Section Policy Changes – Another Tough Decision
By: Eleanor Wm. Dahar
As I have said before, an unpleasant task as Bar President is discussing unpopular decisions of the Board of Governors and the Bar Association. However, I am committed to ensuring that members are made aware of, and informed about issues and decisions affecting you and your profession.
I would like to bring to your attention a recent decision of the Bar Association concerning Section Policy changes implemented this year.
Previously, I have written about the tough decisions that the Board of Governors and the Bar Association have made due to financial and staff resources. You will remember that Mock Trial was one of those difficult decisions.
Another very tough decision has been the one implementing section policy changes. Currently, the Bar Association has 21 active sections. In the past, sections involved monthly or quarterly discussion groups meeting to discuss prominent legal topics. Over time, the sections have transformed into monthly continuing legal education programs with CLE credit for attendees. To their credit, volunteer section leaders have taken seriously the responsibility of providing value to their section members.
With the increased volume of section activity, the Board of Governors and the Bar Association had to implement policy changes in order to accommodate the needs of the sections as well as the entire membership, based on available resources or lack thereof. The Bar met with the section leaders on Sept. 5th and 6th in an effort to explain the basis for the changes and discuss section concerns.
The policy changes implemented consist of:
- a cap placed on the number of NHMCLE – credit programs each section produces annually;
- a request for sections to follow planning schedules for NHMCLE credit programs and for non-credit section meetings;
- a required $25 fee from section members for attendance at programs qualifying for NHMCLE credit.
Although not popular, the policy changes instituted are necessary based on the increased monthly CLE activity of the 21 sections and their impact on the Association’s resources and staff.
Actually, this is good news; the Bar Association’s sections are victims of their own success. Their commitment to providing value to section members and their increased section CLE activity have resulted in the need for these policy changes.
As we all know, changes are always difficult, especially in a unified bar. The Board of Governors and the Bar Association recognize that section members and chairs have voiced concerns over these policy changes and will schedule a meeting with all interested parties. Getting people together, opening up dialogue, and brainstorming about possible resolutions that are acceptable to as many bar members as possible is a priority of the Board of Governors. An open-minded discussion among all section members and association members to resolve these concerns is important and may lead to a compromise that will support the roll of the sections and address the needs of the Bar Association.
With over 6000 dues-paying members, many of whom do not participate in sections or CLEs, the Bar Association has to act in the best interests of its members and the public.
Some of the ideas introduced to resolve the section concerns include hiring additional CLE staff to assist sections with their CLE efforts, increasing section dues and/or charging a fee to each section member attending section CLEs. Although these proposals may not be met with favor, they would not require 6000 members to subsidize the benefits and activities of the sections.
In addition, it is important to note that the section policy changes instituted are not exclusive to the New Hampshire Bar. Other state bar associations have implemented similar section policy changes when faced with increased section activity and continuing legal education credit. Recently, during the Bar Association’s Operational Survey, at the Bar Center on Nov. 12 and 13, I met with Joe Conte, Executive Director of the New Mexico State Bar Association, also a mandatory state bar association of 7500 members. During our discussion on the section changes, he indicated that the New Mexico State Bar implemented a similar section policy change last year. Although it was not a popular decision, it was necessary for similar reasons of bar resources and section activity.
I am confident, that with continued dialogue and meetings among all parties, the concerns of the sections will be addressed and the best interests of the membership, the public and the legal system will be maintained. By explaining these policy changes, the concerns raised, and the alternatives suggested, I hope to encourage you to call or email your Board of Governors and voice your opinion on this issue. This is one bump in the road that can be resolved with the combined effort of all parties. Our continued dialogue and proactive approach is what continues to place the NH Bar Association in the forefront on issues affecting state bar associations.
Pakistan—Attack on the Rule of Law
As you know from recent events, earlier this month Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf suspended the national constitution, detained members of the Supreme Court and arrested thousands of lawyers.
Bar associations throughout the United States and the ABA have been urging members to write letters to their congressional delegations and to participate in rallies around the country as a statement of unity and support for the rule of law and the legal system in peril in Pakistan. The Bar News recently published an article from the Atlanta Bar Association condemning the actions of President Musharraf and his disrespect of lawyers, judges and the legal system.
In a petition in support of its statement of unity sent to its members, the ABA called on President Musharraf to restore the Constitution of Pakistan, reinstate Pakistan’s Supreme Court justices, and free the lawyers and civil leaders wrongly jailed.
Members of the bar should take note of events in history where leaders of countries have suspended constitutions and constitutional rights. Such events in history have more often than not led to instances of human rights’ violations and atrocities. The rule of law and a legal system are essential to the prevention of history repeating itself in such ways.
As concerned members of the New Hampshire Bar Association in support of the rule of law and legal systems, I urge you to become involved in the debate, voice your concern to members of congress and/or sign the ABA’s petition. Disrespect of the rule of law and the attack on lawyers, judges, and the legal system are concerns of every member of the bar association. Protection of the rule of law and those individuals who administer and support the rule of law form the fundamental basis of any legal system.