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Bar News - January 4, 2008

A Professionalism Day to Remember


Kenneth J. Barnes

Professionalism Day is always a wonderful experience. We get to spend time - perhaps for the first time in many months - with colleagues whom we respect. We discuss interesting and important decisions that confront us on a regular basis in our lives as lawyers. With respect to each such decision, we get to hear a multiplicity of viewpoints from our colleagues, regarding what actions we might choose and what ramifications our choices might have on our own practices and on the overall practice of law in New Hampshire.

This year, Professionalism Day 2008 will offer all these benefits and more! We’ve added a little twist. This year, our program will be infused with comedy - yes, that’s right: COMEDY.

OK, so it seems a bit . . . well, unusual . . . to combine comedy with a program about the austere subject of (trumpets blaring) "Professionalism." But the combination is not as strange as it might seem. Practicing law is a profession, and we lawyers (at least most of us) practice in a truly professional way. That’s just who we are. But this doesn’t mean that we have to take ourselves or our professionalism so seriously that we lose our sense of humor. Just as we can walk and chew gum at the same time, we are fully capable of discussing important issues and staying focused on the thread of a conversation, while at the same time having a few laughs. Of course, we will mostly be laughing at ourselves, but there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?

So Professionalism Day 2008 will begin with a monologue by "HUMORIST-AT-LAW" Sean Carter. I know, Sean is not Jay Leno. But he is hysterically funny. Just having a conversation with Sean (about anything) will put you in a good mood. When he comes to New Hampshire, Sean will analyze a number of legal situations in a way that will make us rock with laughter. He will offer serious insights into both professional and unprofessional choices we might make in our practices, while making us smile with appreciation. In the process, Sean’s elfin laugh and iconoclastic view of the world will amuse us, even while the lessons underlying his stories will enlighten us.

After his monologue, Sean will lead - and members of the Committee on Professionalism will facilitate - a series of discussions among participants about two or three hypothetical situations. Each topic will begin with a small-group discussion at our individual tables; then representatives from each table will share with the larger group what that table thought about the various facets of the topic. We are hoping that this approach will combine the openness and intimacy of the smaller group with the broad diversity of viewpoints that ensues when everyone’s ideas are shared among all participants.

The Professionalism Committee invites one and all to share this "Professionalism Day to Remember." What better way can there be to learn how to make ourselves and our Bar more professional and more collegial? We’ll be entertained, we’ll laugh together, and we’ll even learn a few things.

I hope you’ll all join us for this fun and educational experience at Professionalism Day 2008. It will take place during the Mid-Year Bar Meeting on February 15, 2008, at the Grappone Center. (See pages 8-9 for details.)

Ken Barnes is the Chair of the Bar Association’s Committee on Professionalism. Ken is an attorney at Upton & Hatfield, LLP in Concord, where he is a civil litigator focusing on employment law, complex litigation, and appeals. He has been admitted to practice law since 1977.

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