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Bar News - June 6, 2008

Budget Choices a Challenge for Bar Volunteers


Attorney Bolanderís commentary reflects the challenge faced by the elected Board of Governors, and by the member volunteers of the Finance Committee: finding the appropriate amount and mix of services and activities to meet the needs of the mandatory membership in the most effective and efficient way possible. One memberís useless program is another memberís essential one, and vice versa.

Since February members of the Finance Committee and the Board of Governors have met numerous times, including spending a full day at a "budget work session" to become familiar with the Associationís budget details and the choices to be made. In addition to the issue of current expenses and programs, the volunteers also had to consider providing for anticipated future expenses and liabilities. The largest areas of the budget in most service-intensive organizations, including this one, are personnel and space. Both resources are heavily used by the membership; any further cuts, the members on these boards decided, would not be "nips and tucks" but amputations of services and programs that are valued by significant segments of the membership.

Despite the fact that NHBA members cannot "vote with their feet," the dues increase was a last option, not a first option, considered by members of the Finance Committee and the Board of Governors. Although sensitive to the fact that these are difficult economic times for many members, those volunteering in Bar leadership positions were also aware that the responsibilities to serve the membership, the public and the justice system are also more important than ever.

As Past NHBA President Richard Uchida reported in the March 9, 2007 issue of Bar News, the Association has conducted numerous forums and surveys to determine what members want. The Board and Finance Committee have worked with that information over the past several years, and are committed to additional strategic planning to continue making decisions about the essential Association activities that can and should be supported. This will mean having the vision and courage to determine what is most important and provide for it, while making hard choices that will curtail some programs that some members consider "essential."

The New Hampshire Bar Association is considered one of the best bar associations in the country Ė both by members who belong to associations in several jurisdictions and by the American Bar Association, which has a perspective on bar associations around the country. The staff and volunteer leadership are consistently aware of the heightened responsibility that comes with a "mandatory" bar to not only provide the annual licensing and professionalism functions, but to provide a mix of resources that are available to all, utilized by many, and valued by most. It is not an easy task! Members are encouraged to run for the Board of Governors, volunteer for the Finance Committee, or become active in one of the committees or sections looking to utilize the organizationís infrastructure to advance a number of efforts; we can use your help in crafting the right mix!

Jeannine L. McCoy is the Executive Director of the NH Bar Association.

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