Bar News - July 18, 2008
The Bar Year in Review 2007-2008
By: Dan Wise
It’s good advice to once in awhile put aside your to-do lists and consider accomplishments and major efforts of the past year. The following is our attempt to follow that advice, looking at advances in Bar programs and services, and at how the Association, its officers and board responded to major developments in the NH legal community. In no particular order, here are highlights of 2007-2008 (from the NHBA fiscal year June 1, 2007 to May 31, 2008):
1. Ongoing dialogue regarding Rule 170. The rollout of a major renovation and expansion of the Superior Court Rule 170 ADR program and launch of the Judicial Branch’s Office of Mediation & Arbitration was controversial. In response to concerns voiced by Bar members, judges and some court personnel, Bar leaders engaged the Court in discussing these concerns. Some changes were made and a dialogue started on how best to meet the goal of more ADR in the courts while preserving litigants’ access to justice.
2. Casemaker improves and expands. Major improvements were made to the Casemaker Web Library while retaining its user-friendly familiarity. Enhancements streamline users’ ability to reach the information they need, 50-state coverage is now available, and millions of documents have been added to the federal law library. A free one-hour live and interactive Webinar drew more than 100 participants. More improvements are in the wings.
3. Innovation, recognition for LRE. Leapholes, a pilot project for middle school students developed by NHBA staff and utilizing the young-adult novel of the same name, has won a national award for excellence in law-related education programs. Also, a project developed by students for the Project Citizen public policy-development program received national recognition last summer, and the "We the People…the Citizen and the Constitution" was featured in a YouTube video. While the curtailment of the Bar’s role as coordinator of the resource-intensive live competition of the Mock Trial program was mourned by some, the fruits of the refocusing of LRE efforts have already been experienced.
4. Section accomplishments. Several sections completed projects that provided exceptional value to their members – the Real Property Section updated the Title Examination Standards, a mammoth undertaking that creates a true reference for the field; the Federal Practice Section conducted two candid roundtable discussions (one for civil practitioners, one for those in criminal law) with the federal judges. The Family Law Section celebrated its 30th anniversary. Dialogues on listservs continue to provide daily guidance and interaction. Coordination of Section education offerings, qualifying for NHMCLE credit, with the Association’s CLE calendar and communication with the section leaders as a group has improved. One result of the increased communication is the "try a new section free" offer distributed with the annual dues billing.
5. Security screening pilot project. An initiative diligently pursued by Immediate Past President Richard McNamara, an expedited security screening process for attorneys, was successfully piloted in the Hillsborough County South Superior Court building in Nashua. Hillsborough County Sheriff James Hardy has approved expansion of the screening process to the Manchester courthouse, but this is on hold due to the impending temporary relocation of the court because of asbestos removal at the courthouse.
6. Member Services reaches out. The New Lawyers’ Mentor program was rejuvenated with 49 matches made in the past year and additional mentors recruited; a one-stop service for creating attorney websites, ESQSites123, was offered; and a series of free noontime "brown bag" information sessions made its debut. Additional resources were added to an improved law practice management section of the For Members area.
7. National recognition for Pro Bono Director Ginny Martin. The NHBA Pro Bono Referral Program’s director, Ginny Martin, received the 2008 Tanya Neiman Pro Bono Manager of the Year Award. ABA President William Neukom, in remarks presenting the award, noted that the Bar’s Pro Bono program was "well known for its innovative approaches to meeting client needs, for involving volunteer attorneys and for being a collaborative partner with the other legal services programs in the state." See related article.
Also, in the past year, the Pro Bono program helped members understand and comply with a new Rule 6.1 regarding Pro Bono Publico representation, expanded an innovative landlord-tenant advocacy program utilizing a team approach based at large law firms.
8. Bar members tuning into live CLE webcasts in greater numbers. In the first six months of calendar year 2008, as many Bar members have tuned in for live webcasts of CLE programs as did in all of 2007 – 454 last year and 431 to date this year. Live webcasts enable Bar members to participate in programs that are sold out or are geographically inconvenient for them. And, we’re sure, some members may be tuning in instead of showing up due to high gas prices!
9. Lawyer Referral Service has strongest year yet. LRS helped referral panel members earn more than $1.5 million in net collected client fees – this number reflects its best year ever, and the revenue came without the benefit of any particular large fee.
10. Bar Center is a destination for members. (See accompanying article.)
11. Helping members learn about new ethics code. After years of drafting, and review, the Supreme Court approved completely revised Rules of Professional Conduct that were principally drafted by the NHBA Ethics Committee at the request of the court. The Association helped orient members to the new rules, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2008, through a number of CLEs and a dedicated space on the Bar’s website (see Rewriting the Rules section on the Bar's website), that provided opportunities for discussion before and after the effective date.
12. Hosting a well-attended, well-received Midyear Meeting. Gov. Lynch was our special guest at Midyear Meeting, which also featured timely Superior Court topics and transactional law at CLEs and lawyer-humorist Sean Carter who was well-received at the Professionalism Day program.
A dozen items don’t do it…
- E-Bulletin receives a makeover. The Bar’s weekly e-mail newsletter underwent a facelift that was applauded by Bar members who said they found the new format easier to read.
- Raising awareness of international law efforts by NHBA members. In addition to the visibility created by the annual presentation of the Daniel Webster International Lawyer Award by the International Law Section, the Bar website now has a "Rule of Law" section providing information about Bar members’ activities around the globe.
To find out more about what your Bar is doing for you, visit the Newsroom section and click on the "You Should Know" link for monthly activity reports from the NHBA.