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Bar News - September 5, 2008

Your Association, Your Board: Setting the Stage for the Work


At the first meeting of the 2008-2009 Board of Governors, President Ellen Arnold (center) gathers with (from left) Vice President Marilyn McNamara, President-elect Jim Tenn, and Rockingham County Governor Bob Mittelholzer.

You may wonder how the Board of Governors works to address the Association’s three-pronged mission of service to its members, the public, and the system of justice. It’s a daunting and complex task, complemented by divergent points of view and evolving ideological and financial challenges. At the August 15 Board Orientation, the Board worked to set the stage for this year.

We explored where we are, Association goals and priorities, and issues to be discussed in the upcoming year. The Board was joined by Justice Hicks of the Supreme Court, and Judge Conboy of the Superior Court. Their input and collegiality was appreciated and valuable.

Bar Association Operational Survey

Last year, at the NH Bar’s request, the Division for Bar Services of the American Bar Association conducted an operational survey of the New Hampshire Bar. At the orientation, Elizabeth Derrico, Associate Director for Bar Information and Management in the ABA Division for Bar Services, facilitated a discussion of the survey results. She also led us in exploring our views on the role of individual Board members and the Association in achieving our mission.

Significantly, we also sought to define what makes an "exceptional" Board, both as individual members and as a whole. Setting the standard to excel is an inspiring and motivational process. For most of you, who are also called to serve on various boards, the basics are familiar. However, active engagement of the Board as a whole to identify ideals and expectations is, and was for us, a meaningful event.

The ABA Operational Survey reviewed Association Governance, Operations, Finances, Membership Services, Public Service Programs, and Communications. The final report which recognizes the historical leadership, success, and innovation of the New Hampshire Bar Association, nevertheless highlights opportunities for the Association to:

• Create a comprehensive, strategic, operational, and financial plan.

• Implement new Association management and accounting software.

• Supplement administrative and governance policies.

• Balance its public commitments and eleemosynary spirit with a harder-nosed business approach.

But, when you get beyond the bureaucratic jargon, what does this really mean? It means that, while the Association has already achieved many of the recommendations included in the survey, this year we need to focus on prioritizing the Association’s goals. Well-conceived priorities directly impact programming, long range strategic planning, and budgeting.

To help us along that road this year, I have appointed a Planning and Operations Task Force to undertake the task of examining our priorities, and I have asked it to report back to the Board and Bar at large this winter. As Ms. Derrico aptly concluded, "the Association cannot continue to add, without subtracting." When we start subtracting, we need to be certain that the right things are being reduced or eliminated.

Our Goals: What Is Our Desired Future?

During his tenure in 2005-6, NHBA President Richard Uchida led the Board of Governors in a planning effort that identified the following, in no particular order, as the most important goals of the Association:

A fiscally stable New Hampshire Bar Association.

Techno-literate lawyers with excellent law practice management skills.

An inclusive, welcoming and valuable bar for members – valuable to all segments of the bar.

A public educated about the value of the legal profession.

A public educated about the judicial system and the necessity of an independent judiciary.

A justice system with adequate resources at the courthouse.

The Bar Association, court system, and Legislature synchronizing on how to meet challenges in the delivery of legal services.

A sense of community among lawyers to enhance professionalism and job satisfaction.

At our orientation, attorney Uchida led a discussion about the challenges and opportunities for the Board to define what the Association stands for, and how we move forward to achieve these goals. Judge Carol Ann Conboy, attending in place of Superior Court Chief Justice Lynn (who was unable to attend due to a trial) was a valuable participant on this topic; in particular, she reminded us of the profound influence lawyers have on our system of justice and the lives and welfare of New Hampshire citizens. She called upon the Association to harness that energy to improve that system.

While the Association has set the stage for an examination of our goals, setting priorities, and reviewing programs, we look forward to the input of our members as we move forward with our strategic planning efforts and budget decisions.

So what does all this mean to you? As members of our mandatory Association, your voice needs to be heard. We need your insight into what the Association should be concentrating on and about your concerns.

What Does the Bar Do Anyway?

Finally, in answer to the age-old question, "What does the Bar do anyway?" the Bar Association staff created and distributed a chart, displayed in list form to the side of this article, that groups the many Bar member services by functions, rather than by departments. While we work on a bigger canvas, providing member services remains our priority. In fact, the work of the Association that serves the public and the justice system is also intended as a member benefit – helping to carry out our profession’s obligations to these constituents. To find out what’s happening lately, the Bar produces a list of accomplishments which benefit our constituents, titled, "You Should Know" that can be found in the Newsroom section.

If you want to inform yourself more about the work of the Board of Governors in particular, visit our newly developed pages for the Board at the Board of Governors’ link in Boards, Committees & Task Forces in the For Members area (login required) at There you will find a list with contact information for the entire Board, agendas and dates for our Board meetings and other information regarding Board activities. Review this information, think about it and e-mail or call your Bar governor or me. Your thoughts will be considered by Bar leadership as the Board makes the hard decisions ahead. Comments can be sent to

August 15 was a great start to what I know will be a productive year. The Board and Association staff are committed and motivated to the work ahead. We need your input and value the experience and perspective you can provide.

Ellen L. Arnold, Associate General Counsel to Dartmouth College, is the president of the NH Bar Association for 2008-2009. Contact her at

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