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Bar News - January 16, 2009

Bringing Newer Lawyers Into the Tent


HOORAY! A FREEBIE! Yes, you read it correctly. You can still get something for free in this world. The NH Bar Association is giving away one FREE entry to our highly-regarded Professionalism Day program (on Feb. 20) when a newer lawyer is brought by a more experienced bar member. ("Newer" is defined as admitted to practice after January 1, 2005; experienced is defined as admitted before 2003.)

Why, you might ask, are we offering this bonus package? There are at least two reasons.

First, we want to help newer lawyers become more integrated into the Bar Association. Many times, newer lawyers have complained that the Bar is dominated by a few hundred "old boys" and "old girls," and that the newer lawyers do not have a chance to break into this exclusive club. Professionalism Day is intended to bring all of us together – long-time bar members and the newest law school graduates – to discuss issues relating to what our profession means to us. In addition, it provides an informal and comfortable setting for all of us to meet new people and expand our circle of colleagues. And because the free ticket is available only if the senior lawyer brings the newer lawyer to the event, we are guaranteed to cross over some of those perceived barriers, thereby mitigating them (we hope).

The second reason we are offering this buy-one-get-one-free promotion is that we want all newer lawyers to learn more about the so-called "New Hampshire way" of practicing law. (Please don’t stop reading now!)

Yes, I know. You’ve probably heard long-time members of the Bar Association wax eloquent about how great things were in the "good old days," when the Bar was much smaller, when everyone knew everyone else, and we all treated each other with civility, respect, and . . . well, professionalism.

When newer lawyers hear such nostalgic comments, they tend to be skeptical, not believing that the bar (or the world) was ever as idyllic as the "old-timers" say it was. (It probably wasn’t.) So the newer lawyers often tune out these nostalgic sentiments: "Here they go again."

Both newer and older lawyers have a point. Most lawyers in New Hampshire do value civility, respect, collegiality and professionalism. But we are not succeeding as much as we want to, whether or not we once did.

Is there a solution? Certainly pining for the past won’t get us anywhere. Nor will tuning out, or focusing only on our own individual law practices.

Professionalism Day aspires to be one small step in the direction of bringing all bar members together, reminding ourselves of our common values, and reaffirming our desire to do a better job of achieving justice—which is why we decided to go to law school, right?

We hope that many bar members will attend Professionalism Day on February 20 – remember, it’s a great deal for new lawyers and older hands – and everyone who does attend leaves the program with renewed dedication to being true professionals.

As Gandhi said, let each of us "be the change that we want to see in the world."

Kenneth J. Barnes is Chair of the Bar Association’s Committee on Professionalism. He practices at the Law Office of Kenneth J. Barnes in Concord, providing mediation services, as well as trial and appellate representation.

Note: Go to to pre-register for Professionalism Day. Pre-registration is important so that the Committee can plan accommodations for all attendees.

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