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Bar News - June 12, 2009

NHBA Year in Review: Delivering Value in a Down Economy

In a Bar year that became dominated by the deepening economic recession, the NH Bar Association responded in several ways Ė focusing on providing better value and services for all of its members, adapting our legal services programs to address emerging needs, and making changes within the organization to increase efficiency and control costs.

The following is a sampling of activities and programs that highlighted the 2008-9 fiscal year (ended May 31, 2009):

Keeping UP in a Downturn. In response to the worsening economy, several brown-bag lunch programs have been offered at the Bar Center on work-life balance, time management and coping with the recession. The Bar News has begun a recurring series of articles on managing a law practice in these demanding times. All efforts specifically devoted to economic issues are marketed with the "Keeping Up" logo to attract attention.

Pro Bono launches foreclosure prevention program. With the assistance of attorney volunteers from several firms and with the support of Supreme Court Justice James Duggan, the Pro Bono program has quickly organized a "Home Rescue Team" (a.k.a. "HEART") of volunteer attorneys to provide representation to homeowners facing foreclosure. Utilizing new grant sources (an achievement in itself!) the Pro Bono program also conducted a full-day program to train a growing corps of volunteers.

Public sector attorney recognition. Two developments came to fruition in the past year that will enhance the representation and recognition of attorneys working in public sector or public interest settings. First, the membership of the Bar, at a special membership meeting, approved amendments to the NHBA constitution and bylaws, creating a new seat on the Board of Governors to provide dedicated representation to public sector/public interest attorneys. Jacki Smith, of the NH Public Defenderís Office was, in this springís Board of Governors balloting, elected to serve a three-year term as the Public Sector Governor. She takes office at the conclusion of this monthís Annual Meeting.

Also, a new award was created to honor the service of publicly employed attorneys. At the Midyear Meeting on Jan. 23, NHBA President Ellen Arnold presented the first Outstanding Service in Public Sector/Public Interest Law Award to two recipients: B. Randy Hawkes, supervising attorney for the Dover office of the NH Public Defender, and James E. Fender, counsel to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Lawyer Referral Service enhancements. The Lawyer Referral Service is also making several changes to improve client service and quality of cases referred to attorneys. After an extensive review by a subcommittee of the Delivery of Legal Services Committee, LRS adopted experience standards for cases involving felony defense and medical malpractice.

Also several improvements have been made to the Barís website to facilitate referral inquiries from clients via e-mail, enabling the LRS staff to serve Internet-savvy clients and make referrals more efficiently and quickly.

Sections busier than ever. More than 1,500 members attended 85 section meetings (14 for CLE credit) and social events held in the last fiscal year at the Bar Center or at other locations, up from 77 meetings (nine for CLE credit) in the prior year.

Bar News, Bar Journal changes. The Bar News and Bar Journal implemented frequency and format changes that will save money and have allowed the Bar communications staff to allocate additional resources to electronic distribution of information. While Bar News is publishing fewer pages per month with only one issue instead of two, the popularity of the weekly e-mail newsletter, NHBA e-Bulletin, ensures that timely information is still reaching the membership. The online-only format of the Bar Journal provides greater flexibility in the number of articles accepted. In light of the sharp decline in all forms of advertising due to the recession, the cutback in pages published was perhaps serendipitous.

Law-Related Education makes it on the Web. Exceptional teamwork between the website and the Law-Related Education coordinator enabled more resources and programs to be posted on the website, leveraging the Barís resources to reach more teachers and students with law-related education resources, lesson plans and information. In addition, the Bar Association created a second YouTube video spotlighting the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution competition.

Sentencing alternatives highlighted. Several front-page Bar News articles, participation by a Bar representative in a legislatively created task force, and a special program at the Midyear Meeting focused attention and encouraged greater participation in the development of sentencing alternatives in NH.

Several initiatives would be given short-shrift if they were capsulated here. Next month, read about the efforts of the Member Services department to bring new benefits to members that offer the potential for immediate economic impact, and more about how members are making increased use of the Bar Center for meetings.

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