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Bar News - July 17, 2009

President’s Perspective: Living in Interesting Times


Incoming NHBA President James J. Tenn, Jr., exhorted veteran members of the Bar and newer lawyers to work together in these ‘interesting times’ to strive to improve the profession and achieve justice for the state’s citizens.
I am honored to serve as president of the New Hampshire Bar Association. I salute and thank my friend, Ellen Arnold, our immediate past president. Her leadership and commitment have set a high standard of service.

I am especially grateful to Supreme Court Justices James Duggan and Carol Ann Conboy who are here with us tonight. I also want to thank US District Court Judge Joseph Laplante for his presence and support.

There is an ancient proverb that states: "May you live in interesting times." Indeed, we do. Our nation today finds itself in difficult economic times. Unemployment is rising, housing prices are falling, and titans of American industry have succumbed to bankruptcy. We in New Hampshire have not been immune; these challenges have impacted the practice of law. These economic realities create barriers to justice. Our courts struggle with staffing and funding issues. Lawyers are called upon to work harder and longer to solve more complex problems, and more and more clients seek immediate relief in a system that is not designed to provide instant answers.

The New Hampshire Bar Association remains committed to its constitutional mandate to improve the administration of justice and to improve the quality of lawyering in our state. These purposes have never been more relevant than they are today. Your attendance here tonight and your involvement in the varied activities of this Bar certify that this Association is active and vibrant.

New Hampshire lawyers have a strong record of improving access to justice. Last year, through the New Hampshire Bar Association’s Pro Bono Program, New Hampshire lawyers provided assistance to approximately 3,000 low-income families. The Pro Bono program estimates that New Hampshire attorneys donate approximately $2 million worth of civil legal services each year.

In addition to participating in formal Bar programs, lawyers contribute thousands of hours to civic and volunteer organizations in service to our communities. Moreover, every day, lawyers quietly and diligently undertake to protect people from wrong and help to enforce the rule of law. These countless, unnamed attorneys practice in solo firms, small and large firms, the public sector, and in corporate and other settings. We must not forget that our work changes lives in meaningful and positive ways. In the year ahead, we must continue our efforts to improve the administration of justice and to foster integrity and public service.

As members of this Bar, we are challenged to achieve high standards of conduct and integrity. These traits are the bedrock of a strong legal practice, a strong bar association, and a strong profession. Attorneys must continue the daily commitment to do the right thing – not sometimes, but all the time. We must also continue to cultivate the spirit of civility and professionalism that are hallmarks of our Bar. We must not permit ourselves to sink to a level where advocacy is synonymous with combat.

Despite the challenges we face, we are our best resource. As a unified Association, we have more than 6,500 members. Of those members, more than 3,000 have been part of this organization for over 25 years. In this room tonight are lawyers who have practiced law for two, three, four, and five decades. You are mentors and role models.

Among the many benefits of service to the Bar is the opportunity to meet and interact with men and women with years of experience who practice law with integrity and professionalism. During the past five years, an additional 1,120 lawyers have joined our ranks. They are the next generation of lawyers who will make a difference. The Bar needs you to invite those, and other lawyers, to become involved. At this time, more than ever, the Bar needs your participation, energy, and enthusiasm. It needs your talents and your perspective. Whether in the best of times, or in these very interesting times, we must strive to advance our profession through both service and excellence.

Thomas Jefferson said, "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past." As we begin this Bar year, I look forward to continuing to work with you to shape our future.

These remarks were delivered by Attorney James J. Tenn, Jr., on June 27, 2009, at the Annual Meeting of the New Hampshire Bar Association held at the Mt. Washington Resort at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, on the occasion of his swearing in as president.

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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