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Bar News - August 14, 2009

NHWBA: Dedicated Board Member Moves On

Lee Leppanen, center-front, is pictured with present and past members of the Women’s Bar Association board.
Since 1999, Lee Leppanen has served as Treasurer of the New Hampshire Women’s Bar Association (NHWBA). As only the second treasurer the NHWBA has elected since the Association’s incorporation in 1998, Lee has always shown exceptional attention to detail and dedication to the organization’s mission. As the NHWBA has grown over the years, Lee always managed to successfully balance the books and account for every penny in each year’s budget.

The journey Lee has taken to NH and to a career in the law is an interesting one. She was born in Chicago and raised in Northern Illinois and Wisconsin. She became a registered nurse in Wisconsin in 1968, then joined the US Navy as an Ensign in the medical corps. She attained the rank of Commander by her retirement in 1989.

During her military service, Lee earned her BSN from San Diego State University. Through studying Japanese at the University of Maryland, Lee became fluent in that language and spent three years in Japan. When she returned to the United States, Lee obtained her MSN in cardiovascular nursing from the University of Washington, while still working full time in the Naval Medical Corps.

Lee decided that she wanted more involvement in the quality assurance and risk management aspects of nursing and requested a transfer to Memphis, Tenn. where she could attend law school part-time while remaining a full-time nurse in the Navy.

During the five years she attended law school, she was promoted to special assistant to the commanding officer; she drafted the JAG manual for medical malpractice investigations, which is still being used today; and she took accounting courses at Memphis State University. After law school, she worked as the assistant director of the legal department for a naval hospital and retired as a commander in the Naval Nursing Corps in 1989. She was given an honorary JAG designation from the JAG corps for her dedicated service. Lee went into private practice at a personal injury lawyer firm in Wisconsin, but after five years, she moved to New Hampshire. Although she had planned to retire, she became a professor and then director of the Franklin Pierce College Paralegal Program, where she taught until 2002.

She also developed a relationship with the Nurse-Attorneys Association of New Hampshire and received a contract to prosecute for the State of New Hampshire Board of Nursing. Between 1999 and 2005, Lee prosecuted many professional nurses. During this time, the problems that she encountered underscored the need for help for professionals with mental health problems and addiction issues. This need led Lee to the clinical psychology doctoral program at Antioch University of New England. Her dissertation focused on helping professionals, specifically lawyers, who suffer from mental health and addiction issues. Lee has also been involved in the NH Lawyer’s Assistance Program.

Lee is leaving this month to complete her PhD internship in Pennsylvania. She continues to find ways to give of herself to make the lives of others better. She will surely be missed but is wished the very best in her new career, wherever the road may take her next. All those who know her hope it will lead back to NH!

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