Bar News - February 19, 2010
President’s Perspective: Lawyering the New Hampshire Way
By: James J. Tenn, Jr.
Recently, during the course of litigation, I had the opportunity to interact with a lawyer from out of state. As he told me about his experiences as an attorney and the practice of law in his state, I had a renewed appreciation for the unique characteristics associated with practicing law in New Hampshire.
During my conversation, I found myself explaining what I considered to be "the New Hampshire way." My experience in this state is that attorneys are known by their word. While this may also be true in other states, I know it to be true in New Hampshire; our word is our bond. This tradition contributes to the civility of practice and the administration of justice.
I have asked some attorneys, clerks of court, and judges to comment on the practice of law in New Hampshire. I offer their comments as a way to encourage all of us to review our own experiences and to be mindful of the way we interact with one another.
Amy B. Messer, Disabilities Rights Center, Concord
|Amy B. Messer
While zealous advocacy is an essential responsibility of all attorneys, it can co-exist with civility. In a small state like New Hampshire, most attorneys realize that relationships matter. You will likely work with attorneys numerous times, in any number of contexts. Positive relationships benefit our clients by allowing cases to move through the process more effectively and keeping the door to negotiations open at all times.
Kathleen A. McDonald, Deputy Clerk, Hillsborough North, Manchester
In my years as a private attorney and, especially my 12 years as a deputy clerk in three New Hampshire courts, I have always been proud of the camaraderie and professionalism of the New Hampshire Bar. The traits of building relationships with opposing counsel, disagreeing without being disagreeable, and relying on opposing counsel’s word, whether that word seals a deal or changes the timing of a hearing with the clerk’s office, have been a hallmark of this state’s bar. The positive result of this cooperative and respectful interaction is the fair and efficient resolution of clients’ problems, a positive result for litigants, lawyers and the judicial process itself. I can only hope that this cooperative spirit continues among new and veteran Bar members alike.
|Kathleen A. McDonald
Hon. Robert L. Lapointe, Jr., Law Offices of Robert L. LaPointe, Jr., Manchester
Some lawyers, many, but not all of them, young lawyers, seem to think that a hostile, aggressive posture toward opposing counsel will impress the client. Maybe so in today’s competitive world, but it sure doesn’t impress the Court. Advocacy with civility is a skill that allows an attorney to be zealous on the client’s behalf without poisoning the system we work in each day. I respect lawyers who bring honor and not animosity to our profession. While there are many more lawyers practicing in New Hampshire today than when I started out 30 years ago, it still remains a small enough Bar to allow what goes around to come around. The practice of law deserves better, and so does the client. By the way, the rules of civility must apply equally to this side of the bench. That’s the New Hampshire way.
|Hon. Robert L. Lapointe, Jr.
|John P. Kacavas
John P. Kacavas, US Attorney, District of NH, Concord
Practicing law is inherently tough enough even without accounting for the adversarial nature of the business. New Hampshire practitioners overwhelmingly recognize this and understand that zealous advocacy need not come at the expense of courtesy and civility. There is a spirit of collegiality and "oneness" here that makes our bar unique and gives meaning to the phrase "the New Hampshire way."
Julie A. Introcaso, Deputy Clerk, Rockingham Superior Court, Brentwood
From my perspective, having lawyers honestly working together is essential. For that to happen, we need to be able to trust one another. I believe we’re all trying to solve problems as efficiently as we can and at the least possible expense to the parties. When lawyers can cooperate and trust the word of other attorneys, cases aren’t held hostage to need for written agreements, motions to the court and the taking of a record. Lawyers should focus on those issues that really matter to their clients. The level of integrity and the personal connections seen in the NH Bar help to eliminate the gamesmanship and keep the wheels of justice moving.
|Julie A. Introcaso
|Alan J. Cronheim
Alan J. Cronheim, Sisti Law Offices, Portsmouth
Treat an opposing lawyer the way you want to be treated. If you make a representation to another lawyer or an offer of proof in court to a judge, it’s true. If you make a promise or reach an agreement, you keep your word.
James A. Connor, Brennan, Caron, Lenehan & Iacopino, Manchester
|James A. Connor
If a lawyer on the other side fails to appear for a hearing, you would call his or her office to see if a problem has arisen. Return a lawyer’s phone call within 36 hours. Be considerate on a reasonable request for a continuance. Agree to a lawyer’s request for vacation continuance. Try to be helpful to a new member of the Bar in or outside the courtroom.
|Gillian L. Abramson
Hon. Gillian L. Abramson, NH Superior Court Center, Concord
New Hampshire lawyers enjoy competition and a good volley back and forth. Without sacrificing aggressive advocacy, lawyers will still socialize with opponents at the end of the day.