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Bar News - June 18, 2010

Presidentís Perspective: Interesting Times and a Memorable Year


James J. Tenn, Jr.
I find myself thinking about where we began. Three hundred thirty-nine days ago, I was sworn in as president of the NH Bar Association. I thought I knew what the year ahead would entail. I wanted to emphasize the importance of civility and professionalism in the practice. I remain committed to the belief that the practice of law is a noble profession, and I hoped to encourage and celebrate the best aspects of my profession as it is practiced in our Bar.

Over the past year, the civility of our profession was on display Ė at welcome events for newly-admitted lawyers, at retirement events, and myriad social gatherings. I saw numerous instances of attorneys recognizing attorneys and judges who had conducted themselves with the understanding that effective advocacy is never lessened by civility. I was proud of the way our Association brought together many segments of our Bar. We must continually fight the tendency to become a loose configuration of practice groups and sub-sections, and remember what unites us as lawyers focuses on the best of our profession.

Welcoming retired Justice David H. Souter back to New Hampshire at the Midyear Meeting was a highlight of Jim Tennís year as Bar president.

At last yearís Annual Meeting, US District Court Judge Joseph N. Laplante applauds the start of James J. Tenn, Jr.ís tenure as Bar president.

WMUR News headlined a newscast in November with an interview with NHBA President Jim Tenn about the need for attorneys to help with bankruptcies and other economic issues. Tenn was able to cite the high level of volunteerism for Pro Bono.
This year, our Association celebrated a number of milestones: We purchased the Bar Center to assure long-term cost savings and stability for our organization; we established an Economic Response Task Force that recommended that the Supreme Court not increase court fees; we paid increasing attention to the needs of potentially underserved members of our Bar; we celebrated national Pro Bono Week with a gubernatorial proclamation and I later had the good fortune (more accurately, the dumb luck) to highlight the Pro Bono program and the legion of volunteers who make that program work in a Channel 9 interview; we created a guide to assist in the temporary relocation of the Hillsborough North Courthouse in partnership with the Manchester and Nashua Bar Associations; and we invited Justice Souter to the Midyear Meeting where we celebrated his return to New Hampshire with the largest crowd to attend a Bar meeting in our history.

For the past few months, I have been proud to join with all the Bar members in raising our voices to preserve adequate funding for our justice system and maintain meaningful access to justice for all New Hampshire citizens.

Behind the scenes, our Bar staff continued to provide an extremely high level of service to the members. For example, we conducted the first Bar Association online election which made it easier than ever for members to participate, at lower cost; we published the first NHBA Pictorial Directory in 10 years, distributed free to all active members; and we developed a process to track important pending rule changes and their status in the rule-making process. Amidst all of this, Jeannine McCoy, our Executive Director, continued to lend support to the Bar Foundation as it grapples with these difficult economic times.

This year, our Bar Association worked collaboratively with the NH Supreme Court in a number of areas to benefit the justice system and the people it serves. Together, the Bar Association and the Court have been working to expand the security access ID project to the district and family courts, as well as standing together to request necessary funding to maintain a meaningful court system. I was never prouder to be a Bar member than when I represented the Association at a legislative budget hearing in April where so many lawyers were present to demonstrate their commitment to safeguarding access to the courts.

As I began this year, I remarked in my first article that we lived in interesting times. The times became dramatically more interesting when courthouse doors closed and court staff hours were reduced due to rising budget deficits and the resulting need to reduce expenditures. Joined by many others, as a Bar Association, we responded when cuts were proposed that threatened to inflict permanent damage to the justice system. Those efforts must continue: we must remain ever-vigilant and speak out whenever it is necessary to defend the Constitutional guarantee of meaningful access to justice for all New Hampshire citizens. What we do to safeguard our system of justice also demonstrates the civility and nobility of our profession.

It is not unique to our Association that a person is able to assume an active role and particular responsibilities for a brief period of time and then relinquish them to new leadership. For me, that time will soon arrive and I will be succeeded by Marilyn McNamara who, I know, will continue the great traditions of this Association.

I will always be grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve the NH Bar Association.

Thank you.

James J. Tenn, Jr., of the Tenn and Tenn law firm in Manchester, hands over the NHBA Presidentís gavel to Marilyn McNamara at the NHBA Annual Meeting on Saturday, June 26, 2010. He will complete his service on the NHBA Board of Governors as Immediate Past President during the upcoming year. For more information on the meeting, please visit

Supreme Court Rule 42(9) requires all NH admitted attorneys to notify the Bar Association of any address change, home or office.

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