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Bar News - August 13, 2010

Bar Association Busy in Down Economy

Despite the economic doldrums of the past year, the NH Bar Association had a strong year of performance, serving as a low-cost or free resource to members in many facets of their practice. And in the realm of public service it provided a two-way conduit of information about the impact of state budget cuts on the delivery of justice in NH, relaying timely information and providing voice to member concerns. The Pro Bono Referral Program, particularly its bankruptcy and foreclosure prevention programs, was especially relied upon this year.

The following are some of the highlights of the past year:

Bar Center purchase. Documents were signed last summer, formalizing the purchase of the office space on the third floor, and the lower-level seminar room, at 2 Pillsbury Street. The sale provides added financial stability for the Bar Association, and lower costs over the long run through rent increases it will avoid.

Midyear Meeting breaks records. More than 500 people attended at least some portion of the 2010 Midyear Meeting, welcoming back retired US Supreme Court Associate Justice David H. Souter to his home state, attending the Professionalism Day program with former Nixon White House aide Egil Krogh, and the Ethics program presented in game show format.

While the Bar Association attracted record attendance for the unusual opportunity to see and hear from its member on the High Court, special efforts through low pricing and proactive marketing were made to encourage newer lawyers and attorneys in public sector/public interest fields to attend.

NHBA•CLE succeeds as low-cost provider. The NHBA•CLE programs were well-attended, in contrast to CLE programs in some other states where the economy was blamed for lagging attendance. The lower-than-market cost of NHBA•CLE programs may have been part of the reason. More than 3,862 people registered or attended "in-person LIVE" CLE programs, and 455 participated in 10 of those programs broadcast as live webcasts. Online sales of pre-recorded programs also ran ahead of the previous year. In addition 158 participated in the Court Budget webcast (a non-credit program, provided at no charge.)

Member services offers law management advice. Member services staff met frequently throughout the year with members of the Bar, some laid off by firms, as well as new admittees and those admitted on motion seeking information and resources on how to set up a practice in NH, and for guidance on business basics. In addition, Member Services continued its series of free brown-bag lunch programs on practical topics, including legal research, law office software, marketing, and time management.

Benefits menu boosted. Merchant banking services (allowing law offices to accept credit card payments), discounted office supplies through Staples, online court bonds, and enhanced services and a mobile format for Casemaker were among the highlights.

Bar Center a magnet for members. From June 2009 – May 2010 our meeting space was utilized by:
  • 4,031 members and clients attending 302 meetings in our third- floor conference space;
  • 920 members and clients using small meeting rooms for 385 meetings.
  • Our lower level seminar room hosted:
    • 34 section/committee meetings
    • 31 CLE’s
    • 2 other meetings
Assisting in management of Bar Foundation. With the departure of NHBF Executive Director David Snyder, Jeannine McCoy, the Bar Association’s Executive Director stepped in to take the reins on an interim basis. During the year, IOLTA revenues recovered a bit from their 2008-2009 lows, and grants made increased slightly.

Board governance. The Board of Governors continued to bring leaders of the legal community in for talks with the board, including Chief Justice Broderick, Superior Court Chief Justice Robert Lynn, NH Attorney General Michael Delaney, and US Attorney John Kacavas.

In the spring, the NHBA conducted its first online election for the Board of Governors, allowing convenient e-mail voting in a process that preserves the confidentiality and integrity of the process, with savings in printing, mailing, and tabulation costs.

Interest grows in law related education. The Bar successfully conducted its annual We the People programs, "The Citizen and the Constitution" and "Project Citizen" as well as coordinating lawyers’ visits to schools during Law Week in May. There are signs that new schools are considering entering "The Citizen and the Constitution" competition.

New lawyers programming. Volunteering for and use of the New Lawyers Committee (NLC) mentor program is growing steadily. Last year, 56 new lawyers were matched with mentors. Also, members of the NLC at the Annual Meeting staged a substantive and interactive presentation on lawyers’ use of social media, covering both its use in litigation discovery, and also for marketing, and provided guidance on some of the emerging ethical issues.

Publications to serve legal community. The Bar published its first printed pictorial membership directory in 10 years. Advertising sales, depressed by the economy and the newness of the product, offset nearly all the cost of production, printing and distribution of the directory to all active-status members.

With financial support from the Manchester and Nashua bars, the Bar News in December published a special supplement, Goin’ South, that provided practical information on the temporary relocation of Hillsborough North Superior Court to the Southern District courthouse in Nashua. Also, the Bar News published a series of "Keeping UP" articles on marketing, rising practice areas, cash flow, and other topics. The Bar Journal’s fall issue, "Hard Times" focused on timely recession-related employment law topics, bankruptcy, and other topics.

Legal services adapts to economic needs. The Pro Bono Referral Program ramped up services to meet the needs of citizens in economic distress, with training and recruitment of added Pro Bono attorneys to handle foreclosure prevention and bankruptcy matters. The DOVE Project received a one-year recovery act grant to create the North Country Outreach program that facilitates lawyers in the southern tier to communicate with and advise Pro Bono clients in underserved North Country counties.

The Low-Income Taxpayer Project also expanded its volunteer panel and was able to host a training that included a federal Tax Court judge.

These are only a few of the highlights of activity at the Bar in the past Association fiscal year. Visit You Should Know for more information on the Bar’s activities and services in the past year.

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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