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Bar News - October 15, 2010

President's Perspective: A Theme for This Year? Taking Forward Steps


Marilyn Billings McNamara
So, there I was, driving away from the Mt. Washington Hotel last June, gripping the steering wheel and thinking, "What have I done?" I mean, itís not as if I have extra time to undertake this Bar president challenge Ė I just have to fit it in between the practice of law, my various commitments to other groups and, of course, my family. I have a book on my nightstand called, The Power of a Positive No. Iím told it is very helpful in balancing oneís life, but I havenít had time to get past the first chapter. Itís been sitting there for a year; I suspect the bookmark wonít be moving ahead any time soon.

Lawyers keep asking me what my theme is this year, and Iím afraid I answer differently every time because I think of something new every day. That said, the threads of my conversations are beginning to intertwine. In my last Bar News column, published in August, I returned to Ian, my grandson, and how he is thriving after a difficult start. Now our challenge, his and mine, is to get up on our feet, stay steady, and move forward. To borrow the General Electric slogan, "Progress is our most important product."

As the stateís fiscal crisis plays out over the course of the next couple of years (or more), the NH Bar Association will continue to support adequate funding for the judicial branch. We also need to aid the court in finding ways to operate that are cost-effective and justice-effective. The Innovation Commission will have recommendations soon; they may not all fly, but itís a beginningóand Iím all about taking a few first steps.

To stay relevant, the court has to change, but thatís also true of our profession. Standing and staying on our feet may be an accomplishment, but it wonít mean much if we remain stuck in one place. Here is how I want to move forward this year: I want to reach out to lawyers who are diverse in race, ethnicity, culture or gender identification. We need to develop leaders who reflect our changing demographics and help New Hampshire attract young, vibrant professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, thinkers and adventurersóour state is getting a little old (we are on par with Florida, age-wise) and maybe a little stuffy.

Wouldnít it be interesting to capture the spirit of change with a positive vision? Letís embrace the future, come to terms with technology, explore the economics and management of our practices and provide opportunities for all lawyers to succeed, not only in the profession, but also in the community.

I also want to promote our profession by talking about lawyers as valued citizens. Despite the tough economy, lawyers have continued to devote time to the Bar through work on committees, sections, continuing legal education and other Bar initiatives. This year, thanks to the energy of people like Jennifer Parent and Richard Uchida, the Bar will host its first Leadership Academy, offering newer lawyers a path to networking, skill development and public service.

Iíd also like to thank Brad Cook for providing the Board of Bar Governors with an overview of not-for-profit entity governance, trends, and challenges at our August meeting. The Bar is fortunate to have volunteers like Jennifer, Richard and Brad, the members of the Board of Governors and so many others who devote hours of time in service to Bar members, the public, the judicial branch and the legislature.

Volunteerism is alive and well among lawyers. Not only do we step up within the profession, lawyers serve on private nonprofit boards from Coos to Cheshire to the Seacoast. In addition, we volunteer on school boards and county, town and city governing bodies; we moderate town meetings, volunteer as firefighters, sing in choirs, act in community plays, coach and referee childrenís sports teams, sit with the dying and shelter the homeless. So thatís another theme Ė the value we add to our clients, our courts, and our country, both as paid professionals and volunteers. We carry a heavy load; lawyers should not be shy about their contributions.

Those of us who are more experienced need to reach out to the newer members, not so much to describe the past, but to demonstrate the lessons we have learned; the need for civility and collegiality, the pleasure of working with good lawyers, even as adversaries, and the duty to mentor new lawyers so that when we retire and move to Maine our work remains behind to inform, grow and keep New Hampshire safe in the hands of those who next take the oath and, if you will, raise the bar even higher.

Marilyn Billings McNamara is an attorney at Upton & Hatfield in Concord. She is the 2010-11 president of the NH Bar Association.

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