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Bar News - June 17, 2011

2010-2011 Bar Association Year in Review

The Association year that concluded on May 31, 2011, was highlighted by fast-moving developments at the State House and in the courts, and by the debut of an exciting new Association program. The year included milestones of progress in several services that touch members’ lives and practices.

Leadership Academy kicks off. Conceived and nurtured into existence by Leadership Academy Steering Committee co-chairs Jennifer Parent and Richard Uchida, the charter class of this leadership training program for Bar members started strongly. The participants, mid-career lawyers from all practice areas and settings, have rated all aspects of the program highly. The participants, working in teams, developed three distinctive and useful service programs as part of their commitment to "give back’ to the profession through service and leadership. (Read more about the Leadership Academy elsewhere in this issue.) The Class of 2011 "graduates" at the Annual Meeting; several participants are serving on the Steering Committee planning the 2012 program.

Keeping up with the changing court. The Bar Association leadership made special efforts to keep lines of communication open with the Judicial Branch as it underwent several major changes:
  • appointment of Justice Linda S. Dalianis as NH Supreme Court Chief Justice, Justice Robert Lynn’s ascension to the NH Supreme Court as Associate Justice, and the appointment of Justice Tina Nadeau as the new Superior Court Chief Justice;
  • Development and speeded-up implementation of the recommendations of the Innovation Commission including the restructuring of the probate, district and family courts into the statewide Circuit Court; and the design of the centralized call center for court users;
  • Laying the groundwork for future initiatives including videoconferencing installations throughout the system, including public defenders’ offices and jails; and the design of the "electronic court" to allow for more efficient and less costly filing, noticing and other interactions involving documents.
  • Holding CLEs and providing information on the "PAD Pilot" project in Strafford and Carroll counties that requires automatic disclosure and proportional discovery in civil litigation.
Most recently, the Bar Association assisted laid-off court employees by offering access to a free job board. The listings were publicized to Bar members seeking experienced administrative or legal help.

Changes in law practice also will be dictated by legislation and state budget decisions (some still pending at presstime) such as the elimination of the GAL indigent fund, CHINs, and reduced appropriations for NH Legal Assistance. NHBA publications and listservs helped members share information and concerns in these fast-moving areas – and more will be reported on in the months ahead.

Midyear Meeting – For the second year in a row, the Midyear Meeting emphasized quality program and inclusivity. Thanks to a subsidy from the NH Minimum Continuing Legal Education Board, Bar members could attend the entire day at an extremely low price; and those fees were even further discounted for new lawyers and public sector/public interest attorneys. As a result, the Professionalism Day CLE was a sell-out, and the banquet drew more than 500 members.

NHBA CLE – The Bar’s CLE programming continues to be an important member service, providing original, NH-oriented, timely, programming to a large portion of the membership in a live format allowing for plenty of interaction and collegiality. Between September 2010 and the end of June 2011 when the bulk of its programming takes place, NHBA CLE presented 50 programs, including 15 video replays, 2 jam-packed Midyear Meeting CLEs, and aided in producing two Pro Bono CLEs. The total number attending the live programs was approximately 3,700 (note, this includes 886 CLE registrations for Midyear Meeting) lawyers and non-lawyers, and involved about 265 faculty members, almost all NH Bar members generously donating their time and efforts. In calendar year 2010 we had 1,296 unique users of online CLE who received a total of 8,301 hours of online instruction.

NHMCLE Administration – A highlight of the past year was a successful redirection in emphasis for the administration of members’ compliance with Supreme Court Rule 53 (minimum continuing legal education requirement). Personally overseen by NHBA Executive Director Jeannine McCoy, the administrative office handling SC Rule 53 compliance reoriented its approach from enforcement to compliance assistance – including reorganization and editing of the information sent to members or found on the NHMCLE website, and revamping administrative practices to emphasize service to members, elimination of unnecessary processing delays, and efficiency through better use of technology.

The results included a significant reduction in the number of attorneys who were not in compliance by the end of the reporting period. (The NHBA administers Court Rule 53 under a contract with the Court’s NHMCLE Board.)

Pro Bono Referral Program – Once again, the Pro Bono program successfully swung into action, with only a few weeks’ notice in early December, to organize an estate-planning clinic for involving dozens of attorney and staff volunteers to help 73 US Marine reservists from NH arrange their legal affairs before an overseas deployment. Pro Bono also moved forward on a win-win partnership with the UNH School of Law’s Daniel Webster Scholars program which is incorporating training and supervised volunteering with the DOVE Project as part of its curriculum.

Pro Bono also received some very positive publicity on NH Public Radio. NH Pro Bono was favorably portrayed for the participation of its attorneys who gave more hours to pro bono legal service in the recession countering national trends. ’Giving Matters’ a series of interviews focusing on NH nonprofits’ impact on the community, selected the Pro Bono DOVE North Country Outreach program last year, and the segment will air later this year.

Member services – While the economy makes its slow recovery, Bar members, particularly new members, continue to turn to the Bar Association for advice and information. The New Lawyers Committee Mentor program has expanded and at year’s end, had 68 ongoing matches. The NLC also planned a major social event – "Battle of the Lawyer Bands" in the fall that was well-received and is expected to return this fall.

The Ethics Committee, in addition to providing advice informally to dozens of Bar members, issued three formal opinions:
  • Collecting Attorney’s Fees – Debt Forgiveness and Reporting to Regulating Agency
  • Representing Clients Through Interpreters
  • Duties to Prospective Clients [in the Internet era]
Member services also sent out member ID cards that are now accepted as attorney credentials at most NH correctional facilities as well as many courthouses. The Association is continuing discussions with the judicial branch to expand the successful expedited attorney access pilot project at Hillsborough South Superior Court through the state courts.

Use of Bar Center conference rooms and meetings increased approximately 10 percent. More than 4,486 members met for section or committee meetings in the conference rooms and nearly 1,000 attorneys met other attorneys or clients in our small meeting rooms on the third floor at the Bar Center.

Communications – The Bar News, Bar Journal, website and e-Bulletin benefited from a more structured, coordinated strategy to sell advertising. Practice-area sections in Bar News, multi-media package offerings and lowered prices on the smallest ad sizes helped the Bar Association post a 16 percent increase in advertising over the previous year. Bar News ad revenue in most months matched or exceeded the totals received when the Bar News was published twice-a-month.

The Bar Journal has also returned to a quarterly publication schedule and now offers the option of a printed edition at a modest cost.

Law Related Education – Gov. Lynch was a surprise guest at the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution competition this year. In addition to congratulating the teams, he conducted an impromptu civics lesson with the students. Project Citizen, which features a public policy portfolio evaluation program, has expanded to include oral presentations that build students’ enthusiasm and confidence.

Recruitment of schools for the Lawyer and Judge in Every School program in May was boosted by the efforts of a Leadership Academy service project which contacted most of the school superintendents around the state. The team also wrote a series of new lesson plans for use next year.

Bar Foundation support. Recognizing the importance of the Foundation as the philanthropic arm of the Association and as administrator of the IOLTA program, the Association staff, including Jeannine McCoy acting as Interim Executive director, provided increased support to the streamlined and reinvigorated Foundation. Jack Middleton, involved in the creation of IOLTA, was appointed Chair; Retired Probate Court Administrative Judge John R. Maher began working for the Foundation on a part-time basis as Development Director.

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