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Bar News - July 15, 2011

President's Perspective: The Ripple Effect


Jennifer L. Parent
The remarks of NHBA President Jennifer L. Parent at Annual Bar Meeting on June 25, 2011.

I am honored to be standing here before you this evening, and I thank you for this privilege to serve you as President of the New Hampshire Bar Association.

I thank Marilyn McNamara for her work this year on behalf of the Bar Association. I also thank Jim Tenn for his service to the Bar as well as the members of the Board of Governors. I look forward to working with this year’s Board and the enthusiasm and energy they bring to the Association. As you know, we have an incredible Bar staff, and I look forward to continuing to work with them.

I am grateful and appreciative that my family, friends, and colleagues of the McLane law firm could be here tonight. I have the privilege of working with a wonderful group of people at McLane who recognize the importance of giving back to our profession through Bar service. The support of my partners over the years has been an incredible asset for me and allows me to hold this important position. In particular, I thank Jack Middleton and Bruce Felmly who, in addition to both being past Bar presidents, have been mentors to me.

As a young girl growing up in NH, I remember there was a pond at the end of my road called Darrah Pond. That was where everyone in my small town would go swimming in the summer to cool off from the heat – true NH style.

I have vivid memories that when the surface of the water was calm, it perfectly reflected the world around it – the trees, the sky, the clouds, and all their various colors – just like a mirror.

At this pond, we would also skim stones sometimes called skipping rocks – which I am pretty sure some of you out there have done. The object of skimming stones is to find a flat stone and see how many times you can get it to bounce off the surface of the water before it disappears below. And the more bounces you achieve, the further out your rock will go.

And I remember that each touch of the stone to the surface of the water would cause ripples to radiate out in perfect concentric circles. The circles would grow and spread out from the center as if in echo to the one before. To a young girl, these expanding rings of water seemed to reach out to infinity. And I remember that as I threw the stone, each time it touched the surface along its path, it would duplicate this ripple reaction – changing the mirrored world as it went.

I always thought it was amazing how one person with the right tool (here a stone) could make such an impression and difference. How one touch could make an impact and start a reaction that could be seen and felt so far from where it started.

As lawyers, we each make a difference every day. We make a difference for our clients in their lives and businesses, our profession through our commitment to the rule of law, and our communities through our volunteer time and contributions. Continuing this work and having the right tools to achieve this difference is key.

I want to focus tonight on a few of the initiatives for this year which follow this theme.

First, we will look to the future – our newer lawyers. As we continue into the 21st century, we need to find new ways to connect lawyers and to build bonds within our profession and our Association. We live in a technological world and how we communicate and interact with one another is changing every day. We need to find new ways to involve and invest in our newer lawyers for the future. By doing so, we begin to develop the next leaders of our profession and our communities.

One way to further this initiative has already been implemented with the launch of the Leadership Academy. It is no coincidence that the graduation of our inaugural class takes place tonight. Through the Academy, we encourage the emergence of our next leaders by giving them the tools they will need so that they can make a difference – showing them how to skim that rock.

Second, we will raise the bar on civics education. The Bar Association will work with the NH Bar Foundation on a civics program for adults. Expanding upon civics education for students, this program will equip lawyers with the tools to go out and make presentations to business groups and community, social, and civic groups.

We will give attorneys engaging activities they can use to teach the fundamentals of government and the courts. One is called, "Could You Pass the Test?" It poses questions from the U.S. citizenship test and draws from the US and NH constitutions. An uninformed public will not understand the importance of a strong justice system and be unlikely to support the resources it needs or to understand the role of lawyers within that system. Again, each of us creating a ripple of difference that is felt beyond today.

Now the pond I used to swim in to keep cool, while it provided what was needed – a refreshing dip – it did have its obstacles. I have two words for you – snapping turtles. That’s right. It was a surprise to me as well. And there will be challenges ahead of us this year – a new Circuit Court, continued court funding issues, and diminishing jury trials. We will take each of those in hand and work on how to meet those challenges.

Finally, as an initiative, we need to get the word out. Our profession is a noble one. It is sometimes easy to forget what lawyers do and how much they give back to the public and our justice system. Lawyers do good things. Lawyers do good things every day.

I am convinced that the total number of hours lawyers volunteer and give back is unparalleled. The contributions are myriad – from helping indigent clients and taking cases through the Pro Bono Program to volunteering in their communities to serving on charitable and non-profit boards to donating services to the court system through mediation. We need to do a better job this year of promoting those contributions and the difference NH lawyers make.

I am proud to be a lawyer. I am proud to be part of this profession and this Bar Association. I look forward to the coming year, and I promise to do my best to serve you and the profession.

Jennifer L. Parent is President of the New Hampshire Bar Association for the 2011-12 year. She practices with the law firm of McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton.

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