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Bar News - November 18, 2011

President's Perspective: Investing in Our Future Leaders


"For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today," proverb.

Jennifer L. Parent
One of my initiatives this year is to look to the future and our newer lawyers. The economy continues to test us all. The technological revolution has transformed how we communicate and interact with one another within our profession and our Association. It has altered how we practice law today and is expected to have a prolonged impact on our daily lives. As we continue in these ever-evolving times, we need to find new ways to include and invest in our newer lawyers. By doing so, we begin to develop the next leaders of our profession and our communities so they can be prepared to guide us through both the opportunities and challenges in the upcoming decades.

Leaders are not born, they are made. In fact, leaders have been made throughout the history of this Association, although informally. Individual Bar members have encouraged and fostered newer lawyers who later developed into leaders within our profession. Because of economic realities and our growing size, however, it is harder to accomplish this informally.

The NHBA Leadership Academy was created in an effort to identify and develop present and future leaders of our profession. The goal through the Academy is to encourage our next leaders by giving them the tools they will need moving forward so that they can make a difference. The Academy allows us to expand perspectives and to build on the strengths of our Bar Association – namely, our members.

As John Quincy Adams once said, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader." We hope to do just this with the Academy. Having fun along the way to building leadership skills will only strengthen each participant’s experience and hopefully inspire them and others to become and stay involved.

Last month, I had the pleasure of joining this year’s Academy class for dinner at their opening retreat. It was exciting to interact with a group of individuals who are embarking on a year of new experiences and discovery. I found them eager and motivated. They will learn skills that they can use over the course of the program – skills that they can then take back to their employers and communities for use both inside and outside the practice of law.

Similar to last year’s Academy, the participants will learn about such things as running a meeting, media relations, public speaking, and networking. They will gain insight into their personal leadership style and professionalism. They will interact with leaders from our state as panelists for the program include leaders from the three branches of government as well as the business and non-profit communities.

A new program for the Academy this year is a segment called the "Future of the Profession." This module will delve into issues facing the future of the practice of law such as trends, the "business" of law, evolving practice areas in the upcoming years, court funding issues, and how technology will change lawyer interaction with the courts, counsel, and clients. Our hope is to encourage some critical thinking about the future of law practice, how to balance work and personal life, compensation for attorneys balanced with billing of clients, and other topics raised during the discussion. Academy participants will be asked to consider how the Association can work to meet and address the needs of Bar members, the profession, and the public in these areas.

There are a myriad of factors that look to impact the justice system and the practice of law in the upcoming decades. Some of those influences are being felt now and are expected to continue. For one thing, the world seems smaller today. The Internet has created a more globalized market, forcing us to confront the challenge of competition when the borders of our profession are continually expanding. Communication has progressed from the typewriter to the facsimile to email in a very short period of time. Lawyers now blog and tweet in real time and so do our clients. Our state courts are diving into the E-Court arena in the next few years, which will compel our own conversion to paperless processes.

The economy continues to affect society, our clients, and the budget for the courts, raising the obstacles to access to justice for all. While we work on the issues our profession faces, opening up this dialogue with our newer lawyers will help shape how we approach the hard-to-predict future and the opportunities and challenges it presents. An important goal of the Leadership Academy is to foster and maintain the cohesiveness of each class and to promote civility and professionalism. While modern forces – technology, client expectations, economic pressures, to name a few – have wrought changes in our law practices, one mainstay is true. Our profession is all about relationships – relationships with our clients, opposing counsel, and the courts.

Connecting and building bonds with each other, helping our clients in times of need, and being active in our communities remain the hallmarks of our profession. The Academy invests in our newer lawyers and our future.

I encourage you to reach out to all our newer lawyers and assist with their integration into the Bar and the practice. Chances are, you will be handling cases with them soon and they will be our future leaders later.

Meet the Leadership Academy Class of 2012
Scenes from the NHBA Leadership Academy Retreat

Jennifer L. Parent is the 2011-2012 President of the New Hampshire Bar Association. She is a director at McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton law firm.

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