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Bar News - December 16, 2011

Presidentís Perspective: Giving Back This Time of Year (And Beyond)


Jennifer L. Parent
Like the song says, this is the most wonderful time of the year. The jingle of bells, the aroma of hot chocolate and pine needles, and the celebrations with family and friends permeate all aspects of our lives. It is a time when we are reminded that it is better to give than to receive. Consistent with that theme, we are also reminded of the responsibilities we hold as professionals to give back to our profession, to our communities, and to those in need of our legal services.

For more than 33 years, the NH Bar Associationís Pro Bono Referral Program has been making a difference in the lives of many disadvantaged families and individuals. New Hampshire lawyers are the mainstay of this program. It is through the committed network of volunteer attorneys and the staggering number of donated hours over the years that the Pro Bono Referral Program has continued in its ability to help those less fortunate and in need of legal assistance. Such enduring work would not be possible without the unflagging support and efforts of everyone involved.

The Pro Bono Referral Program provides the tools attorneys need to take cases to help low-income individuals with their legal needs. From client screening case development to training to coordination of support services, the staff helps to best utilize attorney time and resources. Attorneys can accept cases knowing that they will have the support that they need, and the Pro Bono Referral Program has been recognized for its efforts nationally.

As I travel around the state this year, I am always impressed with the number of hours donated by volunteers every day to our communities. The need is growing in this fiscal climate. While economic and funding challenges create hurdles and obstacles throughout the years at varying degrees, it is clear that volunteer attorneys remain the foundation for the Pro Bono Referral Program. Broadening participation by lawyers continues to be crucial to the success of this program.

I have heard many stories from lawyers about their cases and the good work they have performed through participating in the Pro Bono Referral Program. I recently heard about one Pro Bono case that is worth repeating here. In that case, several New Hampshire lawyers made extraordinary contributions to the representation of a client faced with foreclosure of her home. This woman has six children, one of whom is severely disabled. She was swindled out of the equity in her home by what is called an "equity stripping" or "foreclosure rescue" scam. One day a person arrived on her doorstep Ė at a time she was struggling financially Ė and offered to help her rebuild her credit and save her home. Desperate, with no idea where else to turn for help, she signed papers transferring her home to an associate of this person with the promise that this associate would sell it back to her for the amount she owed her lender once her credit improved. This individual and his associate then placed a substantial lien on the home and arranged to sell it to one of their companies for an inflated price with 100% bank financing. They paid off the spurious lien with the sale proceeds. The woman paid them rent while she was in the home, and they in turn, for a while, made monthly payments on their mortgage with the bank. While she continued to pay them rent every month, they stopped paying the mortgage they had taken out. The first she knew she was in trouble was when the bank started foreclosure proceedings on the home.

Several lawyers stepped in to help this woman through the Pro Bono Referral Program, and since 2007, they have been locked in litigation. Included in this representation was the negotiation with the bank, also a victim. The negotiations required analysis of voluminous underwriting documents, legal research, and involvement of expert witnesses. With extraordinary diligence, the case was resolved. While the terms are confidential, as a result of the efforts of these volunteers, the woman was scheduled to close on the purchase of a new home the day before Thanksgiving.

Thanks to some of our lawyers, this woman can be assured of spending the upcoming holidays, and beyond, at home with her family. For the tremendous efforts and continuous willingness of New Hampshire lawyers to take on Pro Bono Referrals, thank you.

If you are not already a part of the Pro Bono Program, I encourage you to take a case. The gratitude of your clients and the satisfaction of the fruits of your efforts are indescribable rewards.

Jennifer L. Parent is the President of the NH Bar Association for 2011-2012. She is a director at McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton in Manchester.

Editorís note: Pro Bono cases come in a wide range of types and levels of complexity. Contact Carolann Wooding to find out more.

Supreme Court Rule 42(9) requires all NH admitted attorneys to notify the Bar Association of any address change, home or office.

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