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Bar News - May 18, 2012

NHBA Board of Governors: Board Updated on NH Lawyers Assistance Outreach

At the NHBA Board of Governors April 19, 2012 meeting, members of the NH Lawyers Assistance Program Commission briefed the board on the progress of the confidential resource assisting lawyers, judges and law students suffering impairment from dependency, mental health or emotional issues.

The program, directed by Bar member Cecie Hartigan, was created in 2007 and is funded by a Supreme Court assessment, building on voluntary efforts supported by an NHBA committee, the NH Lawyers Assistance Committee and Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers.

Accompanied to the Board meeting by Commission members John Tobin and David Wolowitz, Hartigan reported that increased outreach efforts have spurred more use of the NHLAP confidential hotline, up from as few as five calls in some years when it was a volunteer committee to a current average of 50 per year. She said that about 70 percent of the calls are self-referrals, with additional referrals from colleagues, judges, the disciplinary authorities, and the Character & Fitness Committee.

While substance abuse and mental health issues predominate in current referrals, Hartigan said that aging of the legal community means that incapacity due to dementia will become a greater issue.

The Board approved a recommendation from President-elect Larry Vogelman to create the SOLACE program. SOLACE, modeled on a program started in Louisiana, is a voluntary network of Bar members, maintained through an email list that circulates requests from Bar members with problems that might be assisted through non-monetary means. Examples from Louisiana have included donations of frequent-flier miles to a lawyer who needs hotel accommodations or flights in connection with their child receiving specialized medical treatment. More details about SOLACE will be made available once procedures and policies are in place.

On its consent agenda, the Board approved the publication of a new Ethics Committee opinion regarding "Client Gifts to a Lawyer," which is published on page 30.

Two appointments were approved:

Deborah K. Rein, who recently retired as a marital master, was appointed by the NHBA to serve on the Legal Advice & Referral Center board of directors. Jack Sanders was reappointed to the Judicial Conduct Committee.

Also, NHBA President Jennifer Parent asked for expressions of interest from Board members to serve as the Barís representative on a Supreme Court Task Force on Public Access to Court Records. The group issued a report several years ago on policies regarding public access to court records, but it is revisiting its work in conjunction with the NH e-Court project. After the meeting, Parent appointed Judith Homan, Belknap County Governor, who had expressed interest in the project.

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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