Bar News - July 13, 2012
2011-2012 Association Year: New Initiatives, Improved Services
The 2011-2012 fiscal year of the New Hampshire Bar Association featured the successful launch of popular new programs, improvement of several ongoing services and activities, as well as responses to outside challenges that arose.
Civics in Action reaches out to influential adults. Designed by then-President Jennifer Parent and funded by a New Hampshire Foundation grant, Civics in Action brought an entertaining and interactive program raising awareness about the need for more civics education to a targeted group of influential, active citizens – the Rotary Clubs of New Hampshire. Volunteer lawyers were recruited and trained to do the presentations, and the Bar Association coordinated their efforts. More than two dozen volunteers, trained as "ambassadors" participated as presenters from Sept. 13, 2011 to May 21, 2012, reaching more than 2,500 Rotarians.
The Bar Association reached out to another potential audience – future lawyers seeking to become oriented to the Bar Association and legal community with "Law Student Advantage" – a specially priced package of Bar News and e-Bulletin subscriptions, and limited-privilege "subscriber memberships to sections.
On the member services front, a Solo/Small Firm discussion group formed and met regularly through the year, discussing marketing ideas and websites, generating leads for new business, cash flow management and other financial management tools. Also, last August, an event for lawyers whose careers are in transition due to unemployment or changing practice areas, was held at the Bar Center to acquaint members with Association services.
In recognition of the difficult economy, members throughout the year were offered, and took advantage of, free "situations-wanted" classified ads posted online.
A closer collaboration between the Bar Association and Bar Foundation helped the Bar Foundation draw greater attention to the contributions provided by banks participating in IOLTA at the Leadership Bank level. Banks that qualify for this status offer higher-than-market interest rates on IOLTA accounts. Members were encouraged to consider using Leadership Banks for some or all of their IOLTA accounts. The banks were individually highlighted in various media during the year.
One of the Bar’s trademark committees, the Ethics Committee dedicated itself to active outreach in the past year. It began publishing "Ethics Corner" a series of brief articles devoted to frequently asked, timely questions of ethics. In addition, the Committee continues to produce thoughtful formal opinions on topics of current concern. Ethics Chair Maureen Smith details the Ethics Committee’s activity in the Spring issue of the Bar Journal.
A trademark event of the Bar year, the Midyear Meeting, continued its recent run of capacity crowds – thanks to compelling programs involving national speakers brought by NHBA•CLE plus the inducement of extremely low pricing. The NHMCLE Board provided a contribution to lower the cost of attendance, allowing members to obtain CLE credits at a discount, and advance collegiality by allowing them to participate in the largest Association event of the year.
NHBA Leadership Academy graduated its second class at the Annual Meeting in June. The program retained essential elements from its successful first year, including an intensive opening retreat, service projects and the active involvement of the steering committee. Revisions to sharpen the focus of the program included the addition of a "Future of the Legal Profession" module and an opening reception to help jump-start the group’s cohesion.
An event spawned by a service project of the first Leadership Academy, the "Battle of the Lawyers" fundraiser, was taken over by the New Lawyers Committee and produced another successful event – both in raising money for a good cause and in the information and entertainment value delivered.
A legal consumer-oriented website for the Lawyer Referral Service was launched and built upon during the year. The site was developed internally at a very low cost and allowed LRS to tap into the growing market of consumers seeking legal expertise via the Internet. Later in the year, a version adaptable for mobile users was also developed by Assistant Communications Director Craig Sander. Links to www.nhlawyerreferral.com also are promoted on social media sites maintained by the Bar Association and specifically LRS.
The Bar Association continues to monitor developments in emerging media and experiment with them to reach members and provide services to the public. There were more than 200,000 visits by unique users to www.nhbar.org last year, plus 12,000 projected for the first full year of the LRS website. The Bar also initiated the use of QR codes, primarily to aid in the registration of CLE programs. Growth in users and interactions continued on the Bar’s social media pages (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.)
Despite economic challenges and increasing competition, NHBA•CLE offered programming that was diversified in content and in modes of delivery. This year, it began the development of web casts in cooperation with the Pro Bono program, and offered a CLE on corporate counsel ethics issues in collaboration with the Campaign for Legal Services.
One Bar member, who had moved to another part of the country, remarked in an email to the CLE Department: "People need to move out of state to appreciate how great the NH Bar is…members don’t get the help elsewhere that you get here."
Casemaker rolled out a new interface that streamlines searches and provides the ability for users to create their own folders of saved searches, make notes on documents they retrieve, and track their work by client. Also available is a suite of premium services, available by month-to-month subscription. The new interface was launched in time for the Midyear Meeting at a well-attended CLE breakfast program.
We the People, the Law Related Education showcase of a constitutional law curriculum that includes competitions at the Legislative Office Building and the chance to compete in the nationals in Washington, DC, celebrated its 25th year in NH. Specially recognized was Howard Zibel, NH Supreme Court general counsel who is responsible for bringing the program to New Hampshire, and Martin Honigberg, an attorney who has been a consistent volunteer.
The Bar’s Pro Bono Referral Program had a challenging year, dealing with a tight market for grants and remaining flexible in its programming to take advantage of grants for emerging needs, including the foreclosure crisis. Pro Bono attracted some visible recognition from Gov. Lynch’s proclamation of Pro Bono Week.
Gov. Lynch signed a proclamation recognizing the extraordinary Pro Bono contributions of attorneys. At the
signing (left to right) Ginny Martin, NHBA Legal Services Director, Pamela Peterson, Pro Bono Board,
and NHBA President Jennifer Parent.
Pro Bono reprised its intensive small-group training program, "Divorce Camp" which in the past has groomed new lawyers into confident, dedicated Pro Bono volunteers. Pro Bono also leveraged volunteers’ time through the use of clinics at the Bar Center, allowing them to see several clients in a short period of time.
The DOVE Project introduced the use of inexpensive Skype videoconferencing to bring North Country clients together with lawyers in southern NH, part of the North Country Outreach Project.
There was a prestigious distinction for Ginny Martin, Associate Executive Director for Legal Services – she was appointed to serve on a national Pro Bono Task Force created by the federal Legal Services Corporation.
The restructured and refocused administration of the Minimum Continuing Legal Education Rule progressed in 2011-12 with continued emphasis on assisting members in reaching compliance. The numbers tell the story – even as the Bar continues to grow, the numbers of members not in compliance is shrinking. A redesigned interim report process aims to focus on communicating to members not in compliance and pointing them to what they need to do.
As always, the Association does not operate in a vacuum and outside forces affect the Association and the legal community, In several cases, the Bar Association strived to make a positive difference on behalf of the profession.
In January, the NH Supreme Court received a detailed report from a study committee of the ABA that had made an on-site visit to NH – at the request of the court – with a number of recommendations for changes to the attorney discipline process. Upon the retirement of the longtime lead professional staff person at the Attorney Discipline Office, the Court had sought the ABA’s advice on ways to effect cost-savings and efficiencies. The Court asked the Bar Association to review the report and seek input from the membership.
An NHBA work group’s initial analysis showed that the ABA’s report strayed from the Court’s initial direction and made a number of process recommendations that appeared drastic and unnecessary. The group boiled down the report into more understandable chunks and speedily implemented ways to gather responses – an online survey, a web page with a comment function, and by appearing at the Midyear Meeting and section meetings to solicit written and verbal comments from members. Initial findings were presented to the NH Supreme Court and the Bar Association is expected to deliver a formal response by Oct. 1, 2012.
Over the summer, the Bar Association organized a live web cast, moderated by Parent, which enabled Circuit Court Administrative Judges Edwin Kelly and David King to explain the rapid changes and answer members’ questions. The program was so informative that the Judicial Branch linked to it from its Circuit Court website.
In its second-year session, with the budget done, the Legislature generated a number of bills on policy and constitutional issues. Bar leaders monitored developments, testified, and met with individually with legislators on behalf of the interests of the justice system as a whole.
One triumph was the successful shepherding of legislation to clarify and broaden the exemption for attorneys to assist clients with mortgage modifications, thus fixing the SAFE Act that had hampered representation and real estate sales.
On the national scene, past NHBA President L. Jonathan Ross received a "Grassroots Advocacy" award from the ABA, noting his many years of advocacy for legal services funding with members of Congress.