Bar News - March 22, 2013
Board Reviews Bills, Insurance Agency Finances
By: Dan Wise
This article reports on both the Feb. 21 and the March 7 meetings of the NHBA Board of Governors.
At its Feb. 21 meeting, the NHBA Board of Governors received an update on the fast-moving legislative session. The Board reviewed and ratified NHBA Legislation Committee recommendations for advocacy or informational positions on more than 30 pieces of legislation, many of which do not appear likely to progress in a legislative session dominated by deliberations on the two-year state budget.
John MacIntosh, the Bar’s legislative representative, also reported that the Governor’s proposed budget includes a recommendation for two additional superior court judges and more. (See Court budget article.) The Board received updates on several ongoing efforts, including the Leadership Academy and the NH Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission, which on Feb. 19 released a report, funded by the NH Bar Foundation, detailing the gap between civil legal needs among poor people and the resources available to assist them. A second report, looking at the economic impact of legal services, also was released that day. (The economic impact report is described in an article. Both reports, along with summaries, are available on the New Hampshire Access to Justice Commission website.)
The legal needs assessment shows that the combined efforts of the state’s primary legal services providers – the NH Pro Bono Referral Program, NH Legal Assistance, and the Legal Advice & Referral Center – satisfied less than 6 percent of the need for legal help among low-income residents in 2010. That notwithstanding, New Hampshire has one of the higher pro bono participation rates in the country.
Appearing at the press conference Thursday, Feb. 21, were: Richard Uchida, chair of the Access to Justice Commission; former NH Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick, now the dean of UNH Law; Joseph Reilly, president and CEO of Centrix Bank, a longtime IOLTA Leadership Bank; and former state Senator Dr. James Squires, who is also the former president of Endowment for Health.
In other business, the NHBA Board approved a recommendation to forgive a portion of the debt owed by its wholly-owned subsidiary, the NHBA Insurance Agency, on a promissory note drawn to record total accumulated annual expenses greater than revenue. A portion of the agency’s annual expenses are overhead expenses paid to the Bar Association.
Russell Hilliard, chair of the Insurance Agency Board, said that while it was necessary for tax reasons and due to insurance regulations to create the agency as a for-profit subsidiary, its main aim is to provide a cost-effective benefit to Bar Association members. During its decade of service to date, the NHBA Insurance Agency has provided considerable services to members in the form of discounts and access to insurance expertise and advice, and information about other NHBA services, at costs lower than most other departments of the Association.
After discussion, the Board unanimously approved the recommendation for the Association to forgive a portion of the Agency debt in an amount equal to the accumulated net operating losses, with Hilliard and Peter Hutchins abstaining. The debt forgiveness will be reported as an expense on the Bar’s financial statements and as income on the Insurance Agency’s statements. Because the Agency is a subsidiary of the Bar and its statements are consolidated for reporting purposes, the net effect of the transaction will be zero on the consolidated financial statements issued by the auditors at the end of the fiscal year.
At the March 7 meeting, the Board received an update from NHBA President Larry Vogelman on the favorable response to an initial brainstorming session on ways the Bar Association can assist veterans, an initiative Vogelman wanted to launch during his year as president. A valuable connection has been made to Diane Levesque, justice outreach coordinator for the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center in Manchester, who recently hosted the first in what is hoped will be a series of legal clinics for veterans. There is also considerable enthusiasm about planning training programs on veterans’ legal issues (and resources available for veterans) for judges and attorneys. Also, a meeting was held with representatives of the UNH School of Law’s Social Justice Institute. The law school is seeking funding for post-graduate fellowships for its law graduates to work on public interest projects or with organizations, and the Bar’s veterans’ outreach project is a possible opportunity for a fellowship slot.
Christopher Regan, a governor-at-large, is co-chair of this year’s Civics in Action project which has targeted Kiwanis Clubs in NH for presentations. Jennifer Parent, who launched Civics in Action last year, has made the first presentation at the Concord Kiwanis, Regan reported.
NHBA Executive Director Jeannine McCoy reported that she is discussing a proposal with the ABA Division for Bar Services to conduct a strategic review and planning initiative involving legal community stakeholders, NHBA leaders, and NHBA professional staff that would culminate in a facilitated planning session in the fall. The goal would be to help the NHBA define its values and vision in accordance with its mission and develop strategic initiatives to meet those ends.