Bar News - July 19, 2013
NH Bar Association Year in Review: Challenges & Accomplishments
During his year as Bar president, Larry Vogelman faced profound difficulties in his personal life, but, with the help of colleagues, family and friends, he survived these blows. Moreover, he managed to conclude his tenure with progress on four objectives he launched during his turn at the helm of the Association.
Larry Vogelman leafs through a scrapbook of photos and memories from his year as Bar president with his companion, Dottie Oliver.
The association also moved forward on administrative innovations, member service and public outreach initiatives, and participated in an informational effort that led to the defeat of a ballot question that, in the association’s view, would have hurt our justice system.
The following is a recap of some of the most significant events of the 2013 association year.
At his installation at the Annual Meeting, Vogelman identified four areas he intended to work on during his term: assisting veterans in NH, a group that suffers disproportionately from unemployment, homelessness and other problems; addressing issues of an aging bar; creating an avenue of representation for the growing number of bar members with offices outside NH; and the launch of SOLACE, a volunteer-run, mutual help network within the legal profession.
Veterans’ help: President Vogelman generated many offers of help from the legal community for a variety of veterans’ needs. Through meetings with interested parties and those who work with veterans, the Pro Bono program and the NH Bar Association have begun an informal collaboration with the Veterans Administration Justice Outreach advocate to hold clinics on civil legal needs for veterans at the VA facility in Manchester on topics including foreclosure prevention and general civil legal issues.
The Bar Association is also organizing a training program to better acquaint judges and advocates with the special needs of services available to veterans who appear in court for either civil or criminal matters. Relationships also are being forged with veteran-oriented nonprofits and the UNH School of Law to seek funding for an ongoing legal clinic for veterans.
SOLACE network: SOLACE, modeled on a program started by a federal judge in Louisiana, was launched in NH in the fall of 2012, after a delay of several months caused, ironically, by Vogelman’s heart attack, which he suffered while attending an American Bar Association meeting in Chicago.
SOLACE is an email distribution list the Bar Association maintains that allows members to post or respond to requests for (mostly non-monetary) help, such as providing transportation or accommodations for someone being treated at a health care facility far from home. Enter “SOLACE” in the search box at www.nhbar.org to find out more.
Out-of-state member representation: During the past year, several members of the Board’s Administration of the Bar Committee worked on proposals to amend the Bar’s Constitution and Bylaws. (See Board of Governors article.)
One amendment presented at the June meeting would create a governor’s seat that would represent the perspective and interests of out-of-state Association members.
Needs of senior lawyers: The Bar Association has begun discussion of the practicalities and the long-range impact of having a “graying” demographic. Today, more than 2,600 active status Bar members are over 60 years of age, and fewer than 1,600 are under 40.
A series of articles, titled “The Gray Area” have been published in Bar News, and a plenary CLE session at the Annual Meeting was devoted to a discussion of ethical and practical issues regarding the impact of aging on mental and cognitive functioning for attorneys and other professionals.
Other Association Work
The work of the Bar Association in any given year goes far beyond the president’s initiatives. Over the past year, many challenges and opportunities have been addressed as they arose.
Voters Reject Court Rules Amendment: On Nov. 6, 2012, Question 2, which would have amended the Constitution to give the Legislature final say on court rules, failed 49 to 51 percent.
The Bar Association facilitated participation by individual members in efforts to defeat Question 2. Bar leaders and members made speeches, were interviewed by the news media, wrote articles, and distributed lawn signs that were financed by an independent political committee, Keep Politics Out of the Courts.
Our first Pro Bono Month: The Bar Association built on a nationwide observance of “Pro Bono Week” in late October by expanding the celebration to the entire month, to honor attorney volunteers who, year in and year out, contribute thousands of hours in legal work on civil matters for poor people.
The observance also included the first presentation of the Bruce Friedman Pro Bono award, presented to a UNH Law (formerly Franklin Pierce Law Center) alumna who exemplified the dedication to legal services for the poor of the award’s namesake, the late Bruce Friedman, a Pierce Law professor.
The inaugural Friedman award was presented to Marilyn Billings McNamara, of Amherst, a 1977 graduate of Franklin Pierce Law Center who is a longtime Pro Bono volunteer. She served and led the Pro Bono Governing Board, and was executive director of the Legal Advice & Referral Center.
Foreclosure Relief Project (FRP): Funded by a portion of the National Mortgage Foreclosure Settlement, through the NH Attorney General’s Office, FRP is a collaborative effort of the NH Bar Association’s Legal Services Department along with NH Legal Assistance (NHLA) and the Legal Advice and Referral Center (LARC). The project is designed to help homeowners at all income levels who are struggling with foreclosure and other mortgage-related problems.
The Bar’s portion of the project has included recruiting and training volunteer attorneys, providing substantive training for attorneys on foreclosure prevention strategies, and holding clinics around the state. Nearly 80 attorneys have participated in training in the first year, nearly a dozen clinics, in person or over the phone, have been held, and a special website and blog to allow volunteers to share information, caselaw and sample pleadings, has been set up. Three years of funding for the program have been authorized.
NHBA CLE responds to training needs: Several times in the past year, NHBA CLE collaborated with other organizations to respond to timely needs. On Feb. 14, 2013, NHBA hosted a live CLE program on the PAD discovery rules program that was slated to go into effect for all 10 counties effective March 1, working with court officials and faculty to pull together the program and schedule replays later that month in West Lebanon, Lincoln and Keene.
CLE also collaborated with Pro Bono on a series of one-hour basic law programs of particular interest to Pro Bono volunteers (including client relations, eviction defense, debt collection, and the intersection of bankruptcy & divorce.) Just this month, it was announced that the Association for Continuiing Legal Education (ACLEA) is presenting an award to the NHBA CLE program for the program, capping a year in which NHBA CLE also received a “Partners in Excellence Award” for online CLE programming.
New tool for legislation monitoring: Members of the Legislation Committee have been kept up to date and the work in preparing for the hectic period of introduction of legislation has been streamlined by the launch of NH Bar Association Legislation Watch, a website that automatically tracks and provides updates on selected legislative bills in each session.
The website is available to all Bar members; added features, with a special log in, allow members of the Legislation Committee and the Board of Governors to exchange information and make comments on particular bills. The annual subscription cost, including customization, of the site, was mostly offset by a reduction in clerical and research expenses.
Database conversion & e-invoicing: Much work has taken place behind the scenes over the past couple of years to updatee the Bar Association’s membership information database, which is integrated with nearly every aspect of Bar Association operation. The new software went live in April, enabling the Bar Association to send out electronic invoices for 2013-14 dues and court fees.
Electronic invoicing will be a convenience for members as well as producing cost-savings and efficiencies in the handling of dues and mandatory court fees the Bar Association collects as a service to the Court. A numbeer of member conveniences will be introduced as the system is fully implemented.
Leadership Academy: A third class of the NHBA Leadership Academy graduated at the 2013 Annual Meeting. The group met for specific modules on different areas, including state legislative, executive and judicial branches, media relations, nonprofit governance, future of the profession, and networking and leadership training.
Two service projects were developed by the 11 participants. One project was the creation of a series of one-hour CLE online seminars on basic legal topics using new visual note-taking techniques. The second project is a networking curriculum for law students that will be presented to UNH Law students this fall.
Use of the Bar Center grows: Over the past year, 7,249 members and clients attended 412 meetings in our third floor conference space - an increase of 2,212 members and 28 meetings from 2011-2012. Another 1,800 members and clients met in our small meeting rooms 602 times, also a substantial increase.
Nearly 100 CLEs, Section and other meetings were held in the lower-level conference room, also an increase.