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Bar News - November 15, 2013

New Lawyers Committee Column: Getting Involved: Opportunities Through the NHBA


John F. Skinner III
As I enter my fourth year as a member of the New Lawyers Committee, I am reflecting on the opportunities I have encountered due to my active involvement with the New Hampshire Bar Association. Three experiences, in particular, stand out, and I want to tell you a little bit about them.

Fostering Legal Independence

I’ll start with the one that is probably the least familiar to many members of the bar - Fostering Legal Independence. This was the brainchild of a past NHBA Leadership Academy class but has since been taken over by NLC. Fostering Legal Independence is a joint effort by the state’s foster care system and the Bar Association to bring basic and practical legal knowledge to foster kids who are “aging out” of the system. We have given presentations on such topics as consumer law, landlord/tenant law, employment law, copyright and Internet law, and bullying. Mainly, we aim to provide them with basic everyday legal knowledge which, sadly, not even the most privileged children receive in the course of their regular curricula. It is vital for all people to be provided with basic legal information in a comfortable and convenient environment, and this seeks to facilitate that.

I’d like to note that any member of the bar, who is so inclined, can reach out to the Bar Association for more information about assisting with, or participating in, either this project or a similar one.

NHBA Pro Bono Referral Program

Perhaps if we did more programs like Fostering Legal Independence, we might have less demand for Pro Bono representation to fix legal problems, but my experience with Pro Bono was both enjoyable and rewarding. In my general practice, I routinely deal with folks who simply have no idea what consumer rights they have as a debtor. Through the Pro Bono program, I was able to not only vacate a default judgment on a highly questionable debt, but also completely eliminate that debt. My client was learning English and had not understood any of the prior proceedings. Worse than that, the default judgment could have had serious consequences on her efforts to become a citizen, and the debt payments, on a minimum-wage salary, would have been crippling to her family, which she supported. Using one’s legal training and expertise to significantly improve someone else’s life is truly rewarding.

Foreclosure Relief Project

This brings me to the final opportunity I wish to highlight here: The Foreclosure Relief Project (FRP), another opportunity the Bar Association offers to enrich your life while improving someone else’s. As part of my consumer protection practice, I have processed several foreclosure defense files through my firm. With FRP, I had the opportunity to assist a reduced-fee client, who, sadly, had already been bilked out of $6,000, but had received little to no help at all. We avoided foreclosure, brought the loan current, and we persuaded the lender to reduce the monthly payments to a sustainable, affordable level. These FRP clients are not seeking a free house or a free ride. They want to pay what they can and stay in their homes, no matter what it takes.

Some of the greatest things about a being a New Hampshire lawyer, aside from the civility and congeniality of our bar, are the opportunities the NH Bar Association provides for personal and professional enrichment. I am glad I joined the NLC and participated in these programs and I encourage you to do the same.

John F. “Jake” Skinner III, of the firm Skinner Rivard & Siekman, practices consumer protection law throughout New Hampshire and Massachusetts under the name CLASS, Consumer Law Advocacy Services. He can be reached at or (603) 622-8100.

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