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Bar News - January 15, 2014

Leadership Academy: Peeking Behind the Curtain


The NH Bar Association Leadership Academy is a professional development and leadership skills program tailored specifically to lawyers. Starting in 2010, select applicants who have been practicing between three and 10 years have joined three successive classes of Leadership Academy graduates. The program aims to identify, inspire and instruct attorneys, helping them to become confident leaders of their profession and their communities. The NH Bar also has sponsored special alumni events where graduates can network and share ideas.

Anthony Sculimbrene, center, of the Leadership Academy Class of 2013, at last year’s Midyear Meeting. He is pictured with classmates Deborah Mulcrone and Michael Ortleib.
The next Leadership Academy class will be admitted in September 2014. Until then, some past participants are taking to the pages of Bar News to reflect on their Leadership Academy experiences. Visit the Leadership Academy web pages to find out more.

Rarely is there time or a way for people to get to see the machinery of government or leadership. In Leadership Academy, you get to do just that. Over the course of a year, our class got to interact with some of the premier leaders in New Hampshire – from outstanding lawyers and judges to visionary businessmen and women. It’s an extraordinary opportunity.

I participated in the 2012-2013 class of the Leadership Academy. The Academy is broken down into modules or classes that are taught by truly inspiring people, each bringing a lesson of life with them. Two of thesee speakers had a particularly strong impact on me: Sylvio Dupuis and Judge Mark Weaver.
Leadership Lesson 1: Make it personal
Sylvio Dupuis has a resume studded with leadership accomplishments: he’s headed a law firm, a hospital, and he used to be the mayor of Manchester. His first career was as an eye doctor, and he used the interpersonal skills he developed there to springboard into other jobs. As a speaker, he did not just tell us, but showed us how those skills can work. His mantra seemed to be: “Make it personal.” Everything Dupuis did in each of those impressive jobs was about making the work personal. He would give people cards that fit in their wallet letting them know when to make another appointment, a perfect reminder in an age without email.

He is a prolific note-writer – and his fountain pens still get a workout in this age of the keyboard. Finally, he made sure that his visions were real to people. When a hospital renovation project needed a kickstart, he had a meticulously detailed model of the renovation placed in the hospital lobby.
Leadership Lesson 2: Pay attention to history
Mark Weaver is a Circuit Court judge whom I was fortunate enough to shadow during the Judicial Module (a regular highlight of Leadership Academy). As a public defender, I had plenty of experience in district court, going to one courthouse or another probably 95 days out of a 100. But having a chance to see the process from the other side was a revelation.

For example, a bail hearing. As an advocate, I have made probably a thousand bail arguments. Seeing it from a judge’s perspective, these hearings are neither mundane nor routine.

The judge has less than five minutes to figure out if he is releasing a harmless person that had a bad day, or if the police caught someone just before something awful was about to happen. Very few people have to make such critical decisions in such a short time. Judge Weaver demonstrated how he does that – pay attention to history. In the bail hearing I observed, he lasered in on the person’s past – their work history, where they live, how stable had their life been. He had fewer than 10 questions to figure this out, and “is it bigger than a breadbox?” isn’t helpful. He got it right that day, as do the vast majority of judges the vast majority of the time.

I was skeptical about the Academy going in. Working for the Public Defender is different than other law jobs, so I wasn’t sure just how much I would get out of it. I am very, very glad I did it.

It is not often you are invited to peek behind the curtains of power with the stated purpose of seeing and learning about how things actually work in our state.

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