Bar News - July 16, 2014
President's Perspective: Solo Practice Bar President Prioritizes Outreach
By: Lisa Wellman-Ally
I spent the first 12 years of my career practicing in hell (otherwise known as New York City). I have spent the second 12 years of my career practicing in heaven (otherwise known as New Hampshire). When I was practicing in New York, I used to tell my boss that I should get combat pay for going to court. Every day was a fight. One judge in particular in New York told me that she was sick of me appearing in front of her. I know there are a few judges here in New Hampshire that think that, but they are too polite to say it. That is part of what makes New Hampshire so special and what makes me proud to be a lawyer here.
When my family and I were leaving New York after 9/11, I was burned out and tired of being a lawyer, even though it had been the only thing I ever wanted to do. But at the urging of my husband, I took the bar exam in New Hampshire and embarked a new career in the Granite State, where it turned out I didn’t need combat pay anymore.
Things really are different here. I remember the first time I sent a letter “memorializing” a telephone conversation. I soon learned that in New Hampshire, your word could be trusted. And I will never forget when I noticed depositions without checking with the other side first. I quickly learned about the New Hampshire Way and am now proud to be part of that professionalism.
There are two things I want to accomplish this year as your president. First, I have a rural practice initiative that aims to match unemployed lawyers and rural areas where there is unmet legal needs (see related article). As a solo practitioner in a small town, I understand all of the benefits and pitfalls of rural practice. I hope to make it easier for attorneys to start up a solo practice on a shoestring and to help make local mentors available, to provide specific guidance about practice in the local courts. The goal is two-fold: making a new attorney feel welcome in a rural community and enabling the community to benefit from having a professional person just down the road.
My second goal is to reinforce the value of lawyers to the community. We need to do a better job at self-promoting. We all have heard the terrible lawyer jokes; they go back for as long as there have been lawyers. But lawyers add value to the community and to the court system. While the court system has made it easier for pro se litigants to do it themselves, we need to remind litigants of the value an attorney adds to the process. Our special knowledge and experience can help guide a case to a fair resolution, alleviate untenable positions, make litigation faster, and achieve a better result. We need to remind our communities that lawyers can be the answer to the problem, not the cause of the problem. Through existing outreach efforts and by creating new opportunities, we can remind the public how great being a lawyer is and how people can benefit from our services.
Over the next year, there will be challenges and difficult decisions to be made. I am excited to lead the association and proud to work with a great board and the bar staff, who are willing to do what it takes to get things done. I want to thank them all in advance.
And thank you, for the opportunity to lead our association. I look forward to being your president this year.