Bar News - August 20, 2014
NH Bar Association Year in Review 2013-14
Successes Visible and Behind the Scenes
The NH Bar Association made progress in the 2013-2014 Association year in areas of public outreach and member services, as well as behind the scenes, on organizational infrastructure that is critical for the operation of the Association.
Jaye Rancourt, 2013-2014 NHBA President, taught Concord High School students about relationship violence as part of her new program, When Love Hurts.
Jaye Rancourt, NHBA president for 2013-14, spearheaded the creation of “When Love Hurts,” a curriculum about preventing teen dating violence that volunteer lawyers can use to make presentations at schools and youth groups. In the first two months of the program’s launch, 11 presentations were made reaching 468 students, and a video was created for speaker-training purposes. Plans are in place to continue offering When Love Hurts to schools in the fall. “When Love Hurts” also received some positive media coverage for the Bar Association, with a front-page Concord Monitor article and a report on WMUR TV.
At the Midyear Meeting, Rancourt also unveiled the “Justice for All Challenge,” an initiative to encourage Bar members to publicly pledge to provide 30 hours of voluntary legal services in the coming year, encompassing participation in the NH Bar Association’s Pro Bono program but including other forms of volunteering as well. Members are encouraged to sign up and help the Association quantify the extent of volunteerism among the Bar, and a recognition event is planned for the Midyear Meeting 2015.
Several existing public outreach programs reached milestones or earned recognition in the past year:
- Lawline, the Association’s monthly telephone advice service, marked its 25th anniversary this year. More than 11,777 calls from the public have been answered.
- A webcast training series for legal areas frequently addressed by Pro Bono attorneys received an award for “outstanding achievement in public interest programming” from ACLEA, the international continuing legal education organization.
- “Fostering Legal Independence,” an education program conducted by attorneys for youth transitioning out of the foster care system, received an award from the NH Division for Children, Youth & Families. The program, developed by the NHBA Leadership Academy Class of 2012, has continued under the auspices of the NHBA New Lawyers Committee.
- Teacher David Alcox of Milford High School, whose teams regularly excel in the We the People: the Citizen and the Constitution showcase, was one of three teachers selected nationally to receive an American Civics Education Teacher Award.
- The Civics in Action program for adult audiences continued, with presentations made to all of the Kiwanis organizations in the state.
Progress in Service to Members
Casemaker, the online legal research library available free to members through the Bar Association, was upgraded to include a “citator” that provides guidance in caselaw searches on the subsequent treatment of a selected case; expanded caselaw coverage back to NH Reports 1 (1816); headnotes and digests for new cases, and “annotation” of statutes with links to cases referring to a particular statute.
The Bar Association’s Ethics Committee was especially prolific this year, issuing two formal opinions (one on lawyers offering discounts through online coupon or “daily deal” services, and the second on discovery issues with regard to witnesses on social media) as well as publishing four commentaries in Bar News, addressing commonly-asked questions. (The cloud-computing opinion by the Ethics Committee was lauded by a law technology blogger who called it “forward-thinking and enlightened...”)
The New Lawyers Committee held several gatherings in different parts of the state and launched Dinner with a Judge – informal, small-group dinners with lawyers and a judge at a local restaurant.
Association dues did not increase for the fifth consecutive year. What did change in the area of dues was the method of payment; it was possible for the first time for members to pay dues and mandatory court fees online. The launch of this feature took place smoothly and within days, hundreds of members took advantage of that convenient payment option. Last year, invoices were emailed to members, which saved on postage and handling costs, and adding online payment this year was the next incremental step.
At a member meeting on Dec. 12, several amendments to the NHBA Constitution & Bylaws were approved, including the creation of a special at-large seat to represent the growing constituency of out-of-state members. The elected representative must have a practice located out of state, but the seat is voted on by the entire eligible membership.
The first major event of the year was the NH Bar’s second Pro Bono Month observance in October, which highlighted several training and recruitment activities, including Divorce Camp, referral marathon in collaboration with the law school and a bankruptcy clinic that resulted in 15 cases being placed. Pro Bono and the UNH School of Law also held a reception where the second Bruce Friedman Award was presented to Steven Scudder, who now provides advice on pro bono programs nationally for the ABA.
Heather Krans and Gov. Maggie Hassan at the Gender Equality Committee breakfast at the NHBA Midyear Meeting.
The Midyear Meeting on March 7 featured an appearance at the Gender Equality Breakfast by Gov. Maggie Hassan, a NH Bar member, as well as a lively interactive CLE on generational differences and an informative afternoon program on memory skills for lawyers. Awards were presented to Gordon MacDonald (Distinguished Service to the Public); Jeffrey Strelzin (public sector achievement); Jonathan Frizzell (Bunnell Award for Community Service), and Charles Greenhalgh (Ross Pro Bono award).
On April 9, the NHBA Gender Equality Committee hosted Lauren Rikleen, a lawyer and national expert on gender equity issues, for an informative workshop on salary negotiation skills. The program, Get Paid What You’re Worth, was attended by 34 members and law students and was very well received.
President Rancourt turned over the gavel to Lisa Wellman-Ally at the June 20 Annual Meeting in Portsmouth. The gathering included special Presidents’ awards to three agencies collaborating on foreclosure prevention and relief, including the Foreclosure Relief Project, and to the retiring John Tobin, longtime executive director and attorney for NH Legal Assistance.
Awards also were presented to Supreme Court Clerk Eileen Fox, Supreme Court Law Librarian Mary Searles, and retired Circuit Court Judge Albert Cirone Jr.
Behind the Scenes
The NHBA Board of Governors, assisted by a committee including younger members of the Bar and Elizabeth Derrico of the American Bar Association, began work on a strategic plan for the Bar Association to help form answers and an ongoing prioritization process to address the question, “How can the bar association better serve members in the future?” The strategic planning work continued this month when the incoming board meets Aug. 22 for orientation and planning for the year ahead.
Also taking place behind the scenes was the updating of the Bar Association’s workstations, computer servers and software. Implementation of a comprehensive new membership database has entered the second phase. The information technology department also is assisting the Pro Bono Referral Program in converting to the same software platform used by the other two major civil legal services providers, NH Legal Assistance and the Legal Advice & Referral Center. Using common software will enable the three organizations to more easily communicate information as they closely collaborate on client intake and referral of cases.
The NHBA completed its host year for the New England Bar Association, holding an annual meeting in Portsmouth on Oct. 24-26. The meeting featured sessions on the future of legal education, including a panel of deans from New England law schools, and members of an ABA task force that studied the issue; and a program, led by the NHBA, offering tips on cultivating future bar association leaders.
Mary White, who worked at the Bar Center for the Association and then for many years at the NH Bar Foundation, retired in May after almost 28 years of service.