Bar News - September 17, 2014
Blaine to Receive Pro Bono Award
By: Kristen Senz
New Hampshire Celebrates Pro Bono Month in October
Quentin Blaine outside his downtown Plymouth law office.
Photo by Kristen Senz
Like everyone, Quentin Blaine has a complicated life.
That’s why, when things get especially complicated for people in need, Blaine is there to help them out. He understands. He asks a lot of questions, ferrets out the details, and paints a picture for the court. He perseveres, sometimes for years, and a lot of the time, he does it without getting paid.
“I really enjoy working with people who are in a tight situation and who appreciate having a lawyer present,” he says. “We all have complicated lives, no matter where we are. I haven’t met anybody whose life is easily explained, especially if they’re in a crisis situation.”
Blaine, this year’s recipient of the Bruce E. Friedman Pro Bono Award and a former student and mentee of Friedman’s at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, never thought much about being a lawyer for the first three decades of his life.
He also never thought he’d end up with a master’s degree in history, or that he’d become a lecturer at Plymouth State. And he certainly didn’t expect to completely reorganize his successful Plymouth law practice a couple of years ago. But life is complicated.
Friedman Award Presentation Event
When: Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014
5:30 - 7:30 p.m.
Where: IP Center Atrium
The Bruce E. Friedman Pro Bono Award is sponsored by the UNH Law Rudman Center and the New Hampshire Bar Association. It honors the accomplishments of a UNH Law graduate and NH Bar member who exemplifies the commitment to public service of Bruce Friedman, the late founder of the civil practice clinic at the law school and a legend in the world of civil legal services in New Hampshire.
Bruce E. Friedman
Growing up in Hampstead, NH, Blaine’s family – his father, a barber, his mother and seven siblings – didn’t have a lot of money. He and his brothers were the first boys on either side of the family to graduate from high school. Blaine caught the travel bug early, and after a short stint at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, he ventured out across America, working as a carpenter along the way.
“I loved doing that and I lived in interesting places,” he says. “I thought if I came back and finished college, I’d get a job traveling the world.”
Instead, he finished college, and went on to grad school, where he met his now-wife, Marcia Schmidt Blaine, who currently chairs the history department at Plymouth State University. Blaine was a lecturer there, too, when his second career as a lawyer began.
A flyer pinned to a bulletin board outside his office advertised the LSAT. “I didn’t know what it was, so I took it down and found out that it was the law school admission test,” he recalls. “So, I filled it out and sent it in.”
He took the test that January, got married in the spring, and then, he started getting phone calls from law schools.
“I didn’t have much money and didn’t have really an idea of being a lawyer, but I ended up calling Franklin Pierce (now UNH Law)… They sent me an application, and I applied and was admitted.”
In law school, Blaine participated in the civil practice clinic led by Friedman.
“Bruce was one of the important mentors I had in law school, and I have fond memories of working with him as part of the clinic and the encouragement that he would give,” Blaine says. “He used his wit and his wisdom in very skillful ways, to instill the thought that lawyering counted for poor people who were in need.”
The clients encouraged Blaine, too, and along with Friedman’s instruction, opened up for him the possibilities and obligations that come with being a legal professional.
“To be a professional is more than just going to work every day, I think,” he says. “It’s about being involved with the community and individuals to make the community a better place.”
Since his admission to the New Hampshire bar in 1986, Blaine has done just that. He has helped fledgling nonprofits, has served on numerous nonprofit boards, including the NH Bar Association Board of Governors, and has been a member of the Plymouth boards of selectmen, planning and zoning, as well as serving as moderator for the town and its two school districts.
Early in his career, at the urging of his first boss, Peter Marsh, Blaine got involved with representing people suffering from mental illness who were facing emergency admission to New Hampshire Hospital. His pro bono service blossomed from there.
He has represented victims of domestic violence through the bar association’s Domestic Violence Emergency (DOVE) Project and provides unbundled services to them in family law matters. He has also assisted New Hampshire Legal Assistance with a new periodic payment clinic in Candia that he hopes to help expand.
Of all the pro bono clients he has helped over the years, one particular case, out of Coos County, stays with him.
“I had agreed to meet with a grandmother who was trying to terminate the parental rights of a couple of men who had fathered children with her daughter, and the daughter had died… She was very bright. She had experience as a domestic violence volunteer, and she also had a bunch of tattoos… a tattooed grandmother… She impressed me so much and she was in way over her head, and I thought I could be of help to her. So I just continued with the case, and she finally adopted her two grandchildren, which was the goal.”
He worked to track down the men, one of whom had a history of violence. There were twists and turns. Ultimately, the case lasted more than two years. “There were some complicated issues, but she was such a wonderful client to work with that it wasn’t a hard case to work on,” he says.
Blaine’s solo practice flourished, and he took on increasingly complex litigation, mostly in real estate and family law. In the early 2000s, he accepted a change of pace in the form of a job as clerk of Concord District Court. After four years, he left, and reopened his solo practice in Plymouth in 2006. Then about two and half years ago, further complicating life, he suffered a stroke.
Physically, he’s healthy, but “it really affects my ability to retrieve words,” making litigation a lot more challenging. He’s had to adjust and restructure his law practice, which has given him more time to devote to his pro bono work.
“It’s a long, slow process, and a lot of times, it just amuses me. I can be looking for something, and it’s sitting right in front of me, but I just don’t see it. And I’m a pretty organized person.”
His two children are out of the house, his daughter working as a nurse practitioner in California and his son working on an MBA at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. At 64, Blaine is looking toward retirement at 70, as he continues to learn about his limitations, his clients, and all the other complicated aspects of life.
“For me, I just think the process was much quicker, of getting an old brain, and now instead of easing into it, I have to just adapt and figure it out,” he says.
Being selected for the Friedman award is meaningful, Blaine says, not only because it’s named for someone who had a profound impact on him early in his legal career, but also because it reflects his philosophy about being a lawyer.
“To be so fortunate to be able to practice law and be able to make a good living, there is some feeling of giving back,” he says. “I believe there’s some responsibility for professionals to engage in that.”
As for traveling the world? Blaine and his wife have done some European travel, so he hopes to roam America for a while longer.
“I kind of have this plan of driving around the country and maybe taking a tent trailer,” he says. “I have a goal of seeing and hearing as many symphony orchestras as I can in the US and Canada.”