Bar News - July 15, 2015
Working on the Future: Bar Association Year in Review 2014-15
By: Dan Wise
Under the leadership of NH Bar President Lisa Wellman-Ally, who completed her one-year term at last month’s Annual Meeting, the Bar Association last year focused on the future, implementing new services and laying the foundation for future improvements in many areas.
Strategic Plan Adopted
The culmination of more than a year’s work, the NHBA Board of Governors adopted a strategic plan that will be used as a compass to set the course for the Bar Association’s priorities and activities over the next few years. The four main goals, further enumerated in the plan:
Supporting lawyers in the practice of law;
Ensuring the justice system remains fair, impartial and accessible to all;
Acting as facilitator and convener for all parties interested in the judicial system, the practice of law, and the administration of justice generally; and
Cultivating the Bar Association as the key association for the legal profession.
The plan was adopted by the board following months of research, surveys, analysis, and discussion involving the board, association members, and senior association staff, with the help of a facilitator from the American Bar Association. It is already being used to create governing board agendas and will be used to help evaluate services and activities.
Rural Lawyer Initiative Launched
Wellman-Ally, a refugee from law practice in New York City, brought her insights and concerns as a solo practitioner in Claremont to the design of a rural lawyer initiative during her year as association president.
Photo courtesy of NHPR
The program aims to recruit and provide some measure of support to lawyers interested in relocating in rural areas that are underserved by lawyers. It’s no secret that many residents in rural counties in New Hampshire have no lawyer in private practice to turn to in their communities. At the same time, the economic challenges of practice in these areas are daunting.
The NH Bar Association Rural Lawyer Project is collecting resources and best-practices information to aid attorneys starting practices in rural New Hampshire. Several candidates responded to the Association’s call for participation in the pilot project. Attorneys who agree to participate in the program will receive targeted information and assistance, as well as discounted malpractice insurance, by relocating to an underserved community.
The substance of NH Supreme Court Rule 53, the NH Minimum Continuing Legal Education requirement, has not changed, but the reporting method has been completely revamped.
The previous means of monitoring compliance was an extremely time-consuming, paper-bound process that was becoming unsustainable with the exponential growth in the number of actual and potential providers of continuing legal education programs.
The self-certifying and self-reporting aspects of the new Attorney Reporting Tool (ART) were unfamiliar in the beginning, but it is expected that it will not be too long before most attorneys will find that ART is simpler, faster, and gives them more freedom and flexibility to decide how to meet the annual NHMCLE requirement.
Inspires and Educates
The NH Leadership Academy Class of 2015, the fourth class to finish the program, graduated at last month’s NHBA Annual Meeting in Portsmouth.
This program is pace-setting, as New Hampshire is the first bar association in New England to have such a program up and running, almost entirely volunteer-led and operated. Several other states are using New Hampshire’s model to launch similar programs. This year’s participants, split into three groups, presented a half-day symposium in May on the future of the legal profession.
Attended by many judges, law firm representatives and bar leaders, the symposium featured a keynote address by John Garvey, director of UNH Law’s Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program. Garvey examined critical issues facing the profession in New Hampshire, including the need for lawyers in rural areas, and for the bar association and individual lawyers to make better use of technology.
Economics of Law in
“How am I doing?” A question everyone asks was addressed in the NH Bar Association Economics of Law Practice Survey released this spring. The comprehensive survey, available at no charge to members, is posted in several parts at www.nhbar.org.
An eight-page Bar News supplement was published in March and presents the survey results in the context of the wider economy and in a more concise format. The survey results also were discussed at a free live forum held at the NH Bar Center, and will be the basis for future presentations and discussions.
Bench and Bar Gathered
In March, the NH Bar Association Committee on Cooperation with the Courts convened the first NH Bench-Bar Conference in 16 years.
The gathering, limited to just under 100 attendees from both the courts and legal practice, fostered informal discussions on topics such as sustaining New Hampshire’s reputation for professionalism and collegiality, the challenges posed by the increase in self-represented litigants, and improving access to justice in fast-changing times.
Judge Jerome Abrams of the Minnesota State District Court was the speaker at a plenary session, as a member of a national committee exploring innovative approaches and best practices to trial practice in state courts.
DWS Program Lauded
as National Model
The Annual Meeting in Portsmouth provided an occasion to celebrate some recent successes, including the presentation of the Distinguished Service to the Profession Award to John Garvey, director of the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program at the UNH School of Law.
The program, an experience-based alternative to the traditional bar exam, received national acclaim in the past year, including as a recipient of the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award from the American Bar Association, and widespread publicity based on a study by the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System’s Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers Project.
The NH Bar Association and its members have collaborated with the university, the NH Supreme Court and the NH Board of Bar Examiners in this successful program over the past several years.
Online invoicing for NH Bar dues and court fees has advanced. Nearly 7,000 members (active and inactive statuses) received their membership renewal information and invoices via email in 2015. Many members have taken advantage of the convenience of online bill payment to pay their dues and mandatory court fees – saving time and money for themselves and the association.
The online NH Bar Association membership directory saw some enhancements during the past year. There’s a new look to the online directory listings in the password-protected “For Members” area of the association’s website. Member pictures appear on the first screen, any field is searchable, and one-touch capability allows users to send an email, dial a phone number or download contact information.
These improvements are a precursor to a major overhaul of www.nhbar.org that is under development. The new website will provide a more individualized experience to members, enabling them to more easily update their records and communicate with colleagues.