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Bar News - September 16, 2015

President’s Perspective: Some NH Bar Updates You Might Find Interesting


September is here. In my house, the hubbub of back to school infiltrated summer vacation and especially the last days of August. Just as the kiddos were preparing for a new school year, the New Hampshire Bar Association Board of Governors has been preparing for an exciting and informed Bar year.

Over the summer, the NHBA officers met to plan a lawyer-led working board retreat for a full day in August. With the help of Bar staff, we jettisoned the idea of a facilitator; instead, opting for a day constructed by lawyers and for lawyers.

The agenda included presentations on the history, member demographics and current structure of our Bar Association. You might be interested to know that our Association now has some 5,360 active members. As a group, we reviewed the budget composition, the sources of revenue and expenses, and projections. We also discussed the next steps of implementing the Bar Association’s strategic plan, the anticipated roll-out of a comprehensive member survey this fall (your input is critical to the continued success of our Association), and current changes in bar association membership nationally. That was just the morning session.

In the afternoon, we delved into the national conversation on the future of the legal profession and the new demands of lawyering in the 21st Century. We had the opportunity to discuss excerpts from a report on the American Bar Association’s recent National Summit on Innovation in Legal Services held at Stanford Law School. As part of our work, we also read in advance and discussed a recent essay from the Harvard Law School, Center on the Legal Profession, titled “Lawyers as Professionals and as Citizens: Key Roles and Responsibilities in the 21st Century.”

For those of you who are interested, the essay can be found online.

The innovation report and the Harvard essay sparked my interest. Among the topics raised, we discussed the precipitous decline in law school enrollment, the burden of law school debt on new graduates and current focus on reshaping legal education. As part of our conversation, we addressed the increasing demand for innovation in fee-based relationships, the rise of limited license legal technicians and the advent of on-line dispute resolution forums. We also examined the ever-present need for civil legal services for low-income people and a widening justice gap.

Our NH Bar Association Pro Bono Referral Program is working to help provide much-needed civil legal services in New Hampshire, and you might be interested to know that this past year, Pro Bono’s case activity extended to 4,666 low-income adults and children, and volunteer attorneys donated thousands of hours of free legal services (valued at close to $2 million) to help the disadvantaged.

Our Board had a robust discussion in the afternoon about the concepts raised in the materials and how those relate to our work here in New Hampshire, both as individual practitioners and as a Bar Association. The conversation and our work is ongoing.

We also were pleased that New Hampshire Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Gary Hicks joined our retreat for the afternoon session. Justice Hicks was able to participate in the important discussion on the future of the profession, and also shared with us a view from the Bench. Of note, Justice Hicks emphasized that change is the new order of the day. Courts nationally, and here in New Hampshire, are embracing new technology and looking at new systems of operation, such as e-courts.

We ended our retreat with a discussion of Association work in progress. For example, the Bar Association is in the process of a website upgrade. The new website will include enhancements for both members and the public, providing increased ease of access to information and member services.

For those of you able to attend the Bar’s Annual meeting in June, I shared then my hope that as an Association we would begin a conversation about professionalism in the 21st Century, and what is demanded to meet the challenges in an evolving era of our profession. The changes in our profession are far-reaching and span all practices regardless of size, type and location.

I have no doubt that with the talent of our members and staff, the New Hampshire Bar Association will continue to be a leader in the national conversation and a voice in advancing innovation. If you have an interest in these issues, I hope you will raise your hand and join the conversation in NH Bar Association committees, sections and other forums.

This Bar year is off to strong start, and these are just a few updates that I thought you might find interesting.

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