Bar News - March 16, 2016
Leadership Academy: Learning Through Action
By: Francesca Hennessy
The next Leadership Academy year will kick off in the fall of 2016, with applications for the yearlong program available later this spring. Up to 18 members of the NH Bar Associaton who have been in practice for at least three years, will be selected, with curriculum most meaningful for those in practice less than ten years.
Francesca Hennessy, a graduate of NHBA Leadership Academy Class of 2012 graduate, reflects on the value of the program’s group service projects.
The NH Bar Association Leadership Academy was a valuable experience for me on both personal and professional levels. I was relatively new to New Hampshire and the legal community when I applied for the program in the summer of 2011. At first, I was hesitant to work with other lawyers whom I did not know, and I was concerned about the time commitment, as I was a working mother with a small child at home.
The program began with a retreat at Loon Mountain in October that enabled everyone to dive into the program and forced the group to get to know each other. After this retreat, there were monthly educational modules on various skill and subject areas. On top of this monthly commitment, the leadership academy participants were split into two groups and each group was asked to come up with a project that could benefit either the legal community or the community at large.
Our group developed “Fostering Legal Independence,” a program that recruited and trained attorneys to present programs educating older teens on the legal rights and responsibilities they would soon face as adults of legal age. The project was aimed at a specific audience – children in the foster care system who are about to turn 18. Each year in New Hampshire, about 75 of these children age out of the New Hampshire foster care system, many without a permanent home or family to support their transition into adulthood and self-sufficiency. This goal of this program was to help ease this transition by educating these teenagers on the legal aspect of issues they may soon face.
After the initial year, the Bar Association’s New Lawyers Committee adopted the project for the following year, making presentations in Concord, Manchester and Dover. The NH Division for Children, Youth and Families, which oversees the foster care program, presented an award in 2013 to the NHBA New Lawyers Committee and the Leadership Academy for developing and implementing the program.
Aside from the satisfaction of seeing our service project gain recognition by providing value to the community, I believe the Leadership Academy helped me personally. I met seven or eight other woman lawyers who also had young children and were practicing law full-time. It was a revelation for me that I was not alone in balancing a legal career with being a mother to small children.
Professionally, I challenged myself throughout the program to take on the responsibility of participating in this demanding program while raising a family and working. It helped me realize that I could balance all these responsibilities and take on a leadership and volunteer role when I was passionate about the subject matter.
I encourage other lawyers to start thinking now – is this program for me, or is there an attorney I know that could benefit from the challenge of the Leadership Academy?
Francesca Hennessy is an attorney in the office of legal counsel at the NH Department of Health and Human Services.