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Bar News - April 20, 2016

Group Project Component of NHBA Leadership Academy Proves Rewarding


The next NH Bar Association Leadership Academy kicks off in fall 2016, with applications for the yearlong program available later this spring. Up to 18 members of the NH Bar Association who have been in practice for at least three years will be selected. This program is most meaningful for those who have been in practice less than 10 years. Visit the Leadership Academy pages to learn more.

Left to right: Leadership Academy participants Joseph Driscoll, Nicholas Casolaro, Jake Marvelley, and Kate Mahan at a symposium on the future of legal practice in New Hampshire.

One way the NHBA Leadership Academy distinguishes itself is by providing its participants with opportunities to both lead and support. The program is modified for each class, but the yearlong experience has always featured a collaborative service project component. The Class of 2015 was tasked with developing and presenting a half-day symposium examining the future of legal practice in New Hampshire, and analyzing how lawyers and the bar association could improve on that projected future. The Academy's faculty arranged the venue, engaged a capstone speaker, and invite guests, most of whom were practicing attorneys and judges. Academy participants were responsible for all other aspects of the symposium.

For the symposium, our Academy class of 14 attorneys divided into three groups, with each group analyzing and presenting one of the following topics: the role technology in future legal practice, the future of attorneys' work-life balance, and the future of access to justice in rural areas. All of the topics are relevant today and are likely to remain compelling as our bar, profession and state continue to evolve.

My group studied rural access issues. The symposium project generally, and my group's sub-topic particularly, encouraged us to contact stakeholders around New Hampshire, including attorneys, members of the New Hampshire General Court, clerks of court, and judges. We conducted phone interviews and videotaped in-person interviews. Other groups conducted surveys and focus groups. I spoke with a New Hampshire state senator, who graciously allowed a lengthy interview to discuss gaps he sees in our justice system within his district and public information initiatives that were successful. My group was struck by the knowledge and passion for our topic demonstrated by the individuals we contacted. Many enthusiastic and capable people are interested in bridging the rural justice gap, but not all interested stakeholders are in contact with each other. We recommended a program that would bring those stakeholders together while encouraging talented lawyers to fill identifiable legal service gaps. Our resulting idea is a rural access externship program designed to connect law schools, the bar association, and the courts to foster high-grade, sustainable legal practice in rural areas.

We had two opportunities to present our research and proposed initiative. First, we met with the NHBA's Board of Governors, and provided a synopsis with a request for feedback. That forum sparked some spirited debate, which helped us narrow our focus and refine our theses. Two months later, we delivered our symposium.

Presenting at the symposium was an exhilarating experience. Each group presented its topic, then engaged the audience in a facilitated discussion. Lawyers and judges shared their feedback and thoughts, at times challenging our theses and proposed initiatives. Academy participants had to share the stage with each other and facilitate segues from one topic to another. There was a leadership/support dynamic, with give and take during a stressful event. The result was a thoughtful, engaging discussion of issues that need to be considered and addressed. The symposium ended with an entertaining and thought-provoking capstone speech by John Garvey, director of the forward-looking Daniel Webster Honors Scholars Program at UNH Law.

Our next challenge is to preserve our research and the resulting dialogue with our audience, so members of our Bar who are interested will have access to it. Hopefully access to that information will encourage further thought, dialog, and progress. Our plan is to create an online research repository, to be accessed through the NHBA's website.

The NHBA Leadership Academy experience gave us all the unique opportunity to not only improve our own professional and leadership skills, but also shape how our profession addresses issues that are foundational to the legal profession. It was a deeply rewarding experience, and all members graduated with the inspiration to make a difference in our communities and profession while maintaining the relationships that this program fostered.

If you have been admitted to the NHBA before 11/2013, please consider applying to the 2016-17 Academy—applications will be posted at by May 1 and will be due July 15. You will find the Academy to be a rewarding experience with hands-on leadership opportunities. Anyone at any level of experience can help support the continued success of the Leadership Academy by attending our next symposium. Whether as an Academy participant or a symposium guest, those who take an interest in the future are often the people who shape it.

Jacob Marvelley

Jacob Marvelley, primarily a civil litigator, practices with Shaines & McEachern in Portsmouth. He is a graduate of the Class of 2015 of the NH Bar Association Leadership Academy.

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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