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Bar News - July 20, 2016

NH Bar: A Year in Review


Welcome to the Bar That Knows Your Name

Sue Bergeron, IT assistant at the NH Bar Association, helps an attorney complete licensure requirements through the Bar’s new online member dashboard.

Listening to members, inspiring provocative discussions, and launching individualized online services on the website were some of the highlights of the 2015-2016 Bar Association year.

The association has embarked on a multi-year effort to reposition and refocus its services to better meet the needs of its members. One of the biggest, most tangible steps forward this year was the development and launch of a personalized member dashboard on the website.

Starting last summer, the development of MyNHBAR as a portal tying the website to members’ information was fast-tracked to facilitate members’ completion of annual license renewal steps. This has been a successful effort, both from a member satisfaction standpoint and from an efficiency standpoint, said Jeannine McCoy, executive director.

More than 76 percent of members, active and inactive, had completed all of their annual licensure requirements by July 1. Having fewer members out of compliance means fewer late fees and less paperwork for all concerned.

The changes to attorney licensure procedures required more than new software and web pages. Deadlines for different regulatory processes covered by different Court rules were consolidated, which required close cooperation among the association, the NH Judicial Branch and the Attorney Discipline Office. In addition, the effort required the volunteer work of Bar Association officers and leaders to help streamline the new online process, which was dubbed 3-1-1 (three regulatory steps, one deadline, one place).

The keystone to the plan is the dashboard, which became available to members shortly before June 1. It is a portal to the password-protected portion of the website that provides members with access to their records at the Bar Association. Akin to online banking, members now can submit changes to their contact information, access statements sent by the association, access the information on the sections and committees to which they belong, as well as monitor their progress on annual compliance obligations. It’s a platform that will accommodate expanded capabilities to allow members to manage their membership information and ease access to other benefits and information. All this will culminate with more user-friendly interface when the association launches a new website, which is now in the works.

The launch of MyNHBAR also included the implementation of a new online trust accounting form that eliminated the need for members to mail in a printed certificate.

LegalZoom Comes to Midyear Meeting

John Suh, LegalZoom CEO

Another highlight this year was the record crowd that attended the NHBA Midyear Meeting on March 4, with more than 500 registrants for a full day of CLE programs. John Suh, CEO of LegalZoom, and several other legal technology pioneers, along with two national experts on the future of the legal profession, recruited by NHBA President Mary Tenn, offered insights into how legal services will be delivered in the not-too-distant future.

Former ABA President William Hubbard and Suffolk University Law School Dean Andrew Perlman helped put these trends into perspective, on a morning panel that included a presentation on the NH e-Court Project by NH Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Dalianis. In the afternoon, US District Court Chief Judge Joseph Laplante helped moderate the discussion with Suh and fellow panelists Colin Rule of the online dispute resolution service Modria, and Nicholas Reed, co-founder of Ravel Law, a legal information service. Many members expressed appreciation for the value of the program in helping them to anticipate how technology will change the way lawyers and clients will access the law and dispute resolution forums, inside or outside the courts.

Learning from the Member Survey

Having adopted a set of strategic goals and objectives last year, the Bar Association sought to gather information on how to plot the course. A comprehensive baseline survey was fielded in January to solicit members’ views on the value of Bar Association activities, what priorities are important to them personally and professionally, and what challenges do they see in the practice of law and in meeting their clients’ needs. The survey findings are now being shared in a variety of forums and will be used to help shape Bar activities and services.

Updated Litigation Guidelines

The traditions of the “New Hampshire Way” of litigation had been codified in a set of “Litigation Guidelines” adopted by the Bar Association in 1999. Over the years, judges and lawyers have used the guidelines to help maintain the high standards of practice in New Hampshire, and to keep the focus on deciding cases on merits rather than aggressive language and abusing technicalities.

At last year’s Bench Bar Conference, it was decided that the Guidelines needed updating. This spring, the NHBA Committee on Cooperation with the Courts completed a major revision that retained the tenets of the original guidelines but sought to reapply and restate them in light of the rapid development of new technologies, including email, cellphones, texting, and e-discovery. Also revised and republished was the New Hampshire Lawyer’s Professionalism Creed, which relates to conduct with clients and opposing counsel outside the courtroom.

With the help of a small Bar Foundation grant, both documents will be widely distributed to Bar members, judges and self-represented or pro hac vice litigants.

Guest Speakers, Key Issues at Bar Center

NHBA Immediate Past President Mary Tenn over the past year has sought to make the Board of Governors table a place for substantive discussions on key issues facing the legal community and the state, making room on the regular meeting agendas for state leaders to attend.

At last year’s board orientation, NH Supreme Court Judge Gary Hicks participated in an afternoon discussion on changes facing the profession. At regular monthly meetings, guest speakers included US First Circuit Court Chief Judge Jeffrey Howard, Attorney General Joseph Foster, former Chief Justice John Broderick, Board of Bar Examiners Chair Gordon MacDonald, Cecie Hartigan of the NH Lawyers Assistance Program, and NH e-Court officials.

Also coming to the board table were 10 nominees to state judgeships, who participated in a Board of Governors review process. The Board provides confidential advice to Governor and Council following the nomination and before confirmation of the nominees. (One of those judicial candidates, David Ruoff, stepped down from his position as NHBA President-elect after his confirmation to the Superior Court. Scott Harris, current NHBA President-elect, is fulfilling the the duties of President this year, assisted by other officers of the Association.)

Another high-ranking visitor to the Bar Center in the past year was Linda Klein, president-elect of the American Bar Association, who spoke to a small group of bar members as part of a listening tour as she prepares to take office in August 2016.

Players at the first annual NHBA Pro Bono Referral Program Benefit Hockey Game fight for the puck at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester in January.

Dropping the Puck for Pro Bono

Several volunteers for the NHBA Pro Bono program enlivened the winter by organizing a benefit hockey game, held Jan. 16 at the Verizon Wireless Arena before a Manchester Monarchs game, featuring lawyers who play recreational hockey.

Two teams, Liberty and Justice, played a 20-minute game. Player fees, sponsorships, and game tickets raised $4,000 for Pro Bono, supplementing the amount raised by the traditional Quid Pro Bono Golf Tournament held in August. (This year’s tournament is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 11.)

In Brief

  • The NHBA Lawyer Referral Service is seeing an upswing in referrals after dropping the $25 referral fee charged to clients.
  • The NH Bar Association received a 96 percent program efficiency rating (percent of total organization expenses used for programs and services) from its independent auditor. The NHBA’s performance was much higher than the benchmark (70 percent) for associations of similar size.
  • Jim Corbett, a legal research industry veteran who directs marketing for Casemaker, visited New Hampshire to demonstrate the Bar’s free legal library benefit for members at a section meeting and well-attended information session at the Bar Center.
  • Bar News Editor Kristen Senz was awarded a criminal justice reporting fellowship from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. Recently published was a two-part series on the impact of the state’s opioid epidemic on children welfare.
  • Available on YouTube, a series of eight testimonial videos exploring various aspects of Pro Bono service are aiding recruitment for the NH Bar Pro Bono program.
  • Another series of videos, produced by the NHBA, featured a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney explaining aspects of the Miranda warning. The videos were released as educational tools for lawyers visiting schools in advance of Law Day.
  • NHBA Sections held 79 meetings/events, including eight CLE programs. NHBA CLE offered 49 programs in the past year. The CLE department also coordinated with the Bar’s Pro Bono program for five training programs.
  • Total attendance for the year at Bar-sponsored CLE programs was more than 3,600, plus more than 800 members participating via webcast.

Stay tuned for more developments to come this year.

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