Bar News - July 20, 2016
Board Perspective: Add Your Perspective as the Bar Marches Forward
By: Scott Harris
Perspective. One of the Merriam-Webster definitions of the word is “the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.” The reason this word is on my mind is that we just got back from a trip to several of the national parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. (We also spent a couple of days in Las Vegas.) My wife has had this visit on her “bucket list” of things to see and do for some time. It was the one week both kids were out of school and available.
There are many adjectives one could use to describe the vast expanses of land and the variety of vistas. It was the vastness of time and place embraced by those views that made the greatest impression on me. Some of the facts available at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center reinforce that sense. Take, for instance, the age of the earth – about 4.54 billion years, give or take a couple hundred million years. Life in any form appeared about a billion years later, with the first hominids present about 4.5 million years ago. The first inhabitants of the expanses of land one can see from the North Rim arrived “only” about 12,000 years ago. Puts the question of how many billable hours you’ve been able to record in the past six months into perspective. At least it does for me. With perspective one is better able to prioritize and focus.
What, you may ask, does this have to do with the Bar Association? Well, it may be a stretch, but the Bar has been working hard over the past 12 months to gain some perspective on where the practice of law is and where it might be going. With that perspective, we hope the Bar can better support the profession and the public it serves.
One important aspect of this effort to gain perspective has been the Bar’s survey of its members. The survey was launched this past spring, with a sample of 2,000 selected from the 5,360 active members. The sample was designed to be representative of the Bar as a whole, with the hope that 400 attorneys would take half an hour to respond. There were 600 responses (with the extra 200 still representative of the Bar as a whole). Thank you to everyone who responded. This response rate alone suggests that New Hampshire’s Bar membership is more engaged and willing participate than “average.” The Executive Summary and full results (142 page PDF) have been posted to the Bar’s website in the members-only section.
Some of data are interesting. Not surprising, the membership accords great value to the Bar’s educational programming and communication efforts. The Bar’s CLEs and the Bar News are well done and informative. On the same topic, however, the variety of content the Bar membership would like to see covered is wide and divergent. When asked about the profession’s responsibility for pro bono service, the response was underwhelming.
Slightly less than a third of the lawyers surveyed thought pro bono work was important to the profession, and less than a half take on pro bono cases. Perhaps the most significant finding is that a fifth of the Bar is considering leaving the profession. And those thinking of doing something else are distributed relatively evenly across the surveyed age groups.
The survey data provide perspective. What perspective they provide, and what the Bar should do about it, are works in progress. The Board of Governors, Committee and Section leadership and the professional staff have all been meeting and processing. The next phase will be to define the steps we can take as a Bar to better respond to the interests and concerns of the membership. The hope is that you, too, will review the survey data, consider it and offer your unique perspectives.
Please send any comments on the survey results and NHBA services to Scott Harris by Aug. 1.