Bar News - September 21, 2016
NHBA Member Survey Highlight: Lawyers Voice Concerns About Future
By: Dan Wise
The 2016 NHBA member survey was distributed to a representative sample of the association membership in January as part of a multi-year effort to understand member perspectives and needs and adapt association priorities and services accordingly. NH Bar Association members can access an executive summary, survey findings and a video presentation about the survey results, on the NHBA website.
The numbers spell it out: A-N-X-I-E-T-Y.
A higher than expected number of members responded to the 2016 NH Bar member survey circulated earlier this year, and many seemed provoked by deep concerns about a broad range of issues and trends that they view as affecting the profession today and into the future.
Sixty-one percent believe substantive changes in practice will take place in the next 10 years. Asked to name the issues of greatest concern, 29 different issues were mentioned. After grouping similar concerns, the impact of technology on the profession was mentioned most often, followed by increased competition from non-lawyer sources and a group of comments centered on declines in professionalism and regard for the profession.
Other market forces affecting the profession also were mentioned, including the high cost of legal services generally and a concern that delivering legal services in traditional ways — in person, one lawyer, one client, customized work product — is being supplanted by lower-priced alternatives.
“Potential clients will increasingly rely on the Internet,” one respondent wrote. “More will go pro se or use out-of-state practitioners who market themselves on social media, who know little or nothing about local practice, and who may mislead potential clients about likely outcomes.”
Interestingly, there were distinct gaps in the level of anxiety, with lawyers in the largest firms (those with 10 or more attorneys) anticipating major changes in the profession (75 percent for this group, as opposed to 61 percent overall), and women, both in the younger and older age groups (52 percent of women under 50 and 58.9 percent of women generally) less inclined to expect major changes.
Many respondents, in comments to questions throughout the survey, made suggestions regarding existing or potential bar programs to address the concerns they raised.
Some suggested the NH Bar Association has a role to play in training and ethical standard-setting for cloud-based computing, continued advocacy for the role of attorneys in courts where self-represented litigants have become the norm, and placing greater emphasis on the value of civility and congeniality among practitioners, to name a few. But for others, the economic and demographic forces driving change dwarf any influence the Association could have.
“Increasing number of practitioners and competition amongst them,” one wrote. “Necessity of increasing hours and productivity to keep up financially. Not sure what the NH Bar could do.”
The 2016 NH Bar Association member survey was distributive to a representative sample of 2,000 association members and was completed by about 600 members in a variety of age groups, practice settings and georgraphic areas of the state.