Bar News - December 21, 2016
Court Holds Hearings for Non-Compliant Attorneys
By: Kristen Senz
Collaboration on 3-1-1 License Renewal Process a Success
Before proceeding to discuss personal circumstances at the bench, NH Supreme Court Associate Justice Carol Ann Conboy told about 30 NH Bar Association members that she found it “very disappointing and discouraging” that they had not complied with annual attorney licensing requirements.
“Last year, the Supreme Court and the Bar Association coordinated a major effort to make it easier for attorneys to meet and document their (annual licensure renewal) compliance with the three requirements,” she said. Those requirements involve paying bar dues and court fees, filing the trust account compliance certificate, and fulfilling NHMCLE credit requirements and filing the annual NHMCLE affidavit for the reporting year.
The coordinated effort on the part of the Court, the NH Bar Association and the Attorney Discipline Office included the “3-1-1” marketing campaign by the NHBA. Messages in Bar News and the weekly e-Bulletin newsletter, along with email and direct mailings from the Bar Association and other communications, informed members over the course of several months about the new process, which created a single deadline and an online portal where attorneys can process compliance requirements and monitor progress. Bar Association and NHMCLE staff also made more than 100 personal phone calls to members to remind them of their compliance obligations. “Personally,” said Conboy, “I think that goes above and beyond. The next thing is a hand-engraved invitation to meet the requirements.”
A record number of attorneys – more than 7,000 – were in compliance with all requirements prior to the July 1 deadline this year. Of the 45 noncompliant attorneys who were asked to appear at the NH Supreme Court on Nov. 14 for a show cause hearing, 32 attended the proceeding, over which Conboy presided. Some of those attorneys had already paid late fees and come into compliance, but had done so after the Oct. 1 deadline, and so were still required to appear.
After her initial remarks, Conboy called each attorney to the bench individually to discuss the reasons why they had not complied with the licensing requirements by the deadline. “There are some very personal reasons,” she said. “I get that. I’m hoping that this is the last time that the court has to do this.”
NHBA Finance and IT Director Paula Lewis, who attended the hearings, said the collaborative effort of the Bar Association, the NH Supreme Court, and the Attorney Discipline Office was a success, with a total of only 62 out of 7,767 attorneys in New Hampshire not renewing their licenses in a timely fashion. She called the show cause hearings at the Court “efficient and respectful” and said the collaboration has streamlined the license renewal process going forward.
“In addition, the NHBA Member Dashboard, MyNHBar, located at the NHBA website, can be accessed by all attorneys practicing in New Hampshire to verify license renewal status, pay license renewal fees, file the ADO’s trust account compliance form and access the NHMCLE Attorney Reporting Tool to record NHMCLE credits and file the annual NHMCLE affidavit,” Lewis said.
“A great deal of work was done on process redesign, rule changes, and technology development to make my initial concept of consolidating the deadline and resources for annual attorney licensing work as planned,” noted NHBA Executive Director Jeannine McCoy. “The time and resources invested have resulted in the more timely compliance the Court sought, and the streamlining the Association sought.”