Bar News - August 16, 2017
NHBA: A Year in Review
By: Jennifer Pinckney
The annual year-end recap is a time to reflect on all the activities and accomplishments of the NH Bar Association; a time to consider how well we met member needs and fulfilled the initiatives laid out in the strategic plan.
And, for this author – a chance to marvel at the dedication of our volunteer leadership, engagement of our membership, and commitment of NHBA staff to serving the members of the NH Bar Association, the legal system and its various institutions, and the greater community. I have been with the association a bit less than a year, and on an almost weekly basis, I learn about a project or service that the bar offers that I had not discovered before. It is in this spirit that I share with you some of the highlights from the 2016-17 year at the NH Bar Association.
The nationally recognized NH Bar News kept members up to date with community news, commentary and in-depth features. Over the past year, Bar News covered topics ranging from the NH Judicial Branch’s ambitious NH e-Court Project, to public policy surrounding the opioid addiction crisis, to the evolution of attitudes about electronic discovery, and much more. Bar News also welcomed “Bench Notes,” a new occasional column written by judges about judicial perspectives and legal culture.
The 2016-17 fiscal year saw the launch of a streamlined process for annual attorney licensure renewal. In its second year, 3-1-1 is off to a solid start as members go online to register their CLE compliance, renew their memberships and pay their NHBA dues and NH Supreme Court fees.
NHBA members have always been able to use the Bar Center for committee meetings or to consult with clients. This year, video conferencing capabilities were added, allowing members to join meetings while on the road or when schedules or weather made it difficult to come to Concord.
Review of the comprehensive 2016 member survey continues, as does a strategic planning initiative that focuses on members who are planning to transition out of law practice. Work has been done to identify the various reasons attorneys might decide to transition out of practice, such as retirement, work-life balance, financial stressors, etc. Resources are being gathered to address the needs of attorneys that fall into various profiles and will be made available through the revamped NHBA website and other channels starting in the fall.
CLE & Meetings
Also supporting the strategic plan, the NHBA Professional Development and Member Services Department continues to raise the bar in providing valuable and relevant CLE content. Whether you are looking for advice to grow your practice, want to learn about the latest developments in your practice area or simply want to explore tips for being more productive and less stressed – the CLE committee and staff has you covered – and, you can access CLE content in a variety of formats to suit your needs and schedule.
This year saw the introduction of Bite-sized CLEs and Learn@Lunch programs. The Bite-sized CLEs are less than an hour and are archived to be watched on demand. The Learn@Lunch sessions are designed to fit within your lunch hour.
NHBA hosted two successful membership meetings in the past year. At the Annual Meeting in October, participants considered developments in technology that impacted the practice of law. The Midyear Meeting in March invited the more than 500 attendees to explore the intersections of science and the law and included a session on advances in forensic science with Dr. Henry Lee, who is known for his work on a number of high-profile cases, including the OJ Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey cases.
Thirteen members of the 2016-17 Leadership Academy class hosted a symposium in May where they presented their findings on important topics, such as the impact of student loan debt on new lawyers, the future of member services and the impact of language barriers on access to justice.
President Donald Trump’s budget proposal had everyone considering the future of legal services. That did not stop the NHBA Legal Services division from forging ahead in providing access to justice for New Hampshire residents. DOVE is celebrating 25 years providing emergency legal assistance to victims of domestic violence. Much work was also done this past year to prepare for the launch of the Modest Means Legal Program in June 2017. Replacing the reduced-fee legal program, Modest Means raises the maximum income threshold for clients to be eligible to receive reduced-fee legal services, providing greater access to justice for people who might have otherwise forgone legal help, as well as creating pathways for lawyers to gain experience or build clientele.
To put the scope and impact of these programs into perspective, Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) handled more than 7,000 emails and fielded more than 5,800 calls in the past fiscal year. This activity generated 2,089 referrals to outside agencies as well as 3,908 qualified legal referrals (2,956 full-fee, 952 reduced-fee) to NHBA attorneys. In FY 2017, members earned about $1.4 million from full-fee referrals.
Also in FY 2017, Pro Bono was able to process 500 new applications for legal services and manage 1,495 active cases, which directly benefited 3,480 individuals (clients and children).
Legal Services was able to provide continued support for these programs due in part to the receipt of federal funding in the amount of $205,260 over three years to help victims of domestic violence and an IOLTA grant to support civil legal aid from the NH Bar Foundation in the amount of $153,750 for NH Pro Bono Referral Service and $3,500 for the Reduced Fee Program in FY 2017.
Conversations in academic, government and legal circles increasingly focus on civics education. New Hampshire teachers, along with volunteer attorneys and judges, are taking part in programs and making use of resources offered by NHBA Law Related Education. All five LRE programs were active throughout the state last year, helping students connect their values to civic participation and become the kind of active citizens democracy depends on.
The NH Supreme Court Commission on the Bar in the 21st Century has been working with the NH Bar Association staff and Board of Governors to “evaluate the structure, services, initiatives and challenges” of the Bar. Much work has been done, surveying members, assessing services and activities, undertaking a competitive analysis of similarly sized Bar Associations and evaluating industry and association best practices. A report is expected from the commission in September.
Jennifer Pinckney is the director of marketing and strategic communications at the New Hampshire Bar Association.