Sarah Blodgett – starting as the new NHBA executive director in early May – sitting in the new NHBA Member Center, which is now fully furnished and open to all members. Photo by Tom Jarvis

By Tom Jarvis

Bringing a wealth of experience from the executive and judicial branches, Sarah Blodgett is poised to embark on a new chapter as the incoming executive director of the New Hampshire Bar Association. With a distinguished career spanning pivotal roles at the New Hampshire Judicial Branch, the New Hampshire Judicial Council, and the Attorney General’s Office, Blodgett’s appointment signals a strategic move by the NHBA Board of Governors. As she prepares to take the helm, anticipation brews within the NHBA for the fresh perspectives she is set to bring to the organization.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Bar Association,” Blodgett says. “George [Moore] has done an incredible job and it’s an opportunity for me to work with a team that’s a mix of experienced and knowledgeable staff and talented and committed newcomers. I’m excited to jump in and get started.”

Blodgett steps into her new role in early May, following George Moore’s nearly six-year tenure in the position. Moore’s decision to step down heralds the end of an era, characterized by his dedicated leadership, but he will continue to play a role during the transition period, providing his guidance and support to Blodgett as she assumes her new responsibilities.

“I am delighted that Sarah has been chosen to lead the NHBA into the future,” says Moore. “I have known and worked with Sarah on the Judicial Council and as a director of the Bar Foundation, and I am very confident she has the skills to manage our organization to be ever more relevant and helpful to our members.”

Blodgett graduated from Suffolk Law School in 2005 and began her career at the New Hampshire Public Defender. In 2008, she became an assistant attorney general, prosecuting for the licensing boards and later in Medicaid fraud. She subsequently served as the executive director for the Board of Medicine. After the Board unified, she took over as director for all the healthcare boards.

In 2016, Governor Maggie Hassan appointed Blodgett as the interim executive director of the Office of Professional Licensure when the position became vacant. Later that year, she was selected as the executive director of the New Hampshire Judicial Council.

“The biggest challenge I faced at the Judicial Council was the indigent defense crisis,” Blodgett says. “The pandemic created an unprecedented indigent defense crisis. Both the Public Defender and contract attorney programs experienced significant turnover. So, we were very quickly unable to meet the need for court-appointed counsel in indigent defense cases. I worked closely with Justice Donovan and the task force at the Supreme Court to come up with strategies for addressing that backlog. We increased reimbursement rates for the attorneys taking the cases, and I recruited attorneys from out of state.”

Blodgett was also able to get authority to reimburse for travel time as the biggest challenge was getting attorneys to the more rural court locations. In addition, she worked with the Public Defender to put together training programs for attorneys who were new to court-appointed cases.

“Sarah creatively, intelligently, and with purpose – both within the constituencies and with the legislature – worked to get more money for the indigent defense council program, which was under considerable stress during that time,” says NHBA President Paul Chant. “And she worked to increase the reimbursement rates for private lawyers that did that work. The money that was generated was seen as a helper to allow the Public Defender to be able to hire additional folks to meet the burdens that were going on at that time. It was a real home run for the judicial system.”

Blodgett serves on the New Hampshire Bar Foundation Board of Directors and is a Bar Foundation Fellow. She has also taught legal writing at the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law.

“That was really enjoyable and I’m happy to report that I tried to do some recruiting for the court-appointed case work while I was there,” she says. “So, hopefully some recent law school grads will be willing to take those cases on.”

In 2022, she joined the New Hampshire Judicial Branch as a circuit court administrator supervising circuit court clerks around the state. She has also been working closely with the Concord Probate Court and the Electronic Estates Filing Center on a lean project to streamline processes – a feat that she says has been “challenging and rewarding.”

“Sarah was doing a fabulous job assisting Judge David King in the operation of the circuit court and has done a terrific job overseeing the new wellness committee that we initiated this year,” says Chant, who appointed Blodgett as the chair of the NHBA’s new Special Committee on Attorney Wellness in 2024. “I think she understands implicitly that coming in to succeed George Moore is an unenviable task. In the first instance, her goals will be to make sure that she develops strong relationships with the staff at the Bar Association, as well as strong relationships with the court system. I have every confidence that she will be more than able at both those tasks.”

After Moore announced his intention to step down in early-to-mid 2024, Chant convened a search committee tasked with identifying his successor. The committee, chaired by Immediate Past President Jonathan Eck, assessed potential candidates and presented their recommendations to the NHBA Board of Governors for the ultimate selection.

“Sarah has deep knowledge and experience with the courts, particularly within our state courts,” Eck says. “She also has substantial and varied experience as a practitioner, having held several significant and important positions over the course of her career. Consequently, she has great knowledge and insight about the profession and the needs of our members and the entire judicial system. She also has strong relationships with many of the Bar’s key stakeholders.”

Eck continues: “Sarah is a thoughtful, calm, and experienced leader. She has the right temperament and expertise for this position. She will build on George’s good work, and she will guide the Bar as it undertakes future initiatives. She is well positioned and well suited to be an exceptional leader for the Bar Association.”

At the 2023 Midyear Meeting, Blodgett received the Distinguished Service to the Public Award, remarking it was an honor to be recognized for her efforts to secure counsel for indigent defendants.

“Sarah has a great reputation in the state, and she has proven herself in many facets in a leadership role,” says NHBA Deputy Executive Director Paula Lewis. “I’m looking forward to her bringing that experience to the Bar Association, and I’m looking forward to working closely with her in my capacity as the deputy executive director.”

NHBA Director of Marketing, Communications, and Member Outreach Caitlin Dow says she eagerly anticipates having Blodgett at the helm.

“I have been fortunate to benefit from George’s steady leadership since joining the Bar Association,” she says. “While he will be profoundly missed, I am excited to have someone with Sarah’s wealth of knowledge and experience as his successor.”

Vincent O’Brien, the new NHBA Director of Professional Development, echoes the sentiment.

“I am excited for Sarah to lead our team,” he says. “She is committed to looking toward the best future and building consensus. It’s a great fit for our short- and long-term future.”

Blodgett explains that one motivating factor behind her application for the position was her realization of the substantial opportunity to equip attorneys with the essential tools they need in their daily practice.

“When I was at the Judicial Council, I had the chance to sit on the Committee for Cooperation with the Courts for several years – that is also when I joined the Bar Foundation – and those experiences with the Bar were fantastic,” she says. “The people that I worked with were amazing. It’s very clear that we are at an incredibly challenging time in the legal profession for many reasons. Attorneys are struggling, whether it’s personal issues, work-life balance, or the uncertainty of AI. We also have attorneys living and working in a part of the state with significant attorney shortages. There are unique stressors facing attorneys in these areas. I see this job as an opportunity to advocate and support our attorneys during a time of significant change. We need to be creative and nimble in our approach to addressing all these issues.”

When prompted about her goals as executive director, Blodgett emphasizes her intention to start by identifying specific areas where Bar members require support.

“I would like to focus on understanding what newer members of the Bar need and want from their Bar Association while figuring out what is still meaningful to our more experienced members, and what makes sense to scale back on or perhaps stop doing so we can focus on other areas,” she says. “I’d like to talk with solo and small-firm attorneys to find out how we can best support them. One of the benefits of our profession is that it’s not just a 9 to 5 job. We have a commitment to something greater than an individual case or client. I want to help connect New Hampshire attorneys to that sense of a bigger purpose.”