By Grace Yurish

January 4 marked the halfway point of modules for the NHBA 2023-2024 Leadership Academy program. Designed as a nine-month curriculum, the Leadership Academy aims to cultivate leadership skills and foster the professional growth of attorneys with three to ten years of practice. Lawyers from across the Granite State were carefully selected to be part of the class, and they have successfully completed three of the six educational modules thus far.

Former Leadership Academy participant attorney Nicole Forbes, who graduated from the program in 2019, is now co-chair of the Leadership Academy Steering Committee. On the steering committee, she brings her experience as a participant to help craft the Academy for others. Reflecting on the program, she emphasizes the networking possibilities it provides.

“There are networking opportunities with your classmates, with members of the Bar, with the business community, with political aspects of New Hampshire, and the judiciary,” she shares. “Each module, we get a robust set of panels with some really great speakers for people to network with and learn from.”

In October, the program commenced with a two-day retreat at the Wolfeboro Inn, offering participants not only an introduction to the program but also valuable insights into the NHBA and the opportunities it presents. The retreat included sessions led by legal professionals and leadership experts, covering topics such as personality and learning styles, along with team-building activities and a trolley tour of the lakeside town. The weekend on Lake Winnipesaukee gave the class the opportunity to get to know one another and prepare for the program ahead.

Leadership Academy Class of 2024 at the retreat at the Wolfeboro Inn (L to R): Kirsten Allen, Jim Armillay, Devon Ayer, Katherine Hedges, Amanda Dupuis, Afra Danai, Jesse O’Neill, Jessica Morrissey, Danielle Pomeroy, and Lynnette Macomber. Photo by Rob Zielinski

The first module, titled Business, Law Firm, and Community Leadership in New Hampshire, took place in a community meeting space at the new Grappone Mazda Dealership in November. Participants delved into the state’s business and legal industries, engaging in panel discussions with leaders in business, law, and the community.

Attorney Katherine Hedges, a current Leadership Academy participant, highlights the significance of learning from various perspectives.

“We’ve gotten to hear from a lot of different people about what they find are important skills as a leader,” she says. “We got to hear how business leaders have found attorneys to be most effective, how they’ve interacted with attorneys, their impressions of attorneys, and what makes an attorney approachable and useful as somebody they want to hire.”

December’s module was held at the Bar Center and focused on media relations, shedding light on the relationship between the media and legal professions. The panel discussions gave participants the opportunity to hear from the media and the attorneys who work with them. The discussions addressed using media for practice marketing, advancing legal developments, spreading public awareness, and how to stay consistent with ethical obligations while speaking with the media. Academy members also heard from a public speaking expert and practiced their skills with their peers.

The most recent module in January, May it Please the Court: Practice & Professionalism in New Hampshire Courts, took participants to the federal courthouse, where they learned more about the judicial process through panels of clerks and judges, including New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice Gordon MacDonald. Before the judicial module, each participant completed an assignment shadowing a judge for a day. Judge William Delker organized the assignment and connected the participants with judges that aligned with their interests. Attorney Jim Armillay, who spent the day with Judge Beth Kissinger, describes the assignment as “one of the best experiences that I’ve had in New Hampshire.”

This month, attendance at the 2024 Midyear Meeting supplemented a traditional module. The class mingled with fellow members of the Bar while learning about attorney wellness and artificial intelligence in the law.

In March, the group will hear from leaders in the public interest and non-profit sectors including staff attorneys and individuals from the state’s civil legal aid organizations. For the final module in April, which is focused on the legislative and executive branches of government, participants will attend a committee meeting or hearing to enhance their learning.

When the class graduates from the program, they will be recognized at the 2024 NHBA Annual Meeting in June. Following their graduation, Academy members will commit to two additional years of service to the Bar. This allows them to exercise their newly acquired skills and continue to grow within the profession. Previous alumni have gone on to become leaders in their Bar and firm, elected officials, and judges.

“I absolutely recommend the Leadership Academy,” Armillay says. “There’s a time commitment to it, but it’s definitely worth it – especially for somebody who is maybe a newer lawyer who wants to get better engaged with the Bar Association and make these connections with colleagues. It’s an experience I can’t recommend highly enough. I’m glad that the Bar Association does this.”