The New Hampshire New Lawyers Committee Reaches the Summit
Jeffrey J. White is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and practices law with the firm of Robinson & Cole LLP in Hartford, Connecticut.
The next stop in The Affiliate’s national tour takes us to New Hampshire—the home of countless covered bridges, magnificent vistas of the White Mountains, and a burgeoning young lawyers committee that is setting a standard of excellence in the Granite State. Founded in 1968, the New Hampshire Bar Association’s New Lawyers Committee (NHBA NLC) currently has a membership base of over 500 lawyers, and several subcommittees that coordinate the Committee’s mentor program, publication, and a slew of social events. The NHBA NLC is currently chaired by Jaye Rancourt, a criminal defense and civil litigation attorney practicing at Brennan Caron Lenehan & Iacopino in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Unlike many young lawyer affiliates, the NHBA NLC is not made up exclusively of young lawyers. Rather, the president of the senior bar appoints approximately twenty-five attorneys to serve on the NHBA NLC of varying age ranges and years in practice. This diversity in committee membership has proven to be a source of strength for the organization. As Rancourt noted, “The most senior member of the New Hampshire Bar serving on the Committee has been invaluable in reaching out to members of the judiciary and members of the senior bar. When we need the participation of the judiciary and senior bar we call upon Attorney Bruce Felmly to make the initial contact on behalf of the Committee. This has been very effective and beneficial for the Committee. We have also found his insight and historical perspective invaluable.”
The collaborative nature of the NHBA NLC is exemplified by its successful planning and coordination of the NHBA’s Mentor Program. The program, which was established in 1999, matches up young lawyers (who have practiced for less than three years) with more experienced practitioners (who have practiced for at least five years). Mentors and mentees are “matched up” through the use of several criteria, including practice area, type of practice, geographic location, and availability. According to Rancourt, “[t]he majority of lawyers in New Hampshire work for small firms or are solo practitioners. The Mentor Program seeks to provide those newer attorneys, particularly those in the small firms or practicing as solos, some guidance and practical advice that those newer lawyers practicing in large firms or the public sector may receive in-house.”
Based in large part on the efforts of the NHBA NLC, the Mentor Program has been a resounding success. Presently, the program supports twenty-four mentor relationships. The Committee actively fosters these relationships by publishing guidelines, holding a mentor/mentee reception, and soliciting evaluations at both the three-month and one-year mark.
In addition to its mentor program, the NHBA NLC publishes a guide entitled Traps for the Unwary, which is designed to identify the substantive and procedural traps that a new lawyer may fall into during his or her first years of practice. The guide covers a wide range of substantive areas, including insurance law, contract law, and motor vehicle law. As subcommittee co-chair Kristin Yasenka remarked, “The guide provides practical information and real-world tips about the most common pitfalls and idiosyncrasies of New Hampshire practice in a variety of areas of the law. It is an invaluable resource for both new and experienced lawyers to help them avoid the traps in their everyday practice.”
As with many other affiliates, the NHBA NLC is also committed to providing numerous networking opportunities for its members. For instance, it sponsors a “Bench/Bar Meet and Greet” every December. This reception is traditionally held after newly admitted lawyers complete a practice skills course that must be completed within six months of taking the bar. The event is intended to cultivate connections between new lawyers, judges, and leaders of the state and local bars and offers the opportunity for professional and personal growth through the development of a network of more experienced attorneys and judges. “Newer lawyers of the bar wanted additional opportunities to interact with the judiciary in an effort to feel a connection with these members of our profession,” explained Jennifer Parent, former chair of the NHBA NLC. In response, the Committee applied for and received an ABA YLD member service subgrant and held its inaugural “Meet and Greet” in December 2005. “The night was a huge success, and members of the judiciary showed their overwhelming support for this program with their significant attendance,” said Parent.
Through its dedication to mentoring and providing unique opportunities to its membership, the NHBA NLC is setting the gold standard in the Granite State. When asked to reflect on the success of the Committee, Rancourt noted, “The members of the New Lawyers Committee are very dedicated and work tirelessly to assist the newer lawyers in New Hampshire. This coupled with the support of our senior bar has been instrumental in our success.” This simple credo will continue to ensure that the NHBA NLC will remain on top of the mountain.