The Paralegal Association of New Hampshire (PANH) began in the late 1970s when a few paralegals saw the opportunity for individuals engaged in this newly evolving profession to assemble to exchange ideas. Initially, these people met at members' homes on an informal basis. They discovered that they shared similar experiences, concerns, and problems. They found the mutual exchange of information and the camaraderie of meeting with others in the profession to be of significant benefit. As the group grew it was felt that a more formal organization was necessary for outside recognition of the paralegal profession, and to promote the goals of the group. In 1983 the Association was incorporated as a non-profit corporation. Meetings were scheduled on a more regular basis and initially held in the Manchester area where the largest concentration of the membership is found.
Early membership consisted of approximately twenty-five individuals who met for dinner and invited guest speakers to discuss issues pertinent to the profession. A monthly publication was begun in 1984 to disseminate news to the growing membership. This monthly newsletter titled The Annotator has changed its face many times, and in 1991, desktop publishing was instituted enabling a more professional appearance.
Membership grew to approximately forty people by 1986 with more individuals becoming aware of the benefits afforded PANH members. A group of individuals on the seacoast decided in 1987 that it would be helpful if local chapters were formed so that members could attend meetings closer to their homes and offices and yet still be part of the organization. The Seacoast and Central Chapters were organized and meet in the Portsmouth and Manchester areas respectively. In 1989 a North Country Chapter was established, and in 1991 the Merrimack Valley Chapter was established in the Concord area. Each active chapter elected local officers, held regular meetings and received support from the statewide organization.
PANH undertook the accumulation of data in 1988 through a survey of paralegals throughout New Hampshire. This process entailed compiling a list of over 450 paralegals employed throughout the state, sending questionnaires to gather information on paralegals' academic and professional backgrounds and gathering other data germane to the profession. The material was then analyzed and presented in a detailed forty page report. This survey is updated every three to five years.
Annual meetings are held each year providing an opportunity for members to network and attend continuing legal education seminars to enhance their legal skills and knowledge. In 1989 the Annual Meeting was held a the Legislative Office Building in Concord in a more formal and professional atmosphere than the local restaurants at which it had been held previously. Attendance that year was well over eighty and by 1991 it had reached one hundred and twenty-five. Beginning in 1992, the Annual Meeting was held at area convention centers to accommodate even larger turnouts. PANH membership reached approximately three hundred thirty in 1994.
The Association voted to affiliate with the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) in 1989. That affiliation has provided PANH with information regarding national issues. PANH has a wide variety of resources available through NALA. NALA has encouraged its members to consider taking its voluntary examination, the Certified Legal Assistant Examination, to obtain the CLA designation. While this exam may not be feasible or appropriate for all New Hampshire paralegals, the Paralegal Association of New Hampshire has recognized that it is a valuable tool available to enhance the recognition and professionalism of paralegals by forming a CLA study group. In 1997 the number of CLAs in New Hampshire totaled 26. The Association also offers a scholarship for students taking CLA exams.
Bylaws were written and adopted by the membership in 1990 as required of non-profit organizations. These bylaws were amended in 1991 to include the definition of a paralegal as follows: A (paralegal) is a person, qualified through education, training, or work experience, who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency, or other entity in a capacity or function which involves the performance, under the ultimate direction and supervision of a lawyer, of specifically-delegated substantive legal work, which work, for the most part, requires a sufficient knowledge of legal concepts, thus absent such assistant, the attorney would perform the task. [As adopted by the American Bar Association and the New Hampshire Bar Association.] The bylaws also stipulate that in order for a chapter to be established or to continue, it must have ten voting members. Each chapter elects two directors to serve as representatives to the State Board of Directors. The bylaws also call for three directors at-large to be elected by the general membership to ensure proper representation.
John Broderick, President of the New Hampshire Bar Association in 1990, created a Task Force on Paralegals. The Task Force was initially chaired by Attorney Arthur Greene and was made up of lawyers, paralegals, paralegal educators, law firm administrators, and a paralegal student. This committee has worked diligently to promote the effective utilization of paralegals as well as increase the awareness of paralegals' contribution to the cost-effective delivery of legal services in New Hampshire. In 1990, New Hampshire Bar Association instituted an annual award to recognize and acknowledge paralegals for their contribution to the profession.
The Association has grown and become more visible and organized in the community and with the New Hampshire Bar Association. At the 1992 Annual Meeting, Bar President, Attorney Patti Blanchette, announced the appointment of various paralegals to eight Bar committees to serve as adjunct members, including Delivery of Legal Services, Group Insurance, Cooperation With Other Profession, Task Force on Aids, Task Force on Paralegals, Public Information, Women in the Profession, and Law Related Education Advisory Board. In 1998, the Task Force on Paralegals was chaired by Lorinda Monroe, CLA. This is the first time a New Hampshire Bar Committee had been chaired by a paralegal.
PANH has also encouraged improvement in paralegal education and has worked closely with local schools offering paralegal programs. This coordinated effort has increased awareness by school administrators of the needs of paralegals and has resulted in the appointment of several paralegal members to school advisory boards. Many PANH members are teaching in local programs and the Association has frequent requests for paralegals to speak as "guest lecturers" at the various paralegal programs throughout the state.
PANH has offered scholarships to student members of the Association enrolled in paralegal programs each year since 1992. PANH encourages students enrolled in the various paralegal programs to join the organization at a reduced rate. Student members are entitled to all membership benefits with the exception of voting status at a the Annual Meeting and holding certain offices.
Beginning in 1994 PANH offered at a Student Information Day to student members of the Association. Working paralegals provided information on various topics including Resume Writing, Interviewing Tips, Paralegal Employment in Settings Other Than Law Offices, Mentor Programs, Big Firms v. Small Firms and Current Technology.
PANH has also established various committees to assist the Board of Directors and local officers and to encourage participation among the membership. These committees are Annotator Staff, Annual Meeting, Bar Association Committee, Bylaw, Continuing Legal Education, Finance/Fundraising, Membership, Paralegal Education, Publicity/Website, Regulation and Survey.
The Association has grown from a few individuals seeking support and information sharing among themselves to a statewide networking organization offering significant benefits to its membership.