The Public Defender invests heavily in its new lawyers, with the hope that lawyers stay with the Program for many years. Most attorneys have been with the Program for more than five years, and it is not uncommon for a new attorney to work alongside lawyers who have been here for fifteen years, twenty years, or more. To achieve this goal, the Program provides extensive training for new lawyers, a mentor program for the new lawyer’s first year, litigation and technological support, and continuing training.
New Lawyer Training
New staff attorneys begin their career at the Public Defender in its five-week New Lawyer Training Program. Training begins the last Monday in August and continues roughly through the first week of October. The training occurs primarily in Concord. Attorneys are paid during training.
The goals of New Lawyer Training are to work on skills critical to the success of every public defender attorney, such as client interviewing, bail advocacy and negotiation; expose the new lawyers to important areas of substantive law, such as domestic violence cases, juvenile law, motor vehicle offenses, and suppression of evidence; and work on courtroom skills through evidence and objection exercises, conducting mock motion hearings, and a three-day, intensive trial skills program. New lawyers will tour correctional facilities, observe court sessions, and meet judges. They will also spend time during New Lawyer Training in their home offices, where they will get acclimated to their new offices and meet the court personnel and prosecutors. Training is conducted primarily by the Program’s staff attorneys, each of whom have extensive experience in the area of law or practice on which they are instructing. In the past, new lawyers have also been addressed by judges, mental health professionals, drug treatment providers, and former clients who have served prison sentences.
Each new lawyer is paired with a mentor. The mentor is an attorney in the new lawyer’s office who works closely with the new lawyer, makes sure she is oriented to office procedures and county practices, monitors his development and case load, and insures that she is progressing consistently and comfortably in her first year as a public defender. Mentors relish the opportunity to assist new lawyers, and are critical to their success. The Managing Attorney also works closely with new lawyers, and most new lawyers end up co-counseling cases with senior attorneys in their offices.
Litigation And Technological Support
The Program is fortunate to have the support of an Information Technology Department that keeps its phones and computer systems functioning, and insures that staff have access to software and technological options that are essential in today’s internet-dependent world. With the help of the Information Technology Department, attorneys can access files remotely and securely, and connect with WiFi networks at courthouses.
One of the most important features of the Program’s support network is its intranet web site, which is loaded with useful links and a Forum feature that allows staff to share information or seek help resolving issues as they arise in cases. Attorneys have access to the Program’s extensive Practice Guide, which contains over 600 pages of information about New Hampshire criminal practice.
Over the years, some of the Program’s attorneys have developed interests in specialized areas of law. These attorneys voluntarily provide advice and support to staff attorneys in such areas as competency to stand trial, juvenile delinquency, driving while intoxicated offenses, and expert witness litigation.
The New Hampshire Public Defender is committed to the continuing education of its attorneys. The Program conducts two training’s each year for the entire attorney staff, covering updates on recent cases and legal developments, ethics, and special topics such as dealing with expert witnesses, litigating sexual assault cases, and sentencing. Attorneys who attend these training sessions fulfill their Continuing Legal Education requirement for the year.
The Program also sends attorneys to relevant training sponsored by the New Hampshire Bar Association and the New Hampshire Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. In addition, in recent years, the Program has sent attorneys to out-of-state training sponsored by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, as well as training on cross-examination, handling driving while intoxicated cases, forensic DNA analysis, and neuropsychology.