It is with heavy hearts that the 603 Legal Aid team said goodbye to longtime colleague Breckie Hayes-Snow on May 31. Breckie’s career in legal aid stretches back more than 25 years starting with a supervising attorney position at the Legal Advice and Referral Center (LARC) in 1996 before becoming the organization’s executive director in 2018 and participating in the leadership planning process for the merger that ultimately created 603 Legal Aid in 2021.
“I did not set out to be a legal aid attorney,” she said. “When I started law school, I was really focused on business. I think I am better with numbers and data than I am with people, so that seemed reasonable.”
Breckie credits the Civil Practice Clinic with Bruce Friedman and Ellen Musinsky, at then-Franklin Pierce Law School, for shifting her career path.
“Before working with Ellen, I don’t think I ever really understood legal aid as a career path, but I remember telling someone shortly before graduation that my dream job was Ellen’s: teaching and using my legal skills to improve the condition of those less fortunate than me.
“My mother in particular has always been an advocate of giving what you can spare, helping where you can. The idea of doing what you can to make your community better just fits me better than focusing on personal gain. I did not set out to be a legal aid attorney, but I have never regretted the opportunity.”
Breckie’s leadership helped steer LARC through the pandemic as well as the 2021 merger of LARC and the NH Bar Association’s Pro Bono Referral Program into 603 Legal Aid.
“One source of my great admiration for Breckie is her selflessness,” said Deborah Kane Rein, a retired lawyer and marital master and board member of 603 Legal Aid. “She devoted three years of her professional (and sometimes personal) life to the LARC – Pro Bono merger in order to improve the delivery of legal services to those in need, even while knowing she might not have a job at the end of it. The merger could not have succeeded without Breckie’s guidance. 603 Legal Aid was fortunate that she was able to stay on during its period of intense transition.”
Following the merger, Breckie served as 603 Legal Aid’s Housing Supervising Attorney.
“Breckie is one of the best,” said Karen Makocy Philbrick, a paralegal with LARC and later 603 Legal Aid. “No one else can analyze a set of client facts quite like her. She was able to come up with a perfect solution for her clients every time.”
Breckie’s creative problem-solving and sharp analytical skills made her the person other attorneys went to for guidance regarding complex legal issues. Her determination to do whatever it took to help her clients inspired several other staff, a trait she carried over to her role as executive director.
“Complying with the innumerable grant requirements, funding requirements, and documentation requirements of running a legal aid organization competes for attention with what is really important – helping low-income Granite Staters access and attain justice,” 603 Legal Aid Legal Director Marta Hurgin, said. “But Breckie never wavered from the true goal. She allowed the staff to focus on legal work while she took care of the frustrations.”
Her desire to help her staff avoid unnecessary stress became a hallmark of her leadership.
“Breckie expected a lot from her staff, but at the same time, she shielded all of us from uncomfortable situations,” said paralegal, Steve McGilvary. “This actually made us want to do more for her.”
Steve recalls a Zoom meeting during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic when staff members met virtually with board members, lawmakers, and community partners.
“Breckie asked me if I would give a ‘street level’ perspective of how tenants were faring during COVID,” he said. “I was nervous about presenting to such an audience, and Breckie knew it. I told Breckie I was not qualified to speak on the subject. She assured me that I knew more about housing issues than anyone who’d be in attendance, but she also made clear she didn’t want me to do anything that I wasn’t comfortable doing. She would have let me off the hook, but her concern for me made me determined to do whatever I could to make her job easier. I was only too happy to present at the Zoom meeting.”
According to Breckie, there are many things that people should know about legal aid and the clients it helps.
“I think the most important thing to understand about our clients is that they are not one thing. They vary in background and in life experience; they vary in opportunity and judgment. Thinking of our client community as one thing makes it much easier to dismiss them and judge their circumstances as being the result of some common thread. Each person deserves to be treated humanely and with due regard for their individual circumstances.”
Throughout Breckie’s career at LARC and 603 Legal Aid, she truly cared about her coworkers and clients. Her calm demeanor and compassion for her clients will be greatly missed.
“I’ve spent the last 26 years of my life doing legal aid because I think when we have more than we need we should build a bigger table,” she said. “I have been incredibly fortunate – ‘privileged,’ in today’s parlance – and feel it is my responsibility to share, or at least to try and prevent more injustice.”
The legal services community – both clients and partners – is better because she did. Please join us in wishing Breckie the best in her future endeavors.