News

Court Seeks Comments on 2 Proposals, Sets Legal Aid Funding Ratios

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued three orders. The first amends Rule 11 Section VI(a)(1), which sets out the amounts that the state’s four legal aid organizations receive from the Civil Legal Representation of Indigents Fund. The order, which will take effect Sept. 1, changes the percentage of funding each organization receives based on the percent of poverty in their service areas. The second order seeks comments by Sept. 19 on a proposal by the Board of Professional Responsibility and Tennessee Bar Foundation to amend Rules 8 and 43 to allow attorneys to deposit trust funds in federally insured credit unions. The third order seeks comments by Nov. 17 on a proposal by theTBA to amend Rule 8 to make a number of changes recommended by the ABA's Commission on Ethics 20/20.

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ABA Unveils New Tools for ATJ Efforts, Solo Lawyers

The ABA this week announced two new efforts. The first, a new Center for Innovation, is designed to increase access to justice and improve the delivery of legal services through innovative programs and initiatives. The second is a new web-based tool to help solo and small firm lawyers manage their practices. The ABA Blueprint program will launch this fall and offer information on technology, marketing, retirement and insurance services.

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Warren Seely Named ABA Section Director

Tennessee lawyer Linda Warren Seely has been named the new director of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution. She will take office Sept. 1. Seely served as director of pro bono projects for Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) for nine years and later became director of MALS’ Campaign for Equal Justice. She recently left MALS to join a Step Ahead Foundation, working to help women learn about and access birth control. Seely is a past president of the Memphis Bar Association and the Tennessee Lawyers Association for Women. She currently serves in the TBA House of Delegates, and on the governing boards of the Association of Women Attorneys Foundation, Madison County CASA and Tennessee Bar Foundation. 

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New ABA President to Focus on Veterans, Election Issues

Atlanta lawyer Linda Klein, senior managing shareholder at Baker Donelson, was sworn in as president of the ABA yesterday and outlined her goals for the year, which include a focus on veterans’ legal needs, promotion of voting in the upcoming election and support for quality education. A new ABA Commission on Veterans’ Legal Services will provide resources for local legal groups to serve veterans and their families, and explore ways to provide legal services at VA medical facilities. Tennessee will be represented on the commission by TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur. The voting initiative, ABA Votes 2016, will provide a state-by-state summary of voter laws as well as resources lawyers can use to encourage participation. Finally, a new education commission will study ways to address substandard education in rural and inner city communities and improve opportunities for children with disabilities.

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ABA House Adopts Rule on Harassment, Discrimination

The ABA House of Delegates approved a model professional conduct rule that prohibits harassment and discrimination by lawyers “on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status or socioeconomic status” during its annual meeting in San Francisco. The National Association of Women Lawyers strongly supported the move, while critics argued it would have a chilling effect on lawyers' First Amendment rights, The New York Times reports. During two days of deliberation, the body also approved proposals to (1) permit law school students to earn academic credit and compensation for externships at the same time, (2) broaden diversity and inclusion in the profession, (3) urge state and local governments to abolish offender-funded probation systems and provide Miranda warnings in Spanish, and (4) urge legislatures to eliminate the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

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Pakistani Lawyers Targeted in Suicide Bombing

A suicide attacker killed almost 70 and injured more than 100 people – many of them lawyers – outside a hospital in the Pakistani city of Quetta. The lawyers were there to mourn the killing of Bilal Anwar Kasi, the president of the Balochistan Bar Association, who was shot dead on his way to work Monday. Legal groups in Pakistan say lawyers will hold a week of mourning and boycott the courts in protest of the deaths. Rallies took place across the country today. A breakaway faction of the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. ABA President Paulette Brown responded to the situation saying the American legal community condemns the attack, which “strikes at the rule of law.” CNN has more on the story.

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Law School Council to Stop Certifying LSAT Scores

The Law School Admission Council, which certifies LSAT scores and undergraduate GPA data submitted by law schools for ABA accreditation, announced last week that it intends to suspend that service. The organization’s letter cites consideration by the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to allow use of the GRE exam instead of the LSAT for law school admission. “Our board believes that certifying LSAT scores when other scores are not certified could lead to more confusion for applicants and for law schools,” the council’s chair said. The ABA Journal has more.

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TBA Young Lawyers Net 4 Honors at ABA Meeting

The TBA Young Lawyers Division received four awards from the American Bar Association's YLD Awards of Achievement program at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco this weekend. For the division of state YLD groups with fewer that 3,000 members, the TBA YLD was awarded first place for service to the public for the Access to Justice Legal Clinic Initiative, second place for service to the bar for its CLE programming and second place for diversity programming. The YLD also received a special recognition in the comprehensive category, which honors all of the group's programs for the 2015-2016 bar year.

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Retirement Webinar on Tap for Wednesday

The ABA Retirement Funds Program is hosting a free webinar on the role of self-directed brokerage accounts (SDBA) within retirement plans. The session will be held this Wednesday at noon Central Daylight Time. Topics include: the basics of SDBAs, the benefits of SDBAs, SDBA product details, how SDBAs work within the regulatory environment of ERISA, and trends related to SDBAs in the marketplace.

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ABA Annual Meeting Includes FBI Director, Marcia Clark as Speakers

The American Bar Association (ABA) annual meeting in San Francisco continues today. Offerings at the meeting include updates about the legal implications of electronic devices such as home security systems, cellphones and fitness trackers that collect and exchange data, and the Zika virus. Today, FBI Director James Comey was among experts who examined the use of emerging technology by criminals and terrorists to evade detection, and Marcia Clark, who was the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson case, was on tap to discuss her new work of fiction.

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ABA Meeting Opens, Includes Diversity Commission Findings

The American Bar Association kicks off its annual meeting today in San Francisco with topics to be explored including national security at the U.S. border and in the cyber realm, the impact of new voting laws on the upcoming fall elections and the integration of transgendered soldiers in the U.S. military. On Saturday, the ABA Diversity and Inclusion Commission, formed by outgoing ABA President Paulette Brown, will unveil the results of its work. The group spent months reviewing and analyzing the state of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, the judicial system and the ABA, with the aim of formulating methods, policies, standards and practices to “move the needle” and advance diversity and inclusion. “The legal profession is the best, but we can do better," Brown said. "It can no longer be acceptable for us to be the least diverse of all comparable professions.” Learn more from the ABA's Diversity and Inclusion Portal.

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Nashville Attorney to Chair ABA Section

Sam H. Poteet Jr., a principal with Manier & Herod in Nashville, has been elected to a one-year term as chair of the American Bar Association Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS). He will begin serving his 2016-17 term at the conclusion of the ABA annual meeting in San Francisco, which starts today and runs through Aug. 9. TIPS unites plaintiff, defense, insurance and corporate counsel to advance the civil justice system. It has about 20,000 members and 31 general committees that focus on substantive and procedural matters in areas across the broad spectrum of civil law and practice.

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Law School Externships, Misconduct Rules on ABA Annual Meeting Agenda

The ABA House of Delegates will meet Aug. 8-9 in San Francisco for its annual meeting. Items on the agenda include a proposal that would permit law school students to earn academic credit and compensation for externships at the same time; an amendment to the model rules of conduct to add anti-discrimination and anti-harassment provisions; a proposal urging states to abolish probation systems supervised by private, for-profit firms; and initiatives that expand ABA efforts to diversify the legal profession and the judiciary.

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ABA Conducting Random Audits of Law School Job Stats

The ABA is starting to conduct random audits of jobs data provided by law schools, the ABA Journal reports. Auditors are examining data from 10 randomly selected law schools and 382 randomly selected students from 156 law schools. The aim is to make sure schools followed new procedures released in May governing the collection and verification of employment data. Audit results will not be publicly released unless problems lead to a public sanction.

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ABA: Safety of Society Relies on Rule of Law

Following police-involved shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana., and St. Paul, Minnesota., as well as the killing of five police officers in Dallas, ABA President Paulette Brown issued a statement, saying that "Our civil society and the safety of all in it – citizens and law enforcement – rely on the rule of law. It is imperative that the law be fairly applied and enforced. All citizens must perceive our justice system as fair. It also is essential that laws and authority are respected and followed." Brown writes that the ABA is "urgently exploring opportunities to develop creative solutions to this problem that affects us all… The ABA calls on all lawyers to work quickly and collaboratively toward viable and just answers to these issues.” Related, police officers in Nashville and Memphis were disciplined this week for what were deemed inappropriate social media posts about the shootings, the Tennessean reports.
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ABA Seeks Comments on Law School Standards

The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar approved for notice and comment several proposed revisions to its Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools. Comments on the proposals should be sent to jr.clark@americanbar.org by July 29.

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ABA May Lose Some Accreditation Powers

A U.S. Department of Education panel recommended last week that the ABA’s accreditation power for new law schools be suspended for one year. The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity made that decision based on the ABA’s failure to implement student achievement standards and probationary sanctions, and to meet audit process and analysis responsibilities regarding students’ debt levels. The recommendation now goes back to the Education Department. The ABA Journal has the story.

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Tennessee Lawyers Among New Bar Foundation Fellows

The American Bar Foundation, an organization dedicated to advancing justice through rigorous research on the law, legal processes and the law’s impact on society, has named its new 2016 fellows. Among the group are 87 Tennessee lawyers. See the list here.

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ABA Opinion Addresses Referral Fees, Conflict of Interest

The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility issued a formal ethics opinion this week that addresses the propriety of referral fees and explains that clients must consent to such arrangements. The opinion also provides examples of when a lawyer does or does not have a conflict of interest, according to the ABA Journal

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Chattanooga Attorney Named as Fellow of the ABF

Chattanooga attorney Paul Hatcher, a partner at Duncan, Hatcher, Hixson & Fleenor, has been named a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, The Hamilton County Herald reports. The ABF, a research center, focuses on the social aspects of the law and legal practice.

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Chattanooga Attorney Named Fellow of the ABF

Chattanooga attorney Patricia Best Vital, principal of Vital Law Office & Dispute Resolution Services, was named as a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. The ABF, founded in 1952, is recognized as a premier institute in the United States for social science research on law. Vital is also an arbitrator for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

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ABA Groups Highlights Diversity Efforts

The ABA’s Fund for Justice and Education is highlighting activities conducted across the organization this month as part of the ABA’s Goal III – to eliminate bias and enhance diversity. Divisions inside the ABA involved in meeting the goal include the The Diversity and Inclusion 360 Commission, the ABA Commission on Racial & Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, the ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and more.

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Rubenfeld Receives ABA's 2016 Stonewall Award

Nashville attorney Abby Rubenfeld received the American Bar Association’s 2016 Stonewall Award for her work as a gay rights advocate. The award was presented Feb. 6 at the ABA LGBT Caucus as part of the organization’s mid-year meeting in San Diego. Rubenfeld was co-counsel for some of the plaintiffs in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that overturned the ban on same-sex marriage. In December, Rubenfeld and co-counsel TBA President Bill Harbison were named Nashvillians of the Year by Scene magazine for their work on the case.

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Decision Due Soon on Balloting Choice

TBA members who choose to opt out of electronic voting and receive a paper ballot for the upcoming 2016 TBA election need to either indicate their presence on their online membership profile,  or provide written notice to TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur at 221 Fourth Ave. North, Suite 400, Nashville, TN 37219. This notice must be provided by Feb. 1. Candidates interested in filing for the 2016 elections need to file qualifying materials by Feb. 15. Voting will take place between March 1 and April 1.

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ABA Accepting Committee Nominations

The American Bar Association (ABA) is seeking nominations for its Standing and Special Committees, Commissions, Working Groups, Task Forces and other ABA entities for the 2016-2017 membership year. Recommendations can now be made online and must be received by Feb. 26.

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