News

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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ABA Issues Ethics Opinion on Limited-Scope Legal Services

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility today issued ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 472, "Communication with Person Receiving Limited-Scope Legal Services." In this opinion the committee addresses the obligations of a lawyer under ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 4.2, "Communication with Person Represented by Counsel," commonly called the “no contact” rule, and ABA Model Rule 4.3, "Dealing with Unrepresented Person," when communicating with a person who is receiving or has received limited-scope representation under ABA Model Rule 1.2, "Scope of Representation and Allocation of Authority Between Client and Lawyer." The opinion also provides recommendations for lawyers providing limited-scope representation.

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ABA Committee Proposes Lifting Ban on Credit for Paid Externships

The American Bar Association's Standards Review Committee is again proposing that a ban that prevents students from receiving academic credit for paid externships be lifted, the ABA Journal reports. The ban has been one of the most contentious issues to come before the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in recent years. The Law Student Division has lobbied hard to eliminate the prohibition, saying it limits the amount of field placement opportunities available to students. But many clinicians believe that eliminating the ban would undermine the academic purposes of the placements.

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ABA to Honor Rubenfield for Gay Rights Work

Nashville attorney Abby Rubenfeld was among attorneys selected to receive the American Bar Assocation’s (ABA) third annual Stonewall Award for their work as gay rights advocates. Rubenfeld was co-counsel for some of the plaintiffs in Obergefell v. Hodges. Evan Wolfson and Thomas Fitzpatrick will be honored alongside Rubenfeld at the ABA’s Midyear Meeting, Feb. 6. “The ABA is pleased to recognize these three gay rights pioneers. Each has been a forceful voice for LGBT inclusion and legal progress,” said the commission’s chair, Mark Johnson Roberts. 

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TBA VP Pera to Chair ABA Coordinating Council

Memphis attorney and TBA vice president Lucian T. Pera of Adams and Reese was appointed to chair the Coordinating Council with the American Bar Association's Center for Professional Responsibility. The Center’s Coordinating Council oversees and directs legal and judicial ethical issues that come before the ABA’s policymaking body, the ABA House of Delegates and other national initiatives. Pera, a Vanderbilt University Law School graduate, is the immediate past treasurer of the ABA and a former member of its Board of Governors and Executive Committee.

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ABA: Better Debt Counseling, Loan Transparency Needed

The ABA House of Delegates this week adopted several recommendations aimed to help students better understand the financial impact of law school. The package calls on law schools to provide better debt counseling, disclose more information about revenues and expenditures, and experiment with new ways to lower the costs of legal education.  The House also backed changes in law school accreditation standards, most of which were described as technical corrections or clarifications. The ABA Journal has more on both issues.

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TBA Honors Former President at Chicago Reception

TBA President Bill Harbison joined attorneys from across Tennessee and other states in honoring Memphis attorney Randy Noel during a reception in his honor Saturday at the annual ABA Convention in Chicago. Noel, with Butler Snow, is a former TBA president and a former Tennessee delegate to the ABA House of Delegates. Support for the event was provided by the University of Tennessee College of Law, University of Memphis School of Law, Belmont University College of Law and Vanderbilt University Law School. 

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TBA Reception Honors Former President Noel

(CHICAGO, Aug. 1, 2015) — TBA President Bill Harbison (left) salutes Memphis attorney Randy Noel and his wife, Leesa, during a reception in his honor held the annual ABA Convention in Chicago. Noel, with Butler Snow, is a former TBA president and a former Tennessee delegate to the ABA House of Delegates. Support for the event was provided by the University of Tennessee College of Law, University of Memphis School of Law, Belmont University College of Law and Vanderbilt University Law School.

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New ABA President to Work on Diversity, Inclusion

Paulette Brown took office today as president of the American Bar Association at the conclusion of the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago. She is the first woman of color to become president of the 136-year-old organization. Brown, a labor and employment law partner at Locke Lord LLP in Morristown, N.J, plans to devote her presidency to serving ABA members and highlighting the value of the association by reaching out to lawyers and communities across the country. She also plans to build on the work the ABA has already done in the area of diversity and inclusion through a newly created Commission on Diversity and Inclusion 360.

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