News

New Edition of Ethics Rule Book Now Available From TBA

The 2018 edition of the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct is now available from the Tennessee Bar Association. Thanks to the efforts of the TBA's Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, this new edition includes all amendments as of and through Oct. 31, 2017. It is available for purchase in a spiral-bound format for $30 or free in PDF format or in Word document format.

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Valet, Warm Scones and Ethics

Get three hours of ethics credit at the TBA’s Ethics Roadshow CLE in Nashville on Dec. 7. Valet parking is included at the Hilton Hotel Downtown. Warm scones, fresh fruit, stuffed biscuits and coffee are on the breakfast menu. Register before Sunday to avoid the late fee. Come hungry!

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Supreme Court Soliciting Comments on Proposed Changes to Rule 8

The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility and the TBA last week filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to amend Rule 8, RPC 8.4 of the Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court by adopting a new RPC 8.4(g). The court is now soliciting written comments from the bench, the bar and the public. The deadline for submissions is March 21, 2018. Written comments may be emailed or mailed to James M. Hivner, Clerk, Re: Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 9, section 32 Tennessee Appellate Courts, 100 Supreme Court Building, 401 7th Avenue North, Nashville, Tennessee 37219-1407. Read the proposed amendments here.
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Joint Petition Filed by TBA, Board of Professional Responsibility

The Tennessee Bar Association and the Board of Professional Responsibility filed an unusual joint petition today asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to adopt a new ethics rule prohibiting discrimination and harassment by lawyers in conduct related to the practice of law. The petition seeks an amendment to Supreme Court Rule 8 to add a new subsection (g) to RPC 8.4 and explanatory comment paragraphs. The proposed amendment is patterned after a recently-adopted ABA Model Rule 8.4(g), but the proposal adds language more clearly protecting the First Amendment rights of lawyers, among other things. The Tennessee Supreme Court is expected to issue an order soliciting comments on the petition soon.

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BPR Issues Ethics Opinion on Interstate Law Firm Using Trade Name

The Board of Professional Responsibility has issued a formal ethics opinion regarding the opening and operation of a proposed interstate law firm between Tennessee and Florida, using a trade name, SETCO law. The opinion deals with the growth, development and diversity of the legal profession, which has spawned a proliferation of new ways of conducting the practice, taking lawyers far beyond the sole practitioner and single office law firm models of an earlier era.
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ABA Issues Guidance on Electronic Transmission of Client Info

The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has issued an opinion with guidance for lawyers on enhancing confidentiality for transferring sensitive client information electronically. The guidance recommends lawyers be trained in technology and information security and encourages attorneys to take a proactive role in ensuring communications are protected, among other edicts. The new opinion adds to one issued in 1999 that discusses protecting the confidentiality of encrypted email. Read the full opinion here.

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AG Files Suit Against Law Firm Targeting Grieving Families

Attorney General Herbert Slatery has filed a lawsuit against the Witherspoon Law Group in Texas, attorney Nuru Witherspoon and two investigators for unlawfully soliciting victims of the Chattanooga school bus crash. The AG’s office received reports that through investigators, the firm contacted victim’s families as they made funeral arrangements, despite state law prohibiting attorneys from solicitation within 30 days of a tragedy. The suit alleges that the investigators, Alphonso McClendon and Glen Smith, presented themselves as attorneys and pressured families to sign contracts.
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ABA Discrimination Model Rule Draws Fire in Montana

The recently passed ABA Model Rule 84(g) dealing with discrimination has been condemned by the Montana state legislature, which says it is a violation of Montanans’ First Amendment rights, the ABA Journal reports. The model rule — which makes it a violation of professional responsibility to discriminate or harass on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law — was passed by the ABA House of at its 2016 Annual Meeting. The Montana Supreme Court adopted it later that year.

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Learn the Neuroscience of Decision-Making at the TBA Convention

At the TBA Convention in Kingsport, a special joint Bench/Bar CLE will examine the role neuroscience plays in our decision-making skills and judgment. The session will include exercises, tools and specific strategies for increasing impartiality and integrity in decision-making. The course will identify ways to increase fairness guided by science. The convention will be June 14-17 at the MeadowView Marriott Resort.
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Tennessee Supreme Court Amends Rule 8

The Tennessee Supreme Court has amended Rule 8 of the Rules of Professional Responsibility following a Tennessee Bar Association request in July 2016. The Knoxville Bar Association and the Board of Professional Responsibility both provided comments on the proposal. The new amendments provide new language in regards to technology and contracting with other lawyers; updates to confidentiality of information and detection of conflicts of interest; and more.

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Hendersonville Attorney Charged with Theft

Hendersonville attorney Andy Allman, who has been under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation since December, was arrested and booked into the Davidson County jail yesterday afternoon. His house was also searched, WKRN reports. Allman was charged with theft between $60,000 and $200,000. The indictment alleges that he knowingly obtained money and property from a client while acting as a personal representative of an estate without the victim’s consent. 

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Court Sets Oral Arguments for Knoxville Session

The Tennessee Supreme Court will hear four cases in Knoxville on Jan. 10. The cases involve issues of whether a person who has been elected judge, but not yet assumed office, may act as a state officer or employee and whether a judicial administrative assistant is an at-will employee whose employment can be terminated by the judge; whether the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in finding that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support a conviction for aggravated stalking; whether the signature of a trustee agreeing to arbitration binds the minor beneficiary; and whether a trial court erred in affirming a BPR decision.

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Receiver Attorney Appointed for Andy Allman

The Sumner County Chancery Court entered an order on Dec. 22 appointing Dennis Powers as receiver attorney for Andy Allman. The order, requested by the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, allows Powers to take custody of files, records, bank accounts and other property connected to Allman’s law practice; review files to determine the status of pending legal matters; notify all clients and courts as to the appointment of a receiver attorney; and return documents and fees to clients as necessary.

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AG to Chattanooga Families: Beware of Predatory Firms

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III is asking Chattanooga residents to be aware of predatory law firms seeking to profit from the Woodmore Elementary school bus tragedy. While communities and families deal with the heartache and stress associated with tragedy, out-of-state law firms have been known to solicit business and coerce families into signing legal agreements that are difficult to understand, Slatery says. Often, these firms use misleading or inaccurate information, offer incentives such as paying funeral costs in exchange for using their services, and promise millions in civil lawsuit awards. In some cases, salesmen hired by the law firm will portray themselves as licensed attorneys when they are not. In a warning released today, Slatery outlines four signs of a suspicious solicitation, and pledges to prosecute anyone taking advantage of the situation.

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Preventing Legal Malpractice Courses Now Online

If you missed the three-city tour of this year’s Preventing Legal Malpractice series with Chris Stiegemeyer, the videos are now available online. Use your TBA prepaid credits to reduce the cost or to register at no cost. This year’s program focused on sample fee agreements and helping lawyers identify vital malpractice and ethics issues.

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Ethics Roadshow Sessions Available Online

If you missed the six-city tour of this year’s Ethics Roadshow, the videos are now available online. Use your TBA prepaid credits to reduce the cost or to register at no cost. This year’s program focuses on technology, artificial intelligence and other hot topics in the world of lawyer ethics.

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Police Chief: DA Spokesman Released Info on Rape Victim

Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson publicly rebuked Ken Whitehouse, a spokesman in the district attorney’s office, on Monday, saying he committed an “unconscionable” act that was a “violation of trust and human dignity” when he released the name and personal information of a rape victim to the media. Anderson says that Whitehouse sent an incident report that included the names of the alleged victim and suspect to a local television station. The district attorney’s office said the information was mistakenly released. Whitehouse will retain his job, but Anderson says he has blocked him from further access to confidential police files, the Tennessean reports.

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ABA Opinion: Protect Confidentiality When Ending Representation

The American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has issued Formal Opinion 476, which addresses confidentiality issues that arise when a lawyer moves to withdraw from a civil case because of a client’s failure to pay legal fees. The opinion recommends a process for the lawyer and the trial judge to follow and how much, if any, confidential client information should be disclosed in a motion to withdraw. The opinion notes that sticky situations can arise, and that “this requires cooperation between lawyers and judges.” Read more about the opinion.

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Online CLE Explores Trust Account Handbook

A two-hour online ethics CLE offers a tour of Tennessee Attorney’s Trust Account Handbook. The course covers best practices for day-to-day reconciliation, recordkeeping and how to avoid errors that often lead to ethical violations.

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Cope to Pay $200,000 Fine for Insider Trader

Former Rutherford County attorney Jim Cope will pay a $200,000 fine and serve two years on probation, the first nine months at home, after pleading guilty to insider trading as a Pinnacle bank director. U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger handed down the sentence Friday, nearly quadrupling a fine of $55,000 Cope initially agreed to pay in a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney's office. At an earlier hearing, Trauger had said Cope should pay a greater fine given his net worth of $12 million and monthly income of $37,000. The Murfreesboro Post reports that Cope still faces potential penalties from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has filed a civil complaint, and the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, which is investigating his case.

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Ethics Roadshow Continues Next Week

The 2016 Ethics Roadshow continues next week with stops in Jackson, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Johnson City. Make plans to attend one of these programs. Memphis lawyer Brian Faughnan with Lewis Thomason is back for his 12th year. In honor of that milestone, this year’s tour will focus on the 12 most important developments impacting ethics and lawyering in 2016. Check out the full schedule of dates and locations on the TBA CLE website.

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ABA Issues Opinion on Fee Sharing Between Lawyers

The ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has issued Formal Opinion 475, which details how a lawyer who receives a payment that should be shared with another lawyer should handle and distribute the money. Model Rule 1.5(e) allows lawyers who are not in the same firm to divide a fee under certain circumstances. The new opinion directs the receiving lawyer to deposit funds in a separate account and safeguard the funds. The opinion also calls for prompt delivery of the agreed-upon portion of the fee to the other lawyer, and, if requested, a full accounting of the funds. Read more from the ABA.

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Get Multiple Courses with TBA’s New '1Click CLE'

This month the TBA is launching a new way to purchase CLE courses. The 1Click series allows lawyers to sign up for multiple course with one click. Look for sets of programs in a variety of categories, including ethics programs and courses by practice area. Current offerings include two three-hour ethics series, an eight-hour general practice series and a five-hour tax law series.

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TBA President Urges Unity, Consensus Building in Profession

In the new Tennessee Bar Journal, President Jason Long discusses our divided country after the recent election, urging lawyers to be “united now more than ever in our commitment to the profession and its bedrock principles.” He writes that “we can provide that opportunity in a controlled and structured environment, operating within the framework of our democratic institutions. If there is an opportunity for consensus building and unity in today’s political climate, the legal profession can and should facilitate that.” Also in this issue, learn if you are protecting your clients’ electronic information enough, in the cover article by Trey Forgety. Brian Dobbs writes to help you understand the law of construction in Tennessee. Read the December issue.

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Court Adopts Amendments to Rules 7 and 9

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an order amending Rule 7, section 16.01, and Rule 9, section 30.3, which deal with reinstatement of a law license after a disciplinary or administrative suspension, disbarment or inactive status designation. The court notes that only one comment from the Tennessee Bar Association was filed. The court originally proposed the amendments in September.

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