Celebrate Pro Bono

Events Help Those Who Need Legal Advice But Can’t Afford It

More than 300 Tennessee lawyers gave free legal services at more than 50 events to those unable to afford a lawyer throughout the month of October as part of the national Celebrate Pro Bono initiative. Activities included legal advice clinics, education programs, public presentations and other events.

“Celebrate Pro Bono Month provides an unique opportunity to publicize the free legal services provided by Tennessee lawyers,”  Tennessee Bar Association President Jackie Dixon said. “Though the legal community generously donates pro bono services year-round, this special focus is designed to ensure that those in our communities who need free legal help know where to find it.” The need for free legal assistance is evident given that:

  • one in five Tennesseans is living at or below the poverty line;
  • one in five Tennesseans cannot afford to pay for basic legal assistance;
  • there are only 81 paid legal aid lawyers in the state, which means that for every 12,658 low-income Tennesseans eligible for assistance, there is only one legal aid lawyer; and
  • less than 30 percent of those living below the poverty line are aware that assistance is available to help them with their legal problems.

Learn more about the month’s events at www.tba.org/info/celebrate-pro-bono-month-2012

Briefs

CLE Grants to Fund Access to Justice Initiatives
The Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization has awarded funds from its reserves for projects supporting the Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Initiative and the creation of two new positions for attorneys. First, the grant will fund a new statewide toll-free number the public can call for legal information. It will be staffed by an attorney housed at the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Service.

Second, the grant will pay to staff an initiative to develop new pro bono projects to help low-income Tennesseans get free legal advice. The position will focus on creating projects in areas of the state that do not currently have free legal resources for low-income individuals.

‘In Some Places People Die if Lawyers Don't Show Up'
The Belmont University College of Law presented its second Champions for Justice Award recently to Gary Haugen, the president and CEO of International Justice Mission (IJM), an organization that secures justice for victims of slavery and sexual exploitation. “Make your work in the law connect to things that matter to the satisfaction of your own soul,” Haugen told the students. “There are places in the world where people die if the lawyers don’t show up. In such desperate places, it turns out that lawyers desperately matter.”

Alternative Fee Pricing Puts Focus on Client Satisfaction
Many law firms are offering legal fee alternatives to the traditional billable hours, thanks to a new breed of law firm executives known as pricing directors. Value-based pricing is the new billing model where the focus is on producing outcomes such as client satisfaction and repeat business instead of racking up hours to succeed. “Change your firm’s conversation from hours and revenue, to revenue and profit,” Toby Brown tells ABAJournal.com. “If you succeed in doing that, then everything else follows.”

DOJ Use of Surveillance Devices Increases
According to analyzed data from records released under the Freedom of Information Act, the Justice Department has increased its usage of electronic devices by 64 percent since 2009, reports TriCities.com. The DOJ stated that citizens’ civil liberties are not at stake and court approval is necessary for such surveillance. Critics, however, claim the process to obtain warrants is too easy and devoid of meaningful court review.

Supreme Court Seeks Comments on Rules Amendments
The Tennessee Supreme Court has published a draft of its 2013 Rules Package for comment. The package includes proposed amendments that would provide for appeal as of right for final order denying request for expunction of an illegal sentence; clarifying that the trial court does not lose jurisdiction to rule on certain motions filed within the time permitted for appeal; setting page limits on TRAP 11 applications for permission to appeal; adopting a TBA-recommended comment clarifying that a statutorily authorized “petition” be considered a “complaint” for purposes of the Rules of Civil Procedure; integrating the procedures of the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act into the rules; addressing requirements for depositions taken in Tennessee for use elsewhere; including interpreter fees in costs; clarifying provisions regarding appeal of cases in which criminally accused reserves a certified question of law.

Various Tennessee Bar Association sections will be asked to review and recommend comments, if any, on behalf of the association. Comments are due Nov. 30.

Court: Don’t Lie About Who Child's Father Is
The Tennessee Supreme Court in October upheld a trial court’s damage award against a mother who misled her boyfriend by telling him he was the child’s father when he was not. In its ruling, the court stated that an intentional misrepresentation claim, which is already recognized in Tennessee’s courts, is broad enough to apply to circumstances where a mother intentionally misrepresents the parentage of her child.

Equal Justice University

More than 150 lawyers and advocates involved in providing civil legal assistance across Tennessee gathered in September at Paris Landing State Park for Equal Justice University, an annual educational program sponsored by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) and the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA).

The event also celebrated two individuals dedicated to providing access to justice in Tennessee: Behm and Adrienne Kittos, above, from Justice for Our Neighbors. Behm received the B. Riney Green Award and Kittos was honored as the New Advocate of the Year Award.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Judge Bernice Donald, above, left, with TALS Policy and Training Director Lisa Primm, was one of the speakers at the event. Other speakers included Buck Lewis, the Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission chair and former TBA president, Nashville Mayor and lawyer Karl Dean, Justice Clark and McIver.