Clark Sworn in as New Chief

Tennessee Supreme Court

With more than 300 family, friends, judges, lawyers and public officials looking on, Justice Cornelia A. "Connie" Clark became chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court on Sept. 1. The ceremony was held in the Historic Williamson County Courthouse, which was being renovated, but reopened early especially for the occasion. It was the site of Clark's first appearance as a lawyer and where she presided as a trial judge for 10 years. The ceremony featured remarks from judges representing every judicial and clerk's organization in the judicial branch. In her remarks, Clark said that she was borrowing the theme from the recent juvenile and family court judges conference: Different Courts, Different People, One Purpose.

Clark is the second woman to be chief justice, following Justice Janice Holder, who swore her in.  

The Tennessee Supreme Court adopted Rule 50A in September establishing a Pro Bono Emeritus Attorney Program to allow lawyers who no longer actively practice law to provide free legal services through approved legal assistance organizations. The rule, designed to increase access to justice for needy individuals in the state, lays out qualifications for participation, a certification process for both lawyers and organizations seeking to participate, and responsibilities of attorneys who are certified.

The rule was proposed by the Tennessee Access to Justice Commission and supported by the Tennessee Bar Association. Its language is drawn from similar rules that have been adopted in other U.S. jurisdictions, and rule takes effect Jan. 1, 2011.

For more information about the new program or to learn about opportunities for volunteering, contact TBA Access to Justice Coordinator Sarah Hayman at shayman@tnbar.org or (615) 383-7421. Download a copy of the new rule through tba.org/journal_links

Tennessee lawyers give nearly 300,000 hours, report shows
Tennessee lawyers volunteered nearly 300,000 hours of service last year, according to a report released from the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility. In the first year of voluntary reporting of pro bono information, 3,698 Tennessee lawyers " about 18 percent of all who are licensed in the state " reported that they had performed some type of voluntary service, BPR Chief Disciplinary Counsel Nancy Jones said.
Additionally, about 30 percent of these lawyers reported that they contributed financial support to organizations that provide legal services to clients with limited means. Having this benchmark reporting data is one way the court and the bar will evaluate if steps being taken to eliminate barriers to pro bono service are having a significant impact. Read the full BPR report through tba.org/journal_links

Legal hotline helps 500 +
A free legal assistance hotline " established in the wake of last May's massive flooding across the state " has provided legal services to more than 500 Tennesseans. More than 200 lawyers have volunteered to work on the cases. In addition, those affected by the disaster continue to seek help, with 10 to 15 calls being logged each week on the hotline. Data shows that calls have come from more than half of the counties declared federal disaster areas, with the greatest number " 345 " coming from Davidson County. Other high-volume counties have been Giles with 57 calls and Shelby with 42 calls. The hotline will remain active as long as there is a need. Read more and see a breakdown of calls by topic and by county through tba.org/journal_links

IOLTA revenues up following rule changes
Monthly Interest On Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) income is up, and more banks are participating in the program, following the adoption of new Supreme Court rules governing it. The Tennessee Bar Foundation, which administers the IOLTA program in Tennessee, reports in its latest newsletter that monthly income more than doubled from September 2009 to June 2010. In addition, 30 more banks have started offering IOLTA accounts to their lawyer customers. The rule changes, recommended by the Tennessee Bar Association and other legal organizations across the state, require all client funds held by a lawyer for a short time, or that are small in amount, to be placed in special accounts, with the interest going to IOLTA. Money from the IOLTA program is distributed to organizations that provide direct legal services to the indigent, to organizations that seek to improve the administration of justice and to students, in the form of scholarships, at state-supported law schools.

Learn more about the IOLTA program at www.tnbarfoundation.org/iolta

New TBA committee examines foreclosure procedure
Amid the continuing wave of home loan defaults, foreclosure procedure in Tennessee is getting a fresh look by a special Tennessee Bar Association committee formed to examine the procedures employed when homeowners default on their loans and face foreclosure. Chaired by Chattanooga lawyer Hal North,   the committee is charged with examining what procedural changes could be made to reduce the cost of foreclosures, streamline the process and protect homeowners. The committee is composed of a balanced group of lawyers who represent banks, consumers, lenders and those who deal with bankruptcies. Get more details about the committee and its members at tba.org/journal_links

Pro bono heroes highlighted in 'Tennessee Volunteer Attorney'
In the latest issue of The Tennessee Volunteer Attorney you will find: Details of the legal services that the bar quickly mobilized in response to the devastating floods; stories of pro bono lawyers and their work in the communities they serve; information about the recipients of West Tennessee Legal Services' Law Day Awards; and an account of huge amounts of pro bono work provided to the Tennessee Justice Center's clients by two large, national law firms. Download the Tennessee Volunteer Attorney at www.tba.org/VolunteerAtty_0810.pdf

Law tops list of professions with growth in hiring
According to Monster.com, there are strong signs of employment growth in the online job market with hiring up 21 percent over last year. The company's employment index also indicates the eight professions in which employers are hiring " using online ads " at the fastest rate. Topping the list at number one is the legal profession, including attorneys, legal assistants and secretaries. Monster suggests this is a good sign for the economy as whole as corporations usually cut back on legal staff in a recession. News Channel 5 reported the story.

Firm has new recruiting plan
A Nashville-based firm has a novel plan for recruiting new lawyers: an intensive, practice-specific apprenticeship program called Schola2Juris. Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis PLLC unveiled this "new pathway for hiring entry-level associates" to 2L students at the UT College of Law this fall.

"Rather than anticipating our hiring needs almost two years in advance, this program will enable the firm to assess its actual needs by practice area and focus its energies and resources on students whose skills and interests align with those needs," Kathleen Pearson, director of professional recruiting at the firm, explained. Learn more from The Informant at www.law.utk.edu/publications/informant.shtml

Judges wary of Facebook, survey shows
A survey conducted by the Conference of Court Public Information Officers recently found that although judges might want to use social media such as Facebook, they doubt that that they could use the new media tools in their professional lives without violating judicial ethics codes. Forty percent of the judges who responded to the survey said they use social media sites. Most of those use Facebook and most are judges who stand for election. Fewer than 9 percent of non-elected judges use social media sites, the survey indicated. Some elected judges have used the sites to interact with voters, but most use them the same way other adults do, namely "to connect with their grandkids," The National Law Journal reported. Read a similar take on it in Bill Haltom's column.