Court Requests Comments on IOLTA Petition, Mediators

Let the court know what you think

IOLTA changes, comments due Feb. 20
The Tennessee Supreme Court released for comment in December a proposal to adopt changes to the Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program filed in late November by the Tennessee Bar Foundation, Tennessee Bar Association, Tennessee Association for Justice and Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services. The court has requested comments on the proposal through Feb. 20. The proposed plan would take effect Jan. 1, 2010, giving lawyers and banks time to make necessary changes to their accounts and programs.

"These changes offer a way for the bar to address the huge and growing need for lawyers for the poor," TBA President Buck Lewis said. "At a time when mortgage foreclosures and job losses are putting more pressure on Tennessee families, we may have an opportunity to step up their access to our justice system."

Programs requiring lawyers to participate in IOLTA have been adopted in 38 states while 23 have taken the step " like that in the proposal " of enhancing interest comparability provisions of their programs. When adopted in other states, the amount of money raised for legal aid activities has increased a minimum of 50 to 65 percent. Last year in Tennessee the program generated $1.4 million.

Download the court's order or the group's petition at www.tba.org/journal_links

Rule 31 proposed amendments, comments due March 2
The Tennessee Supreme Court published for comment in late 2008 three proposed changes to Rule 31, the rule that established the Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission and governs the alternative dispute resolution proceedings specified in the rule. Changes would involve amending Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 31, Section 2(b)'s, definition of "Baccalaureate degree" and "graduate degree"; in Section 17 increasing from 10 to 15 years the permissible amount of time between the receipt of mediation training and the date of a person's application to be listed as a Rule 31 mediator; and in Section 17(h) and adding a Section(i) to provide that court clerks and part-time judicial officers may, in certain circumstances, apply to be listed as Rule 31 mediators. Comments are due March 2.

For more information, go to www.tncourts.gov

Briefs      

Lawyers' annual fees to increase: The state Supreme Court has issued an order amending Rule 9, increasing the annual registration fee for each attorney to $140. The assessment must be paid no later than March 1.
"The Board has not received an annual registration fee increase since 2003, when the fee was increased by $5 to $105," Board of Professional Responsibility Chief Disciplinary Counsel Nancy S. Jones said. "We have not added additional disciplinary counsel since 2000. During the interim, the number of actively practicing attorneys in Tennessee has increased substantially, as has the number of disciplinary complaints the Board investigates each year. We are pleased that the court has recognized our crucial need for increased resources which we will use to make the disciplinary process both more timely and consistent."

Download the order via www.tba.org/journal_links

New study suggests firms remain financially sound: In a study of law firm health, the legal research firm Altman Weil Inc. reported in December that most firms remain financially sound and on good footing with their banks. The study, based on 700 of the largest firms in the country, found that most were paying lower interest rates compared to a year ago, and had not faced a shortage of adequate credit. The study's conclusion: market conditions have not yet fully hit law firm balance sheets, giving firms time to prepare for harder times. Connect to the Nashville Business Journal's report or the study's findings at www.tba.org/journal_links

Find Blawgs and more at TBA's Information Central: TBA members can go to the Information Central web page to find the top news of the day along with a directory of law-related blogs from Tennessee lawyers and other reliable sources. In addition, you'll find links to the Tennessee Bar Journal, TBA-produced webcasts, free online legal research through Fastcase and more.

Try it out at www.tba2.org/InfoCentral/

You're outplaced! ABAJournal.com wants to hear from you the best euphemism for "you're fired!" It wants to know if being "outplaced" is less painful. Go to the story to leave your comments at www.abajournal.com/news/whats_the_best_euphemism_youve_ever_heard/

New blog for minority lawyers: Yolanda Young offers a new forum for minority lawyers on her blog, "On Being a Black Lawyer." Young says she started the blog after receiving strong feedback " both positive and negative " about a recent article she wrote, and realized minority lawyers need a forum to discuss what is happening in their professional lives. Young also is writing her second book, which will document the legal industry experiences of all 70 African-American graduates in her Georgetown University Law class. The ABA Journal reported the news.

Check out the blog at www.onbeingablacklawyer.com

Lawyers not exempt from jury duty now: On New Year's Day, some laws governing juries, jurors and judicial commissions changed in Tennessee. Professionals, including lawyers, who were once automatically exempt from jury duty or required to perform only limited service, are no longer exempt. The law does make exceptions for hardship cases. "It puts us all in the same jury selection pool," said David Haines, general counsel for the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Other new state laws that took effect Jan. 1 are requirements that sex offenders released from nursing homes, assisted-living facilities or mental health institutions register with law enforcement within 48 hours of release; DUI cases involving injury or death of a child be subject to greater penalty; and new voting machines be able to create a paper trail for recounts and random audits.

Judicial Conference cancels 2010 meeting: Because of tightening state budgets, the Tennessee Judicial Conference announced it would cancel its summer conference in 2010. The state's judges traditionally hold their summer meeting in conjunction with the Tennessee Bar Association's annual meeting and convention. The 2010 TBA convention will be June 1-6, 2010, in Nashville at the Renaissance Hotel.