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Legal Clinics and Events Planned
October Is Pro Bono Month
This month, Tennessee lawyers are joining their colleagues across the country to provide free legal services to those in need and honor the good work performed by lawyers every day as part of the annual National Pro Bono Celebration.
Now in its fifth year, the TBA’s statewide Celebrate Pro Bono initiative brings together legal services providers with local bar associations, law schools, law firms and individual lawyers to offer free services to those unable to afford a lawyer.
This year nearly 400 volunteers are expected to participate in dozens of events and activities across the state that will offer assistance to more than 1,000 Tennesseans in need. Activities include legal advice clinics, education programs, public presentations and other events.
Every year, Tennessee lawyers help thousands of clients by providing free legal assistance. The month of October is an opportunity to focus attention on the significant need for pro bono services as well as a celebration of the outstanding work of those in the legal community who volunteer their services throughout the year.
Visit the TBA website for a summary of events planned for October, including opportunities for volunteers.
Law Schools Come Together for Pro Bono Training
Representatives from all six Tennessee law schools gathered in Knoxville last month with leaders from the access to justice community for the second Law School Pro Bono & Public Interest Conference, sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association's Access to Justice Committee. About 40 people took part in the program, including Supreme Court justices Janice Holder (pictured) and Sharon Lee, ATJ Commission Chair Buck Lewis, Commission Vice Chair Dean Doug Blaze (pictured), and representatives from Legal Aid Dave Yoder, Chay Sengkhounmany and TBA President Cindy Wyrick. They engaged in conversations about the needs, opportunities, challenges and possibilities surrounding pro bono work and related issues. Lewis, a former TBA president, delivered the keynote address, highlighting the historic collaborations that have produced outstanding developments, while issuing the clear call to action that much work still remains. Photo by Elizabeth Slagle Todaro
Disciplinary Enforcement Rule Overhauled
The Tennessee Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated rewrite of Rule 9 on disciplinary enforcement Aug. 30. The overhaul is the first comprehensive reordering and revamp of the rule since the original rule was adopted in the 1970s. Many of the suggestions proffered by the TBA were adopted, including new provisions that clarify a lawyer’s obligations when the lawyer is no longer able to practice. Perhaps the most significant change urged by the TBA — a change to a standard of clear and convincing evidence to prove lawyer misconduct — was omitted. The court also did not move to limit ex parte communications between the Board of Professional Responsibility and potential hearing panel members. Learn more about the amended Rule 9 at a CLE set for Nov. 15 that will provide a guided tour of what’s new, what’s unchanged and what may continue to be controversial going forward.
Court Expands Payments to Client Protection Fund
The Tennessee Supreme Court also adopted an order requiring all attorneys who practice in the state — regardless of the state in which they are licensed — to pay into the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection. The fund, which was established three decades ago, reimburses individuals for financial losses suffered after entering into an attorney-client relationship. Previously, the rule applied only to those licensed by Tennessee. Also of note, the order extends from one to three years the amount of time a client has to make a claim. The court reports that these changes will go into effect Oct. 1.
Don’t Overlook Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has created a new tool kit for employers to increase awareness about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, the ABA Journal reports. The program forgives unpaid balances on federal direct student loans after 10 years of work for the government or nonprofits. In an interview with The New York Times, attorney Raha Wala, who works for an international human rights organization and has $200,000 in law school debt, said the program is “enabling me to do the work that I love.”
TALS Announces Access to Justice Winners
The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) honored its 2013 Access to Justice Award recipients in September. Honorees include Gordon Bonnyman, founding executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, Harrison McIver III, executive director of Memphis Area Legal Services, and Charity Miles Williams and Emily O’Donnell, both from Legal Aid of East Tennessee. The Access to Justice Dinner will be held Oct. 9 in Nashville.
Court Updates Technology Provisions Rule
The Tennessee Supreme Court updated Rule 26 regulating the use of recording equipment in light of technological advances. The rule outlines procedures for recording trial court proceedings and includes provisions for designating the recording as the transcript under the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. “The use of electronic recording has proven to be an exceptionally accurate and economical method of preserving the trial record and the response from litigants and lawyers in my courtroom has been universally positive,” said Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas W. Brothers.
What Would Atticus Do?
Nelle Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, and literary agent Samuel Pinkus reportedly reached an “agreement in principle” in September to settle a copyright suit brought by Lee. Counsel for Pinkus said a settlement had been reached and papers dismissing the case would be filed in federal court next week. No details were disclosed, the Tennessean reported. Lee, who won the Pulitzer Prize for the book in 1961, has alleged that Pinkus “duped” her into signing over the copyright to his company in 2007. Pinkus assigned the copyright back to Lee in April 2012. The suit sought forfeiture of any commissions Pinkus or his company may have received since 2007.
Lewis Receives Presidential Citation
Former TBA President and Memphis attorney George T. “Buck” Lewis was awarded a Presidential Citation from outgoing ABA President Laurel Bellows at the ABA Pro Bono Publico Awards Luncheon in August. The presidential citation is a new award that allows the ABA president to recognize lawyers who make “noteworthy contributions to the legal profession and the ABA,” and who exhibit “outstanding leadership qualities.” The luncheon was held in conjunction with the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. Lewis is a shareholder at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz and chair of the firm’s Appellate Practice Litigation Group.