Links for February 2012

Court adopts TBA's judicial conduct proposal

On Jan. 4 the Tennessee Supreme Court adopted the first comprehensive rewrite of the rules governing judicial conduct in more than 20 years. The rules changes, effective July 1, come as a result of a two and a half-year process initiated by the Tennessee Bar Association including a public comment period and hearing. "The Court has demonstrated it will do what is necessary to maintain public trust and confidence in our justice system. The new rules offer a comprehensive, clear, workable way to ensure that judges are fair and impartial," said TBA President Danny Van Horn of Memphis. "The new rules also do much to assure that campaign contributions and partisan politics play no role in Tennessee courts as they dispense justice."

One of the major new emphases of the proposal as adopted by the Court is giving better guidance on when a judge should recuse him or herself or be disqualified from hearing a matter. The rules not only address substantive standards for recusal, including the amount of support a judge or the judge's opponent might receive during a campaign, but also establish a procedure for independent, expedited review of judges' decisions on recusal and disqualification. Read more about the decision and download the order or download a summary of the major changes to Rule 10.

New iPhone app released for Pacer

Lawyers who want to search and view federal court records on their iPhones can use a new application developed by a recent law school graduate The product — FedCtRecords — will cost $19.99 but is free for now while the designer works out minor kinks. According to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the app takes the "Pacer desktop experience and replicates it on the iPhone, with no major loss in translation." There are a few negatives though — users can't file documents from their phones, search all cases at once, or access bankruptcy files. Read more about the product: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2011/12/19/law-blog-product-review-an-iphone-app-for-pacer/

AG promises backing for increased LSC funding

In a speech at the National Legal Aid & Defender Association's annual meeting in December, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder pledged strong support for increasing funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), despite a move in Congress to cut the agency's budget. "Let me assure you," he said, "The Justice Department will keep working to preserve and increase LSC funding. And we will continue to seek out the most effective and efficient ways to provide critical assistance to the millions of Americans living near or below the poverty line who need our help. This work is, and will remain, a top priority — not just for me, or my colleagues at the Justice Department — but for every lawyer and leader who has the privilege of serving this Administration — including the one who works in the Oval Office."

Read the full speech here: http://www.justice.gov/iso/opa/ag/speeches/2011/ag-speech-111209.html

Survey: More firms expect to hire in first quarter

About one in three law firms and corporate counsel nationwide plan to add legal staff in the first quarter of 2012, according to the Robert Half Legal Hiring Index released this week. The quarterly survey found that 31 percent of lawyers interviewed plan to add staff in the next quarter, while four percent plan to cut personnel. The net 27 percent increase is up three points from the previous quarter's forecast. The survey also predicts that the practice areas expected to see the most growth in the next quarter are bankruptcy and foreclosure, litigation, and labor and employment law. Read more in the Nashville Business Journal: http://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/news/2011/12/29/survey-a-third-of-law-firms-plan-to.html?ed=2011-12-29&s=article_du&ana=e_du_pub

TBA selects 17 for student leadership class

The Tennessee Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division today announced the 2012 class of its Diversity Leadership Institute -- a six-month leadership and mentoring program for Tennessee law school students. Participants will learn leadership skills, work with an attorney mentor and participate in public service and legal education programs. The DLI's first session will be Jan. 13 during the TBA Leadership Conference. The 17 selected are: Christine Taylor and William Trumm from the Duncan School of Law; Rachel Kirby and Robin Nicholson from the Nashville School of Law; Spencer Bell, Amanda Floyd, Shalondra Grandberry, Joseph Kendrick, William O'Connor, William Terrell and Kenneth Walker from the University of Memphis School of Law; and Shalini Bhatia, Ricardo Cortez, Ryan Donaldson, Jessica Jackson, Austin Kupke and Amy Williams from the University of Tennessee College of Law.

Attorneys interested in serving as a mentor to a class member should contact YLD Diversity Committee Chair Ahsaki Baptist.

Larry Dean Wilks Member Services Center to be dedicated

The Tennessee Legal Community Foundation dedicated the Larry Dean Wilks Member Services Center at the Tennessee Bar Center during the TBA’s Annual Leadership Conference in January. Following the untimely death of the former president of the TBA, colleagues who served with Wilks gave more than $10,000 to refurbish, enhance and dedicate the space.

Analysts predict increase in corporate bankruptcies

Fitch Ratings predicts that the number and size of corporate bankruptcies will double in 2012, after a relatively low number of bankruptcy filings in 2011. In related news, CNN Money reports that middle-market companies are the most likely to enter bankruptcy reorganization, with restaurant, retail and consumer products industries predicted to fare the worst. CNNMoney.com has the details: http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/04/markets/bankruptcies_2012/index.htm?source=cnn_bin

Disciplinary actions up; Jones says hard times to blame

In the last five years, the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility has nearly doubled the amount of disciplinary actions it has taken against lawyers for having overdrafts in trust accounts, up from 64 in fiscal year 2007-2008 to 127 violations last fiscal year. "Some lawyers, many of them sole practitioners who work on criminal or divorce cases, are having a hard time staying afloat because they aren't getting enough business," BPR's chief disciplinary counsel Nancy S. Jones says. "Many of them are dipping into their trust accounts ... just to pay toward their business expenses and they are getting into trouble." Read more in the Tennessean: www.tennessean.com/article/20120106/NEWS03/301060086/TN-lawyers-being-disciplined-more-often-theft

Legal sector ends year with 1,800 job losses

The legal industry ended 2011 on a sour note, losing 1,800 jobs in December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' preliminary employment report released today. The December losses obliterated the sector's modest gains of the previous two months: 400 jobs in October and another 400 in November. The AmLaw Daily reports on the findings: http://amlawdaily.typepad.com/amlawdaily/2012/01/legal-sector-sheds-1800-jobs-in-december.html

Judicial internship program gets underway

The Tennessee Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (TBA YLD) today announced the application process and deadlines for the 2012 Judicial Internship Program -- a service that matches law students in Tennessee with appellate and trial court judges in the state who have agreed to accept summer clerks. Students will be placed with judges for either 6 or 12-week assignments. Applications are due by 5 p.m. Central on Feb. 6.

Learn more about the program and apply: http://www.tba.org/info/judicial-internship-program

Opinion: Beware the coming law school crisis

In an article in the January 2012 issue of the ABA Journal Magazine, Indiana University law professor William Henderson and lawyer Rachel M. Zahorsky suggest that federal student loan policies, combined with a weak economy and slim job prospects for law school graduates, are creating "a financial crisis strikingly similar to the mortgage crisis that cratered the economy in 2008." Citing statistics on law school graduation rates, number of graduates with debt, average amount of debt, employment rates, and changes in how the government makes and collects loans, the authors argue that loan default rates likely will increase -- leading to funding shortages for future applicants and "an enormous financial liability" for the government. Read more here: http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/the_law_school_bubble_how_long_will_it_last_if_law_grads_cant_pay_bills/

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