Links for July 2013

Gov. Haslam Signs Conservatorship Bill

Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law the first major revisions in more than a decade to the state law that governs the process of placing state residents under the control of a court-appointed conservator. The new statute, which will take effect July 1, was the product of a series of hearings held across the state by the TBA. Speaking about the legislation, House sponsor Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, said that the “intent of this law is to clarify the process, to make sure people aren’t being taken advantage of.” The Tennessean has the latest developments. TBA members will be able to learn more during a program at the 2013 TBA Convention in Nashville that focuses on changes in the law that came out of the last General Assembly session.

Law Firm Growth Slow in 2012, Survey Says

Law firms in the U.S. saw only incremental growth in 2012, the JD Journal reports from the National Law Journal's annual survey that analyzes data from the nation’s 350 largest firms. Last year saw an overall growth in headcount of 1.1 percent in law firms tracked by the NLJ 350. While any growth is better than shrinkage, last year’s growth was lower than 2011, which saw law firms increase their hiring by 1.7 percent. Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens and Cannada was one bright spot, showing 35 percent growth.

Belmont Law Receives Provisional ABA Accreditation

Belmont University College of Law has been granted provisional accreditation by the American Bar Association (ABA). Responding to the news, Belmont University Provost Dr. Thomas Burns said, "The granting of provisional accreditation by the ABA validates the outstanding work being done by our administration, faculty and staff to develop a law program of the highest quality focused on preparing practice-ready attorneys.” Under ABA rules, provisionally accredited law schools are entitled to all the rights of fully accredited law schools. Law schools must be provisionally accredited for at least two years before applying for full accreditation. The recognition comes just in time, as Belmont’s first class will graduate in 2014. Learn more about the school.

Survey Finds Paralegal Pay Increasing

The recently released ALM/PMA Annual Compensation Survey for Paralegals and Managers finds that pay for paralegals has increased by three percent even as law firms' charge for paralegal services dropped five percent. Of the nearly 300 law firms and legal departments surveyed, about 86 percent reported pay increases. The ABA Journal has the story.

'Guns in Trunks' Article Updated After AG Opinion Issued

In the new Tennessee Bar Journal, Edward G. Philips and Brandon L. Morrow write about the recent "guns in trunks" law. However, after the article went to print, Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper issued an opinion on what limitations, if any, 2013 Tenn. Pub. Acts, Chapter 16, places on employers’ rights to terminate an employee who brings a firearm or firearm ammunition onto the employer’s property. In the opinion, Cooper says the law does not impact the employer/employee relationship ”and does not prohibit an employer from terminating an employee for possession of a firearm or ammunition on the employer’s property. This opinion, Phillips and Morrow say, would have significantly, but not completely, altered the article. "Our advice to employers," they write in an updated electronic version of the article, "would be to tread lightly in this area, or risk being a test case for a terminated permit carrier. In the end, the Tennessee appellate courts will have to decide."

Tennessee Team Places 7th at National Mock Trial

The TBA YLD Mock Trial Committee would like to thank all of the lawyers and judges who participated in the district and state mock trial competitions. This year's state competition, which took place March 15-16 was a great success, culminating with the Kingsport Area Home Education Association (KACHEA) being named the 2013 champion. The team went on to represent Tennessee at the 2013 National High School Mock Trial Championship in Indianapolis, Ind., earlier this month and placed seventh out of 48 teams!

LSC Launches New Tech Blog

The Legal Services Corporation has launched a new blog focused on technology in the legal aid community. The first post -- “Hacking for Justice” -- discusses LSC’s open data initiative, including a plan to provide information for the National Day of Civic Hacking on June 1. The goal of the initiative is to make LSC’s current data more accessible to the public as well as increasing the amount of data available. Through civic hacking, developers build applications and invent new solutions using publicly-released data to solve the challenges facing communities, cities, states and countries.

Law Schools to Start Offering Masters Degrees

With enrollment down 15 percent over the last two years, some law schools have begun offering master’s degrees, the JD Journal reports. Nearly 30 law schools are offering a Juris Master program and testing whether this type of degree will be successful. Those interested in the advanced degree will not qualify for the bar, but will gain some legal knowledge that may make them marketable.

Report: Top Law Schools Fall Short on Diversity

Lawyers of Color magazine catalogued minority faculty at all 200 ABA-accredited law schools and found that the most racially diverse schools fall well outside of the U.S News top ranking list. Florida International University College of Law topped the diversity list, despite being ranked number 105 overall. The National Law Journal notes, however, that a number of professors have raised questions regarding the thoroughness and accuracy of the report.

Supreme Court Rules DNA Not Patentable

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled today that “naturally occurring” DNA segments cannot be patented, the Blog of the Legal Times reports. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion for the court in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, which is considered by some a victory for civil liberties and consumer groups that argued corporations should not be able to lock up the uses of new DNA that could benefit patients if widely available. The Myriad patents at issue in the case were for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene segments which, when mutated, can increase the risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad developed diagnostic tests from the segments that could reveal cancer risk in women