Links for November 2012

Now in its fourth year, the Celebrate Pro Bono month initiative brings together bar associations, law schools, law firms, legal services providers and individual lawyers to offer free services to those unable to afford a lawyer. This year, more than 300 volunteers — including lawyers, law students, paralegals and language interpreters — were expected to participate in more than 50 events and activities across the state.

Low-income Tennesseans also have another resource they can tap into at any time through OnlineTNJustice.org — a joint project of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the Tennessee Bar Association that matches individuals with volunteer attorneys. More than 250 lawyers have agreed to provide services through the website.

http://www.tba.org/node/53113

Court Adopts Forms for General Sessions Courts

The Tennessee Supreme Court today adopted a set of six forms for use in General Sessions Courts. The forms were first proposed by the General Sessions Judges Conference in June 2011 after consultation and assistance from the Tennessee Bar Association Creditor’s Practice Section. The court’s Access to Justice Commission provided more review during the public comment period and later worked with the Commission on further revisions. The order today includes an appendix with forms for:

  1. Protected Income and Assets (Affidavit of Claim Exemptions)
  2. Request to Make Payments (Motion and Affidavit for Installment Payment and Order)
  3. Request Not to Pay Fees for Appeal (Pauper’s Oath in Lieu of Appeal Bond)
  4. Request to Postpone Filing Fees and Order (Uniform Civil Affidavit of Indigency)
  5. Request to Protect Income and Assets (Motion to Quash Garnishment/Execution and Claim Exemption Rights)
  6. Sworn Denial (Sworn Denial on Account)

http://www.tba.org/news/court-adopts-forms-for-general-sessions-courts

CLE Grants to Fund Access to Justice Initiatives

The Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization has awarded funds from its reserves for projects supporting the Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Initiative and the creation of two new positions for attorneys. First, the grant will fund a new statewide toll-free number the public can call for legal information. It will be staffed by an attorney housed at the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Service. Learn more about the position. Second, the grant will pay to staff an initiative to develop new pro bono projects to help low-income Tennesseans get free legal advice. The position will focus on creating projects in areas of the state that do not currently have free legal resources for low-income individuals. Learn more about the AOC's pro bono coordinator position.

South Leads Nation in Law Firm Mergers

More law firm mergers have occurred in the South than anywhere else in the country, the Memphis Business Journal reports. According to Atlman Weil MergerLine, 6 of the 14 nationwide mergers or acquisitions during the most recent quarter were in the South. Among recent mergers in Memphis: Williams McDaniel PC  merged with Kentucky-based Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs LLP; and Adelman Law Firm PLLC merged with Mississippi-based Wilkins Tipton PA.

IJM's Haugen: In Some Places 'People Die if Lawyers Don't Show Up'

The Belmont University College of Law presented its second Champions for Justice AwardWednesday to Gary Haugen, the president and CEO of International Justice Mission(IJM), an organization that secures justice for victims of slavery and sexual exploitation. “Make your work in the law connect to things that matter to the satisfaction of your own soul,” Haugen told the students. “There are places in the world where people die if the lawyers don’t show up. In such desperate places, it turns out that lawyers desperately matter.” Haugen’s appearance at Belmont came the day after he joined President Barack Obama at the Clinton Global Initiative event in New York, where the president announced that he had signed an executive order to stem the crime of human trafficking, a major focus of IJM’s work.

High Court Will Not Hear Iowa Judicial Nominating Commission Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal in a lawsuit over the Iowa Judicial Nominating Commission's makeup. The plaintiffs filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa in 2010, challenging sections of the Iowa Constitution and state code. They argued that the system excludes Iowa voters from participation in the election of the elected attorney members of the state Judicial Nominating Commission; that it denies voters the right to equal participation in the selection of state Supreme Court justices; and that it denies voters the right to vote for the elected attorney members of the commission. The judicial commission is given the power to select the nominees for vacant positions on both the state Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. The governor then chooses one of the commission's three nominees. Learn more from LegalNewsLine.com

Court: Don't Lie About Who Child's Father Is

The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld a trial court’s damage award against a mother who misled her boyfriend by telling him he was the child’s father when he was not. In its ruling, the court stated that an intentional misrepresentation claim, which is already recognized in Tennessee’s courts, is broad enough to apply to circumstances where a mother intentionally misrepresents the parentage of her child. Learn more about the case.

Alternative Fee Pricing Puts Focus on Client Satisfaction

Many law firms are offering legal fee alternatives to the traditional billable hours, thanks to a new breed of law firm executives known as pricing directors. Value-based pricing is the new billing model where the focus is on producing outcomes such as client satisfaction and repeat business instead of racking up hours to succeed. “Change your firm’s conversation from hours and revenue, to revenue and profit," Toby Brown tells ABAJournal.com. "If you succeed in doing that, then everything else follows.”

Court: Conviction on Bad Checks Can Be Used to Impeach Credibility

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that passing worthless checks could be used to impeach a defendant's credibility. In a trial against Wanda F. Russell, who was indicted on four counts of theft, the court stated that the prior misdemeanor conviction was admissible to impeach her credibility since it involves dishonesty. Learn more from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

LSC Group Recommends New Ways to Enhance Pro Bono

A task force charged with finding innovative ways to enhance pro bono service in the face of decreasing legal aid funding is presenting the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) with a list of proposals that include: forming a professional association of pro bono coordinators at LSC-funded organizations; asking Congress to create a new Pro Bono Innovation/Incubation Fund; and developing a fellowship program for new graduates and emeritus lawyers designed to build support for civil legal services and pro bono within firms, law schools and the legal profession. The task force also recommends asking bar leaders, the judiciary, and others to permit judges to recruit and recognize pro bono attorneys, consistent with their ethical obligations; allow lawyers to take on limited-representation matters or unbundle services; and allowing lawyers to take on pro bono matters in jurisdictions other than those in which they are licensed to practice. Learn more from the LSC

EJU Presents Awards, Provides Education

More than 150 lawyers and advocates involved in providing civil legal assistance across Tennessee gathered last week at Paris Landing State Park for Equal Justice University, an annual educational program sponsored by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) and the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA). The event also celebrated two individuals dedicated to providing access to justice in Tennessee -- Nashville lawyer Margaret L. Behm and Adrienne Kittos from Justice for Our Neighbors. Among the speakers at EJU was Buck Lewis, the Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission Chair and a former TBA president. Lewis spoke passionately about the critical importance of working on behalf of clients in need, even in the midst of great challenges. See photos from the event.

DOJ Use of Surveillance Devices Increases

According to analyzed data from records released under the Freedom of Information Act, the Justice Department has increased its usage of electronic devices by 64 percent since 2009, reports TriCities.com.The DOJ stated that citizens’ civil liberties are not at stake and court approval is necessary for such surveillance. Critics, however, claim the process to obtain warrants is too easy and devoid of meaningful court review.

LSC to Give $3.4 Million in Grants

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) has announced new technology grants to increase access to Web-based resources, enhance pro bono, expand websites for veterans and disaster recovery, and — a new category this year — improve data collection and analysis. Through its Technology Initiative Grants program, LSC plans to award 43 grants in 2012, totaling more than $3.4 million. The grants will fund LSC grantee programs in 25 states and the territory of Guam. Learn more

GPS Tracking is Battle of Public Safety and Privacy Rights

Ever since the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August that police didn’t need a warrant to track a Knoxville suspect’s movement through his cell phone in a drug investigation, the battle has been on between public safety and privacy rights as challenges wend their way through the U.S. court system. “It’s accurate to say there are millions of requests (by police) to phone companies for tracking vehicles and people. Most of them, if not all of them, involve locating people through triangulation of signals through cellphones,” said Christopher Slobogin, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School. Nashville Public Defender Dawn Deaner said the tracking raises important questions about how far police can go without violating someone’s right to privacy. The Tennessean looks into it

New York Law Requires Pro Bono

The state of New York will require applicants to the state bar to complete 50 hours of pro bono work in order to practice law starting in 2015, the Wall Street Journal reports. Although 21 law schools have pro bono requirements for graduation, the law will be the first of its kind among the states.

First Year Salaries Down at Big Firms, NALP Reports

The median salary for first-year associates at large law firms has decreased steadily within the past three years, The ABA Journal reports. Major markets such as New York and Chicago are still offering the standard BigLaw salaries, but the prevalence of such offers is declining according to research by the Association for Legal Career Professionals (NALP). The median first-year salary at firms of all sizes, however, has increased in the last year, based on a survey of 570 law firms.