Substance Abuse, Mental Health Issues Big Problem for Lawyers
A new study sheds light on the substantial levels of problem drinking and mental health issues plaguing attorneys, according to the American Bar Association. The national study, conducted by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation was reported in February in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.
It found that rates of problem drinking increased as individuals spent more time in the legal profession. The study reports that 21 percent of licensed, employed attorneys qualify as problem drinkers and that 28 percent of attorneys struggle with some level of depression.
“Any way you look at it, this data is very alarming, and paints the picture of an unsustainable professional culture that’s harming too many people,” said Patrick R. Krill, lead author of the study.
In Tennessee, help is available through the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP). Learn more about how TLAP can help.



Pannu to Lead TBA in 2018-19
Jason Pannu of Lewis Thomason in Nashville will lead the Tennessee Bar Association in 2018-2019, according to election-qualifying results released Feb. 16. No other candidate filed for the vice president position by the deadline. After taking office as vice president this summer, Pannu will be president-elect in 2017-2018 and take over the organization’s leadership in June 2018.

Candidates who filed for the following positions will take office at the June annual meeting as they did not draw opponents: Scott Sims and David Veile, Middle Grand Division governors; Sarah Sheppeard and Shelly Wilson, East Grand Division governors; Carl Carter, West Grand Division governor; Donna Pierce, Fourth District governor; and Buck Lewis, John Tarpley, Danny Van Horn and Gail Vaughn Ashworth as TBA Delegates to the ABA House of Delegates.

No candidates filed for a second West Grand Division Governor position, and the First and Fifth District positions. Those slots may be filled by the Board of Governors.


Haslam Signs Judicial Confirmation into Law   
Judicial confirmation legislation implementing the 2014 Amendment to the Tennessee Constitution was signed into law Jan. 28 by Gov. Bill Haslam. Earlier that day, the House of Representatives adopted the Conference Committee report for SB1, HB142 with a vote of 86-5 completing the last of the needed legislative actions.


Comments Sought on Discipline of Attorneys Proposal
The state Supreme Court is seeking public comments from judges, lawyers and bar associations on the proposed addition of Tennessee Supreme Court rule 9, section 22.7, regarding the discipline of attorneys convicted or acknowledging guilt of crimes. The addition will clarify discipline measures when an attorney receives judicial diversion for a criminal offense. The deadline for submitting written comments is April 1.

Court Outlines Programs, Plans in Annual Report  
The Tennessee Judiciary released its 2015 Annual Report in February, which includes details on the newly created business court, a review of case management practice and the groundwork for the state’s e-filing system. “We will continue our review of the judicial branch to ensure that we are using best practices and being good stewards of our tax dollars,” Chief Justice Sharon Lee wrote.

Shelby County Mental Health Court Opens  
A new Mental Health Court opened in Memphis and will handle nonviolent, misdemeanor cases involving mental health patients. An estimated 25 percent of all Shelby County inmates have a mental illness. Judge Gerald Skahan will oversee the court, which is located at 201 Poplar Ave.

Davidson County Launches Sex Trafficking Intervention Court  
The Davidson County District Attorney’s Office will launch a sex trafficking intervention court in an effort to combat sex slavery. Victims will be offered long-term services instead of automatic jail time. The program is called Cherished H.E.A.R.T.S. of Nashville.


Decline in Bar-Pass Rates May Continue Through 2018
The LSAT profiles of current law students suggest the decline in bar exam and bar-pass rates will continue through 2018, the ABA Journal reports. The analysis shows that current law students who will graduate through 2018 had lower LSAT profiles as entering law students than the previous two graduating classes.

That trend does appear to be ending. The number and quality of law school applicants appear to be on the upswing this year.

“If these trends continue, the fall 2015 entering class may represent the ‘bottom,’” law professor Jerry Organ said.


ABA Family Law Award Honors Nashville Attorney 
The American Bar Association Section of Family Law Jean Crowe Pro Bono Award Committee is accepting nominations for attorneys who have made significant contributions to family law clients on a pro bono basis in their communities. The award includes $1,500 and reimbursement for travel expenses of up to $1,000 to attend the Family Law Section’s Award Luncheon in San Francisco. Nominations are due May 20. Crowe was the TBA’s 2013 Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year.

Rubenfeld Receives ABA’s 2016 Stonewall Award
Nashville attorney Abby Rubenfeld received the American Bar Association’s 2016 Stonewall Award for her work as a gay rights advocate. The award was presented Feb. 6 at the ABA LGBT Caucus as part of the organization’s mid-year meeting in San Diego. Rubenfeld was co-counsel for some of the plaintiffs in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that overturned the ban on same-sex marriage.

Local Bar Association Has ‘Most Innovative Law Day Program’ 
The Marshall County Bar Association was recognized for providing the Most Innovative Law Day Program during the American Bar Association’s Mid-year Meeting in San Diego. Marshall County General Sessions Court Judge Lee Bussart was on hand to recieve the award.

Working in partnership with the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, Marshall County lawyers launched a kiosk at the courthouse with an interactive Help Button that provided information on bankruptcy, housing, custody, debt and other legal services.


Attorneys on Social Media: Report Reveals New Trends  
How much time do you spend on social media? The average lawyer spends 1.6 hours per week using social networking sites for professional purposes, according to the most recent ABA Legal Technology Survey Report.

The survey also reported 85 percent of law firms have a website, compared to only 55 percent in 2012. LinkedIn is the most popular social media site for attorneys, followed by Facebook then Twitter.

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