Thankful for the Profession, Pro Bono, Mentors ... and Cornbread

As lawyers, we have much for which we can be thankful. We live in the greatest country in the world. We are well educated, employed or employable. Many of us operate in a world of privilege with career satisfaction, financial rewards and prestige that others only dream about. As Thanksgiving approaches, I wanted to reflect on a few of the things I am most thankful for as Tennessee Bar Association president (they are in no particular order).

I am thankful for our profession and the camaraderie our members enjoy. We care for each other. I have been especially reminded of this recently when a family health issue caused me difficulty in meeting several professional obligations. Everyone was gracious, understanding and concerned for my loved one.

I am thankful for those who need our profession’s help. Where would we be without clients — need I say more?

I am thankful for the lawyers who ran for the election to the General Assembly this year, and those who helped with their campaigns. This involved considerable personal and professional sacrifice and will involve more for those who were successful.

I am thankful for the compassionate and dedicated lawyers who volunteer their time for the equal access to justice efforts of our profession to ensure that those who need a lawyer’s help receive it regardless of their ability to pay. In June, the Board of Professional Responsibility announced that nearly 47 percent of attorneys who submitted their annual registration renewal in the first five months of this year reported performing pro bono work, with an average of approximately 85 hours per attorney!

I am thankful for lawyers who take court appointments in criminal cases and other areas where (yes, they are paid something) the reimbursement rate is often not enough to cover the cost of their office overhead.

I am thankful for those who are working to solve the crisis in indigent defense. This crisis includes issues of increasing the rate at which attorneys who take appointments are paid as well as the huge caseloads of some public defenders and appointed attorneys that make it difficult for them to fulfill their responsibilities to their clients.

I am thankful for lawyers who volunteer to speak out for our justice system by talking to school groups and civic groups and participating in other venues such as the recently held civility and free expression forums.

I am thankful for lawyers who take on unpopular causes or clients, such as those who stood up for the Constitutional right to freedom of religion in the case involving the building of a mosque in Murfreesboro.

I am thankful for the Tennessee Plan for merit selection of appellate level judges and our governor who has publicly stated that he is opposed to contested elections of such judges.

I am thankful for the large numbers of lawyers who have responded positively to the need for mentors for the next generation of lawyers.

I am thankful for the staff of the TBA. Suzanne Craig Robertson, this publication’s award-winning editor, deserves special recognition for recently celebrating 25 years with the TBA.

There has been a lot written about recent psychological studies that have confirmed that the mindful cultivation of gratitude can measurably change a person’s attitude and life. In Dr. Robert Emmons’ book, Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, he suggests that one way to do this is to keep a daily gratitude journal. He says that those who do often experience better feelings about their lives, are more likely to attain their personal goals, have higher levels of positive emotion, and have lower levels of stress while placing less emphasis on material possessions and engaging in service to others.

I encourage you to come up with your own gratitude list and to revisit it from time to time.

I have many things to be grateful for in my personal life. I love being a lawyer and am blessed to look forward to going to the office every day to practice law with two wonderful partners. I have family, friends and pets I love and who love me in return. I am thankful for simple pleasures, such as a weekend of watching football with my husband while lounging on the couch with our dogs. I am grateful for a gift from my brother of a fabulous old Griswold No. 8 cast iron skillet with a “self-basting skillet cover.”

I am also grateful for TBJ columnist Bill Haltom. We collaborated on our columns this month, hence you have competing cornbread recipes and skillet choices. (See Bill’s column and recipe.) Finally, I am thankful for simple holiday recipes such as this one for Cornbread Dressing which will be on my table this Thanksgiving.

 

Cornbread Dressing

Image ©iStockphoto

To make the cornbread: Pour 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a 9 ½ inch or larger cast iron skillet, turn the oven to 425 degrees and put the skillet in the oven. While the skillet and oven heat, combine 3 cups white self-rising cornmeal mix and 1 tablespoon sugar (optional) in a large bowl. Add 1 beaten egg and 2 ½ cups buttermilk and stir just until moistened; the batter will be slightly lumpy. Pour batter into the hot skillet, return it to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until bread is well browned. Let cool slightly before removing from skillet and serve warm or use to make Cornbread Dressing.

To make the dressing: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a shallow 3 quart baking dish (9” x 13” works well). Melt 2 sticks butter in a large skillet, saute 3 cups chopped onions and 3 cups chopped celery in the butter until the vegetables are very soft. Once the cornbread has cooled, crumble it into a large mixing bowl. Add 2 teaspoons rubbed sage, 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning, and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper to the crumbs and mix well. Then add the butter, onion and celery mixture and 2 cups chicken broth (homemade or canned) to the cornbread mixture. Lightly mix everything together with a large spoon, small pieces of cornbread and crust will be visible, then lightly spoon the dressing into the baking dish, gently pat it into place, but don’t pack it down. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking until golden brown, another 30 minutes or so.

 


Jackie Dixon TBA President JACKIE DIXON is a partner with Weatherly McNally & Dixon PLC in Nashville.