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Together, We Make a Difference!
It is with great humility and pride that I write my first column as the 134th president of the Tennessee Bar Association. I am following a series of great association presidents, including our Immediate Past President Jackie Dixon. I have actually been a certified “bar junkie” since my days as a student at the UT College of Law. People often ask me why I am so active in bar work, given the time that is involved.
There are many reasons, but a couple particularly stand out. Being involved in bar work allows me to give back to the profession and my community. In doing so, I always come away feeling renewed and encouraged about the practice of law. I also have the opportunity to work with exceptional lawyers from across the state. These lawyers are not only skilled legal advocates but also some of the best people that I have the privilege to know and call my friends. I have yet to leave a meeting of the association without feeling challenged to be a better lawyer and a more devoted community servant.
It is with this background that I considered my goals for the association during my term as president. Having had two years to plan, I spent a great deal of time considering the issues facing our profession and the communities across our state. As the list of issues to tackle grew, there was one problem. I am a trial lawyer, and as any good trial lawyer knows, one of the first things that you are to do when you take on a “case” is to develop a theme. Unfortunately, while I had identified the various issues to address, I could find no common thread among them — that is, until I started to think about how we would successfully address the challenges presented by each of the issues identified. It was then that I found the link. Regardless of the issues we face in the coming year, the key to successful resolution of those issues is for all of the great lawyers who make up our association to come together as one to achieve our goals.
Following are a few of the many issues that we will address together during this bar year:
Service to Seniors While Serving Our Members and Improving the Image of the Profession
The senior citizen population in our state is exploding and faces significant unmet legal needs. To address these needs, we will prepare a Senior Law Handbook containing practical advice on a wide range of topics, from cyber security to applying for Social Security. We will provide these handbooks to our members in digital format at no cost for their use in counseling their clients. We will also distribute these handbooks in the community through presentations at senior centers, nursing homes, and the like. These efforts will be publicized as a way to improve the image of our profession. CLE will also be produced for our members to familiarize them with the handbook.
Legistlative Advocacy, Including a New Grass Roots Initiative
Until recently, Tennessee selected appellate judges through a merit selection system, which was one of the best in the nation. The loss of that system and other attacks on the judicial branch and the legal system as a whole must be addressed. The association has always been a strong advocate in the legislature on issues of importance to the legal profession; however, we must do more. We need to work hard to elect legislators who have a commitment to protecting the judiciary as a co-equal branch of government. We also need our members to develop working relationships with their legislators so that they can effectively communicate with them about issues of importance to the profession. To that end, we will be working on a new grass roots initiative, and will be counting on you to work with us so that our profession’s voice can be heard.
Mentoring Young Lawyers and Providing Assistance to Those Starting a Solo Practice
During the past bar year, the association has carefully studied the issue of what can be done to assist the growing number of new lawyers being forced to hang out their own shingle or form partnerships with other new lawyers.
Armed with the insights gained through this study, the association will implement a mentoring program designed to provide new lawyers with practical advice on substantive legal issues as well as issues of professionalism. The association will also create a toolkit for those starting a solo practice to help guide them through the potential pitfalls of starting their own firm.
Serving Families in Crisis
The association will undertake a study of a variety of domestic relations issues, including the question of whether our present judicial resources allow families with children timely access to the courts when undergoing a divorce.
Lyndon Johnson once said that “[t]here are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves.” It is with this in mind that I ask you to join me in addressing the important issues facing our profession and our communities. While each of us can make a difference in our own right, when we combine our efforts our ability to affect positive change becomes infinitely greater. Together We Make a Difference!
TBA President CINDY WYRICK practices law with Ogle, Gass & Richardson PC in Sevierville.