Access to Justice Project Wins Frist Grant

Legal Needs Study to Help Identify Gaps in Service

The Frist Foundation has approved a grant requested by the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission to support a comprehensive, statewide study of the legal needs of low-income and homeless Tennesseans.

“The Frist Foundation ... has been generous to the bench and bar of this state for many years," former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Drowota, a Frist Foundation Board Member, said of the grant. "This most recent gift to the Access to Justice Commission will help the bench and bar of this state address the legal needs of those who need and deserve our help."

The study will be conducted by the University of Tennessee, College of Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (SWORPS) and will include an updated needs assessment, identifying the civil legal needs of low-income Tennesseans, as well as an examination of the effectiveness of the current delivery system for meeting these needs.

Peter F. Bird, Jr., Frist Foundation President, commented on the project. "The Frist Foundation has always had a keen interest in the welfare of our region's most vulnerable people. When we heard about this initiative, we were blown away by how the statewide legal community had rallied around this effort to identify the legal needs of the poor. The initiative involves leading law firms, legal aid organizations, even the Tennessee Supreme Court. We were honored to play a part in a cooperative effort that may well be a national model."

George T. “Buck” Lewis, Chair, Access to Justice Commission, said that “ the information we will get from this study will be extremely valuable to a wide spectrum of entities which serve the legal needs of Tennesseans. We are so grateful to the Frist Foundation for this grant. The timing could not be better since we are now in the process of preparing the Commission’s next strategic plan.”

SWORPS conducted a prior “needs assessment” study in 2003. The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) will administer the grant and the study is expected to begin right away.