News

AT&T Sacrificing Subscribers to Focus on Debt

AT&T is losing wireless and TV subscribers as it focuses on shrinking the company’s debt after the Time Warner takeover, the Los Angeles Times reports. While the company lost 627,000 TV and 204,000 wireless customers, overall debt was reduced by six percent. It is yet to be seen if the risky strategy will pay off, with a drop in subscribers affecting the company’s dividends and buyback power, however, the company is also exploring other avenues such as selling investments and property to abate the debt.

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TBA Legislative Update: Flow Motion

Last week the pace of the legislative session accelerated to lightning speed after the House initiated the much anticipated, and equally dreaded, “flow motion” on the floor, a move that suspends the parliamentary rules that the legislature typically observes during session. Bills are moving from committee to the floor on the same day. Now that the vast majority of committees are closed, the legislature will transition into passing the annual budget and tying up loose ends on major policy initiatives with hefty price tags. Only the Senate Judiciary Committee and Finance, Ways and Means Committees remain open. House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland announced plans for the House to take up the state’s $38 billion budget next week, with the goal of tying up all loose ends the following week.
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5 New Job Postings on TBA’s Joblink

See who is hiring in Tennessee. Recent job postings this month offer opportunities in litigation, real estate, health law and more. See full listings or post positions in your firm on TBA’s Joblink.
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TBA Convention Kicks Off TOMORROW!

The big week is finally upon us: The Tennessee Bar Association’s Annual Convention begins tomorrow, June 12. This year’s Convention is chock-full of even better programming, exhibits and fun than last year! Look forward to:

  • Free Access to 9 Hours of CLE, including the Bench Bar Program, co-sponsored by the Tennessee Judicial Conference
  • Opening welcome reception
  • Bench Bar Luncheon (featuring keynote speaker, Ken Starr)
  • Law School and General Breakfasts
  • Lawyers Luncheon (featuring special honor for Sen. Lamar Alexander)
  • Thursday night joint reception sponsored with TLAW and TABL
  • Thursday night Dinner/Dance Party featuring My So-Called Band
  • Friday night TBALL/YLD Party
  • Access to activities and programming designed for well-being including massages, contemplative space and more.
  • Access to TBA's sponsorship hall to meet with exhibitors, participate in our special TBA Wellness Corner and win prizes.
• QUESTIONS: Just email convention@tnbar.org to get help.
 
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Help4TNDay Kicks Off Saturday

Tennessee lawyers are invited to participate in Help4TNDay activities throughout the month of April. Events will bring attention to the ongoing need for free and low-cost legal services and highlight the groups that provide these services to disadvantaged Tennesseans. Opportunities include volunteering to help clients in need through Tennessee Free Legal Answers (TFLA) or at a local legal clinic. The events kick-off this Saturday with a statewide virtual legal clinic, where attorneys across the state will answer questions on TFLA from noon to 2 p.m. Simultaneously, the TBA will host an on-site TFLA Clinic and Luncheon in Nashville. To participate in the TBA event, contact Liz Todaro. Help4TNDay is a joint effort by the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission, the Administrative Office of the Courts, Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the Tennessee Bar Association. 
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PG&E Creditors Propose $35 Billion Bankruptcy Exit Plan

Pacific Investment Management Co., Elliott Management Corp., and Davidson Kempner Capital Management have been in private discussions with California lawmakers and stakeholders over a $35 billion plan that would allow PG&E Corp. to emerge from bankruptcy within a year, Bloomberg reports. These creditors represent an ad hoc committee of PG&E’s senior unsecured noteholders. Included in their proposal is establishing a $14 billion cash trust to pay claims related to the 2017 and 2018 wildfires. Additionally, the creditors are recommending that California legislators establish a $13 billion statewide wildfire fund to be financed by California utilities, including PG&E, statewide bonds and other state funding sources. Contributions totaling $8 billion would allow the company to recapitalize and refinance its debtor-in-possession loans and other maturities. Creditors would provide around $18.5 billion in funds and the proposal claims to be neutral for consumers and their respective electricity rates. PG&E would be exiting bankruptcy by March 2020 under this proposal. 

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Purdue Pharma, Oklahoma Reach Settlement, Praised by AG Slatery

Oklahoma has reached a landmark settlement with Purdue Pharma regarding its role in the opioid crisis, The Washington Post reports. This is the first such settlement in the more than 1,600 lawsuits faced by the drug maker, including the case in Tennessee where Knox County Circuit Court Judge Kristi M. Davis struck down Purdue’s motion for dismissal. Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery released a statement praising the action and reaffirmed the state’s commitment to holding Purdue and other manufacturers accountable for possible violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. In the Oklahoma settlement, Purdue will pay $102.5 million to establish a new foundation for addiction treatment and research, provide $20 million worth of treatment drugs and cover about $60 million in litigation costs.
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Registration Now Open for TBA Convention in Nashville, June 12-15

The TBA's annual Convention returns to downtown Nashville this summer! Mark your calendars for June 12-15 and prepare for four days of CLE, networking, entertainment and more at the Renaissance Hotel, 611 Commerce Street. Registration is officially open, with early bird rates available until April 30.
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Next Thursday: Business Law Forum

Register now for the TBA Business Law Forum 2019.
 
This program will help business lawyers learn and refresh their knowledge about issues that may arise when drafting an LLC operating agreement. Topics will include an overview of the two extant Tennessee LLC acts and a comparison of those acts with the Delaware LLC Act; other distinctions of Tennessee law that impact the operating agreement; drafting key provisions, including distribution and allocation, employee and member compensation, and exit rights; and ethical considerations for lawyers drafting LLC operating agreements.
 
When: Thursday, May 9. Registration begins at 9 a.m.
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville

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Federal Judge: DOE Changes to Loan Forgiveness Program 'Arbitrary, Capricious'

In a case filed by the American Bar Association, a judge ruled Friday that the U.S. Department of Education improperly changed the terms of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) for some men and women who have dedicated their careers to public service. In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly said changes to the eligibility requirements made several years after the program began were “arbitrary and capricious.” Kelly ruled in favor of three individual plaintiffs who worked several years in public service and were initially approved for loan forgiveness, only to be notified years later that the approval was retroactively denied by the Department of Education based on new rules.
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Court Seeking Comments on Proposed Rule 46A

The Tennessee Supreme Court is considering the adoption of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 46A, which would govern the electronic service of papers that are e-filed, and it is seeking comments from the legal community and the public on the proposed rule. The deadline for submitting written comments is March 22. Comments should be e-mailed to appellatecourtclerk@tncourts.gov or mailed to: James M. Hivner, Clerk, Tennessee Appellate Courts, 100 Supreme Court Building, 401 7th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37219-1407.
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Gov. Lee Provides Avenue for Public Feedback on Legislation

Gov. Bill Lee has taken an additional step in his commitment to “an open and transparent government,” creating a webpage for the public to view and provide feedback on legislation that has been submitted to him for consideration. Lee maintains that involving Tennesseans into the process more directly will increase accountability in how laws are made. The site will be updated regularly, as bills pass the Legislature and land on his desk.

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TBA to Introduce Legal Document Generation

The TBA will soon launch a new subscription-based product for Tennessee lawyers — automated legal forms. The initiative will use HotDocs, a custom documentation generator that creates form templates and speeds up the preparation process based on client and case data. In order to provide this valuable resource to our members, we hope to obtain your comments and ideas on forms you deem beneficial for replication. With across-the-board participation, we can comprise a substantive, comprehensive database where subscribers will have access to forms submitted by all TBA sections. Please send suggestions and comments to TBA Membership Director Mindy Fulks.

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An Important Benefit to Help Protect Your Income

We don’t always ask ourselves what would happen to our income if we couldn’t work, but illness and injury can impact attorneys, just like anyone else. As a TBA member, you have a special team at TBA Member Insurance Solutions (TBAMS) who understands the needs of attorneys and can help you take advantage of a disability insurance policy customized for you. To learn more, click here, then contact TBAMS. Take an important step in protecting your income today!

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Online Court Bonds Now Available from TBA Member Insurance Solutions

The new Court Bond Program from TBA Member Insurance Solutions offers a full range of court bonds – Civil Court Bonds, Probate and Fiduciary Bonds, Notary Bonds, Lost Instrument Bonds and Public Official Bonds. Bonds are underwritten by experienced, knowledgeable underwriters with a quick turnaround — typically 24-48 hours — and competitive rates. Start by registering here or get a quote today.
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TBA Legislative Agenda – Service of Process

Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, and Rep. Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, introduced a bill drafted by the TBA’s Creditors Practice Section, and supported by the TBA. SB 456/HB 393 allows for process to be valid if a private process server does not include a mailing or physical address on the service return. The TBA Governmental Affairs team is working with legislators to pass this bill and have it signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee.
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Southeastern States Continue to Lead in Bankruptcy Filings

Data compiled for the American Bankruptcy Institute shows that Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia again led the nation in the per capita rate of bankruptcy filings for last year, the Times Free Press Reports. While bankruptcy filings decreased nationwide, the city of Chattanooga saw an increase for the second consecutive year, specifically a 1.8 percent increase with 6,011 total cases filed. One Chattanooga bankruptcy attorney attributes the increase to wages not increasing enough to keep up with the rising cost of living. The article notes that 59 percent of the filings in Tennessee were Chapter 13 petitions. Despite average job growth in Tennessee over the past year, the state’s bankruptcy filings were twice the nation’s per capita rate. 

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Meditation Apps Help Incorporate Mindfulness Each Day

Consider a meditation app for your phone to help incorporate mindfulness into your day. The accessibility and variety of meditation apps can make them beneficial and easy to try. Some, such as Mindbody, Stop, Breathe & Think, 10% Happier, Breethe, Omvana, Insight Timer, Sattva Meditations & Mantras, and Smiling Mind (which can be tailored to different age groups) are free. Others, such as Calm, Headspace, and the Mindfulness App, have free trials and can be upgraded to a paid subscription. Comparisons of various apps are available on www.healthline.com or www.bestproducts.com.
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Creditors File Motion Challenging Lampert’s Bid for Sears

Attorneys representing Sears’ unsecured creditors filed a motion last week challenging Sears Holdings chairman Eddie Lampert’s $5.2 billion bid to buy the company, USA Today reports. The creditors’ committee claims to have uncovered facts that demonstrate misconduct committed by Lampert and his hedge fund, ESL Investments, which contributed to the retailer’s downfall. The bid needs final approval from a bankruptcy judge at a hearing currently slated for Feb. 1. Sears maintains that the sale will prevent liquidation and preserve 45,000 jobs; however, the creditors allege that the deal is part of a pattern that enriches Lampert by acquiring the company at a discounted rate. The court filing claims Lampert engaged in two controversial and complex financial transactions in which he acted as both lender and borrower. One of those deals occurred in 2015; 235 of the most valuable Sears store properties were transferred to the real estate investment trust Seritage Growth Properties, where Lampert is the biggest shareholder and chairman. According to a public filing, in 2017, Sears paid Seritage $109 million in rent, $43 million in expenses and $35 million in lease termination fees. The creditors would like to recover the value of the properties transferred to Seritage. ESL stated that all business transactions involving Sears were done in good faith and on fair terms with the approval of the Sears Board of Directors.

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Will AI Technology be the Next Disrupter in the Legal World?

There is a growing prevalence of AI (artificial intelligence) technology being utilized in the legal sector, Crain’s Cleveland Business reports. Some fear that this technology will replace attorneys with computers. However, the Cleveland office of Baker Hostetler experienced an increase in lawyers a couple of years following the partnership of its bankruptcy practice and IBM’s ROSS intelligence. This technology was able to divert mundane and tedious tasks from the attorneys, such as legal research and case law analysis. Baker’s bankruptcy practice is using the AI technology to track case law and make predictions on the outcome of current cases. While Baker is open to partnering with various legal tech companies, the American Bar Association’s 2018 legal tech survey only found that 10 percent of attorneys polled utilized AI technology in some way. In addition to firms incorporating new technology, Cleveland-based law school Case Western University is also exploring ways to slowly incorporate programming, AI and blockchain technology into its curriculum in order to stay ahead of the disruptive curve.

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PG&E Plans to File Bankruptcy Amid Mounting Liability Costs

Pacific Gas and Electric Corp. announced last week plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as the company faces liability claims in excess of $30 billion as a result of the deadly California fires, the Los Angeles Times reports. Although the company has stated that it does not believe the filing would affect the 16 million customers served, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has formed a task force to evaluate steps the state can take to help Californians amid the potential bankruptcy. Customers experienced added costs with the company’s previous bankruptcy filing in 2001. The article notes that Senate Bill 901 which took effect Jan. 1 allows the California Public Utilities Commission to oversee future fire-related bond issues by the utilities. Depending on how the bankruptcy plays out, an intervention may be necessary in order to prioritize the claims of the fire victims since they would likely be classified as unsecured creditors.  

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Sears Closures Add Millions of Square Feet to Commercial Real Estate Market

Beleaguered retail behemoth Sears is considering liquidation, which would add an estimated millions more square feet of unused commercial space nationwide, Forbes reports. Since it announced bankruptcy last October, Sears has either closed or plans to close 260 of its 700 retail locations. In 2015, Sears Chairman and former CEO Eddie Lampert created the real estate investment trust Seritage Growth Properties, seeking to capitalize on the real estate value of Sears’ holdings; however, there is no indication if this was done in light of bankruptcy considerations. 

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A Review of 2018's Notable Business Bankruptcies

Several large retail businesses declared bankruptcy in 2018. This NBC News article reviews some of the highly publicized cases, including Toys R Us, Sears, Mattress Firm, Nine West and more.  A retail analyst also provides a grim outlook for retailers struggling with debt in 2019.

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Blog Reviews Most Important Legal Tech Developments in 2018

LawSitesBlog.com has published a roundup of the 20 most important legal tech developments in the past year, eschewing the traditional Top 10 list due to the overwhelming number of significant changes. Included on the list were analytics becoming an essential part of the legal practice, investments in legal tech topping $1 billion, the end of Avvo and the new American Bar Association rule emphasizing the duty of lawyers to be up-to-date on legal technology.
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Regular Memphis Pro Bono Clinic Has Served 12K Since Inception

Since its beginnings over a decade ago, a Memphis-area pro bono legal clinic has gone on to serve roughly 12,000 individuals in need, The Daily Memphian reports. The Saturday Legal Clinic, sponsored by Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) and the Memphis Bar Association, has been held at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library once a month since November 2006. Firms and associations work to promote the event to ensure that 30 to 40 attorneys attend each month.
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