Hawkins Judge Honors Veterans Mentor

Hawkins County’s first nationally certified “Justice for Vets” mentor, Ron W. Light, was honored by General Sessions Judge J. Todd Ross during a ceremony Wednesday, the Times News reports. Light, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, has a long history of assisting veterans with service-related issues. Most recently he helped implement a Veterans Mentor Program in Hawkins County Sessions Court, and as a volunteer with the program he will help veterans get needed treatment and benefits and coordinate with other judicial entities such as the Community Justice Program and probation services on their behalf.

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Veterans Treatment Court Hosts Fall Festival

Veterans and their families celebrated the fall season with the Montgomery County Veterans Treatment Court at the end of October. The event was designed to forge positive relationships between program participants and their families, alumni of the program, mentors and court staff. “We get to know our participants that we see regularly, sadly we don’t build the same connection with their families,” Judge Kenneth Goble told the Leaf Chronicle. The group’s next event will be a graduation ceremony Nov. 15 at 1 p.m. at the county courthouse.

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Tennessee Hosting 4 Equal Justice Works Fellows

Tennessee is benefiting from the services of four Equal Justice Works fellows. It is the first time in more than 10 years that the state has had any fellows, according to the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS). That group is hosting Kirsten Jacobson in its office. Elder Justice Fellow Matt Schwimmer is serving with West Tennessee Legal Services in Jackson. Elder Justice Fellow Sara Dodson is serving with the Tennessee Justice Center in Nashville. And Immigrant Defense Fellow Valeria Gomez is working with Justice AmeriCorps and VIDA in Knoxville. TALS credits the work of the state Supreme Court, which has made pro bono a strategic priority, and the support of the state’s legal aid providers in making these fellowships a reality.

Photo from left: Jacobson, Gomez, Schwimmer, Dodson

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Volunteers Needed for Veterans’ Clinic

Volunteers are needed for a Veterans’ Legal Advice Clinic scheduled for Nov. 2 from noon to 2 p.m. in Knoxville. The clinic is one of several planned by a group of legal organizations in the city, including the Knoxville Bar Association, the Knoxville Barristers, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Knox County Public Defender’s Office, the University of Tennessee College of Law and the local Veterans's Affairs office. It will take place at the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office, 1101 Liberty St.

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Training Offered to Help Lawyers Help Veterans

The University of Tennessee College of Law will hold a two-hour training session on Nov. 11 from 2 to 4 p.m. EST for those interested in learning more about volunteering at a Project Salute event or assisting veterans with legal issues in any setting. A “meet and greet” will follow the program. Register online.

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Elder Law Programs Now Online

If you missed the TBA's annual Elder Law forum, the courses are now available online. Sessions focused on ABLE TN (a program that helps disabled individuals save for their health care), federal issues related to elder law, emergency conservatorships and a panel addressing TennCare. Watch one or all four!

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Granny Pods, Employment Law … and Setting Up an Office at the Wal-Firm

Pick up your copy of the current Tennessee Bar Journal for some weekend reading and you'll find a variety of subjects by our crackerjack columnists. Edward Phillips and Brandon Morrow write about subjective beliefs in two recent age discrimination cases and Monica Franklin looks at the new “granny pods” that are now legal in Tennessee. Nick McCall reviews Beale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song and the Struggle for the Soul of Memphis and humor columnist Bill Haltom considers setting up his office at the Wal-Firm. Read the entire October issue here.

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CLE SKI Set for Jan. 22-27 in Snowmass

Mark your calendar for the 32nd Annual TBA CLE SKI, being held Jan. 22-27, 2017, at the Stonebridge Inn in Snowmass, Colorado. Participants will be able to attend CLE sessions each morning and afternoon with plenty of time to hit the slopes in between programs. Topics will cover entertainment law, social security disability, updates on labor and employment law, ethics and a U.S. Supreme Court case review.

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Inaugural Veterans’ Clinic Coming in September

The Knoxville Bar Association’s inaugural Veterans’ Legal Advice Clinic will take place Sept. 7 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office, 1101 Liberty St., Knoxville 37912. The clinic is a joint project of the Knoxville Barristers and their Access to Justice Committee, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Knox County Public Defender’s Office, the University of Tennessee College of Law and the local VA office. Lawyers are needed to volunteer to help veterans with a wide variety of issues, including family, landlord/tenant, bankruptcy, criminal defense, consumer protection, contract disputes, child support and personal injury cases. WATE reports on the event.

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Jury Imposes $30M Judgment on Memphis Nursing Home

A Shelby County jury has set a $30 million judgment against Allenbrooke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center after finding the Memphis nursing home liable for negligence, violations of the Tennessee Adult Protection Act, fraudulent records of care and medical malpractice, the Commercial Appeal reports. The verdict includes $1.9 million for negligence, $129,000 for violations of the protection act, and $28 million in punitive damages against Allenbrooke, four related companies and two owners in New York. 

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Disability Group Seeks Attorney in Chattanooga

The Florida-based Disability Help Group is seeking an associate attorney to serve the greater Chattanooga area. Responsibilities include helping individuals obtain disability benefits from the Social Security Administration and handling all stages of the administrative process. Past experience with SSA cases is not required but successful candidates will need to spend four to six months in Florida for training. Those hired also must be able to work from home. Interested individuals should submit a cover letter, salary request and resume to Matthew Sauerwald. Learn more in this job announcement.

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Knoxville Receives Grant to Combat Elder Abuse

Knoxville officials today announced a $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to combat elder abuse by training judges, prosecutors, case workers and 877 law enforcement officers. The three-year grant also includes funding for victim services and exploring solutions to stem abuse, Knoxnews reports. Last year, Tennessee officials investigated 483 cases of elder abuse in Knox County, including allegations of financial exploitation, neglect and physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The grant was awarded to the Knoxville Police Department and will be managed by the Community Action Committee’s Office on Aging.

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Retirement Webinar on Tap for Wednesday

The ABA Retirement Funds Program is hosting a free webinar on the role of self-directed brokerage accounts (SDBA) within retirement plans. The session will be held this Wednesday at noon Central Daylight Time. Topics include: the basics of SDBAs, the benefits of SDBAs, SDBA product details, how SDBAs work within the regulatory environment of ERISA, and trends related to SDBAs in the marketplace.

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Bristol Lawyer Charged with Stealing from Estate

Bristol lawyer Don W. Cooper has been charged with stealing from an estate for which he was serving as executor, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The agency said it began investigating the 70-year-old in November 2015 and found that he stole more than $10,000 from an estate in which the beneficiary was supposed to be St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Cooper, who was indicted in April for stealing from another estate, turned himself in and was released on a $15,000 bond, the Greeneville Sun reports.

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Inaugural Veterans Legal Clinic Set for Knoxville

Legal organizations in Knoxville have teamed up to hold a monthly legal advice clinic for veterans, service members and military families. The inaugural two-hour clinic will be held Sept. 7 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office, 1101 Liberty St. The clinic then will be held each month on the Wednesday preceding the Pro Bono Project’s Saturday Bar. Partners include the Knoxville Bar Association and its Barristers’ Access to Justice Committee, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, the Knox County Public Defender’s Office, University of Tennessee College of Law and the local Veterans’ Affairs office. Contact Spencer Fair for more information or to volunteer.

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TBA Elder Law Section To Hold Business Meeting at Annual Forum

Please make plans to join the TBA Elder Law Section for a lunch business meeting that is being held in conjunction with this year’s Elder Law Forum

TBA Elder Law Section Lunch Business Meeting
Friday, July 15, 11:45 a.m. - 12:50 p.m. Central Daylight Time
AT&T Building, 333 Commerce Street - Auditorium in Nashville

Please note that you do not have to be registered for the TBA Elder Law Forum to attend the Section’s lunch business meeting, but LUNCH WILL ONLY BE PROVIDED FOR SECTION MEMBERS WHO RESPOND that they will attend this lunch business meeting. 

To confirm that you will attend the TBA Elder Law Section Lunch Business meeting, please respond to Jenny Jones - NO LATER THAN FRIDAY, JULY 8.

If you have not yet registered for the TBA Elder Law Forum on July 15, there is still time to do so online or by calling 615-383-7421.

This full-day program, sponsored by the Elder Law Section of the Tennessee Bar Association, offers essential and practical material for practicing elder law attorneys. The program will cover topics affecting seniors who reside in Tennessee and provides 4.75 General CLE credit hours and 1.0 Dual hour.

Some of the highlights include:

• VA Services and Caregiver Support
• The ABLE Act and ABLE TN
• TennCare Booby Traps
• Emergency Conservatorships
• Civil Rights Litigation under Section 1983

Registration is set from 8 - 8:30 a.m. and the program will run from 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.

We hope to see you there!

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2016 Elder Law Forum Set for July 15 in Nashville

Experts at the 2016 Elder Law Forum in Nashville will share new and timely information related to perennial topics of Medicaid planning, conservatorships and special needs trusts in Tennessee. The CLE course, approved for 5.75 credits, will also feature a Vanderbilt University geriatrician who will address the unique needs of older adults. The event will be held on July 15 from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the AT&T Building, 333 Commerce Street. 

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Columnists Cover Elders, Recording Employees and Coffee, Milk and Sugar

This month's Tennessee Bar Journal columnists cover a lot of ground: Monica Franklin writes about "Protecting Older Adults from Financial Exploitation: Proposed Federal Laws and Regulations." Edward Phillips and Brandon Morrow explore the issues of one employee recording another's harassment in "O, That Mine Enemy Would Record Me With Her Smartphone." Humor columnist Bill Haltom handles a hot topic with a cold outcome -- a recent lawsuit involving too much ice in Starbucks coffee. The Hon. Creed McGinley reviews Haltom's new book, Milk & Sugar: The Complete Book of Seersucker. Read the review, then come to the TBA Convention on Thursday to have the book signed, following the CLE, "Seersucker and Civility: How to Dress and Behave Like a Lawyer."

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Clinton Man Files $1.25M Age Discrimination Suit

A 62-year-old Clinton resident has filed a $1.25 million age discrimination lawsuit after he was fired from an auto dealership and reportedly told that he was "too old to run the shop and turn a profit." The lawsuit alleges the termination violates the state's Human Rights Act and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Read more from the Knoxville News Sentinel

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Law Establishes Ward's Right to Communicate with Family

Gov. Bill Haslam signed yesterday into law the “Campbell Falk Act” that establishes a ward’s right to visit and communicate with family and close friends. Previously, state law allowed a conservator to restrict visitation and communication with the ward without going to court, even when it involved communication or visits by a family member. Under the Republican-sponsored measure, a conservator cannot restrict communication unless specifically authorized by the court. The law is named in recognition of country artist Glen Campbell and actor Peter Falk, according to a news release from Senate Republican Caucus.

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Court to Consider if Dementia Should Stop Execution

The execution of an Alabama inmate who had suffered strokes and dementia was delayed today, after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it wanted to review lawyers' claims that it would be unconstitutional to execute the man because he is no longer competent, WRCB-TV reports. The appellate court said it will hear oral arguments in the case this June, however, the Alabama attorney general's office responded with an emergency motion to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to let the execution proceed before the death warrant expires at midnight.

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Nursing Home Ejections Raise Legal Questions

The ABA Journal explores the legality of nursing homes ejecting patients who are considered undesirable. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program found eviction and discharge complaints have increased about 57 percent since 2000. The article highlights a California case where the family of an ousted patient appealed to the health department and won, yet the nursing home still refused to readmit the patient. 

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Register Today for the 135th Annual TBA Convention

Join us on June 15-18 in Nashville for the 135th Annual Convention! Registration for the 2016 TBA Convention includes:

  • free access to all TBA CLE programming;
  • the Opening Reception;
  • the Bench Bar Programming and Luncheon;
  • Law School and general breakfasts;
  • the Lawyers Luncheon;
  • the Thursday evening Joint (TBA/TLAW/TABL) Reception;
  • the Thursday night dinner and entertainment at the George Jones Museum;
  • and the Friday night Dance Party.

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News Links

Preparing for the roll-out of ABLE Accounts, Tennessee Department of Treasury ABLE Account information is on-line:  (can sign up for newsletter)

Twitter: @ABLETennessee

How 7 states - AZ, MN, NM, NY, PA, SC, TN - have advanced value-based payments through MCO contracts:

Proposed regulations for TN Dept of Intellectual Disabilities filed:   

Useful Tool on Pensions:

Elder Justice: A John A. Hartford Foundation
Change AGEnts Issue Brief
by The John A. Hartford Foundation | February 24, 2016

News Links:|article_engagement&utm_campaign=article_alert&linkId=20811233

Compiled by Pam Wright, TBA Elder Law Executive Council Member

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Practice Tips - Your Firm's Infrastructure

Infrastructure includes your law firm’s office space and other office property.

Your law firm’s office space affects not just your productivity, but also recruiting efforts, physical wellbeing and essentially the health of your business. Finally, your physical environment is at the heart of evolving your practice into an “experience business,” as described in the book Experience Economy.

Many attorneys overlook infrastructure needs when putting together their business plans because other elements seem more crucial. These activities certainly matter, of course -- you do need to define your ideal client, create a web strategy, develop a marketing plan, recruit and hire great people, document your firm’s systems and processes, and stay abreast of the latest case law. It is important to recognize that your infrastructure can either limit or enhance the effectiveness of your marketing and management efforts.

So let’s discuss this challenge and explore best practices.

Selecting the Right Office

Options here abound, including executive suites, shared spaces (which you jointly use with other firms or non-competitive businesses) and independent spaces. Here are several questions that offer insight into office site selection:

  • Should you lease or buy?
  • Should you choose a location that’s central to your community (to be near clients and prospects) or look for a site that is convenient for you and your employees?
  • What impression do you want to make on clients (and employees) when they enter your offices?
  • Your space (and overall infrastructure) shouldn’t break your budget, but it should position you for future growth. So what do you want your firm to look like in a year or five years from now? Think about targeting your overall occupancy costs to be around 8 percent of your revenue. How many people will be working for you? What kind of clients do you want to have?

Ideally, the office should be easily accessible (and easily found) by clients, safe and near to services, such as nice restaurants.

Consider visibility, particularly if you plan to use your firm’s physical presence to drive marketing. An estate planning law firm situated prominently near a popular mall could attract walk-ins; whereas, an office at the edges of Davidson County will attract people only through referrals and advertising.

Think about what your clients would want.  Although downtown is very popular with lawyers, most of our fellow Nashvillians hate to drive downtown or to pay for parking.  Consider accessibility for the elderly and handicapped, particularly if you represent elderly clients or personal injury victims.

In reality, you might need to compromise based on budget concerns or other elements. For instance, imagine you live 20 miles outside Nashville because your spouse teaches at a school system there, but most of your clients live in Nashville. Should you open an office near home to reduce commuting time or set up shop in Nashville for your clients’ convenience? Identify the elements that are most important to prioritize.

Obtaining and Maintaining Office Property

Other key elements of your infrastructure include your office property, such as computers, printers, networking setup, copiers and scanners, furniture, artwork, decorative items and tchotchkes. Your job as a business owner is to provide your employees the training and tools they need to effectively and efficiently perform their duties. Property costs money, so budget accordingly and focus on the essentials at first. Furniture and art should “be of a piece” and support the brand you’re building as well as the feeling you want to convey to prospects and employees. Styles might include hypermodern, classic and eclectic aesthetics. The better you understand your brand and your mission, the easier it will be to make choices.

Flow Through the Office

While the concept of “Feng Shui” may be overplayed, you definitely want to consider how your clients and employees will flow through the office and possibly even diagram out key design elements. When and how will the person enter the office? Where will he or she sit down to wait for an appointment? What will the experience of the office be like for your employees? Pay attention not just to the structural layout but also to ventilation, air-conditioning and the smell of the office. Maintain standards for cleanliness and care.

By mindfully attending to the seemingly mundane details of infrastructure, you will set your firm up to succeed righteously, to recruit amazing talent and to ensure grateful and satisfied clients.

My Experience

In setting up an office for Elder Law, I decided the key elements were “findability,” especially from the interstates, and handicap access.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on space at the beginning, so I opted for an arrangement in an executive suite. I found one that “felt friendly.” 

The space I found had offices that were rentable on a month-to-month basis and had a receptionist that did not answer my telephone but was present in the lobby to welcome clients during normal business hours. Conference rooms were available, but had to be scheduled. I moved into a small office, added another office as I hired a paralegal/office manager and eventually moved into an office large enough to hold a small-ish conference table. I’ve stayed within my budget and have had flexibility.

Larger firms may choose different solutions, but I believe that the questions will remain the same.

Written by Barbara Moss and Ashish Karve

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