Knox Court Adopts New Rule on Court Appointments

The Knox County General Sessions Court has adopted a new Rule 27 to govern the appointment of attorneys to represent indigent defendants. Beginning Nov. 30, the court will maintain a list of attorneys approved to accept criminal defense appointments. The list will be maintained by the judicial court administrator and will be revised annually. Each year by Dec. 31, attorneys desiring to remain on the list should provide written or email notice to the administrator. For more information, contact the court at 865-215-2370.

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Indigent Representation Task Force to Meet Friday

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force will meet at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow in Room LP12 of Legislative Plaza in Nashville. The panel will hear presentations from Vince Dean, Hamilton County criminal court clerk and president of the Tennessee Clerks of Court Conference; Jerry N. Estes, executive director of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference; Charme Allen, Knox County district attorney general; Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Mark Fishburn; and Justyna Garbaczewska Scalpone with the Tennessee Office of the Post-Conviction Defender. Get details about the meeting.

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Nashville Chancery Court Seek Comments on E-filing

The Davidson County Chancery Court is implementing electronic case filing and is soliciting input from members of the public and attorneys concerning local rules. The proposed e-filing rules are posted on the Davidson County Clerk and Master website. Comments may be submitted electronically (note “e-filing rules” in the subject line) or mailed to the Davidson County Clerk and Master, 1 Public Square, Ste. 308, Nashville, TN 37201. The deadline for comments is Oct. 31.

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ABA Unveils New Tools for ATJ Efforts, Solo Lawyers

The ABA this week announced two new efforts. The first, a new Center for Innovation, is designed to increase access to justice and improve the delivery of legal services through innovative programs and initiatives. The second is a new web-based tool to help solo and small firm lawyers manage their practices. The ABA Blueprint program will launch this fall and offer information on technology, marketing, retirement and insurance services.

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Court Square Series Coming in September

The TBA’s annual Court Square CLE Series is coming to a town near you! Throughout the month of September, programs will be offered in Columbia, Kingsport, Clarksville, Cookeville, Chattanooga, Dyersburg and Jackson. Each program will run three hours and provide attorneys with the latest developments in multiple areas of the law.

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Solo Lawyers May Make More than IRS Data Suggests

Two law professors are questioning whether IRS data is reliable when it comes to determining what solo lawyers are paid. Seton Hall University law professor Michael Simkovic and Santa Clara University law professor Stephen Diamond suggest that census data, rather than tax records, provides a more accurate picture. Last year, University of Tennessee law professor Benjamin Barton used IRS data for an article published by Business Insider. In that piece, he argued that solo lawyers earned an average of $49,000 in 2012. Simkovic and Diamond think that number is too low and are suggesting that actual average earnings could be closer to $100,000. The ABA Journal has more from both sides.

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Advisory Panel on Court Rules to Meet Next Friday

The Advisory Commission to the Supreme Court on Rules of Practice and Procedure will meet Aug. 12 to consider comments and proposed revisions to a number of rules and other proposals, including Tenn. R. Crim. P. regarding preliminary hearings, the 2016 Senate Bill 1618 regarding courthouse facility dogs, and Tenn. R. Civ. P. regarding appellate briefs and preliminary hearings. Review the full agenda.

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Learn More, Speak Up About Indigent Defense Rates

Lawyers interested in learning more about the work of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force, which has been conducting listening tours across the state, are invited to join a conference call with TBA Public Policy Coordinator Brenda Gadd this Friday at noon Central Daylight Time. To join the call dial 855-795-9620 and enter passcode 5582234161.

A week later, on July 29, the task force will be at the Nashville School of Law, 4013 Armory Oaks Dr., Nashville 37204 for its final forum. The event will take place in Room 200 beginning at 8:30 a.m. Sign up here to share your experience with indigent representation and why an increase in the compensation rate is needed.

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15-Hour Annual CLE on Tap for August

The TBA’s three-day General Practice CLE will be Aug. 18-20 in Nashville. It will feature 15 hours of best practices and updates in various areas of the law, including ethics hours. On Aug. 26, FastTrack CLEs on site in Knoxville and Memphis will provide seven hours of live credit and eight prepaid credits to complete online at any time, from home or on your mobile device. Get details at the links above.

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TBA Members Speak at Indigent Task Force Meeting in Cookeville

Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville today hosted the sixth meeting of the Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force’s statewide listening tour. TBA members Bridget Wilhite and Lisa Cothron attended the meeting and shared their personal stories of practicing in rural communities and appointments of juvenile and criminal indigent clients. It was noted that in McMinn County, less than two dozen attorneys are available for appointments and there is often a caseload burden in addition to costs not being covered by the current compensation rate and caps. About 30 people from the judicial system attended today’s meeting along with task force members: Nashville School of Law Dean William Koch, DarKenya Waller, Susan Matson, Dwight Tarwater, Chief Justice Sharon Lee and Lela Hollabough. The task force wraps up its statewide tour in Nashville on July 29 at the Nashville School of Law.

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Message from the Incoming Chair

As the incoming chair of the General, Solo and Small Practitioners Section for the 2016-2017 bar year, I cordially invite you to join us June 15-18 at the annual TBA Convention in Nashville at the Sheraton Music City Hotel. In particular, please make plans to attend the General, Solo and Small Practitioners Section meeting on Friday, June 17, at 9 a.m. in the Cheekwood Room.

We will discuss plans for the upcoming TBA year, including executive council involvement, continuing legal education and networking opportunities. As a section member, we welcome your attendance, participation and suggestions as to how we can make the section stronger and a more valuable resource to you and your practice.

Topics for discussion include:

  • A Day in the Life of a GSSP lawyer.
  • Running the business – what they never taught you in law school
  • Getting yourself some business – direct and indirect methods
  • Employees (1) – keeping the good ones, culling the others
  • Employees (2) – policies, taxes, unemployment, insurance, their rights, your rights, clients’ rights
  • "Da” Building – Location, appearance, maintenance, insurance.
  • Insurance – Professional liability, notary bond, building liability, agent bond.
  • Taxes and Dues – Withholding, quarterly self employment payments, privilege, franchise, law license, TBA
  • Clients. Tips on setting the tone, best strategies to solve problems, caring vs not caring, getting the job done, adios or hasta la vista.
  • When trouble comes – bad cases, bad clients, bad lawyers, bad judges, no cash to pay bills. Tips on what to do.
  • Pro Bono – it’s just part of daily life of a GSSP lawyer.
  • Staff – rejoicing in the good times, pulling each other through in the bad times.
  • The money – budgeting, economizing, prioritizing spending, timing purchases. Doing without.
  • The advantages of “coming up tough” -- overcoming adversity.     
  • Cultivating what you like doing, eliminating what you don’t like doing as a GSSP attorney.

 I look forward to serving as your chair and hope to see you at the TBA Convention in Nashville.

Jim Romer

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General Practice Section to Meet at TBA Convention

Please make plans to join the TBA General, Solo and Small Firm Practitioners Section for a business meeting that will be held in conjunction with 2016 TBA Convention.  The TBA General, Solo and Small Firm Practitioners Section meeting is scheduled as follows:


Friday, June 17, 2016
9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Central / 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time


Sheraton Music City Hotel
777 McGavock Pike
Nashville, TN 37214
(615) 885-2200

Room Location - Cheekwood Room

A conference call will be available for those unable to attend in person. The following are the instructions for joining the call:

You will dial in on the following number: 1-855-795-9620

You will then be prompted to enter the following conference ID number, followed by the pound (#) sign: 5722409#

There is still time if you would like to register for TBA Convention. You may register by calling the TBA at (615) 383-7421 or register online at:

2016 TBA Convention

You do not have to be registered for Convention to attend this Section meeting.  We hope to see you there!

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Editorial: Improve Pay for Court-Appointed Attorneys

“Tennessee pays its court-appointed attorneys so little that it threatens to undermine the right of their clients to a fair trial.” A Knoxville News Sentinel editorial argues why the state must increase compensation for court-appointed lawyers, calling the current rate – $40 per hour for work outside the courtroom – “ridiculously low.”   The comments come after the Indigent Representation Task Force held a public hearing in Knoxville last week as part of the group’s statewide listening tour. 

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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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Davidson County Court Not Recording Preliminary Hearings

WSMV reports Davidson County General Sessions Court may not be recording preliminary hearings as required by law. After the news station contacted the court asking for recordings of a preliminary hearing, a court employee revealed they do not record all hearings and only record by request. “This is the Supreme Court rule,” defense attorney David Raybin said. “It said the recordings shall be preserved by electronic recording. This is not discretionary.”

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Missed the Program? General Practice Sessions Now Available On-demand

Programs from this summer's annual General Practitioners CLE are now available online. Take a few or as many as you need. Topics range from DUI to Bankruptcy Basics. See a full listing of the sessions available.

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Sign Up Today to be a Mentor

The TBA Mentoring Program is seeking volunteer mentors from across the state within specific practice areas: Nashville, Civil Rights; Brentwood, Environmental; Columbia, Litigation, General Practice, Real Estate and/or Probate and Trust; Memphis, Intellectual Property. Those participating in the program will commit to a formal mentoring relationship for one year, with a requirement to meet face-to-face at least once a month. For more information, visit the TBA Mentoring Program webpage or contact TBA staff member Christy Gibson, (615) 383-7421.

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AOC Seeking Wilson County Attorneys Interested in Indigent Representation

The AOC is seeking Wilson County attorneys who are interested in contracting with the AOC to represent indigent litigants, including respondents facing involuntary emergency judicial hospitalization. Judges will continue to have the discretion to assign attorneys, but only attorneys who have agreed to the contract terms will receive appointments. For more information, contact David Byrne, 615-741-2687.

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Pay Raise for Court Appointed Work Set for Committee

The TBA bill calling for an increase in pay for court appointed attorney will go before the House Civil Justice Subcommittee next week. Sponsored by Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, HB1025 would raise compensation to a minimum of $100 per hour. The companion bill in the Senate, SB1009, is sponsored by Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis. It has been referred to the Judiciary Committee and is expected to be considered in the coming weeks. Court appointed attorneys have been working at the same rate since 1994 and have the lowest compensation rate in the nation. Use TBAImpact or contact subcommittee members directly to express your views.

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UnWrap New Ideas at Law Tech UnConference

New features and new topics are available at this year’s Law Tech UnConference set for Feb. 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Nashville. New topics include marketing, Gmail and Dropbox pitfalls, and social media bootcamp. Bring your support staff from noon to 2 p.m. to give them a chance to visit our sponsors for free. New to our Law Tech UnConference? Learn more about this unique “open-house” concept of delivering CLE.

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Don’t Miss Ethics CLE on Disaster Prevention

Two new ethics programs from the TBA focus on disaster prevention and recovery. The first offers a “how to” guide to prevent, prepare for and respond to a disaster with a focus on the business reasons for planning ahead and practical tips for guiding crisis decision making. The second course continues the theme with sessions on how to conduct a risk analysis, protect computers and networks, recover from technology crashes and restore human and financial resources.

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Be Your Own Risk Manager

Learn how to be your own risk manager with tips on legal malpractice in this online CLE course. Topics include firm business models, new client procedures and personnel. In Part I of the course, Chris Stiegemeyer with The Bar Plan, tests your knowledge of legal malpractice and ethics, and explains what you need to know to protect yourself from novel malpractice risks and ethics complaints. In Part 2, Stiegemeyer discusses your firm’s business model, new client procedures, billing and records systems and personnel.

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AOC Clarifies New Rule Allowing Fixed-Fee Contracts for Indigent Representation

The Administrative Office of the Courts today released a statement clarifying the recent adoption of a new Rule 13, Section 7, allowing flat fee contracts for court-appointed work in the areas of judicial hospitalization, child support contempt and dependency and neglect cases. The office reiterated that the new rule does not require but merely allows fixed fee contracts in these case areas, nor does it require the AOC to award contracts to lowest bidder or engage in bidding at all.

"The goal is not to displace attorneys who currently do the work," the AOC said in its statement. "The goal is to manage the resources given to the indigent fund by the legislature in the most efficient way possible." The AOC indicated that the first area to use the new contract method will be Shelby County in judicial hospitalization cases. Beginning in January 2015, judges may still assign attorneys to these cases, but only those who agree to the new contract system. In the 2013-14 budget year, judicial hospitalizations represented only 4 percent of the Indigent Representation Fund budget.

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No Pay Raise in 20 Years Creates Problems for Court-Appointed Lawyers

Court-appointed lawyers in Tennessee have not seen a pay raise in 20 years, the Commercial Appeal reports, and some earn less than half as much per hour to try a murder case as expert witnesses earn to testify. The piece quotes defense attorney Michael Working, who says current rate caps and a confusing and bureaucratic process for collecting payment pose a direct threat to equal access to justice for all defendants. The article also cites a recent TBA survey that showed  many experienced attorneys have stopped taking court-appointed cases because the fees are too low and the paperwork is too burdensome.

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Survey: Discontent Among Court-Appointed Attorneys

A recent TBA survey of private attorneys who handle court appointed work shows they feel undervalued, overworked and unfairly compensated. More than half of those who took the survey reported that they frequently hit the fee cap on appointed cases, while 77 percent reported that they do not bother submiting a fee claim given the issues associated with getting paid. Survey responses also indicated an overwhelming number of cases are not adult criminal cases, but dependency, neglect and abuse work, generally as a guardian ad litem or a parent's attorney. More than half of respondents left lengthy comments on their experience with court appointed work, with many reporting that they love doing the work but cannot continue doing so at the current compensation rates, likening the work to doing pro bono. Respondents also reported that the filing requirements frequently add stress to an already difficult-to-handle clientele. With a compensation rate that has not changed since 1994, Tennessee court-appointed attorneys are among the lowest paid in the nation. Read more from the survey results.

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