News

ABA Releases Ethics Opinion on Client File Materials

The American Bar Association today issued a new Formal Ethics Opinion addressing what file materials belong to client under the ABA Model Rules. The scenario examined for context details a client teminating sevices of a long-time lawyer. The opinion addresses the ethical duties of a lawyer when responding to a former client’s request for papers and property in the lawyer’s possession that are related to the representation. Read the opinion here.

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ABA President Reflects on Year in Office

In an interview with the Memphis Business Journal, ABA President William Hubbard says he has used his year in office to try to modernize the profession, lower costs, break down barriers and encourage attorneys to rethink the way legal services are delivered. “There’s this latent market for legal service … people who are less fortunate … people in the middle class and the moderate income class ... If you have that gap you have to ask yourself, maybe our model needs reform. Maybe we need a new delivery mechanism." One solution he points to is Online TN Justice, a virtual legal clinic that was developed by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the TBA. The ABA plans to roll out a nationwide version of the program soon.

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ABA President Pushes Online Models for Civil Disputes

The president of the American Bar Association told Tennessee lawyers that the traditional method of providing pro bono legal services in civil matters isn’t working, the Memphis Daily News reports. “People are migrating en masse to these online services,” William C. Hubbard told a group of 200 attorneys and judges Thursday at the Tennessee Bar Association’s annual meeting in Memphis. “We need to make sure we don’t have perhaps two justice systems that operate independently – one totally online and totally unregulated and one highly regulated but not innovative enough. We need to synthesize those two systems.”

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TBA Website Now Responsive to Mobile Users

The TBA today launched a new responsive design for the TBA.org website that allows for easier use on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. The site now automatically determines which type of device you are using and reformats information to offer the best display for that device. About 30 percent of all visits to the TBA.org website now come through mobile devices. 

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What Will Lawyers Be Doing in 5 to 10 Years?

While pop stars can look forward to Law Vegas residencies when their careers cool off, it is much tougher to predict how things will be for lawyers in five to 10 year. Speakers at the Avvo’s sixth annual Lawyernomics conference tried to look into the crystal ball and talk about where the legal profession is heading and how it might look in the not-so-distant future. F. Daniel Siciliano, a professor at Stanford Law School, argued that as law becomes more open-sourced and readily available to the general public, people will no longer need attorneys to tell them what the law is. “In 15 years, two-thirds of lawyers won’t practice law, at least not the way they practice now,” Siciliano said. “Many won’t be lawyers at all.” The ABA Journal has more.

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Report: Baker Donelson Among Best Work Places for New Dads

The law firm of Baker Donelson has been named among the 50 best places for new dads to work in a report by Fatherly, a digital lifestyle guide for men entering parenthood. Baker Donelson was highlighted for its father-friendly paternity leave policy, Chattanoogan.com reports.

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Profile: A Law Firm that Lets Partners be Parents

The Washington, D.C., area law firm, the Geller Law Group, is making news. The six-woman firm has a credo based on family-friendliness and flexibility. It does not even have a permanent office. A profile in the New York Times finds that the partners have a “near-evangelical determination" to prove that professionals can advance their careers while they remain fully present in their children’s lives.”

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National Law Firm Opens Nashville Office

Polsinelli PC, a Kansas City-based law firm that is among the 100 largest in the country, has opened a Nashville office, the Nashville Business Journal reported today. The firm has hired two Nashville healthcare attorneys -- Bobby Guy and Robert Dempsey, both previously with Frost Brown Todd – to run the office. It hopes to grow in other industry areas over time. Polsinelli operates 21 offices throughout the country with more than 740 attorneys. It already has a regional office in Chattanooga.

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Law Students Pitch Legal Apps to Venture Capitalist

The Vanderbilt Law School class on Technology in Legal Practice has been designing new technologies to enhance access to justice in Tennessee. The students will present their application designs on Tuesday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Hyatt Room on the first floor of the law school building. Ideas will be pitched to a panel of judges consisting of a faculty member, general counsel, law firm managing partner, a legal technology software founder and a venture capitalist.

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ABA Supports Law Firms’ Use of Cash Accounting

American Bar Association President William C. Hubbard is urging legislative leaders to reject any proposals that would require many law firms and other personal service businesses to switch from the simple cash method of accounting to the more complex and costly accrual method. Hubbard sent letters to the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee as they explore ways to simplify the tax code. During a meeting with invited stakeholders, the ABA said the change could cause substantial financial hardship to many lawyers, law firms, and other personal service businesses by forcing them to pay tax on “phantom” income they have not yet received and may never receive.

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Apps Help Provide Easier Access to Legal Help

Smartphone apps for immigrants, the indigent, those who face arrest and the lawyers who help them have been popping up with increasing frequency, the ABA Journal reports. “People talk a lot about digital technologies revolutionizing legal practice,” says Tanina Rostain, a law professor at Georgetown Law Center who teaches a course on the potential of Internet-based technologies for legal practice and pedagogy. “This is the area where the revolution is happening.” The Journal reviews 20 apps that are aiming to help close the access to justice gap.

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Report: Legal Services Sector Stagnant in March

The U.S. legal services sector shed 1,200 jobs in March, dipping slightly below employment levels at the start of the year, the Labor Department said today. The total number of legal jobs now stands at 1,119,400, a preliminary and seasonally adjusted figure. That is around where it’s hovered over the past year and still tens of thousands short of where the sector stood from 2003 to 2007, before the last recession, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports.

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Baker Donelson Repeats, Improves Rank on Best Companies List

For the sixth consecutive year, Baker Donelson has been named to Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, and for the second year it is the highest-ranking law firm on the list. The firm, only one of two Tennessee companies to make the list, also improved its standing, jumping to 30th place. Other law firms on the list are Atlanta-based Alston & Bird (41), Cooley in Palo Alto, California (42), Seattle-based Perkins Coie (46) and Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C. (75). Read more from the firm or see the full list.

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Hall Booth Smith Expands to Charlotte

Atlanta-based Hall Booth Smith reports that it will open an office in Charlotte, North Carolina, which will be led by Richard Sheinis, currently a partner in the Atlanta office. The new location will be the firm’s 10th office, with others located in Nashville; Charleston, South Carolina; North Palm Beach, Florida; and several Georgia cities.

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Free LawTech Materials Available Now

New features and new topics are available at this year’s Law Tech UnConference tomorrow from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Nashville. There is no late fee to register and free materials are available here. Also, 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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Baker Donelson Beefs Up Parental Leave Policy

Baker Donelson has enhanced its parental leave policy, now allowing 16 weeks of paid leave (up from 12 weeks) and allowing intermittent leave for both primary and non-primary caregivers. The intermittent benefit allows employees to transition back to full-time practice at their own pace. The change is designed to ease transitions for all lawyers but also remove a significant obstacle facing female attorneys interested in moving into shareholder positions.

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Problem with Firms Due to 'Short-Termism,' Law Prof Argues

The problem with current financing models for law firms is the focus on revenues, or “short-termism,” Georgetown law professor Jonathan Molot writes in an article in the Southern California Law Review. Firms are funded by partners who withdraw their equity when they retire or leave for higher pay at a new firm so there is no incentive to create long-term value. With outside funding, Molot argues, firms would have incentives to build long-term value by investing in younger lawyers and trying alternative billing. The ABA Journal has more.

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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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Smith to Head Stites & Harbison’s Nashville Office

Stites & Harbison has named longtime partner Gregory D. Smith as executive member of its Nashville office. Smith, who has been with the firm since 1998, will oversee the office and assist the firm’s chair in executing strategic plans and policies. He also will continue to serve clients as a member of the family law group. The Nashville Post has more on the story.

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Baker Donelson Appoints New President and COO

Jennifer P. Keller has been appointed Baker Donelson’s new president and chief operating officer effective April 1. Keller is currently a shareholder in the firm's Tri-Cities office, a member of Baker Donelson's board of directors and chair of the company's Labor & Employment Department. A graduate of the University of Tennessee School of Law, Keller specializes in employment litigation. The Nashville Business Journal has more.

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Burr & Forman: Not Done Growing Yet

In a matter of two weeks, Burr & Forman has doubled its presence in Nashville and the firm is not done growing, says managing partner Thomas Potter. “We haven't yet achieved our goals in this particular office with respect to health care and transactional lawyers,” Potter said. “We're particularly interested in expanding in [those areas].” The Nashville Business Journal talked with Potter about the recent expansion, which has put Burr & Forman among the top 20 largest firms in the city.

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Scammers Using BigLaw Names in Phishing Expeditions

Scammers have been using the names of some of the country’s biggest and best-known law firms in recent efforts to trick email recipients into clicking on links that will put malware on their computers, Crain’s Chicago Business reports. Firm names that have been misused include Baker & McKenzie, Sidley Austin and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom. The spoof reportedly involves an email falsely purporting to be from a firm containing a notice to appear in court. Internet security experts remind users not to open suspicious emails or attachments, or respond in any way.

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Lawyer Develops Crowdfunding Site for Legal Costs

Chicago attorney Michael Helfand considered himself an entrepreneur, but as part of his "Find Great Lawyers" online legal referral service, he spent a lot of time “explaining to nice people with otherwise promising cases that they needed to come up with money they didn’t have to hire the right attorney.” After reading an article about crowdfunding, he launched Funded Justice – a site that allows individuals to raise funds to cover their legal costs through donations or loans. Hefland writes about his effort in Chicago’s Real Law Blog.

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States Offer Incentives for Rural Practice

Federal grant money has long been available for doctors, nurses and dentists willing to relocate to rural areas, but now a South Dakota program offers lawyers an annual subsidy of $12,000 to live and practice law in sparsely populated communities. Nebraska and Arkansas plan to launch similar programs soon, the Associated Press reports. Read more from News Channel 9.

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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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