News

Apply Now to Be a Mentor

The TBA Mentoring Program is looking for attorneys with at least eight years of legal practice experience to join the program as mentors for upcoming classes. The program specifically needs attorneys in Jackson who practice disability, estate or elder law and those in the Nashville area who practice juvenile law, general solo, real estate, construction law or criminal defense. Visit the TBA website for more information or contact Christy Gibson.

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Deadline for TBA Mentoring Program July 1

 

Applications are due tomorrow (July 1) for the next class of the TBA Mentoring Program. TBA members in their first three years of law practice may apply to be matched with a mentor. Those participating in the program will commit to a formal mentoring relationship for one year, beginning in August, with a requirement that mentors and mentees meet face-to-face at least once a month. Participants will choose from a variety of curriculum topics, materials for which will be available on the TBA website.

In addition to seeking mentees, the TBA is recruiting attorneys with at least eight years of legal practice experience to serve as mentors. Contact Christy Gibson at the TBA for more information.

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Toolkit Offered for Lawyers Ready to Go Solo

With each passing year, more and more Tennessee attorneys decide to "hang their own shingle" and begin a solo or small firm practice. To help these lawyers get a solid start, the TBA has launched the Solo in a Box Toolkit, a new resource offering advice on everything from how to choose an office space to managing client files.

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President Steen Lays Out Plans for Coming Year

Newly sworn in TBA President Jonathan Steen outlined initiatives for the upcoming TBA membership year during his Lawyers Luncheon speech at the TBA Annual Convention in Gatlinburg (June 13). The Jackson attorney plans to carry on the association's work in responding to unjust criticism of our judges and provide educational materials on how to be informed voters. In addition, he wants the association to build on the mentoring and Solo-in-a-Box programs to help lawyers to succeed in the practice of law and deliver first-rate services to their clients. Steen also outlined plans for expanding civics education in schools and developing medical/legal partnerships across the state. Watch his presentation to learn more.

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How to Bill for Your Services

Although you are a professional utilizing your training and special skills to help your clients in ways that they cannot help themselves, at the end of the day, you run a business.  Your business cannot survive without collecting legal fees.

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Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program

A Way Out: Lawyers’ Assistance Program is Free, Confidential and Waiting for Your Call


Note: Tennessee Bar Journal Editor Suzanne Robertson provided this look at resources offered through the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program. Names have been changed of people in recovery who were interviewed for this story to protect their identities.



Lawyers argue, bargain and negotiate for a living, so it’s not a surprise that what makes lawyers good at their jobs makes them poor patients.

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What To Do If You Have an Ethics Complaint

I just received a notice of complaint from the Board of Professional Responsibility. What do I do?

WWhen you sort through your mail each day, you are hoping to find envelopes containing checks from happy clients who wish to pay you well for your excellent services. But what happens when you see the envelope with the return address from the Board of Professional Responsibility? Your hands begin to shake and you become instantly terrified. You open the envelope and find a notice that a complaint has been lodged against you with Board. What do you do?

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TBA CLE Resources

The Tennessee Bar Association's TennBarU is committed to providing the Tennessee legal community with exceptional continuing legal education programs. In addition to fulfilling the mandatory fifteen (15) hours of CLE required to maintain your law license, the live and online video courses presented by TennBarU are an exceptional opportunity for you to hone your craft and become a better lawyer. 

As an added benefit, your TBA membership includes access to three (3) hours of quality TennBarU CLE at no additional cost!

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TnBar Management Services Practice Tips

These general Practice tips are provided to assist solo and small firm practitioners in the management of their law practices. They are not meant as legal advice, nor binding on the Tennessee Bar Association. Please check the Tennessee Code of Professional Responsibility before implementing any of these tips in your practice.

How’s the financial side of your practice? Are you working harder than ever but not seeing your net income increase? Here are some tips to help you get a handle on the financial side of practicing law.

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Video Programming

There are a number of resources available in video format. Below is a listing of several provided by the Tennessee Bar Association and the Administrative Office of the Courts.

TBA All Access Network

The TBA All Access Network provides members of the Tennessee Bar Association  with a rich source of video programming on topics as diverse as tips for starting your own practice, to an overview of practice areas, to suggestions for advancing your legal career. The service is provided free of charge!

• Going Solo

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Additional Resources

Resource Materials/Books available at the TBA Lending Library

While this toolkit contains a plethora of information, it is only the beginning. As a benefit of your Tennessee Bar Association membership, you can take advantage of the TBA Lending Library, located in the Tennessee Bar Center at 221 Fourth Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37129. (For thoses practicing outside the Nashville area, these materials and books can be mailed to you.) Through the lending library, you have free access to several extraordinarily helpful resources, including:

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Mentoring

The TBA Mentoring Program is designed to foster mutually beneficial relationships between the participating attorneys, reduce the isolation experienced by some beginning attorneys, improve the quality of legal services received by clients, place renewed emphasis on the importance of professionalism, and generally benefit the legal profession as a whole.  

When asked about the importance of mentoring, the responses from member attorneys included:

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Pro Bono Opportunities

If the motto ‘and justice for all’ becomes ‘and justice for those who can afford it,’ we threaten the very underpinnings of our social contract.
-
Chief Justice Ronald George, California Supreme Court

Equal justice under law is not just a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court building. It is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society . . . It is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status.
- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, Jr.

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Succession Planning

Note: This section is under development. The Tennessee Bar Association is working with the Board of Professional Responsibility to develop substantive succession planning materials that will be available when completed.

Disaster Recovery: Steps to take in Recovery Effort


Prepared by Suzanne Rose, Management Consultant


Damage Assessment

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Preparing for a Disaster

• Safety

• Do you have a written disaster response plan?

• Do you have a written evacuation plan for your office personnel in the event of fire, tornado or flood?

• Has the evacuation plan been distributed to everyone in your office?

• Is a person or group of people in your firm assigned the responsibility for evacuating everyone from the office or building in the event of a disaster?

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Protecting your Practice in the Event of a Disaster

In recent years, Tennessee has been the unfortunate recipient of terrible floods, tornadoes, and other natural disasters that have completely leveled law firms. Take this disaster plan self-audit to determine your state of readiness should disaster strike. In addition to the audit, this section contains information that is designed to assist you in the recovery process should a disaster strike.

Tickler and Calendar Systems

There are two systems that each lawyer and law firm should have in place to ensure that deadlines are not missed and files are not neglected - the Tickler System and the Calendar System.

Systems for reminding you to work on files are called Tickler or Diary Systems. The tickler system is one of the most important systems in the law office. It assists the lawyer in anticipating future deadlines, planning work and preventing files from being neglected.

Systems for reminding you of critical deadlines and appointments are called Calendar or Docket Systems.

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Conflict of Interest Systems

It is essential (and absolutely required by most malpractice insurance carriers) that you institute a conflict of interest system.  While you may initially remember the name of every client and opposing party in all of your cases, as your practice continues, your memory will fade.  You must have a designated system to check for conflicts when new potential clients walk through your door.

Common Areas Where Conflicts Arise:

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Client Relations and Communication

Client communication (or lack of adequate client communication) represents a significant percentage of the total number of malpractice claims and ethical complaints received by insurers and the Board of Professional Responsibility. The following general procedures should be implemented in a law practice to avoid client communication problems.

Correspondence & Communication
The attorney should communicate with the client and document all aspects of case acceptance, declination and status to the client as follows:

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Client File Retention

There are two sensitive areas of file retention - the turning over of files to clients and how long to retain files once the representation is complete. There are both ethical and malpractice considerations.

Turning Over the File to the Client
The firm’s file retention policy should address and instruct attorneys and staff as to the circumstances under which client files or information can be turned over to the client or released. Such a policy should include the following:

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Client File Management and File Retention

How much time do you spend looking for a file? How much time do you spend rifling through files to find a particular document or the address of opposing counsel? How much time do you (or your staff) spend filing? Most likely your answer will be, "too much." The law business is a paper-intensive one. If not managed properly, the paper will overwhelm any filing system you may have in place.

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Case Management

Case management is important, particularly for the solo or small firm practitioner. In order for an attorney to adequately and responsibly manage their case load, certain procedures must be in place.

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Establishing Realistic Expectations

After the screening process has been completed and a decision to represent the client has been made, the attorney should discuss the merits and problems of the client’s case with the client. It is important that the attorney convey verbally and in writing (via an engagement letter) the following to the client:

• The issues involved with the case.

• The problems regarding the case.

• The process involved in pursuing the case.

• The client’s obligations throughout the case and any specific requirements of the client.

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