News

$5M Suit Filed Against Charlotte Law School

Two students filed a $5 million class action lawsuit last week against the Charlotte School of Law and its parent company Infilaw, the ABA Journal reports. The complaint accuses the law school of engaging in misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud. The filing follows the U.S. Department of Education's decision to cut off the school’s federal student aid for allegedly misleading current and prospective students about its ABA accreditation status.

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ABA Releases Guide to Issues in Assisted Reproduction

The American Bar Association (ABA) has released a guide to the legal and medical issues related to assisted reproduction. “The ABA Consumer Guide to Assisted Reproduction” is designed to educate consumers about the processes involved in choosing medical providers, legal representatives and other key players throughout the assisted reproduction process. The book provides a critical understanding of the protocols to enter into appropriate legal contracts while addressing the unique issues that may arise pre-and post-birth.

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Memphis Law Diversity Event Set for February

The Benjamin L. Hooks Chapter of the University of Memphis Black Law Students Association will hold its inaugural Unity in Diversity Banquet on Feb. 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Guest House at Graceland. The event is designed to bring together judges, lawyers, law students and community leaders to highlight a wide array of contributions and achievements made by diverse individuals. Former ABA President and current Leadership Council on Legal Diversity President Robert Grey will deliver the keynote address. Tickets are $50 for students and $100 for all others and can be purchased online.

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ABA Files Suit Over Loan Forgiveness Program

The American Bar Association (ABA) filed a lawsuit Tuesday to force the U.S. Department of Education to honor loan forgiveness commitments it made under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The suit was brought on behalf of four plaintiffs who were retroactively denied eligibility for the benefit after being told their jobs qualified or taking positions "pre-approved" by the department. The program, which began in 2007, provides incentives for choosing a public service career by forgiving student loan debt for those who make payments for 10 years while working in public service jobs. The ABA reports that it filed the suit after several unsuccessful attempts to resolve the situation.

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ABA Opinion: Protect Confidentiality When Ending Representation

The American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has issued Formal Opinion 476, which addresses confidentiality issues that arise when a lawyer moves to withdraw from a civil case because of a client’s failure to pay legal fees. The opinion recommends a process for the lawyer and the trial judge to follow and how much, if any, confidential client information should be disclosed in a motion to withdraw. The opinion notes that sticky situations can arise, and that “this requires cooperation between lawyers and judges.” Read more about the opinion.

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Female Law Students Outnumber Males for 1st Time

For the first time since data on the issue has been collected, women now outnumber men as law students, according to Deborah Merritt, a professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. Merritt calculated the slight lead of 50.32 percent based on reports released last week by the nation’s law schools. Her research, however, indicates that on average, higher ranking law schools still have significantly smaller percentages of female students. According to other analysts, the reports show that 80 percent of ABA-accredited law schools have experienced double-digit percentage decreases in students admitted and total 2016 law school enrollment is the lowest it has been since 1974. The ABA Journal has links to a number of analyses.

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ABA Releases Updated Law School Data

The American Bar Association (ABA) has released updated information about admissions, tuition and other matters reported by ABA-approved law schools. The information is presented in 11 categories, including admissions, tuition and living costs, financial aid, class and faculty demographics, employment outcomes, bar passage and other areas. The data can be searched and sorted, allowing for school-by-school comparisons and analysis.

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Stites & Harbison’s Trademarkology Named Top Blog

In addition to two blogs written by individual Tennessee attorneys, the ABA Journal has named Stites & Harbison’s Trademarkology blog as one of the 100 best blogs for a legal audience for 2016. This is the third consecutive year the blog, which focuses on trademark issues, has made the list. Read more from the firm or see other blogs by Tennessee lawyers and firms.

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Grant to Fund Legal Education Research

The American Bar Foundation (ABF) has received a $320,000 grant from Access Group Inc., a nonprofit organization that works to promote access to legal and graduate education through research, policy advocacy and student educational services. The grant will support the foundation’s Visiting Scholars Fellowship Program in Legal and Higher Education and the Doctoral Fellowship Program in Legal and Higher Education. The goal of both programs, according to the foundation, is to advance scholarship examining access, affordability and value in legal and higher education. Read more about the grant.

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Knoxville Lawyer Named Top 100 Law Blogger

Knoxville family lawyer K.O. Herston has been named a top 100 blogger by the ABA Journal for the second year in a row. Herston, the author of “Herston on Tennessee Family Law,” practices with the Herston Law Group and focuses the blog on legal developments in Tennessee family law. The ABA Journal has been identifying the best blogs for lawyers for the past 10 years through its ABA Blawg 100.

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ABA Sanctioning Noncompliant Law Schools

Responding to concerns that it has not done enough to crack down on underperforming law schools, the ABA has started sanctioning schools that violate its rules, Above the Law reports. A review shows the ABA has taken action against three schools since this past summer, ordering remedial action at the Ave Maria School of Law, imposing a censure on Valparaiso University School of Law and imposing probation on Charlotte School of Law. The schools remain accredited and have two years to comply with ABA standards related to graduation and bar exam passage rates. The ABA Journal has more on the moves and links to the disciplinary notices.

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ABA Considers Privacy Law Certification

A program administered by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) that certifies lawyers as privacy law specialists is expected to go before the ABA House of Delegates in February, the ABA Journal reports. If the ABA approves accreditation, lawyers who meet IAPP standards – including passing two exams and working in the field for at least three years – could declare themselves privacy law specialists without fear of violating state ethics rules. The accreditation would last for five years. Those supporting the move say that the rise of cyber, security and intellectual property issues have created a need for a recognized specialty.

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ABA Group to Publish Trump Libel Article

The ABA Forum on Communications Law will publish an article calling Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump a “libel bully” after all, despite reservations about partisan language from ABA officials, the ABA Journal reports. On Friday, the ABA reiterated what it has said since the incident, that it did not refuse to publish article and was not afraid of being sued. It did acknowledge that it suggested edits that “were in keeping with the ABA’s commitment to non-partisanship,” but said it was the author, First Amendment lawyer Susan Seager, who decided to withdraw the article. Seager now has resubmitted the article and it has been accepted for publication.

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ABA Declines to Label Trump a 'Libel Bully'

A new report that was commissioned by an ABA committee of media lawyers calls Donald Trump a “libel bully” and outlines seven free-speech related lawsuits he or his companies have previously filed. The 15-page report, which was made public by the Media Law Resources Center, was prepared by former journalist and First Amendment lawyer Susan E. Seagar. According to the New York Times, the ABA refused to publish the report because it feared that Trump would sue it. A spokeswoman for the ABA, however, denied that fear of a libel suit had anything to do with its decision to withhold the report. WDEF.com has the story from CBS.

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Stricter ABA Standards Approved for Bar Pass Rates

A proposal to tighten bar passage rate standards for ABA-approved law schools was approved Friday by the council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Under the proposal, 75 percent of a school’s graduates must pass a bar exam within a two-year period. Under the current rules, schools have several ways to meet the requirement. According to the ABA Journal, the proposal is expected to go the ABA House of Delegates in February 2017. Most council members voted in favor of the proposal, though there was discussion that the change might decrease diversity in the profession. Those supporting the measure argued that such concerns were based on anecdotal evidence only.

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Pera Elected to Lead Regional Bar Leadership Group

Memphis attorney Lucian T. Pera was elected president of the Southern Conference of Bar Presidents at its 2016 annual meeting last week in Branson, Missouri. A partner at Adams and Reese, Pera is president-elect of the Tennessee Bar Association and will lead the TBA in the 2017-2018 bar year. “I’m really honored to be elected,” Pera said. “The conference provides those leading state bars really unique opportunities to share ideas and concerns about current issues facing our associations and our members, and to learn from each other what works and what doesn’t. And it will be just great for the TBA to host all our sister bar associations in Memphis in October 2017.

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ABA Urges Senate Vote on Child Welfare Bill

The ABA is urging the Senate to pass the Family First Prevention Services Act (S. 3065) by the end of the month. The bill, which passed unanimously in the House of Representatives this summer, reforms the federal child welfare financing structure and extends the Court Improvement Program (CIP), which provides resources for child welfare courts in all 50 states. Since its creation more than 20 years ago, the CIP has supported courts’ ability to play an essential role in ensuring the safety and permanency for abused and neglected children, the ABA says.

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ABA to Continue Accrediting New Law Schools

The U.S. Department of Education will not implement a panel recommendation that called for suspending the ABA from accrediting new law schools for one year, the ABA Journal reports. The department rejected a call from the National Advisory Council on Institutional Quality and Integrity to suspend the group for one year based on questions of whether the ABA was in compliance with federal regulations requiring accrediting agencies to monitor, re-evaluate and enforce programs and standards. The department said it did not find enough evidence that the ABA was out of compliance with those mandates to justify a suspension.

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Lawyers Observe Criminal Court with Eye to Reform

Earlier this week, lawyers who do not typically handle criminal defense work sat in Nashville courtrooms and watched how domestic violence and misdemeanor arrests were handled. The 15 lawyers fanned out among five courtrooms to observe whether defendants had lawyers and knew about their rights, and whether judges were asking about people’s financial status and ability to pay fines. The day was sponsored by ArchCity Defenders, a pro bono law firm in St. Louis. The Tennessean reports that the ABA is evaluating the program to see if it should be expanded to other cities.

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ABA Panel OKs More Stringent Bar Pass Standards

The requirements for bar passage rates for ABA-accredited law schools need tightening, an ABA committee says. Under a proposal approved by the committee, schools would have to show that 75 percent of their graduating classes pass a bar exam within two years to remain ABA-compliant. The current standard gives students five years to pass the exam. The committee also approved a new interpretation of a rule governing student attrition. Both proposals now go to the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar for consideration in October, the ABA Journal reports.

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ABA Urges Senate Vote on 20 Court Nominees

ABA President Linda Klein is calling on Senate leaders to schedule a floor vote on 20 nominees for district judgeships whose nominations are stalled. In a letter to leaders this week, Klein says the Senate Judiciary Committee found all 20 nominees to be fully qualified and sent them to the floor with overwhelming bipartisan support. “With over 10 percent of authorized judgeships now vacant, the prompt filling of vacancies is becoming a matter of increasing urgency,” Klein wrote.

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Cole to Head National Conference of Bar Presidents

Jonathan Cole, a shareholder in Baker Donelson’s Nashville office, has been elected president of the National Conference of Bar Presidents (NCBP). He is the first Nashville lawyer to be elected to the position, his firm reports. In this role, he will oversee programs providing leadership training, networking and information sharing for bar leaders across the country and abroad. Cole previously served as president of the Nashville Bar Association and chair of the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division. He currently serves as director of the American Bar Endowment and is a fellow of the American, Tennessee and Nashville bar foundations.

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Lewis Named Chair of ABA Pro Bono Committee

Baker Donelson shareholder George T. “Buck” Lewis has been named chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, his law firm announced. The committee is responsible for developing and assessing pro bono programs and policies that affect lawyers’ ability to provide free legal services. Lewis, who practices in Memphis, is a past chair of the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission. As president of the TBA, he spearheaded the “4ALL” campaign and development of a web-based legal advice platform. Most recently, he has been helping the ABA roll out a national online pro bono tool modeled on the Tennessee service. ABAFreeLegalAnswers.org will launch in 39 states between now and Nov. 11. In Tennessee, the site has been rebranded as TN.FreeLegalAnswers.org.

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ABA Seeks Professional Responsibility Center Director

The American Bar Association is seeking a director for its Center for Professional Responsibility. Responsibilities include strategic planning, policy development, financial management and personnel administration. Candidates should have 15 years of professional legal experience with executive responsibilities, 10 years of legal experience in the field of professional responsibility or legal/judicial regulation, five years of experience leading an organization and supervising a team, and an active law degree.

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Court Seeks Comments on 2 Proposals, Sets Legal Aid Funding Ratios

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued three orders. The first amends Rule 11 Section VI(a)(1), which sets out the amounts that the state’s four legal aid organizations receive from the Civil Legal Representation of Indigents Fund. The order, which will take effect Sept. 1, changes the percentage of funding each organization receives based on the percent of poverty in their service areas. The second order seeks comments by Sept. 19 on a proposal by the Board of Professional Responsibility and Tennessee Bar Foundation to amend Rules 8 and 43 to allow attorneys to deposit trust funds in federally insured credit unions. The third order seeks comments by Nov. 17 on a proposal by theTBA to amend Rule 8 to make a number of changes recommended by the ABA's Commission on Ethics 20/20.

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