News

Steen Urges Commitment to Pro Bono From Law Students

TBA President Jonathan Steen encouraged law students to make a commitment to pro bono and public interest work during the Pro Bono and Public Interest Law School Summit this weekend in Memphis. The Jackson attorney spoke about the significance of making an intentional commitment to pro bono and public interest work, even as students and young lawyers. The conference was hosted by the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, the TBA’s Access to Justice Committee and the Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission. Focus of this year’s event was on encouraging conversation and planning about the needs, opportunities, challenges and possibilities surrounding pro bono work and related access to justice issues. See photos and read more from the conference.

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2014 Celebrate Pro Bono Month Kicks Off Wednesday

Every year, Tennessee lawyers help thousands of clients by providing free legal advice. This assistance is especially celebrated and emphasized throughout the month of October as part of the Tennessee Bar Association’s Celebrate Pro Bono Initiative. Now in its sixth year, the initiative brings together bar associations, law schools, law firms, legal services providers and individual lawyers to offer free services to those unable to afford a lawyer.

This year's celebration is expected to involve more than 300 volunteers – including lawyers, law students, paralegals and language interpreters – in dozens of events and activities across the state. Information about events will be updated and promoted throughout the month.

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Volunteer Lawyers Needed for Immigrant Children

Most of the nearly 60,000 Central American children who have arrived on the U.S.-Mexico border in the last year still do not have lawyers to represent them in immigration court, and advocates are scrambling to train volunteer attorneys to help with the massive caseload, the Associated Press reports. The American Immigration Lawyers Association, among others, is training private attorneys on the country’s immigration laws and how to work with traumatized, Spanish-speaking children. The Times Free Press has the story.

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Law Students Gather in Memphis to Learn Value of Pro Bono Work

Third Annual Summit Highlights Opportunities for Partnership

TBA President Jonathan Steen spoke to a group of law students and faculty about the significance of making an intentional commitment to pro bono and public interest work, even as students and young lawyers. He noted that involvement with the access to justice community is “an incredibly meaningful way to enter our profession” and encouraged the students to find opportunities that are both satisfying and can help with practical skills.

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Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Gala Set for March 7

The TBA Access to Justice Committee, in partnership with the TBA Corporate Counsel Section and the Tennessee Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel, will host the Ninth Annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala March 7 at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville. Law firms, corporations and individuals are invited to support the event by becoming sponsors or purchasing tickets. Presentation of the 2015 Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative (CCPBI) awards – which recognize the Tennessee law firm and corporate legal department that best exemplify a commitment to access to justice – also will take place at the event. Nominations for the awards are being accepted through Nov. 14. CCPBI engages corporate counsel and in-house lawyers in pro bono work. Since the inception of the program, more than $425,000 has been raised and distributed to organizations across the state that connect corporate lawyers to local pro bono projects.

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Canadian Organization Offers Free Legal Information

The Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) is blazing the way in free legal information by offering the largest free legal database in the country, the ABA Journal reports. The concept for CanLII came about at a time when digital legal information was sparse and rarely available to the general public. The Canadian legal establishment worried that this information would be too rare or too expensive and wanted it to be free. To keep more than 1 million primary law materials free for the more than 10 million visitors expected to the site this year, the 14 legal societies in the Federation of Law Societies of Canada built relationships with courts all over the country at both the provincial and federal levels to get access to caselaw, statutes and regulations. 

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ABA Holds Conference Call on ATJ Initiatives

The ABA is holding a free telephonic roundtable Wednesday at noon Central to discuss how states can bring together various stakeholders – including the judiciary and courts, legal aid and the organized bar – to address access to justice challenges. The discussion will be led by the ABA’s Access to Justice and Children's Rights Litigation committees. Harrison McIver with Memphis Area Legal Services also will address the group. Register online to join the call.

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Legal Aid Conference Highlights Work of Judiciary

A three-day conference this week celebrating the Legal Service Corporation’s 40th anniversary brought out dignitaries such as Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but most of the gratitude went to state judges who are leading the way in efforts to increase public funding for unmet legal needs, the ABA Journal reports. Among the sessions offered was one led by New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who interviewed justices from nine state supreme courts. The jurists shared how they are working to increase public funding and find other ways to stem the crisis of unmet legal needs.

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Grant Will Fund ‘Know Your Rights’ Training for Immigrants

The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center/Immigrant Rights Project has received a grant of $8,830 from GiVE 365, The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis’ dollar-a-day philanthropy program. The group will partner with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition and Memphis Immigration Advocates to provide compressive “Know Your Rights” training to immigrant communities in Memphis. Formed in 2010, GiVE 365 members donate $365 a year, pool their money, and vote on the annual grant recipients. A total of $62,600 was given this year to support collaborative nonprofit efforts, the Memphis Daily News reports.

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LAET Chattanooga Wins $10,000 in Geo Adventure Race

The Chattanooga office of Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) won the second place $10,000 prize at the “The Greater Race” last Saturday morning in downtown Chattanooga in celebration of the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga’s 50th anniversary. The foundation selected 25 Chattanooga non-profits it has funded in the past to take part in the geo adventure race. Each of the selected organizations supplied a team of four racers on bicycles and two additional volunteers.

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Legal Aid Office to Reopen in Cleveland

Legal Aid of East Tennessee will celebrate the grand reopening of its Bradley County office tomorrow at noon. The new office is located at 166 North Ocoee, directly across from the Bradley County Courthouse. Thursday’s celebration will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by tours of the new office. Local dignitaries, United Way leadership, judges, members of the Bradley County Bar Association, and a representative from Gov. Haslam’s office are expected to attend. “In 2010, LAET’s budget was devastated by deep cuts in our federal appropriation, and we were forced to close our Cleveland office,” Russell Fowler, associate director for LAET’s Southern Region said in a press release. “But civil legal needs for low-income Bradley Countians have continued to increase. United Way recognized those needs and worked to form a partnership with LAET. The reopening of the Cleveland office is due in large part to that partnership.”

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Barker Kicks Off LAET Fundraising Campaign

Former Tennessee Chief Justice William M. “Muecke” Barker, of counsel with the firm of Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel PC, was the keynote speaker at Legal Aid of East Tennessee’s (LAET) Southern Region Annual Campaign Kick Off Breakfast in Chattanooga today. Barker reviewed the history of the court’s access to justice initiatives and addressed the funding challenges faced by legal aid programs. He called on individual lawyers and law firms to support LAET’s fundraising campaign and pro bono programs in Chattanooga. Those wishing to donate may do so online or by sending a check to LAET, 502 Gay St., Ste 404, Knoxville, TN 37902.

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Steen Launches Medical-Legal Partnerships Initiative

TBA President Jonathan Steen launched plans for developing Medical-Legal Partnerships – a key 2014 TBA initiative – during an Equal Justice University (EJU) luncheon yesterday in Murfreesboro. The Partnerships will engage professionals from both fields to create more comprehensive and responsive healthcare teams. To help support their development, the TBA has formed a Medical Legal Partnership Working Group. Nearly 250 lawyers, law students and other advocates were at the annual conference for Tennessee’s Access to Justice community, which is hosted by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) and co-sponsored by the TBA. Along with Steen's address, the event featured the presentation of the annual Access to Justice Awards, continuing education and opportunities for networking through task force meetings and social functions. Other speakers at the 2014 EJU included retired Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder, civil rights leader Diane Nash and former TBA President Buck Lewis, who received the inaugural award named in Justice Holder’s honor. See photos and learn more about the event.

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Equal Justice University Celebrates Access to Justice Efforts in Tennessee

Annual Conference Welcomed Nearly 250 to Middle Tennessee

Nearly 250 lawyers, law students and other advocates gathered for the annual Equal Justice University (EJU) this week in Murfreesboro. EJU is the annual conference for Tennessee’s Access to Justice community, hosted by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) and co-sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association. Highlights of conference included presentation of the annual Access to Justice Awards, engaging keynote remarks, continuing education and opportunities for networking through task force meetings and social functions. Presenters at the 2014 EJU included retir

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Legal Aid Hiring Medical Partnership Attorney

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands is now accepting applications for a lawyer to work out of Nashville's Shade Tree Clinic, a medical legal partnership clinic that is staffed by medical students from Vanderbilt University and Meharry Medical College. The Tennessean reports that the position is being vacated by Chay Sengkhounmany who is going into private practice. Download a job description.

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Legal Aid Receives $5,000 Grant from ABA

The American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation Legal Services Access to Justice Committee has awarded Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands a $5,000 Justice Assistance Fund Grant. The money will be used to expand and deepen relationships with rural attorneys, private law firms, government agencies and private businesses for Legal Aid Society’s Volunteer Lawyers Program as well as to expand its Campaign for Equal Justice.

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Friday Deadline for Public Service Awards Nominations

Nominations for TBA Public Service Awards are due by Friday. The annual awards recognize lawyers and law students who have shown exceptional commitment to increasing access to justice to individuals and communities. Caregories are: work performed by an attorney employed by an organization primarily involved in providing legal representation to the indigent, work performed by a private attorney and work performed by a law student volunteer. Nominations may be submitted via the TBA website or by email to Liz Todaro. Download a hard copy submission form to do so. Submissions should include a narrative of the individual’s accomplishments, the nominator’s reasons for selecting the individual and a description of how the nominee meets the award criteria. Awards are presented at the annual Public Service Awards Luncheon in January.

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Reminder: TJC Celebration Set for Thursday

The Tennessee Justice Center will kick off a new year with a celebration this Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The group recently announced that 20 law firms have committed to help it serve more families across the state. The celebration will recognize these firms for “Raising the Bar.” All friends of TJC are invited. The event will be held in the offices of Bass, Berry & Sims, located on the 28th Floor of the Pinnacle at Symphony Place, 150 Third Ave. S., Nashville. Free drinks provided by the Patterson House. Learn more or RSVP online.

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Legal Aid Announces People’s Law School Fall Schedule

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has announced its fall People’s Law School schedule. The free program, which is taught by Legal Aid Society attorneys and volunteer attorneys, provides an overview of common civil legal issues people may face, such as renters' rights and responsibilities and Social Security options. For the first time, People’s Law School is offering a class on child support. Learn more at www.las.org.

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TJC Celebration to Honor Firm Involvement

The Tennessee Justice Center will kick off a new year with a celebration on Sept. 4 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The group recently announced that 20 law firms have committed to help it serve more families across the state. The celebration will recognize these firms for “Raising the Bar.” All friends of TJC are invited. The event will be held in the offices of Bass, Berry & Sims, located on the 28th Floor of the Pinnacle at Symphony Place, 150 Third Ave. S., Nashville. Learn more or RSVP online.

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Wednesday is Deadline for EJU Registration

Tennessee lawyers who want to attend this year’s Equal Justice University (EJU), set for Sept. 10-12 in Murfreesboro, have until the end of the day Wednesday to register. A schedule for the event, which is cosponsored by the TBA, is available online as is the registration form. The program will offer 40 hours of CLE and keynote addresses by civil rights leader Diane Nash, Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder and TBA President Jonathan Steen, who will speak on medical-legal partnerships, one focus of his presidency this year.

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Justice Holder Featured in ‘Litigants Without Lawyers’ Video

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder's appearance in a congressional briefing on “Litigants Without Lawyers: Equal Justice Under Threat in State Courts” is now available on video. The event was sponsored by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and featured justices from four states. The justices said that large numbers of unrepresented individuals lead to slow dockets and less efficiency.

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New Firm Offers Reduced Rates for Criminal Defense

Three northeast Tennessee lawyers have opened the Criminal Defense Clinic (CDC) to provide legal services for those who need a criminal defense attorney but do not qualify for a court-appointed one or cannot afford to pay full price for one. Jim Bowman, Chris Byrd and Nikki Himebaugh maintain separate legal offices, but collaborate on cases accepted by the CDC, the Johnson City Press reports. The attorneys assess each client and apply a sliding fee scale for the service. The trio stress they are not trying to undercut fees other lawyers charge, just trying to help defendants who legitimately do not have the money to pay for a lawyer. The CDC is currently taking cases in Washington and Unicoi counties.

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Medical-Legal Partnership Attorney Sought

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands (LAS) has an immediate opening for an attorney in its Nashville office to direct its Middle Tennessee Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) program. The attorney will manage a program that provides legal services to the patients of its medical partners and will handle a general civil practice, including domestic violence, housing, mortgage foreclosure, consumer, elder law, health and benefit law and immigration. Learn more about the position and how to apply in the attached job description.

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TBA Accepting Nominations for Public Service Awards

The TBA each year recognizes lawyers and law students who have shown exceptional commitment to increasing access to justice to individuals and communities. The awards recognize pro bono service in three categories: work performed by an attorney employed by an organization primarily involved in providing legal representation to the indigent, work performed by a private attorney and work performed by a law student volunteer. The nomination period for 2014 honorees is now open. Nominations may be submitted via the TBA website or by email to Liz Todaro. Download a hard copy submission form. Nominations are due no later than Sept. 5. Submissions should include a narrative of the individual’s accomplishments, the nominator’s reasons for selecting the individual and a description of how the nominee meets the award criteria. Awards are presented at the Annual Public Service Awards Luncheon in January.

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