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TBA Recognized for 'Extraordinary' Pro Bono Efforts
National Award Recognizes 4ALL and Celebrate Pro Bono Campaigns
NASHVILLE, May 17, 2010 — The Tennessee Bar Association is being honored with a major national award for helping bring legal services to the poor: the Harrison Tweed Award, which is given jointly by the American Bar Association and the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association to honor "extraordinary achievements" in increasing access to legal services for the poor.
TBA officials learned this week that it will receive the 2010 Harrison Tweed Award at the ABA Annual Meeting in August.
Commenting on the award, TBA President Gail Vaughn Ashworth said, "The TBA is extremely honored to receive this prestigious national award. In addition to the thousands of lawyers around the state who are giving their time and talents to provide increased pro bono legal services, I also want to thank our hardworking TBA staff members who help us in this important work. The TBA's commitment to increased access to justice for all is solid and enduring."
In selecting TBA for the award, the judges cited Tennessee's "4ALL" campaign, which included the "4/4 Pro Bono Public Service Day," as well as legal clinics and events held during October 2009's Celebrate Pro Bono Month. These combined efforts provided legal services to more than 2,000 Tennesseans. TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur credited volunteer lawyers for making such an impact, saying, "While the TBA is receiving this award, it is really the more than 2,600 lawyers who gave freely of their time to help the less fortunate with legal problems last year who are being honored."
TBA's Immediate Past President Buck Lewis, who coordinated much of the 4ALL program during his year as president, expressed appreciation for the role the courts played in making several important rule changes to encourage pro bono. "I want to thank our Supreme Court for the critical support it has given the campaign," he said. "The seven rules changes, which encourage, reward and empower lawyers to support this cause, were adopted unanimously by the court. The new rule relating to interest on lawyers' trust accounts should provide significant new pro bono resources for many years to come." He also noted that, "The response to this campaign from lawyers in all practice settings across Tennessee has been incredible."
Harrison Tweed Award
The Harrison Tweed Award was created in 1956 to recognize the extraordinary achievements of state and local bar associations that develop projects or programs to increase access to legal services for the indigents. The award, given annually by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, is presented during the ABA Annual Meeting at a joint luncheon of the National Conference of Bar Presidents, National Association of Bar Executives and National Conference of Bar Foundations. Learn more about the award from the ABA
The TBA's 4ALL Campaign was an historic collaboration among bar associations, legal organizations, legal aid groups, law students and members of the judiciary. It took on the critical problem of access to justice on four fronts: (1) educating legal professionals and the public on the severity of the need for free legal services; (2) encouraging collaboration among legal organizations, the Tennessee Supreme Court and the state legislature to increase access to justice for the poor; (3) mobilizing lawyer volunteers to provide free legal services on one day, April 4, 2009, (which resulted in close to 1,000 lawyers serving more than 1,300 individuals); and (4) working to make changes in state law and court rules to encourage more pro bono work. The yearlong effort has won awards from the Tennessee Society of Association Executives, the American Society of Association Executives and the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. Learn more about the 4ALL Campaign
Celebrate Pro Bono Month
Tennessee attorneys offered free legal services to those unable to afford a lawyer throughout the month of October 2009 as part of Celebrate Pro Bono Month. More than 30 events took place across the state. Activities included legal clinics, training for attorneys who handle pro bono work, and events celebrating milestones in Tennessee's legal aid history. The month culminated with celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the Tennessee Interest On Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program, which has funded more than $15 million worth of free legal services in Tennessee during its existence. The importance of the month-long effort was underscored by a proclamation by Governor Phil Bredesen setting October 2009 as "Tennessee Celebrates Pro Bono Month." Learn more about Celebrate Pro Bono
The Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) is the largest professional association in Tennessee with more than 11,000 members. Founded in 1881, the TBA provides opportunities for continuing legal education, professional development and public service. The TBA’s dedication to serving the state’s legal community is evidenced by its membership roll, which represents the entire spectrum of legal practice: plaintiff and defense lawyers, corporate counsel, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, government lawyers and legal services attorneys.