TBA Honors Nashville Company for Pro Bono Work - Articles

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Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Mar 4, 2014

Caterpillar Financial received award at gala Saturday in Nashville

NASHVILLE, March 4, 2014 — Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation of Nashville was recognized for its commitment to providing free legal services at the Eighth Annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala this past Saturday in Nashville.

The company's legal department was honored with the 2014 Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Award for its work with Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON). Through the partnership, Cat Financial lawyers have helped eligible immigrants apply for "deferred action" – an opportunity for young people who were brought to the United States as children with no legal documentation to avoid deportation and obtain work authorization. Cat Financial's legal department staff participated in special training sessions, and sponsored and staffed a clinic in Nashville. They also continued participating in deferred action clinics and events throughout 2013.

In presenting the award, TBA President Cindy Wyrick thanked Cat Financial for setting "a remarkable example of responding to the vast unmet legal needs of underserved in the community" and for "fulfilling the highest ethical obligations of the legal profession." Most importantly, Wyrick noted, because of Cat Financial's work "hundreds of young people have moved from living in fear of deportation to having hope for the future."

While deferred action created an incredible opportunity for up to 10,000 young Tennesseans, it also overwhelmed the existing service infrastructure. Within a week of the opening of the application process, JFON began training pro bono attorneys. Its first legal clinic drew 250 prospective applicants. As an international company, Cat Financial understood the importance of this opportunity for young people and stepped forward to help. In fact, so many attorneys and paralegals wanted to participate that JFON held a special training session followed by a legal clinic staffed entirely by Cat Financial employees. Since that initial event, Cat Financial has continued to support legal clinics across the state.

As initial demand wanes and JFONS staff are able to handle the caseload of deferred action requests, Cat Financial is turning its attention to new ways to assist the group. It recently announced that throughout 2014 it will assist JFONS with a pro bono effort focused on U visas, which protect victims of crime, domestic violence and human trafficking.

Law Firm Award
In addition to the award presented to Cat Financial, the TBA also presented its Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Law Firm Award to the Knoxville office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz. The firm was recognized for two programs it launched to assist Legal Aid of East Tennessee. Under the first program -- the Pillar Law Firm Program -- Baker Donelson lawyers handle conservatorship cases, representing parents seeking court authority to continue caring for their severely disabled children after they turn 18 or children of aging parents seeking to become their caretakers. Under the second program, Project H.E.L.P., firm lawyers provide legal assistance to homeless men, women and children seeking shelter at the Knox Area Rescue Ministries.

The Corporate Counsel Gala, which includes a dinner and ceremony, is part of the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative – a partnership between the TBA and the Association of Corporate Counsel that encourages and supports pro bono activities by lawyers serving as in-house and corporate counsel in the state. Since its beginning, the initiative has raised nearly $425,000 to help bring legal services to the poor. This year, the gala raised over $55,000 to support pro bono activities in the state. The initiative also recognizes a law firm and a corporate legal office each year that demonstrate extraordinary commitment to access to justice ideals, pro bono service and the Corporate Counsel Covenant of Service.

This year's event featured remarks by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade, Corporate Counsel Bono Initiative Co-Chairs Andy Branham and Jim Barry, TBA Access to Justice Committee Chair Alex MacKay, Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services Executive Director Ann Pruitt and TBA President Cindy Wyrick. Bruce Ives, deputy general counsel for Hewlett-Packard, gave the keynote address.

About the Honorees

About Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation
For more than 30 years, Cat Financial, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Caterpillar, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., has been providing financial service excellence to Cat customers. We offer a wide range of financing, leasing, insurance and protection solutions to customers and Cat dealers for Cat machinery and engines, Solar(r) gas turbines and other equipment and marine vessels. Cat Financial has offices and subsidiaries located throughout the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe.

About Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors
Tennessee Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON) is part of a national network of grassroots legal clinics rooted in the United Methodist Church. JFON's mission is welcoming immigrants into our communities by providing high quality, immigration legal services, education and advocacy. JFON provides services at Casa Azafrán, 2195 Nolensville Rd., Nashville, TN 37211. You can reach the JFON office by calling (615) 835-2513.