Childers Helps Bring Change - Articles

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Posted by: Journal News on Apr 1, 2009

Journal Issue Date: Apr 2008

Journal Name: April 2008 - Vol. 44, No. 4

ABA Model Rule on Conditional Admission to Practice Law

"I got started because of the death by suicide of a well-known Memphis lawyer who was a friend of mine," Judge Robert "Butch" Childers says of his involvement with programs to help lawyers with alcohol and substance-abuse issues. "I decided it was time to find a way to help my friends and colleagues who were struggling from the stress of law practice.   I did not like standing by and watching people hurt, and sometimes kill, themselves without trying to do something to help them."

One way he has helped is to chair the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP), the lead sponsor of a measure " the Model Rule on Conditional   Admission to Practice Law " that was adopted by the ABA House of Delegates Feb 11. Childers, a Circuit Court judge from Memphis, has been a proponent of assistance programs in Tennessee for 21 years, beginning with Memphis Lawyers Helping Lawyers. He was appointed to the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP) in 1999 and took his interest and expertise to the national level when he was appointed to CoLAP in 2000. Many in Tennessee credit him as the driving force behind the recent measure.

"In Tennessee, many of us know that Judge Childers has been a leader in lawyer assistance, helping lawyers with substance abuse and mental health issues, and at the same time protecting clients," Memphis lawyer Lucian Pera says. "But few Tennesseans know that he has been a leader nationally on these issues. Judge Childers was personally instrumental in getting the ABA to adopt this national model rule and that will help law students, lawyers and clients all over the country for years to come."

The model rule would grant conditional admission to applicants who have experienced and gone through rehabilitation for chemical dependency or mental health conditions that otherwise would have rendered them unfit to practice law. Applicants may be required to comply with conditions for continued treatment and monitoring, up to five years, and the conditional admission would be confidential. The measure is advisory only; bar admission authorities in individual states must adopt it for it to take effect. Nineteen states (and Puerto Rico) already have conditional admission provisions in place, but Tennessee is not one of them.

"The Tennessee Bar Association Taskforce on Attorney Well Being created a committee to recommend a conditional admission rule to the Board of Governors with the goal of petitioning the Tennessee Supreme Court to enact such a rule," Childers says. The goal of a conditional admission rule is to encourage law students and bar applicants to seek help early when they are dealing with issues related to substance abuse and mental health without fear that doing so would prevent them later from being licensed to practice law.
"We think confidentiality is key to a conditional admission rule," he adds. "If law students/bar applicants believe that the status of conditional admission is going to be disclosed to prospective employers and clients it will be a disincentive for them to seek the help they need. The public (including clients) will be better
protected by encouraging law students/bar applicants to get help and by assuring them that the conditional admission will be kept confidential and by then putting in place the conditions to help assure that the applicant will continue her recovery and practice without impairment."  

"It has been said that one person can really change the world if he cares enough, and Judge Childers is doing just that," TBA President and Chattanooga attorney Marcia Eason says. "His passion and perseverance in lawyer assistance programs began many years ago; he and Justice [Janice] Holder are the reasons that TLAP exists. What Judge Childers has accomplished through the ABA House is a continuation of his caring for the public and for lawyers," Eason says. "Always mindful of the needs to balance protection of clients and the public, with the needs of bar examiners and law student bar applicants, Judge Childers masterfully brought together an amazing group of constituents to support adoption of a model rule. This project was truly a labor of love, and Judge Childers deserves so much credit for his efforts."

"   Suzanne Craig Robertson


Legislature ratifies court rules package: In March, the General Assembly ratified and approved amendments and revisions to the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Appellate Procedure, Rules of Evidence, Rules of Criminal Procedure and Rules of Juvenile Procedure. The amendments take effect July 1. Learn more about the changes at

Elliott to lead TBA in 2010-2011: Chattanooga attorney Sam Elliott will become the next vice president of the Tennessee Bar Association after drawing no challenger for the position. That puts him on track to lead the organization as president in the 2010-2011 bar year. Elliott, a lawyer with Gearhiser, Peters, Lockaby, Cavett & Elliott, currently serves as the third district representative to the TBA Board of Governors and leads its Operations Committee. His election will become official following certification by the Board of Governors.
Several other candidates for positions on the Board of Governors and seats in the ABA House of Delegates also will gain their offices without opposition. The following candidates have duly qualified for election to the office named. No contests exist for these offices and the TBA Board of Governors may declare them automatically elected: Governor West Tennessee (one-year term) Carl Q. Carter, Memphis; Governor Middle Tennessee (one-year term) Barbara Holmes, Nashville; Governor East Tennessee (one-year term), Cynthia R. Wyrick, Sevierville; Governor 2nd District (three-year term) Nick McCall, Knoxville; Governor 5th District (three-year term) Jackie Dixon, Nashville; Governor 8th District (three-year term " No candidate qualified, therefore, the Board of Governors will fill the vacancy for a term until the next election). ABA Delegate, Position 2, Lucian T. Pera, Memphis; ABA Delegate, Position 4, John Tarpley, Nashville; ABA Delegate, Position 5, Paul Campbell III, Chattanooga.

More CLE can now be earned online: The Tennessee Supreme Court entered an order March 4 that amends Supreme Court Rule 21, Sec. 4.08, regarding continuing legal education distance learning. Hours that may be obtained by distance learning have increased from six to eight by the order. Find out more at

Supreme Court OK's third party billing of indigent fees: The Tennessee Supreme Court has adopted amendments to its Rule 13 permitting lawyers to assign their payments for indigent fees to a third party. The move came in response to a petition by Billable Hours Inc. to permit lawyers to continue to employ their program to file and collect fees. The TBA, several judges, individual lawyers and bar groups supported the proposal.

New Web site offers resources, recognition for lawyers: A new Web site launched recently is intended to help lawyers share filed pleadings, research memoranda and other materials, identify legal experts, and provide a forum to market themselves. Developed by a San Francisco litigator and a team of Internet and legal marketing professionals, JD Supra ( allows lawyers to build on others' work rather than reinvent the wheel.

Law school numbers stagnant this year, ABA reports: Enrollment for first-year law students at ABA-approved law schools was nearly flat for the 2007-08 school year, according to a recent report by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. First-year enrollment stood at 48,964 students, an increase of only 27 students over the previous year, says an ABA press release summarizing the findings. Total enrollment for all law students was 141,433, an increase of 402 students over the previous year. Men made up 53.2 percent of the total enrollment and minorities, 21.6 percent of the total.

Commission recommends retention of appellate judges: The Judicial Evaluation Commission has recommended the retention of all five state appellate court judges who will appear on the August 2008 ballot for retention election. The judges are: Supreme Court Justice Gary R. Wade, Supreme Court Justice William C. Koch Jr., Court of Appeals Judge Andy D. Bennett, Court of Appeals Judge Richard H. Dinkins, and Court of Criminal Appeals Judge D. Kelly Thomas Jr. Read the commission's full report at

Federal judges get new, uniform rules for behavior: New rules adopted March 11 by the Judicial Conference of the United States for the first time provide uniform national standards for dealing with federal judges whose health or behavior may interfere with their ability to perform their jobs. The rules, unlike prior standards, are binding and will "dispense with a hodgepodge of practices the judicial circuits have developed over time," Legal Times says. The ABA Journal connects you to the story and a pdf of the rules