TBA Announces Statewide, Month-Long Pro Bono Push - Articles

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Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Sep 30, 2009

Tennessee lawyers to offer free legal services at events throughout October

NASHVILLE, Sept. 30, 2009. Tennessee attorneys will offer free legal services to those unable to afford a lawyer at events throughout the month of October. The effort is part of Celebrate Pro Bono Month. Activities will include legal clinics, training for attorneys who handle pro bono work, and events celebrating milestones in Tennessee’s legal aid history. More than 30 events will take place across the state.

In recognition of the TBA’s efforts to serve those in need, Governor Phil Bredesen has proclaimed October to be "Tennessee Celebrates Pro Bono Month." In issuing the proclamation, Bredesen said "more than one million Tennesseans are unable to afford needed legal services" and "700,000 face legal problems each year." The proclamation commends the volunteer legal services provided by Tennessee lawyers, encourages lawyers to continue providing such services, and calls on all Tennesseans to celebrate these pro bono efforts. Download the proclamation

Celebrate Pro Bono expands on an initiative launched by the TBA last spring to tackle the growing need for access to justice. That initiative, the 4-4 Pro Bono Public Service Day, was an historic collaboration among bar associations, legal organizations, legal aid groups, law students and members of the judiciary. During the one-day event -- held on April 4 -- 863 volunteers provided nearly $600,000 worth of free legal service to more than 1,300 needy Tennesseans.

While serving many, the campaign also highlighted the need for additional legal assistance. Statistics show that even before the economic downturn, Tennessee was experiencing a legal services crisis. The current troubled economy has only compounded the problem. In Tennessee today:

  • Approximately one in five citizens is living at or below the poverty line;
  • The number of food stamp recipients is greater than the populations of Chattanooga, Knoxville and the Tri-Cities combined; and
  • Legal service agencies are turning away over 40 percent of those who ask for help because they cannot handle the workload

In response, TBA President Gail Vaughn Ashworth, who took office this summer, has made pro bono service and training for volunteer attorneys a key component of her platform.

"Despite the good work of the 4/4 campaign and the welcome indications of improvements in the economy," she said, "the reality for many in our state is that they still cannot afford basic legal services." To reach even more Tennesseans and generate greater visibility for the effort, Ashworth has expanded the pro bono initiative to a month-long effort in October, timed to coincide with National Pro Bono Week Oct. 24-31, during which lawyers across the country will be helping needy clients. See a list of events in Tennessee