The Tennessee Bar Association’s Pro Bono Strategy - Articles

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Posted by: Sarah Hayman on Jun 18, 2011

I. Vision

A. Full Pro Bono Participation by the Private Bar

Full participation by the private bar is the primary vision of the Tennessee Bar Association’s Pro Bono Strategy. Direct representation is one way to serve, but participation can also mean organizing and presenting CLE seminars; drafting articles and brochures; conducting community education seminars; other public speaking; and participating in resource development. The leadership of the private bar at both the state and local levels are partners with the legal services community in making full participation a priority and a reality.

B. The Need for Greater Pro Bono Participation

There are over 20,000 attorneys in Tennessee and approximately 79 legal aid staff attorneys. The promise of greater pro bono participation, therefore, is to increase dramatically the legal capacity available to serve the unmet legal needs of Tennessee’s most vulnerable citizens - legal needs that could never be met by 79 legal aid staff attorneys.

One of the obstacles to greater participation and utilization of this increased legal capacity statewide is that the geographic distribution of lawyers is skewed. There is a higher concentration of attorneys in the urban areas, with roughly 3/4 of the attorney population in three cities: Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville, with the 6 law schools also located in these cities. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are some rural counties with no more than one or two attorneys. Additional obstacles include the great differences in firm sizes even within urban areas and increasing specialization among lawyers.

C. Guiding Statements

The Tennessee Bar Association’s Pro Bono Strategy seeks to develop and utilize a strengthened partnership among legal service programs, the private bar, law schools, the Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission and the courts based upon a consensus that:

1. Private Attorney Involvement (PAI) and pro bono programs collaborating in the development and implementation of this Strategy are fundamental to the process.

2. Full pro bono participation should be promoted by creating different avenues for participation. Those attorneys who cannot provide direct representation should be involved in pro bono by:

• Staffing advice and counsel clinics;

• Participating in organizing and presenting CLE seminars;

• Assisting in community education events; and

• Writing articles and preparing brochures.

3. The range of cases referred to and handled by pro bono attorneys should be broadened to include more complex cases and more types of cases in order to tap into the full scope of private attorney interests and abilities.

4. Pro bono attorneys should be provided with timely, convenient and low cost training on the legal issues of the poor and should be educated about the costs of the failure to include the indigent in the legal system. Training should be offered both regionally and statewide.

5. The judiciary should be fully involved in the recruitment and training of pro bono attorneys.

6. Law schools should be recognized as prominent and important parts of the delivery system.

7. Legal aid staff attorneys and members of the private bar should collaborate on cases and consult freely.

8. The pool of pro bono attorneys should be made equally accessible to all geographic areas through the use of both technology and urban/rural partnerships.

9. Large urban law firms should be challenged to take on the bulk of casework and to leverage the support systems to which they have access.

10. The contributions of pro bono attorneys should be publicly acknowledged and celebrated.

11. Women lawyers and minority bar associations should be targeted for greater participation and should be brought into the recruitment process.

12. Technology should be better employed to give volunteer attorneys access to forms, training materials, and mentoring by legal service attorneys.

13. Pro bono attorneys should be called upon to assist in resource development campaigns.


II. Partners

Those responsible for working to implement the Tennessee Bar Association’s Pro Bono Strategy include:

A. The TBA Access to Justice Committee: The committee seeks to promote and support pro bono across the state and has several related initiatives including the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative, the presentation of statewide Public Service Awards,, the Tennessee Appellate Pro Bono Pilot Program and the publication of The Tennessee Volunteer Attorney newsletter. The Committee also charters and manages working groups and other informal groups to carry out focused projects that will help promote pro bono. This Committee also serves as a primary conduit to the Tennessee Bar Association membership for access to justice information.

B. Private Attorney Involvement (PAI) & Other Pro Bono Program Managers:Each legal services program office and every independent pro bono program has designated someone to be responsible for their pro bono programs. These are the people who will help recruit and train private attorneys to provide pro bono.

C. The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS): Particularly in regard to the recruitment and training of pro bono attorneys through statewide training events, TALS must be an important partner. 

D. The Tennessee Law Schools:The 6 Tennessee law schools are a prominent and important part of the pro bono delivery system, and the other partners will work with the administration and student organizations at the law schools to increase law school support for pro bono work by their students, their faculty, and their alumni.

E. Tennessee Supreme Court and its Access to Justice Commission: Other partners will continue to look to the Tennessee Supreme Court for leadership, guidance and support in the implementation and discharge of attorneys’ obligations under Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Commission has been charged by the Court to develop strategies and solutions to help meet the legal needs crisis; to foster continued collaboration among the judiciary, access to justice organizations, bar associations, and legal professionals; and to work to educate and focus the attention of the public and policymakers on this civil legal needs crisis so that all Tennesseans will be fully vested in solving this problem.


III. Goals and Objectives

A.    Expand Workforce of Pro Bono

B.    Explore Ways to Support Entities Whose Work Includes LSC-Restricted Activities

C.   Expand to Promote Bigger/ High Impact and More Compelling Cases.

D.    Expand Urban & Rural Partnerships

E.     Expand Alternative Pro Bono Opportunities

F.     Promote Large Firm Pro Bono Policies and More Meaningful Adherence to Existing Policies

G.   Increase Law School Support for Pro Bono Work

H.   Increase Pro Bono Opportunities Through the Use of Technology


IV. Implementation Strategies


A. Expand Workforce of Pro Bono

a.     Conduct education campaigns for lawyers on the following topics: CLE credit for pro bono service,annual reporting of pro bono hours to the BPR,malpractice insurance coverage for pro bono lawyers, court-approve pro se forms as they are released, etc. Some possible avenues include The Tennessee Volunteer Attorney newsletter; local bar publications; the access to justice issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal; TBA Today; and the partners’ web sites.

b.     Educate legal aid intake staff about pro bono case referral through staff training at the statewide equal justice conference and through more specific staff training within each program.

c.   Provide greater recognition for pro bono attorneys by improving and enhancing local and statewide   

      recognition events and awards.

d.   Continue to explore ways to promote broader implementation of the 50/50 Plan. The plan encourages lawyers to provide 50 hours of pro bono service per year and $50 dollars per month to a legal services organization.

e.   Provide education about the cost of expanding pro bono and work for the development of increased funding and resources for pro bono (Pro bono is not free. If every lawyer gave 50 hours of pro bono, legal aid programs would need additional infrastructure to provide support).

f.    Partner with the Court, the Board of Professional Responsibility and the other partners to increase voluntary reporting of pro bono hours.

g.     Work to facilitate greater utilization of senior attorneys for pro bono work and provide education about the pro bono emeritus rule.

B.    Explore Ways to Support Entities Whose Work Includes LSC-Restricted Activities

a.     Identify and collaborate with entities that perform LSC-restricted activities including the Tennessee Justice Center, the Community Legal Center, the Nashville Pro Bono Program, Southeast Tennessee Legal Services, Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors, Southern Migrant Legal Services, Tennessee Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts and other such groups and organizations that come into existence to promote pro bono in restricted areas.

C.    Expand to Promote Bigger/ High Impact and More Compelling Cases

a.     Highlight these pro bono cases by publicizing them.

b.     Recruit specifically for such high-impact cases.

c.     Promote and support the work of the Tennessee Appellate Pro Bono Pilot Program.

D.    Expand Urban & Rural Partnerships

a.     Explore ways to use technology for providing services remotely such as Skype and                                                

b.     Educate urban programs and attorneys about rural legal needs and the pro bono options to help meet such needs. Develop liaisons in rural communities, including law students and the judiciary, who have relationships and can open doors for new partnerships.

E. Expand Alternative Pro Bono Opportunities

a.     Encourage communication between the various pro bono programs about successes with model programs and whether or not they are suitable for replication in different communities.

b.     Facilitate this communication among the directors through at least two meetings of pro bono directors meetings each year.

c.     Promote development of more corporate counsel pro bono projects based upon successful projects funded through the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative.

d.     Promote more limited scope representation pro bono opportunities through attorney of the day programs, pro se clinics and other successful models.

e.     Encourage and support the development of local access to justice committees to work with programs to help develop additional pro bono opportunities. The committees would include local attorneys, bar leaders, paralegal organizations, social service agencies and faith-based organizations to help in the creation and implementation of new strategies. 

F. Promote Large Firm Pro Bono Policies and More Meaningful Adherence to Existing Policies

a.   Maintain a list of pro bono contacts at large firms.

b.  Identify opportunities for ongoing recognition of these firms.

c.  Encourage firms to track and report pro bono participation rates.

G. Increase Law School Support for Pro Bono Work

a.     Maintain and increase outreach to law schools through the TBA law school subcommittee, pro bono directors and TBA staff and leadership.

b.     Customize and publicize pro bono opportunities for law students.

c.     Promote the adoption of Pro Bono Pledges at law schools.

d.     Support the work of the law school subcommittee to promote its goals:

1.     To serve as a resource and idea sharing entity among law schools and student pro bono groups, with an eye toward possible collaborative projects.

2.     Foster collaboration between law schools and pro bono coordinators to connect students and alumni with projects.

3.     Encourage student involvement in the Access to Justice Committee in order to foster an understanding of the structures of pro bono legal work and to expose students to mentors in the public interest legal community and the role of bar associations. Students would also make presentations on their current pro bono work.

4.     Develop and provide networking among students interested in pursuing public interest law careers.

5.     Collaborate with Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission to meet Goal 1:  To involve more lawyers and law students in meeting legal needs so that the public is better served.

H.   Increase Pro Bono Opportunities Through the Use of Technology

a.     Work with our partners to provide events to recruit and train pro bono attorneys. We will employ TBA and TALS technology for remote learning through webcasting and archived video presentations.

b.     Explore how technology might be employed to expand pro bono opportunities for lawyers and service to clients through such avenues as telephonic advice clinics, Skype and

c.     Support the development of document assembly programs for pro bono lawyers.