TBA Access to Justice Annual Work Plan (2011-2012) - Articles

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Posted by: Barry Kolar on Jan 25, 2012

The Access to Justice Committee met for its annual spring planning retreat in April 2011. At that retreat the Committee reaffirmed its shared vision for its future work, its purpose, and its function within the bar. The Committee decided its mission statement, adopted in 2003, should again be included in its 2011-2012 Annual Work Plan. 

The Mission of the TBA Access to Justice (ATJ) Committee is to:

Advance the cause of equal access to justice for all Tennesseans.

Create a culture of equal access initiatives among all members of the justice community.

Coordinate and encourage cooperation among providers of legal services statewide.

Educate the bar on the need and obligation to provide pro bono publico representation.

Support the bar in fulfilling its obligations under Rule 6.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct.

Supply a voice for attorneys to the courts, the legislature, and the public on access to justice issues.

I. Promotion of Pro Bono

Continued Implementation of the Tennessee Pro Bono Strategy: The Access to Justice Committee continues to implement the pro bono strategy.  The strategy was updated this fall and will be presented to the TBA Board of Governors for approval on June 18, 2011.

Goals for 2011-2012:

·      Create an “I want to do pro bono” button on the homepage of the TBA’s new website (whenever it goes live in 2011) which will link to a page that provides contact information for each of the pro bono programs across the state.

·      Assist in the development and promotion of Celebrate Pro Bono activities during October 2011, and using the logo developed last year, once again purchase promotional items to be given to volunteer lawyers across the state.

·      Promote the successful Atticus Network model used by the Memphis Bar Association in order to identify more law firms, organizations and pro bono programs that could replicate it in their own communities.

·      Request that the TBA create “TBA Day on the Hill” as there has never been a coordinated effort to educate lawmakers on pro bono.

·      Create a list of pro bono opportunities for TBA Sections in advance of Celebrate Pro Bono Month.

Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative: The Committee continues to work in conjunction with the TBA Corporate Counsel Section and the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) on the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative to help foster a coordinated approach to pro bono work and support for the access to justice community by corporate law firms and in-house legal departments.

The fifth annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala was held in Nashville on March 26, 2011, to celebrate the pro bono partnership among Tennessee's corporate legal departments, law firms, and access to justice organizations. The annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Awards were presented during the Gala to the corporate legal department and law firm "best exemplifying extraordinary commitment to access to justice ideals, pro bono service and the Corporate Counsel Covenant of Service."

The Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Working Group continues to solicit grant requests from organizations around the state to fund corporate counsel pro bono projects with the proceeds of the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative gala; the Tennessee Legal Community Foundation is holding these funds.  Information about the funding criteria and review process are available on the TBA website at: https://www.tba.org/TLCF/probono_initiative/grants.html

Goals for 2011-2012:

·      Host the 2012 Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala. Secure a dynamic speaker, possibly Microsoft’s general counsel Brad Smith.

·      Distribute CCPBI grants from funds raised (3 grants were made in 2010-2011) and publish funding decisions in TBA Today and The Tennessee Volunteer Attorney newsletter.

·      Secure additional members of the corporate counsel community to serve on the Access to Justice Committee and the working group (Bridgestone-TBD, Eastman Chemical-Tammye Taylor, Pilot-Michael Sayne).

·      Encourage additional corporations to adopt formal pro bono policies by contacting every general counsel in the state.

·      Create an annual report for our 2011 funders and include this information in our 2012 sponsorship mailing.

·      Redesign gala materials (including sponsorship letters) to promote client stories.

·      Explore broadening the criteria for grant applications; the working group will convene in late May 2011 to discuss.

Facilitation of Statewide Pro Bono Director Meetings: As part of the Committee’s work to develop and maintain a statewide pro bono strategy and to see it implemented, the Access to Justice Committee will continue to bring together the pro bono program directors and pro bono committee members for meetings once a year to strategize about statewide pro bono development and implementation issues. These meetings will be held during the state equal justice conference each fall.

Support and Implementation of TBA Access to Justice Initiatives: As called upon by the TBA President and other members of the TBA Leadership to do so, the Committee will lend its support to and will work to implement TBA Access to Justice Initiatives.

Celebrate Pro Bono Month:  The Committee and the TBA will collaborate with legal aid organizations, bar associations and others across the state for “Celebrate Pro Bono Month” in October. Activities will be planned across Tennessee to bring attention to pro bono efforts of Tennessee lawyers, to help Tennessee citizens in need of legal assistance, and to provide training for Tennessee attorneys who take part in pro bono work. Tennessee’s Celebrate Pro Bono goes hand-in-hand with the national effort put forth by the American Bar Association, set for the last week of October. The celebration will showcase the great difference that pro bono lawyers make to the state, its system of justice, its communities and, most of all, to the clients they serve. The month is also dedicated to the quest for more pro bono volunteers to meet the ever-growing legal needs of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Goals for 2011-2012:

·      Create a website for the event as we have done in the past. The website will include up-to-date information about activities across the state.

·      Distribute pro bono promotional items that will be visible at all events.

·      Partner with the YLD’s “Wills for Heroes” program in order to schedule events for the month.

·      Work with the Commission, TALS and local programs to develop pro bono lawyer and client stories and share those with the media. 

·      Create a list of pro bono opportunities for TBA Sections in advance of Celebrate Pro Bono Month.

Appellate Pro Bono Pilot Project

In the fall of 2010, the Committee partnered with the TBA’s Appellate Practice Section and TALS to develop the appellate pro bono pilot project. Our pilot is modeled after the one implemented by the Colorado Access to Justice Commission.

Goals for 2011-2012

·      Educate lawyers, the judiciary and legal services organizations about the program and the case referral process.

·      Recruit and retain a pool of volunteer lawyers willing to accept eligible cases.

·      Promote the program in TBA Today and The Tennessee Volunteer Attorney newsletter.

Law School Pro Bono

The Law School Subcommittee was formed in the summer of 2010 and now has representation from each law school in Tennessee. The subcommittee will serve as a resource and idea sharing entity among law schools and student pro bono groups, with an eye toward possible collaborative projects. The subcommittee will also seek to foster collaboration between law schools and pro bono coordinators to connect students and alumni with projects.

Goals for 2011-2012

·      Schedule times for the TBA President to talk to students about the importance of pro bono work and their long-term career success and satisfaction.

·      Complete the law school resource assessment inventory for all Tennessee law schools by August 1, 2011.

·      Continue to invite students to make presentations at Access to Justice Committee meetings 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.

·      Develop and provide networking opportunities among students interested in pursuing public interest law careers. At the request of the law students, create a statewide listserv and calendar for students to publicize and share information about pro bono opportunities.

·      Promote alternative spring break opportunities in the fall 2011 issue of The Tennessee Volunteer Attorney newsletter.

·      Encourage and develop opportunities for faculty to participate in access to justice activities across the state, including CLE development and pro bono clinics.

II. Collaborations

The Committee plans to continue its work with TBA Sections, TBA Committees and with other groups to encourage pro bono work and public service projects and to access the knowledge and expertise of these other entities toward overcoming barriers to legal services and access to the Courts.  To achieve this, the Committee plans to undertake or to continue the following:

Outreach to Other Sections & Committees:The Committee will continue to explore possible collaborations with TBA sections & committees.

Goals for 2011-2012

·      The Committee Vice-Chair will attend the May 2011 orientation for incoming bar leaders to share the Committee’s plans for the year and encourage sections to become involved.

·      The Committee Chair will participate in the in-person meetings for section and committee chairs held twice a year at the TBA Annual Convention (June) and Leadership Conference (January).

Access to Justice Commission

The Committee will continue to support the Supreme Court's Access to Justice Commission in order to leverage the power of both the bar and the court to improve access to justice in Tennessee. 

Goals 2011-2012:

·      Committee leaders will establish a regular meeting schedule with the Commission Chair (and/or other Commissioners). This will help the Committee determine gaps where neither the Commission nor the Committee are working and use that information to inform new directions in the Committee’s work. Meeting regularly will also provide a formal opportunity for the bar to take recommendations from the Commission and determine how best to implement them.

·      The Coordinator will actively serve on as many of the Commission’s working groups as possible and will update both the Committee and the TBA Leadership on a regular basis.

Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS): The Committee reaffirms its commitment to the TALS strategic plan, a document that was created with broad support from the legal community, to advance access to justice in Tennessee. The Committee will seek continued collaboration between the TALS staff and the ATJ Coordinator.

Goals for 2011-2012

·      Manage the successful administration of OnlineTNJustice.org including the recruitment and retention of lawyers and clients, filing for CLE credits, fundraising and ongoing improvements to the website. The Committee will receive quarterly progress reports on the number of clients served, the number of pro bono hours logged by lawyers, etc.

·      Manage the successful administration of the Appellate Pro Bono Pilot project including the recruitment and retention of lawyers, case recruitment and lawyer training.

·      Invite TALS & TBA lobbyists to provide pre/post legislative session updates for the Committee.

·      Support an updated, statewide legal needs assessment; the last assessment was conducted in 2003.

·      Create a committee to explore pro bono service models for veterans and the feasibility of implementing such a program in Tennessee. Possible models include Project Salute and Stateside Legal.

Disaster Legal Services: The Access to Justice Committee will continue to work with the TBA leadership and YLD, with TALS, and with the pro bono and legal aid programs around the state to maintain responses to natural and man-made disasters in accordance with the statewide plan for Disaster Legal Services Plan. 

III. Continuing Legal Education (CLE)

CLE & Pro Bono: The Committee will continue to use CLE to promote pro bono and will continue to sponsor at least one program annually that allows attorneys to attend free with their agreement to take two pro bono cases. The Committee will use its spring retreat to identify timely topics and partners for CLE programs.

Goals for 2011-2012

·      Produce programming on timely topics identified by the committee: (1) foreclosure & debtor/creditor issues and (2) obtaining U Visas for victims of domestic violence who have orders of protection.

·      Gain permission from the TBA to produce an additional CLE program this year, either in a webcast or game format.

·      As necessary, partner with experts to develop timely CLE for volunteers providing disaster legal services.

Other CLE Seminars & Training for Pro Bono Attorneys:The Committee will continue to explore other methods of providing attorneys with high-quality training while promoting increased knowledge in those areas of the law critical to the needs of pro bono clients.

IV. Public Service Awards & Luncheon

Public Service Awards and Luncheon: The Committee presents its three public service awards in conjunction with the TBA’s January Leadership Conference Luncheon. The awards are the Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year Award, the Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year Award, and the Law Student Volunteer Award.

Goals for 2011-2012

·      Review the awards criteria prior to soliciting nominations for the 2012 awards. One suggestion is to add a criterion to the Ashley T. Wiltshire Award so that it may be given to a public interest attorney whose career has been dedicated to providing legal representation to the indigent.

·      Post nomination forms to the TBA website on or around July 15.

·      Ashley Wiltshire & Harris Gilbert receive “save the date” notifications on or around July 15.

·      Award nominations due on August 15.

·      Nominations will be approved by the Committee and TBA Board of Governors before winners are notified.

·      Public Service Luncheon will be held on Saturday, January 14, 2012.

·      The Harris Gilbert Award winner will be invited to serve on the Committee for a term beginning June 2012.

V. Communications

Tennessee Bar Journal’sAccess to Justice Issue: The Committee will formally request that the Tennessee Bar Journal Editorial Board dedicate the January 2012 issue as an access to justice issue.

Goals for 2011-2012

·      Create a subcommittee to develop ideas for content and authors for the January 2012 issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal.

·      This same subcommittee will request permission to identify topics and speakers for a possible 6-month guest column in the Tennessee Bar Journal that will educate attorneys on access to justice and pro bono issues.

The Tennessee Volunteer AttorneyNewsletter:The Committee will publish four editions of the Volunteer Attorney Newsletter in 2011-2012. The newsletter is distributed via email.

VI. General Administration

Continued Involvement of Future TBA Leaders and Pro Bono Champions:The Committee will continue to make the effort to reach out to those lawyers already in line to assume leadership roles in the TBA.  The Committee would like to be able to offer information and assistance regarding the legal needs and pro bono opportunities in Tennessee to TBA’s future leaders as a way of fostering future statewide efforts to promote pro bono efforts and greater access to the courts.

Diversity: The Committee will continue to make a special effort to attract more members of the private bar to serve on the Committee and to ensure that the Committee reflects a diverse membership.

Rule/Policy Subcommittee: In July 2010the Committee formed this subcommittee to review, comment on and/or develop rules and policy. The subcommittee liaisons with other TBA committees/sections and provides recommendations to the TBA Executive Committee and Board of Governors. The subcommittee is comprised of the Committee Chair, immediate past Chair, Vice Chairs and additional Committee members as necessary.

Committee Budget: The Committee expects that the current allocation of personnel (.7 FTE) and associated overhead and administrative costs will be sufficient to carry out the staff and support functions for this work plan. The current allocation of $30,000 for committee travel reimbursement and other direct costs such as promotional items should be sufficient to carry out the mission of the Committee for 2011-2012.

VII. Conferences & Retreat

American Bar Association Equal Justice Conference: The American Bar Association Equal Justice Conference highlights national pro bono and access to justice issues providing an opportunity to learn from other professionals and volunteers around the country. The Committee again requests funding to send the Chair and/or the Vice-Chair of the Committee and the Coordinator to the event in 2012. In addition, as part of the Committee’s plan to cultivate future TBA leaders, the Committee would like to invite the TBA Vice-President to attend the conference each year as a way of familiarizing future TBA leaders with national access to justice issues and trends.

Tennessee Equal Justice University (EJU):The Access to Justice Committee has been proud of the successful TBA co-sponsorship of the EJU and looks forward to once again partnering with TALS on this important event. The Committee, working with TALS, will invite members of the TBA leadership, including the President and the President Elect, to the annual statewide conference.

Spring Retreat 2012:The Committee plans meet again in the spring of 2012 for another successful planning retreat.