TBA Law Blog


Posted by: William Harbison on Jun 1, 2016

Journal Issue Date: Jun 2016

Journal Name: June 2016 - Vol. 52, No. 6

The internet is wonderful for some things. In thinking about this last column, I could not help recalling great last lines of books. The internet is ready to provide thousands. On almost every list, as an example, is the last line of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”   

This line, and many others, describe a kind of tension between past and future that seems to come into greater focus to me the older I become.

I have written in past columns of the generational differences that exist among members of the bar. I have also written about lessons that we can draw from the past, as well as plans that the bar is making for the future — including our new special committee on Evolving Legal Markets.

To me, our bar association is a wonderful bridge between past and future, bringing together lawyers from so many perspectives who help to shape our profession.

Last lines can sometimes capture the spirit of an entire book. “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.” By the time Holden Caulfield ends The Catcher in the Rye with these words, a reader knows him and his loneliness. Or consider this line from Herman Melville: “Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!” Four words that connect Bartleby the Scrivener with the entire human race.

In seeking the office of president of the Tennessee Bar Association, I suggested that one of the most important roles of the bar was to serve as the voice of the profession. The past year has only reinforced my view of the importance of this role. In particular, I have been privileged to attend meetings of the TBA House of Delegates, and to observe the vigorous exchange of ideas in that body as it has discussed issues as broad-ranging as family law and creditors’ rights — issues that matter to practitioners in our state every day.

Listening to the many different points of view as I have for the past year, it has become clear to me that we have a strong and vital association. It is something to be celebrated, but at the same time it is something we can and should continue to improve. Critical thinking about the ways things are done is not disloyal — so members should never shy away from voicing differences of opinion or providing constructive criticism. We do not have to keep doing things the same way just because we have always done so.

There is strong leadership in place for the TBA for many years to come. We should all have lots of optimism for the future of our profession.

I want to end like the old man in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. After long struggles and defeats, he is home and thinking about his youth: “The old man was dreaming about the lions.”


Bill Harbison WILLIAM L. HARBISON is a member of Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison in Nashville with a general civil practice. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a past president of the Nashville Bar Association.