TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Suzanne Craig Robertson on Oct 30, 2018

Journal Issue Date: Nov 2018

Journal Name: Vol 54 No 11

The Tennessee Bar Association’s Public Service Academy met for the first time Oct.12-13, with a bipartisan coalition of 29 attorneys from across the state gathering to learn the basics of running for local elected office. Former state senator and current U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee Doug Overbey spoke about his experiences campaigning and holding elected office. Former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell also spoke to the group about his life as a mayor and former legislator, as well as the importance of attorneys choosing a life of public service. The class heard further presentations about fundraising, building a campaign team, crafting their campaign message and more. They will reconvene again Nov. 9-10 in Nashville for another weekend training. The attorneys chosen for the class come from a variety of backgrounds and represent a diverse spectrum of political thought.


Court Launches Oral Argument Video Initiative

The Tennessee Supreme Court began in October videotaping oral arguments taking place in Nashville and making them available to the public. The videos will give lawyers, students and others a more realistic feel of the interaction between the court and attorneys during oral argument, which often includes unscripted questioning and debate. The video system includes three separate cameras, allowing the view to toggle between the attorney at the podium and the individual justices on the bench during the oral argument.

Richardson, Norris Confirmed

After more than a year, Bass Berry & Sims attorney Eli Richardson and state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, with Adams and Reese, were confirmed to federal district court judgeships in Tennessee in October.


THEC Denies Proposal to Move Valparaiso Law to MTSU

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) voted 8 to 5 Oct. 15 to deny a proposal to move an Indiana law school to Middle Tennessee State University, The Nashville Post reported. At a special meeting Oct. 10, the MTSU Board of Trustees approved a plan and a recommendation that the university create a College of Law, pending approval from THEC. The boards of both MTSU and Valparaiso University had agreed to the transfer. While there are already three law schools in Middle Tennessee, the MTSU proposal would have established the first public law school in the area.

Study: Fewer Applicants Mean Law Schools Losing Billions

A new study has shown that the drop-off in law school enrollment from 2010 to 2016 is costing law schools a cumulative $1.5 billion loss in tuition each year, Law.com reported. The new report, produced by two law professors and an economist, found that fierce competition for students brought down the actual cost students pay for their degrees. The average cost was 6 percent lower in 2016 than it was in 2010. The overall test scores and GPAs of the admitted students also dropped during the same period. Top-ranked schools' decisions to scale back class sizes, however, likely saved many lower-tiered schools from having to shut down their doors.

Bar Passage Rate Drops Slightly, Belmont Grads Do Best

The percentage of candidates passing the July bar exam in Tennessee fell slightly from last year, with 404 of the 619 — 65.27 percent — making the grade, the Board of Law Examiners reported. Last year, 67.68 percent or 467 of 690 passed. Among first-time takers, the passage rate also fell about two percentage points, to 76.85 percent. Among Tennessee law schools, Belmont had the highest passage rate of first time takers, with almost 95 percent of the 73 candidates passing. Vanderbilt saw 91.18 percent pass, while the University of Tennessee followed at 80.52 percent.

LSAT to Be Digital Format Next Year

The Law School Admissions Test will begin transitioning to a digital format in July 2019 and move fully to that platform by next September, according to a news release from the Law School Admission Council. Some examinees will be assigned to take the test with a tablet device next summer as the first step in the transition.


State’s First Law Incubator Launched

A new, American Bar Association-recognized law incubator — the first of its kind in the state — launched in Knoxville this year. Called the Tennessee Law Lab Inc., the non-profit organization aims to provide a “solid foundation for new attorneys, solo practitioners and small firms.” The Law Lab is membership-based, and provides workspace and other office services like parking, receptionist services and conference rooms. Contact Michael J. Stanuszek at (865) 766-4171 for more information.


LSC Awards More Than $14M

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) announced in October that it is awarding 11 disaster relief grants to legal aid organizations in California, Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas and the Virgin Islands totaling $14,145,055. The grants support projects that mobilize pro bono attorneys, enhance online resources for survivors, and improve communication and cooperation among legal aid clients, pro bono attorneys and partner organizations.

Opportunities to Help Hurricane Victims

The Supreme Court of North Carolina in October issued an emergency order that permits out-of-state lawyers to practice law in the state temporarily to provide assistance to indigent victims of Hurricane Florence. The order opens up opportunities for volunteer attorneys from across the country to provide pro bono support in person or remotely, by working with a legal services organization or through NC Free Legal Answers (https://nc. freelegalanswers.org). Victims of Hurricane Michael in Florida can find legal assistance by calling a hotline set up by a partnership among the Disaster Legal Services Program of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Florida Bar and legal aid agencies. Go to americanbar.org/groups/young_lawyers/disaster_legal_services.

Opinion on Attorney Disaster Response Released

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility recently released an opinion that underscores the importance of ABA model rules for lawyers affected by disasters and provides specific guidance on their ethical responsibilities in the aftermath of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and fires. The formal opinion notes that recent large-scale disasters highlight the need for lawyers to understand that extreme weather events and other calamities have the potential to destroy property or cause the long-term loss of power. Lawyers, in turn, have an ethical obligation to implement reasonable measures to safeguard property and funds they hold for clients or third parties, prepare for business interruption and keep clients informed about how to contact them or their successor counsel.


Volunteer for Tennessee Youth Court Program

The Tennessee Youth Court program is seeking attorneys to volunteer in its peer court program in communities across the state. Through the program, teenagers take part in court proceedings to decide the sentences for other teens who have committed juvenile offenses. To learn more, visit tnyouthcourts.org or contact Executive Director Denise Bentley at ddbentley@gmail.com.