TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Journal News on Feb 22, 2011

Journal Issue Date: Feb 2011

Journal Name: February 2011 - Vol. 47, No. 2

Tennessee Bar Association launches new program

A program designed to prepare new lawyers for successful careers in the law would also provide up to 12 hours of continuing legal education for mentors and beginning lawyers if it is approved by the Tennessee Supreme Court. A pilot program from the Tennessee Bar Association is planned for this spring.

Through the efforts of the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization, and specifically the work of its former Executive Director David N. Shearon, the Tennessee Supreme Court is poised to approve the granting of CLE credit for approved mentoring activities. The TBA has worked with the commission to design a program that best meets the needs of Tennessee attorneys.

“We are excited to offer a new and innovative way for lawyers not only to fulfill their CLE requirements, but also enhance their understanding and practice of the law,” says the TBA’s Assistant CLE Director Mindy Thomas-Fulks.

Pending the court’s approval the TBA pilot mentoring program will run from May to November. Applications will be accepted for the first mentoring class through the end of March. Once mentor partners are assigned, the pair will develop a plan to guide their interaction and design a curriculum that meets the needs of the beginning lawyer. The inaugural class of mentoring pairs would gather on May 20 in Nashville for an orientation session and an initial mentoring assignment.

Throughout the mentoring experience, lawyers would be able to explore issues of professionalism, client and practice management, legal ethics, professional and leadership development, life balance and well-being, and pro bono/charitable work. The mentoring pair would be required to complete exercises associated with the proposed eight core topics and any number of elective topics in its plan. Progress reports would be filed with the TBA, with CLE credit to be awarded at the completion of the program.

For both parties, the proposed regulation offers CLE credit up to 12 hours. Mentors also could earn CLE credit for their initial training and any recertification training. Hours would be credited in the year in which the mentoring plan is completed or deemed to have ended, but could be carried forward.

Under the proposed plan, lawyers interested in serving as mentors must:

  • have been licensed to practice in Tennessee for at least five years,
  • be in good standing with the Board of Professional Responsibility,
  • never have been suspended or disbarred,
  • not have had a censure or reprimand imposed in the last 10 years, and
  • complete an approved training program.

Beginning lawyers interested in working with a mentor would need to meet the following requirements:

  • be licensed in Tennessee,
  • be practicing or intending to practice in Tennessee,
  • be in the first three years of practice, and
  • be out of law school for no more than five years.

To learn more about the program or request an application, contact Thomas-Fulks at (615) 383-7421 or mfulks@tnbar.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .
— Stacey Shrader

Supreme Court Names New CLE Director

The Tennessee Supreme Court has appointed Judy Bond-McKissack as executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education (CLE) and Specialization. Bond-McKissack, assumed the post on Jan. 4, replacing David N. Shearon, who stepped down after 23 years of service.

Bond-McKissack previously served as a Board of Review hearing officer with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. She also has held various positions in the Secretary of State’s office including director of business services and chief legal counsel. Prior to joining state government, Bond-McKissack served as managing attorney for the Clarksville office of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. She earned her law degree from Vanderbilt University Law School. 


Notices from banks are moot with new IOLTA fix

If you receive a notice from your bank saying that the extension of unlimited FDIC insurance coverage did not include Interest On Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA), don’t worry. Congress’s action on Dec. 22, 2010, to continue that coverage for IOLTA accounts now does extend it through Dec. 31, 2012. President Obama signed it into law Dec. 29, 2010.

The FDIC required banks to send notice to all appropriate account holders in advance of the end of the coverage, Tennessee Bar Foundation (TBF) Executive Director Barri Bernstein explains. “The Senate action was so close to the Dec. 31 deadline that the notices were already printed and in the mail.” The TBF administers IOLTA funds in Tennessee. “The American Bar Association and the nationwide IOLTA community worked feverishly to try to get the congressional ‘fix’ voted on prior to the sending of those notices, to avert widespread concern in the legal community but that didn't happen.” The final answer, she says: “Ignore the notice.”

Tennessee among states with fewer bankruptcies in 2010

The growth in bankruptcies around the country slowed significantly in 2010 from its breakneck pace in recent years, with about a dozen states recording a decline in filings from consumers and businesses, according to an Associated Press. Tennessee recorded the second-biggest decreases in filings, down 8 percent. Knoxville lawyer John Newton says his firm continues to work six days a week to handle the massive bankruptcy caseload, but filings there have leveled off. “I think we’ve sort of turned the corner,” he said.

Criminal defense lawyer's role after 'Padilla' studied

The question of whether the role of the criminal defense lawyer has been affected by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Padilla v. Kentucky will be the focus of a task force established in December by the American Bar Association’s criminal justice section. The goal is to explore the obligations on lawyers to advise clients about the consequences of criminal convictions and help criminal defense lawyers understand and meet those responsibilities. In Padilla, the court found that a defense lawyer’s failure to advise a client that a guilty plea would have deportation consequences for the client amounted to “constitutionally deficient” representation. Law.com carried this story from the New York Law Journal.

Rude or not, Amazon patents gift-return process

In an effort to streamline the gift-return process, Amazon.com has turned to patent law for help. The online retailer has patented a way for people to return gifts before they receive them, much to the irritation of the Miss Manners community. Amazon's innovation, not ready for this recent Christmas season, includes an option to, for example, “Convert all gifts from Aunt Mildred,” the patent says. “The user may specify such a rule because the user believes that this potential sender has different tastes than the user.” In other words, the consumer could keep an online list of lousy gift-givers whose choices would be vetted before anything ships. The Washington Post has the story and the polite reaction from Emily Post's great-great-granddaughter.

'Atticus Finch' to be featured on postage stamp

The late actor who portrayed defense attorney Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” will be portrayed on a postage stamp being issued April 29. The stamp will feature a still photograph of Gregory Peck from the 1962 film, based on the novel by Harper Lee. The ABA House of Delegates passed a resolution last year honoring the film for “the positive role that the book has played in the lives of lawyers, their families and the American public.”

Peck won the Oscar for his performance as  Finch, a character that Peck said was closest to his own heart. Perhaps Harper Lee summed it up best: “Atticus Finch gave Gregory Peck an opportunity to play himself,” reports the U.S. Postal Service. In 2003, the American Film Institute (AFI) ranked Atticus Finch the number one movie hero in American film history.