Tennessee lawyers to offer free legal services across the state in October
NASHVILLE, Sept. 29, 2011 — Tennessee attorneys will offer free legal services to those unable to afford a lawyer throughout the month of October as part of the national Celebrate Pro Bono initiative. Activities will include legal advice clinics, education programs, public presentations and other events. The initiative kicks off with legal clinics in Franklin and Johnson City on Oct. 1, with more than 35 events planned across the state during the month.
This year's celebration builds on the success of the 2010 initiative, which involved nearly 300 Tennessee lawyers assisting more than 1,100 clients on topics ranging from domestic violence protection to estate planning.
"Taking care of our neighbors is part of what it means to be a Tennessean," says Tennessee Bar Association President and Memphis lawyer Danny Van Horn. "This October, Tennessee attorneys once again have an opportunity to demonstrate our leadership, care and volunteerism in service of those in need."
"Times are tough for many of our neighbors and there are things that only attorneys can do to help," Van Horn observed. "I encourage all attorneys to give back with their time or with their wallets during Pro Bono Month. I also encourage paralegals and law students to help in any way they can."
In recognition of the good work Tennessee attorneys do in meeting the tremendous need for legal services, Gov. Bill Haslam has proclaimed October to be "Celebrate Pro Bono Month." In issuing the proclamation, Haslam commended Tennessee lawyers for providing 567,000 hours of free legal assistance last year and encouraged the legal community to continue its efforts. Studies show that more than one million Tennesseans are unable to afford the legal services they need. "Despite funding for legal assistance provided by the Legal Services Corporation, the state of Tennessee, and private fundraising efforts," Haslam wrote, "four out of five requests to legal aid are turned down due to lack of resources."
The need for additional legal assistance is also evident given that:
- One in five Tennesseans is living at or below the poverty line;
- One in five Tennesseans cannot afford to pay for basic legal assistance;
- There are only 79 paid legal aid lawyers in the state, which means that for every 12,658 low-income Tennesseans eligible for assistance there is only one legal aid lawyer; and
- Less than 30 percent of those living below the poverty line are aware that assistance is available to help them with their legal problems.
Tennessee lawyers are helping to meet this need and raise awareness of the resources available by volunteering during Celebrate Pro Bono Month and throughout the year.