Press Releases

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Mar 28, 2011

Bass, Berry & Sims and AutoZone receive awards for commitment to free legal services for the poor

NASHVILLE, March 28, 2011 — Bass, Berry & Sims PLC and AutoZone were recognized for their commitment to providing free legal services to the poor at the 5th Annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Gala Saturday evening in Nashville. The event featured remarks by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Connie Clark and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.

The gala, which included a dinner and ceremony, is part of the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative -- a partnership between the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) and the Association of Corporate Counsel that encourages and supports pro bono activities by lawyers serving as in-house and corporate counsel in the state. Since its beginning, the initiative has raised more than $200,000 to help bring legal services to the poor.

Law Firm Award
This year's law firm award was presented to Bass, Berry & Sims for jointly producing an advanced directives clinic in Memphis, and for its advocacy on behalf of former death row inmate Edward Jerome Harbison.

First, the firm was recognized for working with AutoZone and Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) to plan and host a legal clinic last summer for residents of low income and blighted neighborhoods in Memphis. The clinic provided advance directives free of charge to many who would not have been able to afford such a service. Advance care directives are specific instructions, prepared in advance, that govern medical care should a person become unable to articulate their desires in the future.

In addition, the firm was recognized for its work on behalf of former death row inmate Edward Jerome Harbison. For three years, members of the firm invested more than 2,500 hours and traveled hundreds of miles across the state interviewing witnesses and reviewing long-forgotten court records. Through its efforts, the firm was able to demonstrate that Harbison's death sentence was the result of ineffective counsel and was highly disproportionate to the punishment received by others for similar crimes in the state. In January, then Governor Phil Bredesen agreed with the firm's findings and commuted Harbison's death sentence to life in prison without parole. The commutation came just one month prior to Harbison's scheduled execution and after he had served 27 years on death row.

In nominating the firm, Nashville lawyer David Garrison with the law firm of Barrett Johnston wrote, "Few firms in Tennessee could have (or would have) brought to bear the resources that were necessary to make this outcome for Mr. Harbison possible. Bass Berry's willingness to do so sets an example for other large law firms in our state and shows an ongoing commitment to justice for the indigent and underserved that deserves to be recognized."

Legal Department Award
This year's corporate legal department award was presented to Memphis-based AutoZone for organizing an advance directives clinic last summer, and for producing an educational video to help low-income individuals make wise decisions about purchasing used cars.

The company worked with the Memphis office of Bass, Berry & Sims and MALS to plan and host an advance directives clinic for residents of low income neighborhoods in the city. AutoZone partnered with lawyers and summer associates from the firm, as well as with specially trained law students from MALS' Peace of Mind for Seniors Project, to make this important service available to needy Memphians.

In addition, the company was recognized for developing and distributing education materials about purchasing and financing used cars. "The A-Z of Used Car Buying" campaign involved production of a video in which an auto mechanic demonstrates what to look for in a used car, an attorney discusses what clients should know about the legal aspects of buying a used car and an AutoZone employee describes how to maintain a used car. In nominating the company for this award, Linda Warren Seely, director of private attorney involvement at Memphis Area Legal Services, said that transportation is a serious problem for legal aid clients and that MALS frequently receives inquiries about the purchase, financing and repossession of used cars. She anticipates this new resource will be of significant value to the agency.

Special Recognitions
Two additional individuals were recognized at the gala for their leadership in the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative. For the last five years, Memphis lawyers Jim Barry with International Paper and Andy Branham with Counsel on Call have coordinated the program and helped raise more than $200,000 for pro bono activities. TBA Access to Justice Committee Chair David Esquivel presented them both with an award.

Additional Information
Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative -- The TBA's Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative was launched in 2006 as a joint effort between the TBA Access to Justice Committee, the TBA Corporate Counsel Section and the Association of Corporate Counsel. The goal of the initiative is to help foster a coordinated approach to pro bono work in Tennessee, and generate support for the access to justice community from corporate counsel in the state. The group helps corporate attorneys find ways to serve, raises funds for pro bono project grants, and holds an annual reception and dinner to recognize outstanding pro bono service. Learn more online

Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) -- The ACC is the world's largest organization serving the professional and business interests of attorneys who practice in the legal departments of corporations, associations and other private-sector organizations around the globe. ACC promotes the common interests of its members, provides resources to help save time, money and effort, contributes to their continuing education and provides a voice on issues of global importance. With more than 26,000 members in over 75 countries, employed by over 10,000 organizations, ACC connects its members to the people and resources necessary for both personal and professional growth. For more information visit the ACC online at

Bass, Berry & Sims PLC -- With more than 200 attorneys representing numerous publicly traded companies and Fortune 500 businesses, Bass, Berry & Sims has been involved in some of the largest and most significant litigation matters and business transactions in the country. For more information visit

AutoZone -- As of February 12, 2011, AutoZone sells auto and light truck parts, chemicals and accessories through 4,425 AutoZone stores in 48 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and 249 stores in Mexico. AutoZone is the leading retailer and a leading distributor of automotive replacement parts and accessories in the United States. Each store carries an extensive product line for cars, sport utility vehicles, vans and light trucks, including new and remanufactured automotive hard parts, maintenance items, accessories, and non-automotive products. Many stores also have a commercial sales program that provides prompt delivery of parts and other products to local, regional and national repair garages, dealers, and service stations. AutoZone also sells the ALLDATA brand diagnostic and repair software. On the web AutoZone sells auto and light truck parts through, and as part of our commercial sales program, through AutoZone does not derive revenue from automotive repair or installation.


About the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative
Learn more on the TBA website

About the 2011 Award Recipients

Bass, Berry & Sims