Posted by: Sarah Sheppeard on Jun 1, 2020

Journal Issue Date: June 2020

Journal Name: Vol. 56 No. 6

What a difference a year makes! I challenge you to think back one year. What would you have predicted for June 2020? I will be the first to admit that my plans for this TBA bar year did not include coping with a global pandemic. Neither did I envision working from home for weeks, wearing a mask to the grocery store or not being able to meet in person with a client.

It was mid-April when I wrote my May “President’s Perspective” about COVID-19 issues. We had been dealing with the crisis for about a month. I foolishly thought that by the time the article was published it might be outdated, with life back to business and pleasure as usual. If only that had been true. Less than two weeks later, the difficult decision was made to cancel the in-person mid-June TBA annual convention, converting it to an online virtual experience. I hated making that decision, but I still stand by it. The safety of our members is of paramount importance. 

Here’s the good news. Because we appreciate you and regret that we can’t join together in person, the multi-day event will be free to all TBA members and includes a total of eight hours of free CLE. From June 15 through 19 there will be daily offerings of valuable resources, running the gamut from presentations about recent legislation, wellness offerings, and round tables involving varying areas of interest. 

Our keynote speaker is Elaine Weiss, author of The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote. In this year of the centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment, Ms. Weiss will take us through the political intrigue and perseverance  involved in the passage of the amendment, which came down to a single vote by one Tennessee legislator. It is a far more compelling story than I ever imagined before reading her book. This is but one of many interesting programs to enjoy. We will also include teleconference law school alumni mixers, our Board of Governors and House of Delegates meetings and virtual sponsors with products and services of interest to our members. More information about this exciting week is found on pages 5 and 23 of this issue, and at Please join us virtually.

As required by our bylaws, we will hold our annual meeting electronically at the Lawyers Luncheon on Thursday, June 18. (You’ll be providing your own food, so no complaints about the menu will be allowed!) It will be my honor and pleasure to pass the gavel to Michelle Greenway Sellers, your 140th TBA President. With her insight, intellect and enthusiasm, she will be a great leader of this organization in the coming bar year.

Serving as president of the Tennessee Bar Association is one of the greatest privileges of my professional career. I was humbled to be elected to this position. The months from June through February were busy, fulfilling and exciting. We accomplished a lot, as is chronicled in prior editions of this journal. Having served on the Board of Governors for various terms at various times, I really thought I had seen just about every situation that might be challenging for a bar association …  and then along came COVID-19. 

If there is any good news to come from this situation, it is that we have all been tested and challenged in oh so many ways, both personally and professionally. The TBA has also had incredible help: the strength and efforts of our executive director and staff, the contributions of time and work of literally hundreds of officers, members of Board of Governors and House of Delegates, and volunteer members in various capacities, as well as the support of the membership in general. As a result, your Tennessee Bar Association stands stronger than ever. The current crisis has given us the opportunity to try out and, fortunately, successfully demonstrate the TBA’s ability to wrestle with the ever-changing landscape of this unheard of situation and to provide resources and information to our members, while keeping up with our normal business at hand.

So many hard-working and talented people continue these efforts. Like most bar presidents, my greatest goal for the year was to follow the high standards of my predecessors and to leave the TBA better than I found it. Because of the contributions of so many, when I pass the gavel on June 18, I will do so with pride, satisfaction and optimism. Thank you for entrusting me with this opportunity and privilege.

SARAH Y. SHEPPEARD  is a shareholder in the  Knoxville office of Lewis Thomason and a Rule 31 Listed Mediator. You can reach her at