Posted by: Michelle Greenway Sellers on Jul 1, 2020

Journal Issue Date: July/August 2020

Journal Name: Vol. 56 No. 7

If you had told me six months ago that I would have addressed the TBA membership during a virtual convention, I would not have believed you. I’m sure that we can all agree that we will be forever changed by the events of the last few months. In fact, to say the last six months have been unprecedented would be an understatement. We’ve faced devastating and deadly tornadoes that hit West, Middle and East Tennessee.  COVID-19 resulted in shut downs, lay-offs, stay-at-home orders, court closings, sickness, deaths, reduced salaries, deferred hiring — along with parents working from home while homeschooling and caring for their children. We have experienced an unparalleled unemployment crisis. And we’ve seen the death of George Floyd resulting in protests across the state and the nation seeking justice, equality, and an end to racism in this country.  

 

We have seen so much sadness, devastation and tragedy that it is difficult to see the other side. But we will, and the TBA will continue to work with our members to address the issues they are facing. We will continue to facilitate meaningful discussion and work on solutions for our members and our communities.  

Justice Roger Page administered the Oath of Office to Michelle Greenway Sellers.

 

What We’ll Do This Year

 

Typically, each TBA president has a theme or something they want to highlight during their bar year. This year, I want to highlight YOU and what the TBA can do for you.  

Highlighting Members. We have some of the most amazing members. You all not only work to meet the needs of your clients day and night, but also contribute to the communities in which you live and work. You serve on nonprofit boards, serve in the military, deliver meals on wheels, coach little league sports, serve your churches, your schools, and provide countless hours of pro bono work to various community organizations and individuals. This year we want to highlight the great work our members are doing in and out of the courtroom. We will utilize our podcasts, social media platforms and print publications to highlight the great work of our members.  But, I need your help. If you know about the work of an amazing member, contact me and tell me about the work they are doing. Stay tuned for more details on how you can help highlight our amazing members.

Serving Members. Over the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of serving as chair of the TBA’s Long-Range Planning Committee. Our committee recently finalized a three-year strategic plan that will focus on how the TBA can better meet the needs of our members and our community. The plan calls for the TBA to continue working to help members in their practices and in their daily lives, to continue serving as the voice of Tennessee lawyers in service to the profession, to facilitate access to justice, and to effectively use our resources.  

We will be designating specific committees to look at how we can improve our work and interaction with members to provide better service. We were encouraged with the number of people who signed up for our roundtable discussions this week. We will use the feedback to make long-term improvements in the services we provide to our members. 

Initiatives

Here are a few Initiatives that I am proud to announce for my year that are in line with the recent goals set by the association:

Chief Diversity Officer. One important initiative is the creation of TBA’s very first chief diversity officer. Mary Beard from HCA Healthcare will join our board as an assistant general counsel, and she will take on the role of oversight of a new position for TBA, as chief diversity officer.

The strategic planning process revealed something that we already knew. TBA needs to invest more time and energy in a sustained effort not only to increase diversity in our leadership, committees and sections, but do more to lead and facilitate education, awareness and collaboration to ensure that our state institutions and the bar are welcoming, inclusive, and representative of the diverse faces and voices within the practice of law. 

Electronic Filing & Records Access. Next, we plan to identify and lead a task force to facilitate the promotion of technology for dispute resolution, legal filings and records access in Tennessee.  This was a goal before the pandemic.  However, given the drastic nature of the changes required of our courts during the recent pandemic, the importance of making significant strides to promote electronic filing across the state and other initiatives in technology to ensure the fair administration of justice has become even more apparent. 

Health & Wellness. We are going to continue to focus on member health and wellness this year.  Unfortunately, 70% of lawyers suffer from stress-related issues; 33% of lawyers suffer from significant mental health issues; and 18% of lawyers suffer from alcoholism and addiction.  When you combine those statistics with the uncertainty and hardships faced by lawyers over the past several months the importance of focusing on health and wellness is very clear. Check on your colleagues. Please visit www.tlap.org for more information.

Insurance Plan. We were pleased with the interest and participation in our insurance plan last year. Open enrollment will start in October, and we hope that more members will take advantage of this opportunity. Please let us know if you have questions or need more information about the insurance plan.  

Listen & Learn. Most importantly, my plan as president is to listen.

We are still planning to have TBA’s Court Square Series in person this year in Jackson, Dyersburg, Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, Columbia, Clarksville,
Cookeville and Kingsport as long as we can safely do so. Also, we are scheduled to hold our Board of Governors meetings in each grand division.  

I’d like to meet with as many members as I can whether it is in person or virtually. I want to listen and I want to learn how we can better serve you as an association.  

We appreciate those who completed our survey on working during the pandemic. We are listening and we are adapting our services based on the needs of our members.  

I am very proud to serve as your president this year and I thank you for your support of TBA. Thank you to our honorees, our volunteers, to the Board of Governors, the House of Delegates, and to the Editorial Board of the Tennessee Bar Journal for your service, and thanks to each of you who were able to join us for our virtual convention. Despite the challenges faced by COVID-19, we look forward to an exciting and productive year. 

MICHELLE GREENWAY SELLERS is a partner in the Jackson office of Rainey Kizer Reviere & Bell PLC. You can reach her at MSellers@RaineyKizer.com.