Posted by: Michelle Greenway Sellers on Jan 1, 2021

Journal Issue Date: Jan-Feb 2021

Journal Name: Vol. 57 No. 1

 

I welcome 2021 with open arms. However, I want to reflect on the work of the TBA and Tennessee attorneys in 2020. Although 2020 was not the year any of us had planned, it provided an opportunity to demonstrate TBA attorneys’ resilience, and we are a resilient bunch. It provided many learning opportunities and allowed us to grow and pull together as a legal community. Despite all of the challenges we faced in 2020, there were many successes, thanks to Tennessee attorneys who stepped up across the state to serve fellow attorneys, our clients and the citizens of the State of Tennessee. 

 When Zoom meetings replaced in-person meetings and many court appearances, Tennessee attorneys changed the mechanism for delivering legal services, but not the quality of their legal services. Tennessee attorneys continued to show up for their clients. When COVID-19 resulted in attorney quarantines, Tennessee attorneys stepped up to help their friends and colleagues. When attorneys needed assistance while working from home and learning to navigate virtual school for their children, Tennessee attorneys stepped up to help with tips, help with work matters and, even take over or assist with leadership positions for even just a little while. When a family caring for their terminally ill child was about to be evicted from their home, an attorney stepped up and raised money for the family, with many attorneys contributing, so that they could focus on caring for their child. When a community needed assistance, one small law firm fed more than 124 individuals in December. I’ve seen some outstanding Tennessee attorneys do fantastic work in and out of the courtroom despite the hardships of this past year, and I’m sure you have too.

This past year taught us that we can always learn new things and sometimes the new way is not always bad. It also taught us that we are stronger than we ever thought we were, but sometimes we need to rely on one another and let people know we need assistance.

Your Bar Association at Work

As we start a new calendar year and hit the midway point of our TBA fiscal year, I’d like to reflect on the bar association’s work. This year’s focus is on our members and ways to enhance the member experience and highlight our members’ great work. 

In June, TBA’s Annual Convention went virtual (and free), making this highly anticipated event accessible to lawyers across the state. It was the largest Convention in history, bringing together 875 attorneys, including 500 first-time attendees. The Convention offered eight hours of complimentary CLE, a tribute to the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, a host of wellness activities and networking opportunities, as well as a historic, virtual gavel pass. 

Since online CLE has become the norm and will be for next year, our CLE team has been busy converting all of our live events into virtual programs. To date, we have provided attorneys with more than 10,000 hours of continuing legal education, presented 16 full forums in various practice areas, and developed a catalog with more than 300 courses.

In 2020, TBA held 25 complimentary roundtables, sponsored by our TBA Sections, to serve as a resource on various hot and timely topics. We also created the first virtual training for Section leaders. Thank you to all of the Section chairs and Executive Council members for your time and dedication to the TBA and Tennessee attorneys.    

We began working through our three-year strategic plan, including improving internal processes and finding new ways to maximize relationships with other legal groups across the state. Behind the scenes, we are working on additional proposed changes to the TBA bylaws and improving TBA policies and procedures to adapt to a post-pandemic climate. We are also partnering with groups like the AOC, ATJ Commission, and American Inns of Court in Tennessee to bring programming highlighting access to justice, equity, and professionalism.  

The Tennessee Bar Journal continues to evolve and keep pace with the times by ramping up its sister publication, TBJ Select, which is now emailed to members twice a month. TBJ Select highlights current and past Journal content, as well as publishes fresh articles. TBJ Select is a new avenue to provide even more scholarly articles and other material to readers in a timely way (access the archives at https://www.tba.org/TBJSelect). With the print Journal moving in 2020 to publication six times a year, each issue is now larger and packed with even more information. Since last summer, the publications have provided more than 40 original law-related articles, legal columns and book reviews.

We relaunched TBA’s mentoring program. Prospective mentors and mentees can sign up online to participate in the six-month program, which begins in January. Participants (members and law students) will meet twice a month via phone, email, or text to discuss issues of concern. The TBA will also provide a large group experience for all participants several times during the mentoring period. Participants must be current TBA members, be available twice a month for conversation, and not be employed at the same place as their match. Thank you to everyone who already signed up for the mentorship program. 

In November, we initiated a survey of members and nonmembers of the TBA to understand lawyers’ needs and how we can provide additional value. Thank you to everyone who completed the survey.

We have worked with the judiciary, executive and legislative branches on issues such as the expiration of the Governor’s Orders, legislation and important Supreme Court rules affecting attorneys across the state. On Nov. 18, 2020, we launched pandemic@tnbar.org for attorneys to communicate concerns related to the pandemic and their practices. Since that time, several attorneys have contacted us regarding issues encountered in various courts and courthouses. Please do not hesitate to reach out with your concerns and recommendations.

Congrats to New Lawyers

Congratulations to the 507 individuals who successfully passed the Fall 2020 Tennessee Bar exam. You can find the list of who passed the first online Tennessee Bar exam at https://www.tba.org/?pg=Bar-Admissions=2020.  

Focusing on Your Needs

With a new year come new possibilities. We are in the process of making decisions on how best to serve our members virtually and again in person. I will be holding virtual Town Halls across the state, highlighting members and discussing lessons we can learn as well as improvements we can make in our profession in light of the pandemic. 

Finally, with many lawyers continuing to work from home or reevaluating how they manage their law practices, we will be launching a new set of resources for opening, building and transitioning offices. 

We have so much work to do and we look forward to continuing our focus on your needs in the new calendar 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.