Posted by: Jarod Word & Chelsea Bennett on May 1, 2021

Journal Issue Date: May-June 2021

Journal Name: Vol. 57 No. 3

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of Tennessee Bar Association membership is connectedness. Since 1881, the organization has served as the lifeblood of the Tennessee legal community, bringing the bench and bar together to advance the practice of law. Never has this ambition been more important than the past year, which forced drastic changes upon the world, leading us to rethink how we approach our day-to-day lives and profession. Like other organizations, the TBA was forced to adapt quickly to these changes and provide members with the necessary tools to brave this new legal landscape.

Providing Pandemic Resources

The TBA throughout the pandemic has been a hub for Tennessee lawyers, if only remotely, conveying updates on rule changes and court activities. The organization became a one-stop shop for attorneys to stay on top of state-specific news and trends, offering an evolving, comprehensive webpage of pandemic resources.

The TBA also presented feedback and input to the state’s courts, administrative networks and the governor’s office on policy as the crisis unfolded. These efforts are just a small example of recent initiatives to build bridges and keep lawyers and courts connected through TBA involvement.

Roundtables to the Rescue

TBA Sections began providing free, remote roundtable discussions on practice-specific topics to benefit Section members. While these groups have traditionally sponsored and presented learning opportunities by way of annual forums, TBA leaders realized the importance of getting certain rapidly changing information in front of members in a more immediate fashion. Considering this, many Sections began to adopt the roundtable format — in addition to an annual seminar — as it offers a more dynamic approach than the forums, which are typically planned months in advance.

These events saw participating Sections organizing brain trusts of like-minded colleagues to address new concerns in real time, to the benefit of bar members.

These roundtable discussions have kept TBA members at the forefront of activities in the state. At the inception of the lockdown in March 2020, the TBA Estate Planning and Probate Section provided an open meeting on remote online notarization and witnessing, leading to a task force that influenced state policy.

The Disability Law Section has provided 10 roundtables to date, offering its members the opportunity to network and discuss the ongoing challenges within that practice area.

The TBA Litigation Section immediately organized a panel of judges from each grand division to discuss the “do’s and dont’s” and practical tips for virtual hearings. Legal concerns regarding important social issues were also addressed, with the Entertainment & Sports Law Section holding a webinar on controversies surrounding confederate statues; the Local Government Section sponsoring a police-use-of-force discussion; past, current and future female presidents of the TBA highlighting the impact women have made on the legal profession; and numerous Sections promoting diversity dialog among members.

The pandemic unleashed so many challenges and limitations for the practice of law, but by adding innovative ways for members to connect, the TBA and its Sections are educating and bringing members together in new ways.

JAROD WORD  and CHELSEA BENNETT  are two of the TBA’s Section and CLE Coordinators.