Harrison Tweed Award recognizes ‘extraordinary’ pro bono efforts

NASHVILLE, May 17, 2010 — The Tennessee Bar Association is being honored with a major national award for helping bring legal services to the poor.

TBA officials learned this week that the statewide organization will be the 2010 recipient of the Harrison Tweed Award, which is given jointly by the American Bar Association and the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association to honor “extraordinary achievements” in increasing access to legal services for the poor. The award will be presented at the ABA Annual Meeting in August.

Commenting on the award, TBA President Gail Vaughn Ashworth said, “The TBA is extremely honored to receive this prestigious national award. In addition to the thousands of lawyers around the state who are giving their time and talents to provide increased pro bono legal services, I also want to thank our hardworking TBA staff members who help us in this important work. The TBA’s commitment to increased access to justice for all is solid and enduring.”

In selecting TBA for the award, the judges cited Tennessee’s “4ALL” campaign, which included the “4/4 Pro Bono Public Service Day,” as well as legal clinics and events held during October 2009’s Celebrate Pro Bono Month. These combined efforts provided legal services to more than 2,000 Tennesseans. TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur credited volunteer lawyers for making such an impact, saying, “While the TBA is receiving this award, it is really the more than 2,600 lawyers who gave freely of their time to help the less fortunate with legal problems last year who are being honored.”

TBA’s Immediate Past President Buck Lewis, who coordinated much of the 4ALL program during his year as president, expressed appreciation for the role the courts played in making several important rule changes to encourage pro bono. “I want to thank our Supreme Court for the critical support it has given the campaign,” he said. “The seven rules changes, which encourage, reward and empower lawyers to support this cause, were adopted unanimously by the court. The new rule relating to interest on lawyers' trust accounts should provide significant new pro bono resources for many years to come.” He also noted that, “The response to this campaign from lawyers in all practice settings across Tennessee has been incredible."

Learn more about the Harrison Tweed Award.


Celebrate Pro Bono activities spread across state
The Tennessee Bar Association is joining with legal organizations across the state for Celebrate Pro Bono Month during October 2009. A full slate of activties are taking part across Tennessee to bring attention to pro bono efforts of Tennessee lawyers, to help Tennessee citizens in need of legal assistance, and to provide training for Tennessee attorneys who take part in pro bono work.

“Despite welcome indications of improvements in the economy,” TBA President Gail Vaughn Ashworth said, “the reality for many in our state is that they cannot afford basic legal services. The TBA is committed to providing all lawyers opportunities to provide free legal assistance to these needy Tennesseans.”

Celebrate Pro Bono activities will continue the campaign launched by the TBA last year to tackle the growing need for access to our system of justice by those in need. The TBA's 4ALL campaign took on the problem on four fronts, with initiatives to educate, collaborate, legislate and participate.

On April 4, more than 1,300 Tennesseans received free legal advice on issues ranging from foreclosure and unemployment to custody and child support as part of “Pro Bono Public Service Day,” a statewide effort that featured more than 47 projects and involved close to 600 lawyers, who in one day provided nearly $600,000 worth of free legal service.

Highlights of the day included:

  • More than 140 clients served at clinics in Memphis -- the largest client turnout in the state;
  • 100 percent participation from the members of the state Supreme Court, who turned out to thank volunteers in Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville;
  • More than 100 firefighters, police and emergency personnel provided with free wills and other end-of-life legal documents through the “Wills for Heroes” program in Nashville;
  • Commitments from several locations to hold additional pro bono clinics in the future; and
  • A successful “Meet the Need” challenge in Knoxville where almost 50 lawyers stepped forward to claim 55 outstanding cases from the local legal aid agency, Legal Aid of East Tennessee.

In addition, more than 40 Tennessee law firms have also adopted formal pro bono policies and Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Janice Holder has been a leader in encouraging other firms to adopt policies. The TBA has model law firm pro bono policies available to assist your firm.