President's Perspective

Great Member Benefits, Upgraded Website Among TBA Services

I am both honored and humbled to serve as president of the Tennessee Bar Association for the 2019-2020 bar year. In preparation for this role, I have received much advice and given extensive consideration to what projects or initiatives to undertake. First and foremost, I plan to continue the great work that is already underway.

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Closing Time

Serving as the president of the Tennessee Bar Association has been the thrill of my career so far, but it has also been a tremendous responsibility. The TBA is truly a remarkable organization, for which I take none of the credit. We have excellent relationships with the Court, law schools, rural bar associations, metro bar associations, our legislature and many other organizations.

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Branding Matters

In the mid-1990s, there was one thing in common among the National Hockey League’s San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Mighty Ducks and New York Islanders; the National Basketball Association’s Vancouver Grizzlies, Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs; the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars; and Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, Seattle Mariners, Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays: they all incorporated teal in their respective logos. Teal was all the rage in the 1990s and is the iconic color of that decade.

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Spring Forward

As we transition to spring and enter the home stretch of my year as president, I am delighted to highlight two exciting new programs that we will be launching at the Tennessee Bar Association.

Reporters Workshop

The Tennessee Association of Broadcasters and the Tennessee Bar Association along with its Communications Law Section are hosting what we hope to be the first of many Reporters Workshops on May 17 and 18 in Nashville. The workshop is inspired in part by a similar program The Florida Bar has been hosting for more than 25 years. Paul McAdoo, who is producing our Reporters Workshop, co-chaired the Florida program in 2009 and approached me with the idea last spring.

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The Time is Ripe for Criminal Justice Reform

Newly inaugurated Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has repeatedly stated that one of his main priorities would be criminal justice reform, with a specific focus of spending less on prisons and creating smarter sentencing guidelines. The organized bar has an opportunity to assist Gov. Lee’s administration on this much-needed initiative.

In fiscal year 2017-2018, the Tennessee legislature appropriated more than $994 million to the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) and just over $1 billion was included in the budget for 2018-2019. TDOC’s statistics show that the total felon inmate population was 26,998 in 2008 and increased nearly 12 percent to 30,161 in 2017. The male inmate population increased 8.4 percent during this time frame, while the female population increased a staggering 58 percent during this same period. TDOC reports that its operations allow for a capacity of only 23,106 inmates.

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Respecting Judicial Independence and the Rule of Law

I recently had the honor of speaking at the investiture of Hon. Mark S. Norris at the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee in Memphis. It was such a privilege to share the stage with dignitaries such as Governor Bill Haslam, Senator Lamar Alexander, Justice Holly Kirby, and many others. While I was sitting on the stage with all of these individuals, one part of an executive branch of government, another part of a legislative branch, and the third part of a judicial branch, I started to think about what an important role the judiciary plays in our society.

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Legal Aid Ensures Access to Justice

When a veteran is facing the improper denial of benefits, legal aid lawyers are there to help. When a victim of domestic violence needs protection, legal aid lawyers are there to obtain court orders. When a family is facing an illegal eviction or poor housing conditions, legal aid lawyers are there to protect.  

In 1974, Congress established the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) based on “a need to provide equal access to the system of justice in our nation for individuals who seek redress of grievances.” President Richard M. Nixon signed the law creating LSC. LSC is a national nonprofit that provides grants, support and oversight to more than 130 nonprofit legal aid organizations with more than 800 offices across the country, including Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Memphis Area Legal Services Inc., and West Tennessee Legal Services Inc.

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Acknowledging Lawyer Well-Being: Let’s Talk

One must be a healthy lawyer in order to be a good lawyer. I do not mean just physical health but also mental health. Lamentably, our profession has significant shortcomings when it comes to mental health and well-being. Numerous studies have shown over and over again that too many lawyers experience high levels of depression, chronic stress and substance abuse. These findings are not sustainable for our profession. For a profession dedicated to client service and responsible for the public interest, well-being is of paramount importance.

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For the Good of the Public

“We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill

It cannot be stated enough times that an overwhelming number of low-income Tennesseans are in need of legal services. Lawyers are an invaluable resource for individuals at risk of losing their homes, their incomes, and even their children. A study by a national bar organization found that at least 40 percent of low- and moderate-income households experience a legal problem each year. The same study concluded that the collective civil legal aid effort is serving only about 20 percent of the legal needs of low-income people. Our profession can and must do better to help low-income households in Tennessee.

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The Importance of Effective Government Relations

One of the core objectives of the Tennessee Bar Association is advocacy for the profession and for our system of justice. The TBA Government Affairs Committee coordinates our advocacy efforts before the legislature, the executive branch and other governmental entities on issues of importance to our profession and on which the TBA has adopted policy.

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