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Pro Bono Opportunities

If the motto ‘and justice for all’ becomes ‘and justice for those who can afford it,’ we threaten the very underpinnings of our social contract.
-
Chief Justice Ronald George, California Supreme Court

Equal justice under law is not just a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court building. It is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society . . . It is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status.
- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, Jr.

In Tennessee, there are approximately 79 legal aid attorneys available to assist citizens who are in need of legal assistance but cannot afford to hire counsel.  Unfortunately, there are more than one million citizens living at or below the income threshold. Nearly 1 on 5 Tennesseans cannot afford legal help. Clearly, it is absolutely incumbent on every licensed attorney to donate time to ensure that all citizens of this great state have access to justice, regardless of their economic status.

Luckily, the Tennessee Bar Association is committed to helping our members find opportunities to serve our communities. In fact, from 2009 through 2011 (the last years for which data is available), the percentage of Tennessee attorneys who reported pro bono activity increased 173 percent!

Attorneys provide pro bono service in a variety of ways, including volunteering at organized legal clinics, providing legal services at a free or reduced rate, offering legal advice online at OnlineTNJustice.org, or assisting those in their local or worship community with legal questions.

Below you will find a listing of agencies and organizations across Tennessee that actively use pro bono attorneys to help provide legal services for those in need.

ONLINE TENNESSEE JUSTICE

OnlineTNJustice is based on the walk-in clinic model where clients request brief advice and counsel about a specific civil legal issue from a volunteer lawyer. Lawyers provide information and basic legal advice without any expectation of long-term representation. The purpose of the website is to increase access to advice and information about non-criminal legal matters to those who cannot afford it. There is no fee for the use of the system or for the advice and information provided by the lawyer. OnlineTNJustice is operated by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS), which provides liability coverage, files for CLE credit earned by volunteers and offers other technical and volunteer support.

Volunteer Attorney Sign-Up: http://www.onlinetnjustice.org/Account/UseAgreement

Volunteer FAQ: http://www.onlinetnjustice.org/Account/AttorneyFAQ

LEGAL AID ORGANIZATIONS

West Tennessee

Community Legal Center
Meg Jones, Executive Director
910 Vance Avenue
Memphis, TN 38126
(901) 543-3395

Memphis Area Legal Services
Linda Warren Seely, Director of Private Attorney Involvement
109 North Main Street, Suite 200
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 523-8822
lseely@malsi.org

West Tennessee Legal Services
Kathryn Tucker
Pro Bono Project Director
210 W. Main Street
Jackson, TN 38301
(731) 426-1308
(800) 372-8346
kathrynt@wtls.org

Dyersburg Office
208 East Church Street
Dyersburg, TN 38024
(800) 372-8346

Huntingdon Office
113 West Paris Street
Huntingdon, TN 38344
(800) 372-8346

Selmer Office
141 West Third Street
Selmer, TN 38375
(800) 372-8346

Middle Tennessee

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee & the Cumberlands
Lucinda Smith, Nashville Pro Bono Program Director
300 Deadrick Street
Nashville, TN 37201
(615) 780-7127
lsmith@las.org

General:
(615) 244-6610 or (800) 238-1443
www.las.org/about/get_involved/volunteer

Clarksville Office
120 Franklin Street
Clarksville, TN 37040
(931) 552-6656

Columbia Office
104 W. 7th Street
Columbia, TN 38402
(931) 381-5533

Cookeville Office
9 South Jefferson Avenue, Suite 102
Cookeville, TN 38501
(931) 528-7436

Gallatin Office
650 North Water Avenue
Gallatin, TN 37066
(615) 451-1880

Murfreesboro Office
526 North Walnut Street
Murfreesboro, TN 37130
(615) 890-0905

Oak Ridge Office
226B Broadway
Jackson Square
Oak Ridge, TN 37831
(865) 483-8454

Tullahoma Office
123 NW Atlantic Street
Tullahoma, TN 37388
(931) 455-7000

East Tennessee

Legal Aid of East Tennessee
Terry Woods, Pro Bono Director
502 South Gay Street, Suite 404
Knoxville, TN 37902
(865) 637-0484
twoods@laet.org

Chattanooga Office
Charlie McDaniel, Pro Bono Director
535 Chestnut Street, Suite 360
Chattanooga, TN 37402
(423) 756-4013
cmcdaniel@laet.org

Johnson City Office
311 W. Walnut Street, Suite 100
Johnson City, TN 37604
(423) 928-8311

Morristown Office
1001 West 2nd North Street
Morristown, TN 37814
(423) 587-4850

Southeast Tennessee Legal Services
821 Houston Street, Suite 203
Chattanooga, TN 37403
(423) 756-0128

STATEWIDE LEGAL ADVOCACY ORGANIZATIONS

ACLU of Tennessee
P.O. Box 120160
Nashville, TN 37212
(615) 320-7142
www.aclu-tn.org/cooperatingattorney.htm

Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee
Martha M. Lafferty, Managing Attorney
2416 21st Avenue South, Suite 100
Nashville, TN 37212
(615) 298-1080 ext. 128
marthaL@dlactn.org

Southern Migrant Legal Services
A Project of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Inc.
311 Plus Park Blvd., Suite 135
Nashville, TN 37217
(615) 750-1200

Tennessee Justice Center
Chris Coleman, Staff Attorney
301 Charlotte Avenue
Nashville, TN 37201
(615) 255-0331
ccoleman@tnjustice.org

Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors
Adrienne S. Kittos, Legal Director
Casa Azafran
2195 Nolensville Road
Nashville, TN 37211
(615) 823-2512
adrienne.tnjfon@gmail.com

Volunteer Lawyers and Professionals for the Arts
Casey Gill Summar, Executive Director
1900 Belmont Boulevard
Nashville, TN 37212
(615) 460-8274
VLPA@ABCnashville.org

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Disaster Recovery: Steps to Take in Recovery Effort


Prepared by Suzanne Rose, Management Consultant


Damage Assessment

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Preparing for a Disaster

Safety

• Do you have a written disaster response plan?

• Do you have a written evacuation plan for your office personnel in the event of fire, tornado or flood?

• Has the evacuation plan been distributed to everyone in your office?

• Is a person or group of people in your firm assigned the responsibility for evacuating everyone from the office or building in the event of a disaster?

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Protecting your Practice in the Event of a Disaster

In recent years, Tennessee has been the unfortunate recipient of terrible floods, tornadoes, and other natural disasters that have completely leveled law firms. Take this disaster plan self-audit to determine your state of readiness should disaster strike. In addition to the audit, this section contains information that is designed to assist you in the recovery process should a disaster strike.

Tickler and Calendar Systems

There are two systems that each lawyer and law firm should have in place to ensure that deadlines are not missed and files are not neglected - the Tickler System and the Calendar System.

Systems for reminding you to work on files are called Tickler or Diary Systems. The tickler system is one of the most important systems in the law office. It assists the lawyer in anticipating future deadlines, planning work and preventing files from being neglected.

Systems for reminding you of critical deadlines and appointments are called Calendar or Docket Systems.

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Conflict of Interest Systems

It is essential (and absolutely required by most malpractice insurance carriers) that you institute a conflict of interest system.  While you may initially remember the name of every client and opposing party in all of your cases, as your practice continues, your memory will fade.  You must have a designated system to check for conflicts when new potential clients walk through your door.

Common Areas Where Conflicts Arise:

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Client Relations and Communication

Client communication (or lack of adequate client communication) represents a significant percentage of the total number of malpractice claims and ethical complaints received by insurers and the Board of Professional Responsibility. The following general procedures should be implemented in a law practice to avoid client communication problems.

Correspondence & Communication
The attorney should communicate with the client and document all aspects of case acceptance, declination and status to the client as follows:

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Client File Retention

There are two sensitive areas of file retention - the turning over of files to clients and how long to retain files once the representation is complete. There are both ethical and malpractice considerations.

Turning Over the File to the Client
The firm’s file retention policy should address and instruct attorneys and staff as to the circumstances under which client files or information can be turned over to the client or released. Such a policy should include the following:

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Client File Management and File Retention

How much time do you spend looking for a file? How much time do you spend rifling through files to find a particular document or the address of opposing counsel? How much time do you (or your staff) spend filing? Most likely your answer will be, "too much." The law business is a paper-intensive one. If not managed properly, the paper will overwhelm any filing system you may have in place.

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Case Management

Case management is important, particularly for the solo or small firm practitioner. In order for an attorney to adequately and responsibly manage their case load, certain procedures must be in place.

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Establishing Realistic Expectations

After the screening process has been completed and a decision to represent the client has been made, the attorney should discuss the merits and problems of the client’s case with the client. It is important that the attorney convey verbally and in writing (via an engagement letter) the following to the client:

• The issues involved with the case.

• The problems regarding the case.

• The process involved in pursuing the case.

• The client’s obligations throughout the case and any specific requirements of the client.

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Case Acceptance and Client Screening

It is tempting (and sometimes necessary) as a new lawyer or at the start-up of your own firm to take whatever clients or cases walk in the door. Even the most successful lawyers sometimes suffer from the fear that the most recent client that engaged the attorney will be his or her last. But there are dangers in accepting every case. Lawyers who fail to initiate some discipline in the types of cases they accept early in their practice are the lawyers who eventually find that they are not managing their law practice - their law practice is managing them.

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The Practice of Law

Once you have chosen your entity through which you practice law, determined the physical location where you will practice, set up your computer, obtained insurance, and set a budget, you are ready to begin the practice of law. Hurray!

Now what?

In this section, the Solo in a Box Toolkit looks at day-to-day operating issues. It also includes information for lawyers facing an ethical complaint or in need of services from the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program.

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Marketing Tips

TnBar Management Services offers these additional practice tips for marketing.

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Developing an Internet Presence

It is highly recommended that a newly formed solo or small firm have a presence on the internet.  A 2012 LexisNexis® Attorney Selection Research Study showed that 76% of adult internet users in the United States seeking an attorney turned to online resources at some point in the process. 

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Branding Your Practice

Establish yourself as an attorney and do the best you can to show what practice area you are trying to “sell” within the realm of legal services. Try to show your “niche” and what sets you apart from other lawyers.

Have a logo made and use it on your letterhead, business cards, and networking materials.

Go to every networking and civic event your work and family life will allow. When you attend, a networking function, wear a personalized nametag with your logo.

NEVER leave home without business cards.

Ethical Issues in Human Resources

As set forth in RPC 5.3, you are responsible for conduct of your employee(s) that would be a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer if you ordered or ratify the conduct, or if you know of your employee’s conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fail to take reasonable remedial action.

Issues Surrounding Terminations

• If your former employee applies for and received unemployment benefits, your mandatory unemployment insurance premiums may increase.

• A former employee may receive unemployment benefits if they are terminated for something other than “misconduct.”

• As set forth in T.C.A. § 50-7-303, “misconduct” includes: the following conduct by a claimant:

(1) Conscious disregard of the rights or interests of the employer;

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Advice on Supervision

Have a written policy regarding attendance (including holiday and vacation time), performance, job duties, appropriate attire, and standards expected. Document that your employee has received and understands the policy.

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Advice on Interviews

 The interview is a critical step in the hiring process and its importance cannot be overstated.

• Be flexible about scheduling interviews. A good candidate may have to be scheduled after his or her normal working hours.

• Review the resume or application in advance to learn the basic information about the person.

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Advice on Hiring

• Consult with your accountant about expenses and related requirements associated with an employee, such as federal withholding, unemployment insurance, etc. Be sure to take this into account as you budget for your new employee.

• Hire slowly, but fire quickly.

• Write a persuasive advertisement, being careful not to oversell the job; advertise the position in publications that attract quality candidates

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Human Resources Help

Whether you are in need of a receptionist to answer phones or a paralegal to assist with complex matters, at some point you will likely need to hire someone. Your clients will not want to pay hundreds of dollars an hour for you to format a document or call the courthouse to check on available motion dates. Logically, if you reach the point where you are spending as much time handling the administrative work as you are handling the legal work, you are probably leaving money on the table. Good employees will provide a positive return on investment.

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Trust Accounting and Other Ethical Issues in Finance/Accounting

Trust Accounting
One of the fastest ways to commit an ethical violation is a failure to properly maintain your trust accounting. Because the funds in your IOLTA account are not yours, it is absolutely imperative under TRPC Rule 1.15 that you accurately maintain this account. In fact, in order to participate in the IOLTA trust program, your bank must agree to report directly to the Board of Professional Responsibility any overdraft and/or dishonored instruments written from your IOLTA account. 

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Accepting Credit Cards

There are numerous options that will permit you to accept credit cards for payments. As you examine your options, be sure to consider equipment costs, fees, and long-term contracts. The law has also now changed such that you may be permitted to pass along the transaction fee that you incur for processing a client’s credit card payment to that client.


TBA MEMBER BENEFIT ALERT

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