TBA Law Blog

Posted by: David McDowell on Nov 14, 2013

By David McDowell

As a young lawyer in Tennessee, you should count yourself among the most fortunate. You have taken advantage of numerous opportunities to excel in school, obtain an undergraduate degree, successfully complete law school, pass the bar exam and become a licensed attorney. While some often refer to our ranks as the “future” of the legal profession, I tend to agree with the proposition that we are not only the future of our profession, but we are a significant component of the legal profession today. As an example, the TBA YLD was recognized by the American Bar Association YLD with three separate awards for what we do and how we are impacting the legal profession and public at large. Included in those awards was a third place recognition for our cumulative activities – all that we do and the services that we perform.

The Young Lawyers Division of the TBA is a great example of what can be accomplished when a group of dedicated individuals come together and work toward a common goal. Thanks to the commitment and hard work of our immediate past president, David Veile, and those before him, I am pleased to report that the TBA YLD continues to be the among the best young lawyers associations in the country, and I look forward to serving as president alongside an exceptional group of board leaders this bar year.

Our goal this year remains the same as it has been for many years, which is to use our skills and abilities to help those who need it. To that end, we will focus on two areas: service to the public and service to our members.

Public Service Projects

Tennessee Library Education Project -- The YLD is often appropriately described as the “public service arm” of the TBA. This year, under the leadership of Public Service Committee Chair Ellie Hill, Vice Chair Philip Hatch and your district representatives, the YLD will focus its service activities on one specific project: training librarians across the state how to use free resources to help members of the public in need of legal information and advice. These tools include the OnlineTNJustice website, the LIFT website and 1-888-aLEGALz telephone number. The goal of the Tennessee Library Education Project is to educate at least one librarian in each county, and have at least one library in each county equipped with a computer the public may use to access these free legal resources. The YLD also is challenging colleagues to make pro bono activities a priority by answering questions posted on OnlineTNJustice, volunteering at legal aid clinics across the state and taking pro bono cases from their local legal aid agency.

In cooperation with the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS), the TBA YLD has created a power point presentation and a resource page so volunteer lawyers have the information they need to make presentations on these services. The website also has handouts and signs that can be downloaded and left with librarians for their use. TALS praised the TBA YLD for taking on this project and advertised the effort in a recent e-newsletter. If you have any interest in helping with this project please let me know.

Wills for Heroes -- The Wills for Heroes program continues to be a great success under the leadership of attorney Brad Carter of Clarksville. Since the inception of the program in Tennessee six years ago, nearly 2,000 heroes have received free estate planning documents drafted by Tennessee lawyers. Since the beginning of the bar year, the YLD has produced events in Lebanon, Clarksville, Memphis and Nashville, and a total of 85 volunteer attorneys have drafted estate planning documents for 304 first responders and their spouses.

These have all been great events. The clinic in Lebanon, however, is worth highlighting. In the days leading up to the event, District 8 Representative and clinic organizer Mike Kurtz emailed me when he realized he was going to have a very special attorney volunteer on hand for the clinic. He writes:

“Our event started with the 100 Club of Wilson County contacting me to hold a joint event in honor and memory of a tragedy that struck the county in 2003. In July of that year, Deputy John Musice and Officer Jerry Mundy were killed in the line of duty, and it seemed fitting to hold the Wills For Heroes event in their honor, marking the 10-year anniversary of their deaths. Now on to the point of my email. Today I was contacted by Jimmy Musice, the son of John Musice, who is now an attorney and has requested to be involved in the clinic. I just wanted to share this news as this has turned out to be way more exciting than I thought it could be!”

With stories like that, I suspect that we may never know the extent of the impact this program is having. That said, volunteer attorney participation in this program is critical. I have never left an event saying it was a waste of time. To the contrary, I have always left inspired. Please join us at one of these upcoming clinics:

Columbia, Nov. 16 -- Contact Jake Hubbell, jakehubbell@yahoo.com, (931) 381-4700
Murfreesboro, Dec. 7 -- Contact Aimee Luna, aluna@las.org, (615) 890-0905
Dyersburg, Dec. 14 -- Contact Mason Wilson, mwwilson@bakerdonelson.com, (901) 577-8163
Bristol, Feb. 8, 2014 -- Contact Rachel Ralston Mancl, rmancl@hsdlaw.com, (423) 378-8871
Jackson, Feb. 22, 2014 -- Contact Brittani Kendrick, bkendrick@pgandr.com, (731) 668-5995

The program also remains in serious need of donated laptops. Please let us know if you or your firm is in the process of upgrading equipment and would be able to make a tax-deductible donation of technology. We are proud of our work on behalf of Tennessee’s first responders and expect that the Wills for Heroes program will continue to flourish.

Senior Law Handbook -- During the 2013-2014 TBA bar year, TBA President Cindy Wyrick has announced that the TBA will prepare a senior law handbook to address the unmet legal needs of our largest population demographic. The handbook will provide practical advice on a wide range of topics, including issues such as cyber security and applying for Social Security benefits. The YLD has committed its resources to help distribute the handbook to key stakeholders in our communities.

CASA Volunteer of the Year Award -- The Children’s Issues Committee continues this year under the remarkable leadership of Knoxville attorney Katrina Atchley Arbogast. The YLD will continue to work in conjunction with the statewide CASA organizations to recognize an outstanding CASA volunteer. Letters soliciting nominations for the CASA Volunteer of the Year Award were distributed in October. Please urge your local agency to nominate a volunteer.

Child Dependency Handbook – The Children’s Issues Committee also is working with the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts to update the Child Dependency Handbook. Further, we will raise money to print and place the handbook in each of the state’s juvenile courts.

High School Mock Trial – Under the leadership of Mock Trial Committee Chair Josh Dougan and Vice Chair Will Holloway, plans are well under way for the 2014 Tennessee High School Mock Trial Competition. District competitions will take place throughout the month of February. Local winners will advance to the state competition in Nashville on March 14-15, 2014. As the largest single event coordinated by the YLD each year, we are always in need of attorney and law student volunteers to assist with this fantastic event. Please mark your calendars and contact Dougan for more information.

Disaster Relief -- The Disaster Relief Committee is chaired this year by Mason Wilson of Memphis. We are fortunate that our Disaster Legal Services Manual is in place and has proven very effective in coordinating assistance to Tennesseans in need of legal services after disasters. It is comforting to know that the YLD’s programs and system are in place, and our members are ready to spring into action to assist our citizens in need should a disaster occur. According to our friends at the ABA, this manual has been so well received that it serves as a model for bar associations around the county.

Member Service Projects

CLE for Young Lawyers -- In addition to serving the public, the YLD prides itself on the services provided to our members. Under the leadership of Tommy Santel, The YLD’s CLE Committee has been hard at work planning and producing excellent programs on behalf of our members. Our first seminar was the Annual Transactional Practice CLE on Oct. 18 in Nashville and Memphis. This six-hour seminar provided lawyers with the information, tools and tips needed to successfully handle transactional, traditional business and probate matters.

In February, the committee will host a three-hour program focused on professional development and the business of law. It will be offered in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville. Be sure not to miss this one, especially if you are contemplating hanging out your own shingle. Then in April, the committee will produce a litigation and deposition CLE in Nashville and Knoxville. Watch for details in an upcoming issue of the YLD’s monthly e-newsletter E-DICT.

Mentoring Programs -- Due to the economic recession, many young lawyers have not been able to obtain legal employment and have made the decision to start their own practice. Young lawyers and seasoned lawyers alike have recognized the need for mentoring. In response to growing demand for mentors, 2012-2013 TBA President Jackie Dixon established a Mentoring Committee to look at possible programs. Under the leadership of Chattanooga attorney and committee chair Chris Varner, the TBA launched a formal mentoring program this fall, which is open to lawyers in their first three years of practice. Current TBA President Wyrick will continue this program and, under her leadership, the TBA also will prepare a toolkit for those starting a solo practice. I encourage young lawyers to take advantage of these great resources.

Membership Events -- Young lawyers represented the TBA at each of the new admittee swearing in ceremonies this fall in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville, Jackson and Memphis. Membership events also will be hosted in Memphis, Jackson, Chattanooga, Cookeville, Nashville, Knoxville and the Tri-Cities this spring. Watch for details in an upcoming issue of E-DICT.

Diversity Initiatives -- The Diversity Committee continues under the great leadership of committee chair Ahsaki Baptist and co-chair Brian Winfrey. The TBA YLD has had great participation from minority and women bar associations so far this year. About 10 of the 15 bars invited to send representatives to YLD meetings have named a young lawyer from their group to serve on the YLD Board. This invited guest program, based on a revision to the TBA YLD bylaws, was awarded first place by the ABA YLD in the Minority Project category. And we have been contacted by other bar associations that want to learn more about our program so they can implement it in their states. To continue our goal of including those who traditionally have been underrepresented on our board, the Diversity Committee this year will pursue an amendment to the division’s Diversity Plan to include disability in the definition of diversity. Finally, the Diversity Committee is planning a Diversity and Inclusion CLE for next summer.

Publications -- A key ingredient to our collective success is ensuring that important and useful information is effectively communicated to our members. Publications Committee Chair Chaz Molder, Tennessee Young Lawyer (TYL) Editor Justin Faith and E-DICT Editor Adam Moore do an exemplary job producing these publications. If you are reading this, that is because TYL has been revived from a hiatus and reconstituted in a new electronic format. If you are interested in submitting an article for either publication, please contact our Publications Committee leaders.

Law Student Support -- TBA YLD liaisons have been named at each of Tennessee’s six law schools to help coordinate activities and membership recruitment among law students. The YLD’s key programs for law students – detailed below – are now in full swing for 2014.

Judicial Internship Program -- We continue to be very proud of the ongoing success of the Judicial Internship Program, now in its fourth year. The results to date have been outstanding. Joe Fanduzz of Knoxville and Nathan Shelby of Jackson are again heading up the efforts of the Membership & Law School Outreach Committee and the internship program, which is designed to help Tennessee’s law students find summer placements with trial and appellate court judges across the state. Applications for the 2014 program are now available and are due back to the TBA by Feb. 3.

Diversity Leadership Institute -- The Diversity Committee is making plans for the 2014 class of the award winning Diversity Leadership Institute (DLI). The institute is a six-month leadership and mentoring program for Tennessee law students in their second, third or fourth years of study. The goal of the program is to have a diverse class, so selection is based in part on race, ethnicity, gender, age, background, geographical factors and law schools attended. Now in its fourth year, the program is designed to develop skills to succeed as a law student and attorney; empower students to contribute more to the legal community; match students to mentors in a diverse variety of practice areas; and build relationships among students of diverse backgrounds. Applications were distributed on law school campuses this month and are due back to the TBA by Dec. 2.

As you can see, we have much to do this bar year, and I am honored to work together with the many people who are making these things happen.

I believe the best way to improve an organization is to seek suggestions and new ideas from its members. If you have any suggestions for advancing our organization, please e-mail me at dmcdowell@gearhiserpeters.com or call me at (423) 756-5171. A list of all YLD leaders, including committee chairs and district representatives is available on the YLD webpage.

If you would like to become more active in the YLD, I encourage you to volunteer to serve on a committee, assist with any of our programs and events, or help with mock trial. You will be glad you did!

Serving as your president this year completes a great journey that I have had with the TBA YLD. It was at this time back in 2006 that I attended my first TBA YLD meeting at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando under the leadership of then president Lisa Richter. My first TBA YLD encounter was aimlessly walking around the hotel grounds. I was hopelessly lost. I saw another guy who appeared to be an attorney and lost as well. We both looked at each other and finally asked, “Are you here for the TBA YLD meeting?” We both responded yes (it’s a small world after all). I introduced myself as David and the other guy introduced himself as David. I had just met 2012-2013 TBA YLD President David Veile. I have loved serving with David Veile and all of the other amazing lawyers I am now honored to call friends and colleagues. Earlier this month, the TBA YLD Board returned to Disney for its Fall Board Meeting. As Rafiki sings in the Lion King, it’s the circle of life and I am so glad that I get to be part of it.


Chattanooga lawyer David McDowell is a member of Gearhiser, Peters, Elliott & Cannon, where he practices in the area of civil litigation. His experience includes handling residential and commercial construction, insurance, real estate, consumer protection/personal injury and automobile dealership litigation. He also handles professional liability matters. McDowell earned his law degree from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2003. He currently serves as president of the Tennessee Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. His term will run through June 2014. He can be reached at dmcdowell@gearhiserpeters.com or (423) 756-5171.

FALL 2013