50th Birthday: What’s in a Name?

Repeat after me: Tennessee Bar Journal. Tennessee Bar Journal. TENNESSEE BAR JOURNAL. Is this hard? Does it sound anything at all like “TBA Journal?” (Okay, yes it kind of does, but we’re going to ask you nicely to try to call this magazine by its God-given, correct name.)[1] Before that, there was Tennessee Lawyer, an eight-page newsletter that the Tennessee Bar Association published from 1952 to 1985. In its January 1965 issue some big news was reported:

Members of the Tennessee Bar Association may look forward to receiving a new T.B.A. publication next month. Beginning in February, 1965, the Association will issue a quarterly publication, the TENNESSEE BAR JOURNAL.[2]

The new communiqué will be published in February, May, August and November. The TENNESSEE LAWYER, formerly a monthly publication, will now be issued eight times a year, not being published during the months when the Journal is to appear. Billie Bethel, editor of the TENNESSEE LAWYER, has also been named editor of the Journal by the Board of Governors.

Tennessee lawyers will find the 40 page TENNESSEE BAR JOURNAL, bringing to them articles and studies of current interest in their law practice, how-to-do-it suggestions and informative columns in [sic} interest to every lawyer in the State.

And that, folks, is where this whole thing began.

What's in a Name?
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Across the Bar

Using the interlocking model started by Tennessee Lawyer and the Tennessee Bar Journal, years later after the Lawyer had ended, the TBA endeavored to intersperse another publication into the months that the Journal was not published. By that time, the Journal was being produced six times a year, so Across the Bar began every other month in 1990. The plan there was to have shorter, lighter stories, including moving the “People” and “Passages” sections over to Across the Bar. This lasted until 1995.

Remember, at that time there was no internet and no quicker way to disseminate mass news than to print it and mail it. Hey, it was a simpler, slower time everywhere.

The Faxes, the Flashes and TBAToday

Although the Journal has not changed its name in all these five decades, some TBA publications have changed their titles as they evolved.

Back in the late 1980s a one-sheet fax was sent to the Board of Governors, section and committee chairs, and anyone else who was forward-thinking enough to have one of those new-fangled fax machines.

That’s right, Generation Y. It happened that way. Once. A. Week. It went out every Thursday and included newsy notes about meetings, legislation and yes, some birthdays.

A good long while after that when computers were more prevalent in law offices, we were sending the newsletter  via email but also still to some fax-machine holdouts. During the General Assembly’s sessions, we added LegisFax and then LegisFlash. OpinonFlash began in 1995 when we started sending out court opinions every day, a practice that was unheard of back then. The service cost $50 a year on top of membership dues and was sent as text and html versions. When Al Harvey of Memphis was TBA president, he pushed for the change to include that as a member service, which is how it is now.

When Allan Ramsaur became our new executive director in 1998 he had the crazy dream of sending more information every day, as in a newsletter that staff would produce.  Every day. It was a pipedream for the longest, but eventually his idea took flight in 2006 when we added daily legal news to the opinions to begin producing TBAToday.

Now, you probably take for granted that you will get the news and opinions of the day in your in-box, packaged as TBAToday. It’s okay if you don’t care that it started as a weekly one-page fax, but this is a story about history. [It is worth noting that it was also Ramsaur’s idea and push that took the Journal from six issues a year to 12 in 1999. At the time we wondered how we would even fill that many pages, but that turned out not to be a problem at all.]

Young Lawyers

The Junior Bar Conference of Tennessee was the TBA’s original name for its group of newer, younger lawyers. In the July 1964 issue of the Tennessee Lawyer it was reported that the Junior Bar had voted to change its name to the Tennessee Young Lawyers Conference. That same news story reported that Lewis Pride of Nashville had been elected president of the then-Junior Bar, succeeding John J. Thomason of Memphis.

The group became the TBA Young Lawyers Division in 1993. (This was a great improvement, in my opinion, because when I interviewed for the director of communications job in 1987, the position included liaison duties to various groups, including the young lawyers. I had been at the TBA for a while before I realized with relief that I was not responsible for putting on the “Young Lawyers Conference,” which in my job interview I thought was some kind of huge annual meeting.)

The young lawyers publications have also evolved over the years. The Quarterly was produced from 1988 until 2005; the Tennessee Young Lawyer started up later in 2005 and ended in 2013. In May 2004, the electronic monthly newsletter, E-DICT was born and is still produced today.

The Tennessee Bar Journal

People give me a hard time for being such a stickler about calling this magazine by its real name,[3] but I don’t care. Somebody’s got to stick up for it — and it is my job.


  1. Okay, God did not name this magazine; the Tennessee Bar Association Board of Governors did, which is not exactly the same thing but it did have the power to start, produce and  name this publication. They named it the Tennessee Bar Journal.
  2. The ALL CAPS are from the original Board minutes; this is not just me shouting the Journal’s name.
  3. I am joking. Call it what you want as long as you read it. Well, I am a tad serious, but do continue to read it please; just lower your voice if you must refer to it as the TBA Journal.

SUZANNE CRAIG ROBERTSON has been editor of the Tennessee Bar Journal for 28 of its 50 years.

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